It was just another typical riding day. I was taking it easy, but I had time to leave work early and get a ride in before heading home. I had the bike on the truck, a change of clothes, and the afternoon was an uncharacteristic February 70ºf and sunny. These opportunities didn’t offer themselves up very often. I jumped out to get a ride in.
On the way to the Los Gatos trail system, I realized that it was probably early enough to jump over the hill and hit up the Santa Cruz UC trails. I hadn’t been out there for many months, and I heard that the dirt is in amazing shape since the rains stopped over a week ago. I texted my Wife and let her know I’d be home later, then I drove over the hill to ride.
It became obvious when the ride started that the trail got pounded by the recent storm. It wasn’t a rain storm, but a strong wind storm that knocked over trees, closed businesses, and shut off power for several days in parts of Santa Cruz. It took no exception with the UC trail system, and I got to ride through the aftermath.
I had not been on these trails since November of 2019. I stop riding Santa Cruz trails in the Winter mostly because I don’t want to damage the amazing paths that cut through the pine and deciduous trees. I try to keep my activity closer to home where I can find a few trails that have better drainage. Responsible riding in the Winter yields better riding the rest of the year.
While climbing, several riders took time to notify me about the downed trees which blocked the path in several spots along the EMT trail. I was worried that I might not see them as I rode up, but that fear was put to rest almost immediately when I came upon the first one. These weren’t stray branches that had fallen across the path for people to be clotheslined on as they sped through the forest. These were HUGE TREES that came down in very obvious places and required the rider to stop so that the bike could be lifted over them. These were major obstacles.
The first set of downed timbers were fairly easy to cross, but did require a bike lift over the larger section. The second fallen tree was something considerably more impressive. A large fir trunk lay across the trail, completely blocking it and taking down an additional second tree further up the hill. On its side, this tree was almost at shoulder height and took some effort to first get the bike over, and then climb. I am not sure how they will clear this major blockage; it may be more prudent to find a path around it.
After a few smaller tree crossings, I reached the U-Conn trail and rode the access road to the twin gates at the top of the hill. I decided against any side trails both because I am still technically in “recovery mode” from my crash, and also because I can’t imagine what obstacles I might run into on the faster singletrack if the main trails are blocked as much as they are.
Reaching the Top
The sun was out and the meadows were beautiful. Warmth and brightness covered the landscape and the hills were unusually green. What a fantastic time to be out in the fresh air, enjoying nature and feeling the dirt under my wheels.
The ride down was, of course, much slower than usual due to the fallen trees. I decided not to take any of the trails too fast, but I did work up a head of speed in a few spots and it was exhilarating! I really did miss the faster rides.
Overall, it was a fantastic afternoon. I stopped at Shanty Shack Brewing to grab a few crowlers for the weekend, and I headed home over the hill. The drive home was easy and uneventful. A perfect end to a perfect day.
I might soon be ready to test a few bikes and start exploring my new purchases for the year!