Oh Bear Mountain, where do I begin? People who have visited Bear Mountain speak of it as if it was a giant beast hidden deep in Henry Coe. You can't quite tell whether it is excitement, or fear, or joy of survival in their voice. I'm intrigued. This weekend, despite having not done any long rides for a while, Mr. Mud and I will go pay a visit to the beast. I found one of plymmer's tracks, but we decide to add the Jim Donnelly Trail, a climb right out of the parking lot. 9:40am start. We are not young chicken any more.
Here is the route: Hunting Hollow Parking Lot >> Jim Donnelly Trail (up) >> Spike Jones Trail (dh) >> Anza (up) >> Jackson Trail (up) >> Elderberry Spring Tr / Rock Tower Tr >> Jackson Rd >> Kelly Lake Tr (dh) >> Coit Rd >> L: Willow Ridge Rd >> L: Eagle Pines Tr >> R: Bear Mtn Rd >> R: County Line Rd (incl. side trip to Mississippi Lake for water filtering) >> L: Turkey Pond Tr >> R: Kaiser Aetna Rd >> Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center (deserted but has water) >> R: Burra Burra Tr >> L: Center (NOT) Flats >> Wagon Rd >> Wasno rd >> Tule Pond Tr >> R: Grizzly Gulch Tr >> Gilroy Hot Sprint Rd >> Hunting Hollow Parking Lot. (49.9 miles / 11,190 ft / 8:01 Riding / 3:03 Resting)
As of today, ten days before summer solstice, Henry Coe is dry and hot. The blue sky is always pleasing to the eyes. Tall grass every where. Coe is a raw beauty. But today, it's also a tick city.
I feel the leg cramps on the wall right before the summit of Willow Ridge Rd. The sensible thing is to turn around then, but I have not seen the beast yet. Head filled with the craze to see my star, all sense is out of the window. I give the two trunks below me a good rub and we drop down Eagle Pines Trail. We are committed, except … where exactly is the trail?
As it turns out, much of the riding on the upper portion of this trail is a silent pissing match between you and the bushes. Either you are more determined to push through, or a bush is more determined to stop you. I'm surprised with my own determination many times and we push on through… Oh, then there is that tale in which the private property owner points his gun at a trespasser to force him to turn around and go back up. I admit I did lie awake at night thinking about strategies should I get caught in that situation. I plan to cry.
As we all know, photos can never capture the steepness of the trails well, but I'll post a couple any way. The lower portion of the "trail" is mostly riding through tall grasses. Occasionally, you get surprised with a downed tree branch or trunk hidden deep down that threatens to throw you OTB.
While still higher up, we have a good view of the surroundings. Not knowing where exactly we are going, I whisper to Mr. Mud in horror if Bear Mountain is this mountain in front of us, which means we drop all the way down only to climb straight up. There is a structure at the summit. I whisper for fear of waking up the gun bearing property owner. Mr. Mud refuses to look at the mountain I point at and says he will be in denial until he can't any more.
His denial is effective as it turns out Bear Mountain is much mellower than I have just feared. I was looking at a wrong mountain. Here is a peek at the beast sunbathing.
As we get closer, we can feel the hot breaths from the beast.
Talk about hot breaths, 100+ degrees is recorded on our bike computer for a good three hour duration and at one point, it reaches 113 degrees.
Engulfed in the hot breaths of the beast, you wonder how much longer you can go on.
But finally, it's over. You've seen the beast and he has spared you. You dry off the sweat (or is it tears?) in your eyes, and suddenly, you are greeted with an expansive view. You feel that you are at the top of the world. You've lived to tell the tale.
Oh, yes, the Mississippi Lake. Always the kind-hearted fairy. She supplies abundant water for any visitor to replenish and refresh. I immersed my legs in the pleasantly cool water while operating the filter. That feels good!
But the ride is only half over at Mississippi. We move on and make our way to Dowdy Ranch Visitor Center. It is deserted, but the facilities there are operating and they are appreciated. We take a picture to remember the hospitality of this quiet corner out in no where.
We take Burra Burra Trail out of Dowdy to reach Center Flats. After a long climb, we suddenly are descending. Maybe it's the sweat that blurred the vision, Mr. Mud did not see a rut hidden in the grass, and it stopped his front wheel cold. He tells me while he was rolling down the hill, he was wondering if it would dump him right in the center of Center Flats Rd. It did! Nothing is broken, not even the water bladder. But he is not happy to have to walk back up the hill to fetch the bike. It is quite comical. I laugh even though laughing hurts.
The rest of the ride is mostly uneventful except for my progressing leg cramps. Finally, at the last wall on Center Flats (pffft!), both my legs lock up. It takes Mr. Mud some vigorous rubbing to bring them back to life. Thankfully, by then, all the hard climbing is over. This is the final photo taken on the trip when Mr. Mud is coming down Grizzly Gulch Trail with all the climbing behind him by now. We will be back at our car in no time.
Related or Unrelated Links
My ride on Strava with comments
Mr. Mud's ride on Strava with comments
My ride on Garmin Connect
Mr Mud's ride on Garmin Connect
My Ride on MtbGuru
Report on Mud'nCrud
Report on MTBR