Wilder Side

With the weather warming up and the sun coming out. Many times recently, it has been tempting to hit some of the local trails on the bike. With how full they have become, being the only place a lot of folks can get out and still say close to home. I have been denying myself the enjoyment in favor of safety. I tend to stay home when a lot of riding opportunities surface.

On this day, I was given a chance to get out at a time when there wasn’t much traffic on the trails. My co-workers (and I) have been grinding hard on work, and it’s been wearing us down. My office decided to give everyone a free week-day off with explicit orders to get outside and enjoy the Spring weather ONLY if it was possible to do so safely.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance.

I love riding in Santa Cruz. The terrain is challenging, the people are (usually) super cool, and the hills are absolutely GORGEOUS this time of year! Also, the trails are coming off the Winter rains, and the hard pack is still pretty tight. If better riding conditions exist, they’re hard to find around here.

Starting the Ride

I parked at my good friend’s house near the trailhead and rode in from there. The gate was littered with social distancing signage, but it was open. A few folks were on the trail, but they were easy to avoid and I felt the ride up was safe for all involved. The famous water tanks, which usually are updated with the latest pop culture graffiti, didn’t let me down as they prophesied our current dilemma and its eventual end.

The ride up was quick and easy. As a hundred times before, the turns were smooth and the trees were pretty. At the top of U-Conn, a sign told me that the main access road was closed to bikes, so I had to bypass it using the singletrack that takes riders directly to Twin Gates at the top. This is where the top of the UC trail system hooks up with the backside of Wilder Ranch.

Dropping In

The ride down the hill isn’t a new one for me. My typical route takes me through the Long Meadow trail and leads directly to the trailhead along Highway 1. It’s a fun route with a minimum of climbing. (This video shows the route but it’s on my old YouTube channel where there is a lot of copyrighted music. I’ll re-release this video on this channel soon, with stock tunes so it doesn’t raise any red flags). 

This time, I decided to have some fun and take a detour through the Enchanted Loop trail. It’s a challenging and steep drop into a cool, shaded gully of ferns and deciduous trees that look like something out of a story book. 

The climb out of the gully is quick and far less painful than it used to be, as it has been given a facelift and complete redesign in the last decade. The trail cutting scars have mostly healed and the trail feels clean and flows naturally. It ends with access to a short trail that takes you, if you desire, back to the gully drop-in. You can do this short loop as many times as you want!

The Return

The remaining ride down to Highway 1 was uneventful, but also sunny and beautiful. The grasses are still green and the heat of the Summer has not yet set in. Smooth dirt greeted me as I coasted through to the ride back to the truck. 

I rode Highway 1 to Mission Street (past the office where my bike was designed!) to Graham Hill Road and through the neighborhood back to the 4Runner. This ride took more out of me than I had anticipated, but it was worth the effort! 

With so many rides and trips cancelled due to the ongoing health conditions, it’s nice to be able to get out of the house and safely get a few miles in. The rides keep me sane and give my spirit a huge boost. It is a blessing to say that I live where mountain biking was born, and I’m thankful that I am able to enjoy these trails. 

Another fantastic day on the bike!

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