August 12, 2004: Thar's a new sheriff in town
I had planned to do a Skeggs ride after work today with some friends of FrankenFine, but the Skeggs ride got rescheduled for Sunday. Since I had Blue and all my stuff already loaded up in the Bronco, I decided to look for a different ride to do on the peninsula. After a brief Google, I came across a description of Water Dog Park in Belmont.
Initially, I was dubious. The ride description listed the trail as six to eight miles, so I was thinking I would have to do it a few times. In addition, I'd never heard of this park before, so how good could it be? I mean, if I haven't heard of it, well it must not be worth hearing about. Oh the ignorance and arrogance.
Helmets off to the City of Belmont. Water Dog Park is a beautiful little gem tucked away in the hills of west Belmont. There's not much left, what with the software-money-fueled encroachment of modern stuccoed SFDs and over-landscaped tract-house yards, but if you squint your eyes and look at the right place, you can catch of glimpse of its former glory as a lawless frontier zone for teenage ne'er-do-wells, motorcycle gangs, dopers, and young lovers. It's basically a large bowl ringed by steep, crumbly, scrub-oak covered hills. To one side of this of this bowl, sits Water Dog Lake, to the other, the main parking lot. Crisscrossing everywhere in between is a seemingly infinite network of single track. Most of these trails are extremely steep, with almost unpullable uphills and nervewracking downhills.
The total area of the park is pretty small, but there are enough different trails to easily keep a rider occupied for a couple of hours. Once you get a feel for the trail network here, it could really be fun. I started off trying to follow the directions from the trail description I had downloaded, but there were just too many trail offshoots to be certain that I was where I thought I was. After a couple of false starts put down by some brutally steep climbs, I finally popped out of the park onto Whiteridge road to circumnavigate the park and look for another entrance high up on the western ridgeline. This turned out to be a pretty damn tough ride in itself, but eventually I got up there.
I poked around a little bit and finally found a treacherous chute that looked like it hooked into an established trail about 50 feet down the hill. As I was dusting myself off down at the bottom of the chute, another rider happened by and stopped to lower his seat in preparation for a downhill run. I took the opportunity to ask him about the local trails.
Turns out M is a local rider who was doing his first ride in five weeks after breaking his collarbone. Broken collarbone? Ah yes, the hallmark of a serious rider, eh Krusty? Well, you couldn't convince me that M hadn't been on a bike in over a month. He clearly had the saddle presence of a downhiller, and the ease and fluidity with which he effortlessly zipped down the tight, narrow, winding, poison-oak lined singletrack affirmed that he was damn good. Not only was he losing me on the downhills, but I could barely keep up on the uphills. He was riding a nine-speed MTB; only one ring in the front.
M showed me a few of the trail alternates and we chatted for a while, then headed separate ways to pursue our individual training schedules. A real good guy that I hope I meet up with somewhere down the trail. One of the routes he described was a counterclockwise set of linked trails that took me past the "lake" and around the circumference of the park, eventually bringing me back to the very place I had first encountered him.
Blue and I were not really getting along today; it felt like I was riding somebody else's bike. For one thing, it felt like there was a huge magnet at the apex of every turn, pulling me off-line and off the trail at a 90 degree angle to the proper line. I mean, I didn't make a single clean turn the whole day, despite the fact that many of the turns were nice, hard-packed banks that you could really lean into if you were feeling good. This tracking problem could be related to the large amounts of oil that appear to be leaking out the seals of both fork arms. That don't look good. I'll have to call Rich tomorrow and see if I can get Blue into the shop before the road trip next week. I was also having a serious problem with my balance, and I didn't really pull any serious technical stuff all day.
There's some really fun stuff here, including the most challenging zippy downhill singletrack you could ask for, gnarly uphills, trail obstacles (like a half-buried 1957 Pontiac), and bitchin' views. I'm definitely coming back.
In two hours out on the trail today, I encountered more serious riders than all my rides on the coast in the last year combined. It may have been a hidden gem to me, but obviously it's a local favorite. There is a ton of poison oak here, so rider beware! M said it gets pretty aggressive in the spring, but during the heat of the summer, it's as light as it ever gets. I guess I'll know tomorrow whether or not it was a good idea to ride here. Saw one deer grazing on a cleared slope just below a new ridgeline tract home.
|Mileage: 13.19||Time: 1:42:43||Avg: 7.6||Max: 31.5||Weight: 170.5|
Got a comment or question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Amalgamated TruthMaker Enterprises --