16 October 2006

I left the .50 at home, but took a pair of 2.55s

Riding along the edge of the middle of nowhere I find myself asking why nobody has built homes here. Thousands of hilly acres with wildlife and serenity could gradually conceal the eradication of solitude found in this silent valley. A million residents could live here, if not for their creation of the world's longest double-file used car lot on Hwy 130.

In the distance, the spooky-white domes of the Lick Observatory pop above the hilltops in Seussian contrast to the sapphire crystal sky.

I'm nearly alone on this recently-graded trail of cocoa powder and spilled sacrete as no other bike racks were fitted to the seven cars in the lot by the lake. Ground squirrels and predatory birds whisping high above are my only companions during the constant climb. Cycling among the endless fields of flaxen foxtails after the summer's bleaching, the mind drifts to memories of fields of wheat, of sugar cane, of corn. In a blink, I return to the foxtails as a 300-pound black boar hears my approach and disappears over the next bend at 21mph.

Wow! My first live boar sighting in daylight - and a brazen lack of camo for this creature among foxtail acres. I continue climbing with increasing fervor in search of my mtn companion -- watching always for it's mate or it's young. Cresting another hill, I spot the boar once more, nibbling on the ground. I sneak over and capture some images. Two photos later the boar raises it's head and literally sniffs the air. "What's that awful smell?", she asks herself. "Ich. Smells like sweaty human!", and she tears off to the unseen. On the next rise, I see she is likely hiding in the shaded valley and greenery below and behind me now.

The park services have attached a storyboard to this house I find situated in the middle of nothing. Joseph Grant held title to the land where the Pala Seca Hunting Club once used a modest structure as their club's cabin for deer hunting and trout fishing trips. If you ask me, the extreme makeover begun in 2002 is stalled, but there's no threat of construction site theft, vandalism or graffitti/carving here. I begin to imagine the tales that originate from this spot reserved for the men to get away from their women.

The unfinished cabin is representative of 1920s scale, yet a castle in this blank landscape of brush, foxtails, and the occasional fence. A flushing toilet is said to have been added by Sierra Club Member J.D.Grant in advance of a presidential visit by his friend, Roosevelt. Stanford and Hoover are also said to have stayed at the Ranch House as guests of Grant - whose father earned his fortune selling supplies to gold miners.

Steep Downhill. Control Your Pee.
No matter where I'm riding, I always laugh when I see this clever mod of a common warning sign.

That continual climb from Grant Lake (1,600 feet) to Antler Point (2,850 feet) is bearable because of the continual descent that follows. I was grinning the whole time while the Weirwolf 2.55 LT treads provided confident traction, banking, berming and braking over gravel and cocoa dirt downhill sections up to 34 mph and down to 0 mph. Beyond that it's all a blur, as I was focused on controlling my pee so as not to soil my linens. Truth be told, I had a party to attend in 2 hours and positively could not risk any OTB.

Next stop, the Park's trails on the other side of Hwy 130.

The Ride:
Up Halls Valley - 2.1 miles One Way Only
Up Canada de Pala - .4 miles
Up Pala Seca - 2.3 miles
Down Canada de Pala - 2.7 miles
Down Los Huecos - 1.8 miles One Way Only
Add .8 miles to/from/around.

1250 - 1400 feet on a 10.2 mile circuit.


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