27 February 2016

Dry Canyon, Grade Valley Road, and Pine Mountain Ridge Road

Los Padres National Forest

The night at Dome Springs was quiet once dark came and the not very distant target shooting finished. The morning comes with frost, but it feels like it just barely got there.

Dry Canyon

For the morning, we just ride down East Dry Canyon from Dome Springs. This is just along a road I have driven, so I elect to leave the camera. It is a simple ride until we elect to head up West Dry Canyon a little way. Once out into the open wash and starting up the little wash, things do become quite photo worthy. They also become very very sandy. Over and over again, little humps and deep sand cause my wheels to suddenly slide sideways leaving my bike tilted and my weight to one side requiring great effort to keep upright. More usually, it requires putting a foot down. Bruce says just drop it into the lowest gear and enjoy myself and I say this is what feet were made for. There is more trail, but once we reach our goal, we are back. It is a little easier out than in, but not much. Heading down the last of the East Dry Canyon Road, traffic noise out on Lockwood alerts us to the finish of the ride.

Grade Valley Road

After collecting the car at the top, we head over to Grade Valley Road for lunch and some afternoon riding. It gains a few hundred feet in the first mile, so is not that easier ride over terrain I would call flat if walking it. There are two cars by the gate as we start and one is a dog walker finishing up.

Lockwood Valley Road
Lockwood Valley Road straightens out on this side.

at the gate
Grade Valley and a few other things are that way. Thorn Meadows is missing from the listed camping areas.

We get started on the work climbing the hill. At least on a bike, it can actually be kind of nice that the first mile is paved. I certainly prefer otherwise when hiking, but there are no footfalls to feel the hardened surface when pedaling. Lucky for me, I do not feel like I have something to prove as I try to get up the hill because it would take some deep reserves that take a long time to replenish. Instead, a few minutes rest here and there gets me ready to go again. The top is still long in coming. And in all the effort to keep the pedals circling, I manage no photographs again.

The pavement ends at the top of the hill. It is a nice, easy slope down to Piano Box, but we decide that we do not have the time to finish the loop if we start it. This getting back before dark is really cramping my style. It looks like a fun ride, too. We turn around and climb back to the top. It is a much easier climb from this side.

At the top of the ridge, we stop to pursue a couple geocaches that have eluded us while traveling the road. They do not seem to be near the road but further out on the ridge. We leave the bikes and make the rest of the scramble to the top, avoiding the odd dried out poodledog as we go. There is not much of it, maybe it is finished until the next fire comes through. As we wander the short distance, the ground under our feet is strange and very soft. We sink a few inches with each step compacting the very airy soil. The ridge rises on all sides and the area must hold ephemeral pools. There is a very limited area in the middle that looks like lake bed, but the soft soil continues up the sides above brush and trees. It is a curious phenomenon just at the lower levels, but even more so as we get higher. We finish our search and leave again.

Back at the bikes, the only thing left is to try to get down this hill. As long as our brakes hold, it will be fine. We zoom past another set of dog walkers and a lone backpacker. It certainly is fast.

Pine Mountain Ridge Road

Heading home, I am sometimes fighting the sun in my face. Hitting the summit of Pine Mountain, as far as the road is concerned, I decide to spend an hour along the ridge enjoying the sunset rather than driving further and cursing it. It will also give me a chance to really look out over Potrero Seco Road.

Potrero Seco
Potrero Seco wraps around the ridge line toward a three point junction where other roads go off to Monte Arido and Hildreth Peak.

I know people walk up here in the winter, but it is still surprising to come across a couple day hikers coming down. The little walk is quite pleasant and as it is on road, quite easy. I ponder a fuel break as a more challenging destination, but settle down to just have fun along the road.

silly photos
The shadow of some hiker with a little pack and a big coat hanging off it as the sun gets low.

Oh, and the sunset is nice too.

vanishing sun
Sunset over the freshly repaved Pine Mountain Ridge Road.

pink lined clouds
Colors in the sky.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 3 Mar 2016

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