30 November 2008

Palm Canyon 30/November/2008

As I mentioned in my previous post, a string of errors on my part lead to a fortuituous meeting with Mary and Brendan Collier of Siren Bicycles in Idyllwild. They had already scheduled a Sunday morning ride at Palm Canyon for which they kindly invited me to participate. I was extremely happy to accept as it meant the possibility of riding a new trail with some great riders.

On Sunday morning, I woke around 6:30 again, grabbed some breakfast and headed up the mountain to gain some cell phone service. Once in Idyllwild, I stopped to buy some coffee and discovered that I had a message from Mary about meeting at their place around 8. Fortunately, I had 20 minutes to spare, so I grabbed a coffee and called her back.

After directions to their home, and morning greetings, I went about getting myself ready for riding. The chain needed to be lubed and since I wasn’t going to be driving, I needed to ensure that I had everything I needed out of my car. The past few days were ones of less than average organization, so the search was on to dig out all the necessary items from the back of my car. Fortunately, much of my riding kit is already organized in bags stuffed into a duffle, so I grabbed one of the sacks, ensured that everything needed was inside, and then set to finding the doodads and other items I’d want on the ride. It was quite chilly, but since we were going to be heading into Palm Springs, which had been quite warm the day before, I left the warm clothes in the car.

While I was getting my stuff together, another rider, Dave, showed up. Again, greetings were passed around, and I continued about my work. With everything finally collected from the depths of my car, Brendan attempted to load my bike into the rack on the roof of his car, but the disc brake wouldn’t allow for a fit. We thought about removing the rear wheel and stuffing it into the back of Brendan and Mary’s car, but in the end we decided to load it into the rack on Dave’s Truck.

As we were putting the bike onto his car, the rest of the riding crew arrived. I was introduced to Bill, Randy, Carol Ann and Brett. After some chit-chat, a brief disappearance by Brendan to pick up some stuff at the bike shop, and a stop at the local ‘grocery store’ we were on the road to the trailhead.

We pulled into a parking lot on the north face of Santa Rosa Mountain, unpacked everything from two of the cars, emptied ourselves of the coffee we all had invariably been drinking (the plants in the area probably hadn’t received so much nitrogen rich fluids for some time) and Dave, Brett and Brendan left us to deposit a sufficiently capable number of vehicles at the bottom of the hill.

Those of us who were left settled into a socially comfortable circle on the asphalt and chatted about this and that. I couldn’t help gawking at the three beautiful Sirens that lined the wooden fence. It was decided at some point that as a joke, Mary would swap the break levers on Brendan’s bike. Bets were placed as to how long it would take him to notice the sabotage. After about an hour the guys made it back from Palm Springs and we readied ourselves to ride.

Brendan hadn’t more than straddled his bike before he figured out something had happened. Lazy and good natured accusations and recriminations were made, but Mary quickly confessed her culpability and a good laugh was had by all. The break levers were quickly returned to their normal locations and we headed out.

The beginning section of the trail we rode is called “Pinyon Flats Loop” and this section was a glorious introduction. Fast rolling singletrack with plenty of turns and mildly technical segments to keep us on our toes. The decomposed granite trail was tacky from the rain just three days before, which made the trail that much more fun. From the ridge top, the views of the endless canyons below us was breath taking. While there were plenty of spiny plants near the trail, at this point in the ride they were, for the most part, invisible because of the speed and the beauty of distant hills and valleys. Finally, we descended off the ridge via a series of seven sharp switchbacks that had dropped us several hundred feet. Although we didn’t do Pinyon Flats Loop as a loop, it was at the bottom of these switchbacks that Brendan and Dave pointed out where we would have zigged instead of zagged if a loop had been our goal.

We ended up waiting at this intersection for some time as one of our compatriots repaired a flat. Once he was down, he mentioned something about missing knobies from the tire, but I didn’t pay much heed to his attestation, assuming a minor rather than major issue. It would only come to bear later in the ride that the front tire had insufficient structural integrity to actually be used on a ride of such proportions.

We continued on our way, now surrounded by high canyon walls, with thorny plants closing in on our trail. I was the only one in the group wearing elbow and knee & shin guards so I was mostly oblivious to the flesh tearing spines that hid behind the soft leaves on the thickets of Acacia greggii, commonly known as “Cats Claw”. While we were stopped for one of the innumerable flat repairs, I looked around and saw that everyone except for me had bloody scrapes and scratches on their legs and arms. Dave was particularly well scratched with trickles of dried blood sticking to his shins and calves. I still haven’t gotten over feeling foolish for wearing so much protective gear when I ride, but to see the degree of flesh that had been left on the trailside spines, I was glad for my foolishness.

In addition to the Cats Claw, there were cacti of various sizes and shapes to enforce good bike handling on the narrow ribbon of exposed DG that swelled up and down the lower portion of the canyon walls. Even without touching these enforcers, the structural integrity of the tire mentioned above continued to bear witness to the need to always ride with properly maintained equipment. It would no sooner be repaired than it would blow another tube. There was a concern that we would not have enough spares tubes or patches to get us down the canyon.

We made it to a large rock and stopped for a snack. Brendan had been waiting to spring a surprise treat on the other riders – crackers and oysters – which seemed to be enjoyed by everyone, although I must say that the smell was a bit antagonistic to the Chocolate Builder Bar and banana I was enjoying. After a the snack, and the fifth flat repair, we continued on. The sun was low in the sky, producing a beautiful alpenglow on the golden desert flora.

Shortly after starting, and after throwing almost every tube we collectively carried at the problem, the offending tire flatted again. At this point, the sixth flat, the decision was made to attempt to shore up the sidewalls of the tire with wrappers, paper, and any other item that might help the situation. Carol Ann and I decided to ride forward, leaving Brett, Randy and Bill to repair the flat. Brendan had turned around and ended up returning to help with the flat.

By this point, I was experiencing some difficulties with my Joplin R seat post. It wouldn’t stay extended. While it was fine on the descents, it made the uphill sections much more difficult as I couldn’t get good leg extension and I was a bit too fatigued to ride every uphill section out of the saddle.

Carol Ann and I met up with Mary in the wash, which we then had to ride. With my seat now fully lowered, it was all I could do to keep my legs spinning fast enough to not lose too much ground as Mary and Carol Ann with seemingly effortless pedaling made their way through the sand.

We finally came across a sign stuck in the sand that pointed us to the north, where we immediately noticed Dave sitting patiently, enjoying the buzz of endorphins, exertion, the natural beauty of the surroundings and the tetrahydrocannibinol that was flowing through his brain. We all chatted for a while until Mary recommended that Dave and I continue on our way down the singletrack while there was still light. She and Carol Ann would wait for the others to arrive and instead take the shorter route through the wash to the dirt road.

Dave and I departed with good wishes for a safe ride passed around to all of us, and we were quickly enjoying some sweet singletrack. I was still physically bothered by the lack of leg extension, until Dave recommended that I raise the seat post housing. Duh! I felt a bit silly for not having thought of it myself, but the extra two inches made climbing so much easier. On the other hand, the descents seemed a bit more awkward as my center of gravity was much higher than I’ve been used to since getting the Joplin R.

We quickly made our way to the dirt road, descended rapidly to the community below and rode the asphalt to the shuttle vehicles. Once there, we stretched and chatted and the decision was made to buy some beer. I stayed behind to watch the bikes and Dave returned quickly enough with a tasty 12-pack of brews. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I can say that the cold, salty taste was just perfect.

It was now very dark. Dave had covered his proverbial you-know-what by calling his wife to tell her he wouldn’t be back until after 8, and we settled in to wait, expecting that the offending tire would ultimately result in the need to walk the bike down the hill. We were pleasantly surprised to see a mass of bicyclists entering the parking lot only a few minutes later.

Bikes were loaded, beers were consumed, hugs and handshakes were given, and we were soon on our way. It was a great day, a great ride, with great company. Lessons were learned and friendships strengthened. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

1 Comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the ride- and posting the story.

Best wishes for a fun-filled New Year.