A short, not too hard, but still epic ride.
Long in coming is the end of the summer doldrums.
Over for the year are the hot days where a good ride requires the prescision timing at the end of afternoon, yet
before darkness, in a never-quite-satisfactory attempt minimize the effect of heat.
The rusty hues of Autumn, subtle in
California, still develop in these parts, and a cool cripness comes to the coastal air that make riding during
this time pure joy.
We still had sandy trails to contend with, which now needed some rain to bed them down for the coming season.
But indeed the west coast biking season has begun. It continues through winter except when
it rains a little too much, and climaxes in the spring, when hillsides erupt in color.
Wilder Ranch was an old supply line for Santa Cruz before highways, and later becoming a diary farm.
It is now a historic preserve,
still growing the coastal crop of Brussel's sprouts, and I think there were some artichokes.
Very slowly the hills rise from the coastline, creating a mecca of moderate fireroad climbs and singletrack descents.
It's good for anybody, very popular with local riders,
and is a fine place to play around for everyone else.
Click to expand
Rides in Wilder Ranch begin with a little stroll through the ranch compound, past residences, and a shack crowded
with old farm equipment. There are also chicken coops there, and I think a tobacco garden.
Beyond my reflection is an antique automobile in the shack. Another biker said to me from behind,
"one day I'm going to get one of those."
I said, "yeah, it's great on a day like this... and it's pretty light." I thought he was talking about my camera. Turns
out he was talking about my bike! How embarrasing!! My Turner really isn't that light, probably a couple pounds
shy of 30.
He was on a Superlight, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
Behind the main exhibit are a few more buildings falling into decay. This marks the beginning of the Engelsman Loop.
Today was a perfect day for riding, and the beauty of Wilder Ranch was beyond description.
But, when it came to capturing it in photography,
Wilder Ranch unfortunately suffers from a lack or foreground composition.
The first shot is along Englesman, and the next we're starting out on the Long Meadow Trail.
After the little hump up ahead it's pretty smooth sailing.
Some early fall foliage as autumn light enriches the mountain colors.
This is heading back along the Chinquapin Trail, part of what I understand was once known as Grey Whale
Ranch but is now a part of Wilder Ranch.
Along the Chinquapin Trail there are a number of little singletracks that run alongside the main fireroad.
No signage as to whether they are legal or not.
Descending the Chipaqua trail to the Eucalyptus grove. At 900 feet, it is a key landmark in the area and
the high point of the Eucalyptus loop.
View from the eucalyptus grove. A cloud layer is just starting to move in, and looks like they scorched the meadow
area, hopefully as part of a controlled burn.
Making a left hand turn at the grove, there is a smooth and fast fireroad descent to a thick riparian grove
where the trail narrows to twisty singletrack.
Anybody wanna go down that? The regular trail loops around a little creek just fine.
That was a fast little dip ahead, with a very small stream crossing at the bottom.
Once outside the grove, the Eucalyptus loop heads northwest were it connects with the Enchanted Loop,
leading to the Enchanted Forest in the backgroud. Hmmmm, wonder if there are trolls and elves running around...
...oh, no, a tricky leprechaun jumped out and pushed me! That's why I didn't clean that rooty section.
As always, it looks worse when you are actually there, and this part was a real pain to go up.
So we'd recommend going down
it instead by taking the Enchanted Loop in a clockwise direction. You would still have to climb steeply after the
meadow at the entrance, but that's at least fairly smooth fireroad.
You can see it a couple shots up. Yeah, the fireroad up there is pretty steep, but also pretty short.
This is outside the Enchanted Forest, overlooking the canyon leading down to Baldwin Creek.
More clouds blocking the sun, so for most of the way down the Baldwin trail I wasn't taking many pictures.
The first shot is most of the way up the terrace, but you can see the coastal grasses gently sloping down to the
Brussel's sprout plantation running along the coast.
While the stupid clouds are blocking most of the direct light I'll have to settle for silhouette shots.
Having made it down to Highway 1, there's a pumpkin farm no doubt gearing up for Half Moon Bay's pumpkin festival.
Further down the trail a little is Davenport Beach, known to us from our south bay surfing days.
Its Brussel's sprouts!
Acres and acres go like this for awhile, and soon enough it all looks the same.
Some turns through the plantation would lead back to the ranch, and others wasted our time.
The main area was also hidden behind a little hill and in a ravine, such that it was basically invisible,
and we'd wondered if we passed it. Just when we were about ask someone for directions,
we stumbled right into it.
But then again, who really minds getting lost in a place like this.
Well, what do you know. Everything went as planned and there was plenty of light as we headed
back to the car. Since we're down here... may as well head to downtown Santa Cruz and hang out at the pier.
It's a bit off the peak hour for much people watching, but downtown always has a bustling quality.
This is past all the little shops, near the end of the pier, with barking sealions down below.
What the hay? Too cool for you!
These are bikes of the Los Gatos Cruisers bicycle club, parked sylishly behind the restaurant.
Check out that spoke pattern in the second shot.
I've never seen such a thing... these have to be the ultimate in beach cruisers!
Here they spring into action...
...riding off into the sunset, after a long and happy biking day.
Breezy hills, thick forests, coastal plantations above hidden beaches, smooth easy fireroads, fast
twisty singletrack, historic rancheros,
piers, ferris wheels, and stylish beach cruisers.
All I can say is, why does Santa Cruz have to be so far away?!?
Seriously, it's hard to go wrong here,
and how is that Santa Cruz has come to have so many remarkable biking places in such a small area?
(b. October 5, 2003)
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