The ridgeline trail above the fog
How East Bay locals begin their mountain biking career I haven't an idea,
other than to be born in really good shape.
Briones fell into the pattern of East Bay regional preserves, where the grade we took from the Bear Creek staging area
to the ridge averaged a mere 10%--
but in practice was about half flat, half 20% grade, and several good chunks of downhill that needed to be made
On a light climber, in temperate weather, this ascent might have been enjoyable.
But loaded with winter gear, the death grinds on slopes still slick from the past storms were an annoying pain
if manageable at all.
The top held a rare treat: a low thick cloudbank moving in from the east, and riding above it conjured a heavenly sense.
Yeah, pretty to look at from above, but the descent through it was a different story...
Click to expand
Huff puff huff puff... okay, here's a flat area... huff puff huff puff... yeah, I can do this all day... huff huff...
but... puff... it's such a nice scene I think I'll stop right here and... huff huff... take a picture. Okay, maybe
even a few more, just to be sure I get it right. Might I recommend taking the Crescent Ridge trail downhill instead.
It's a relatively unused trail: in mud tiretracks tell the story and there weren't many of them here.
The first shot gives you an idea of the kind of terrain you have to tackle when riding the East Bay.
The cut of the fireroads don't seem to help much either.
We haven't run into the fog bank yet, but haze from it is moving into the western valleys.
Here's the fog, looking to the south... only isolated peaks like Mount Diablo, Pleasanton Ridge and Mount Tam
could be seen above it.
Moving along the Briones Crest Fireroad, the cloud bank was blowing quickly through the pass below.
That's where we are soon to be headed.
Sure, why not pose for a quick shot in the last moments of direct sunlight we will enjoy for the ride.
The problem with getting nice shots like this-- a nice pretty sunset shot on top of the ridge--
is that a good chunk of our riding back will be in the dark.
Here we are beginning our descent into the fog. Man, it got cold all of the sudden. The thermocline at the fog
layer was sudden and intense, so here we put on jackets and whatever other warm gear we had. By the way, this is NOT
a good sign if you're less than halfway through the ride, and you still have to return back over a significant ridge to get
to where you started.
Brrrrr, cold... the frigid air burned our fingers as we hurried down the valley to the north.
This is pretty much what it looked like descending to the parking lot at Briones Road.
Here, there was less than 20 minutes of light left and still a long way back.
There are many routes back across the ridge, but after some debate and with heavy hearts we decided to take the roads.
It was the only sensible option, since between us there was but a single helmet light and
thank goodness for even that... I just bought it and was debating whether we would really need it.
I decided to pack it anyway and for a time regretted the weight on the Crescent Ridge climb.
Although the moon was full it was below the horizon and the cloud cover obscurred all light.
The air was uniquely cold, like a blast from the high sierra, and
periodically we had to stop and warm chilled fingers (don't ask how) which I've never had to do here before.
It was a long ride back along Alhambra Valley and Bear Creek Road to the car, climbing maybe 600 feet but with dark chilly
conditions it seemed a lot more.
There was a strange rustling in the nearby thicket as we changed out of our bike
clothes... "Probably just a raccoon," Kenny said... yeah, the final words in any number of backwood horror movies.
The heater in my truck never felt so good on the return to civilization.
(b. January 19, 2003; MLK weekend)
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