Wild spirits and wild flowers rule the day
May 5th provided a chance for two gangs of mt. bikers to assemble and rage across the landscape around the Warm Springs arm of Lake Sonoma. Six volunteers from the bay area and three from the Calistoga contingent met under the bridge at highway 101 and proceeded to carry the energy and camaraderie around the 16 mile route. After a short car shuffle, the ride started at the Liberty Glen campground. Some minor confusion was encountered at the very start of the ride, but soon yielded to a steady, solid passage of this little known ride.
Within the first mile, many things began to settle into the ride. First it was fun. It was immediately obvious that this group shared a common experience; being in a remote, natural setting and having got there by a bicycle.
Jim K. enjoys the escape into nature
The first part of the ride is on the southern exposure of the terrain. As such it is sun-baked. Michel and I had ridden this ride several weeks earlier, at the tail end of the wet season. The trail was softer and more accommodating. This ride is fun, but it is a work-out. No matter the season, most of the ride consists of steep climbs and fast drops. Who ever designed the trail should be lashed with wet noodles for making so difficult when a more friendly contour is available. Having said that, this feature will keep the average Wal-Mart shopper at home. This is not a ride for the faint of heart. This is up there with the black, double diamond runs of life.
This was a unique reunion of sorts. Several weeks earlier, the Calistoga contingent had met a very unlikely group of people in a very unlikely place. Both groups had ridden a very, very esoteric ride that few know about. These two groups were on the same trail at the same time, but had not connected until late in the ride.
Eric, no stranger to fashion
Hi, there! Eric said as he came upon a group of wet, and tired looking mt. bikers. It is almost unheard of to see anyone out there.. Almost all biking in the Napa Valley occurs along the Silverado Trail. There, the valley lovers pedal from winery to winery encountering, at most, a twenty foot climb.
We just rode the girl scout loop. Lisa said. Michel and I were aghast to see anyone on this gray, slightly rainy day. These people had to be hard core. The ride they had completed was enormous. It was a strange juxtaposition for us, who have spent years in the back country and never, never seen anyone.
Looking towards Liberty Glen
The group of nine, five guys and four mt. bikin ladies made their way west along the shore of Lake Sonoma. Although the peak flower season had past, there remained an abundant offering of beauty from the Mother earth. In several places water continued to flow from places that would be long dry in a normal season. The rest of the trail was dry and no longer offer the benefit of some moisture.
The only trail choice came about two miles into the ride. The maintained trail is the upper Strawberry Creek trail, the other is the less traveled Lower Strawberry Creek trail. Michel and I had scouted the lower trail and were unsuccessful in finding the end of it. We ended up on the Upper trail as did the mob scene on this cool and windy June weekend.
A sign, deep in the boonies
We had to cross Strawberry Creek. At his juncture we had contacted a jeep road that offered a smooth shot across the wide but not-too-deep creek. At first glance, it appeared to be do-able, perhaps without getting the feet wet. But as these things go, it was just deep enough and far enough to get everyones feet soaked. It mattered little (except for Joy, were not sure she was totally behind the concept.). It was a warm, but not hot day. After a brief repose, the gang pressed on. The next part of the ride was a climb over the terrain that would deliver them into the Rancheria Creek drainage.
Michel fords Rancheria Creek
The riding lasted a significant time before the trail finally descended to a paved road. This was the old Skaggs Springs road before the dam. It was no longer in use, except as an occasion biker or hiker. At this point, the ride is deep in the boonies. A short drop downhill brings the traveler to Rancheria Creek, this stream also significant and likely to get the hapless bikers feet wet. Once across the water, the ride on the west side of the lake began. The trail climbed into the woods and wound its way across the hillsides until it came to the Sawmill Campground, This was the planned lunch stop.
The Sawmill Camp is a boat-in campground. It is about eight miles from any civilization, if not by boat. This was about the half-way point. We commandeered a picnic table and enjoyed a leisure lunch. Few boats were on the lake due to the high winds that whipped across the water. The scene was pleasant and warm. It offer a small chance for our shoes to dry out.
Eric, Michel and Jim mac on lunch
After lunch the crowd headed out. Martin, Eric and Jim decided to split from the main group and explore an alternative trail to the main route from the campsite. It worked, sort of. Within a few minutes two groups existed with the possibility of not seeing each other again. However it all worked out, the mob scene gathered and began to make progress along the wooded, west shore of the lake. The trail snakes along the hills mostly in sight of the water. Occasionally the trail cuts back into the hills to accommodate several drainages. At each, a stream crosses the path. These spots tend to be special places that soothe the spirit and offer a chance to splash cool, refreshing water on the face.
Heide contemplates the beauty
The group made progress along the shore. The trail continued to be steep up and down. The view of the lake offered nice scenes as the contingent approached the Island View campground. There is a Kodak scene above the campsite. A few of the stragglers stopped and took advantage of the view.
Eric died and went to heaven with Lisa and Joy
As the day grew towards the end, Magali, Michel, Jim, and Martin shredded ahead of the rest. Michel had obligations at home. The rest of the crew made the final climb to the parking lot one, by one. From this vantage point one can look across the lake at the terrain. Far in the distance Liberty Glen can be seen and the landscape that offers this challenging and cool ride. After a five mile car shuffle, the ride was officially over. All that was left was to reconvene at the Bear Republic for food and refreshment.
Martin, Heide and Magali, happy bikers
As we entered the establishment, a sign on the door read; Closing at 8:00 tonight. It was 8:01. Dang, it looked bad for the bikin crowd. Yet, serendipity rained on the group when the owner recognized a bunch of mt. bikers and allowed the group to be seated. It was a fitting, pleasant end to a great day.
Lovely water that soothes the spirit