Saturday, January 31, 2009

Noble Efforts at Noble Canyon

My final day in California was spent riding in Noble Canyon. For this trip I contacted Laura "Sunny" Drexel of Sunny Rides LLC to guide me down the canyon. Laura provided everything for me: my bike, my camelbak, food, water and helmet. We met near the bottom of the trail where we left my car and we shuttled to the top of the trail with her car. This service that Laura provides is well worth every penny. This is the first trip in a long time where I didn't need to know where to go (I didn't get lost!!), I didn't have to find a nice rental bike, I didn't need to pack my own gear. Laura took care of all the details. All I had to do is show up and ride a bike.

We shuttled up to the Penny Pines parking lot at the Penny Pines Mounument in the Cleveland National Forest.

At the Noble Canyon trailhead I noticed a sign about the Mountain Lion Activity. I wish I had read about this the day before when I was by myself flying down Santa Rosa Mountain. Apparently if you see a mountain lion and you ride away very fast it will think you are prey and chase you. I'm glad I didn't see any. The mountain lions in the west scare me more than the bears in the east.

The start of the ride is between 5400 and 5500 ft elevation. At this time of the year there was a little snow to deal with for the first mile or so of the ride. This was not the same snow I have ridden in Ohio. This snow had an icy layer on top, so once you broke through it really slowed you down.

The scenery on this trail was superb. Up to this point the riding was all fairly straight forward smooth single track. I had an "event" with a tree stump moments before this picture was taken because I took a corner too fast as usual, and so I ended up in a pile of brush on the side of the trail. I started slowing down a little after that. The slow speed would prove to be my most major hurdle to overcome for the rest of the day.

Another scenic view from the point where Laura told me it might be best to put on my knee and elbows pads. From here on the trail was technically challenging. For the record, if it had not been for Laura I never would have brought pads, which surly would have caused me pain. Her wise advice throughout the day saved me many times from certain doom.

Here I am, a poser in the woods.

There was some trail damage here and there. We had to pull and drag our bikes under this tree.

Here I am at the "Widow Maker." Laura explains it best in her blog here. Laura could ride this like a pro. I made it this far and then chickened out. Those rocks look like they could really hurt!

More scenery from some of the best singletrack in the world. The trail had ventured out of the woods and back into the open at this point, and the rocks were getting more and more numerous.

Here I am having fun riding down the rocky trail. I was still going too slow, and I had a death grip on the handlebars, but I was having a great ride.

Back in a wooded area again, where the rocks started getting larger.

Laura wouldn't let me get up until she took a picture of one of my many falls. I thought I could get through this one, but I just couldn't get past that last rock.

The offending rock garden of the fall from the picture above.

Laura asked another rider in the area to take a picture of us while we were taking a little break near the stream.

Never in my life have I seen cacti near such a large tree. I would have thought that the tree would have needed much more water then the cacti, and the cacti wouldn't be able to survive with this kind of shade.

Just as we got out of the woods we started to get into some of the more technical descents. The video above is from one of these areas.

Another wonderful view just before a treacherous hill.

Here are a few of video clips of the ride in the more technical sections.

Taking a break at the bottom of a hill. Yes, that is the trail that you see running up the hill. I made it about halfway down before I chickened out again. Laura made it to the bottom, but then told me she had an "incident" at the end.

After we got through the technical downhill sections we hung a left at a fork in the trail and started the long climb up the "extra credit" section. This climb was not as steep as earlier in the day, and the surface changed form the football sized rocks to a desert like sandy dirt with larger rocks here and there. It also started to get very, very warm. At this point I was amazed that in one ride I could go through snow, woods, rocky hills, and now this sandy dirt. I have never been in a place where I could get all of this in just one day.

After the climb was a lot of fast and furious downhill runs with large obstacles around every bend. "Extra Credit" was a great way to end the day.

Finally I'm actually navigating through some of this trail. By the end of the day my skills had improved tremendously. The bonus I got with Laura is not only is she a great tour guide, she is a amateur downhill racer, and she is also a great coach. I learned a lot from her that day.

Of course as much as my confidence was up at this point, there were still these little rocks like this one under my pedal in this picture that would pop out of nowhere and stop me cold. The next time I'm in SoCal I'm doing this ride again, and I'll be a better rider.

Here were are at the parking lot at the bottom of the hill where we reluctantly had to end the ride. I had a two hour drive back to my hotel in Ontario, the time flew by. This was the best single day ride I have yet to accomplish.

If you are ever within a few hours drive of San Diego (I was just east of LA) I would highly suggest that you send Laura an e-mail ( and have her take you on a tour. If this particular ride looks too difficult for your skill level contact her anyway, as she knows many places to ride and will be able to set something up that suits your skill level.

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