In the USA many companies close down for the week of July 4th. We decided to use the opportunity for a summer holiday/vacation with a MTBing / camping weekend. As the weather was fast warming up, we decided to go camping close to Clear Lake, a couple of hours drive north of San Francisco, where we could take a dip after our first days riding. It was a fortunate decision as weather warnings were in place for temps in the early 40’s C/100’s F.
MTBing in Santa Rosa
On the way to the camp site, we stopped off at Trione Annadel State Park for a 16+ Mile Ride on the Big Loop. When we arrived the temperature was already starting to heat up. The beginning of the road takes you up Cobblestone Trail, a tenuous description for what is a two-way easy incline, but a very bumpy ride. Not long after starting my heart was beating fast. I was starting to sweat a lot and I had a bit of a funny tummy. Meanwhile, Lindsay was feeling awesome.
About 10 miles into the ride we stopped at a large dammed lake. Another couple had stripped down to their underwear and had waded in for a dip. I contemplated following them in, but once I’d had a snack and a shaded sit down, I felt a little better.
Before we headed off, a local artist wandered into the area and informed me that the innocuous greenery I had rested my bike in was in fact poison ivy, and that I should give my bike a wipe down before carrying on. I’m lucky that either I’m not affected by its oil, or I managed to avoid getting it on my body. Something like 85% of people are allergic to the undetectable sticky oil put off by all parts of the plant which can have horrific consequences!!
We didn’t complete the full loop as I was going a lot slower than my normal pace, and suspect I was experiencing slight heat exhaustion. However there were some great downhills, though not for the fainthearted. They were rocky with dappled light coming through the forest canopy making it difficult to read the trail. It was mentally tiring, but well worth the effort.
We made it to the end of the trail later than expected, happy to climb back into the strategically parked truck, now shaded by the surrounded brush. At the end of the ride I remembered several lessons we had learnt from riding in the heat of Phoenix, AZ. First, take lots of breaks and pre-hydrate. Second, pre-load with a little food if we head out in the late morning. Finally, turn up the temp in the car so as not to get out of a pleasantly cool car, into intense warm heat.
Camping at Clear Lake
We arrived at the Clear Lake State Park campground at about 5.30pm after having gone shopping for food and supplies. It had some fairly decent amenities with pretty water filled inlets stretching well into the grounds. We erected our tent and headed down to the lake on our MTB’s as the site is fairly large.
The lake was surprisingly warm which I suspect contributed to the algae bloom occurring in the water. As we waded in we could feel large flurries of soft algae swish past our bodies. Apparently Clear Lake is fantastic for fishing off shore and now I believe it. I’m a water baby, I grew up swimming, water skiing, snorkeling. Lindsay and I met Scuba Diving! But I was surprised when I felt a nibble on my heel, letting out a small squeal. Lindsay laughed until he later felt a nibble on his toe, after which he quickly exited the water!
MTBing in the Napa Wine Country
The next day, feeling refreshed we headed back to San Francisco via Napa County. Lindsay had originally picked a cycle trail close to the campsite, though he noticed there hadn’t been a lot of recent updates on the MTB Project link. It turned out as we headed in the direction of the trail that the forest had been burnt out in 2017 California Wine Country Fires with the entrance to the trail gated and shut.
Lindsay did a quick search and he found the Oat Hill Mine Trail, boasting views out over the valleys and vineyards of the upper Napa region. It was getting late in the morning so following the lessons learnt from yesterdays’ ride, we loaded up on peanuts and water. We then found a park for the truck, under the shade of a tree, and headed out.
The ride is an out and back ride – straight up, and then straight down the same path. The incline was steep though rideable, but seemed to throw up every type of rock garden imaginable. At times we had to pick our trajectory carefully through jutting rocks, shale, or over long bumpy rock faces. It takes a fairly experienced rider to stay on the bike over all the terrain, otherwise there would be a fair amount of pushing.
We took a lot of breaks to cool down, stopping at the 3 mile point to refuel, whilst sitting on a jutting rock taking in the spectacular views.
There was good canopy shelter over the lower parts of the trail, which then thinned out as we climbed. At about 4 miles into the 4.3 mile ride we were both pushing our bikes up hill over jutting rocks that were un-rideable and unpleasant. We decided to abort the attempt to get to the top, turn and ride the 4 miles back. A fun down hill proceeded, but after riding over all those jarring rocks, my left wrist started to ache. A week later I had the wrist x-rayed. It turned out that I’d jiggled an old fracture of the scaphoid bone in my wrist, lose. It took three surgeries and 2 yrs to heal last time. Fingers crossed, it’s a little faster this time. However…it won’t and hasn’t yet stop me riding.