26 February 2016

Tinta Creek and Apache Canyon

Los Padres National Forest

Bruce, a geocacher, has been looking for people to mountain bike with and we agreed on heading out to the area high along the Cuyama River for what turned out to be a lot of little trips. Besides wanting someone to ride with, he also seems to relish the idea of showing someone the ropes of pedaling a mountain bike. My own goals for the mountain bike are downright mundane. I see it as something to get me to the more interesting bit of trail when there is a lock on a road or it is just too rough for a small car.

Tinta Creek

My big goal for the trip is Cuyama Peak with its fallen fire lookout and view. Well, I assume it has a view. My plan to get there is Tinta Creek, which starts off as road, then turns into a motorcycle trail. The climb will finish on another road. For hiking, I rate the road as "flat", the motorcycle trail as "mostly flat", and the further road as "easy climb". For mountain biking, Bruce rates these a bit higher, not really caring for the 400 feet per mile the final 2.5 miles has. It seems to be more like "reasonable", "getting tough", and "maybe not on the bikes". We decide not to push the vehicles across the river crossing at the start, so end up peddling that initial "reasonable" section but reducing the chance of actually getting up to the top of the mountain.

flat road in wide canyon
Bruce getting started. After the river crossing, the road is generally nice and smooth.

panorama of the canyon
Looking around just a little bit further.

It is a little bit of work to get the bike along the rather easy grade beside the creek. After the river crossing, the crossings are all nice fords with cement bottoms. The are also quite dry. The canyon is very slow to narrow as we go until we are at the campground.

Tinta Creek
Dry Tinta Creek and some low hills behind the bike.

more hills
It keeps looking like things will get narrower up ahead. The road is not quite so smooth here.

table of Tinta Campground
Tinta Campground is no longer listed in the forest web site. It may have been decommissioned, but the tables remain.

The campground has a number of tables and fire rings and nothing else. There is a half broken motorcycle gate at the end of the campground. It hardly matters since anyone who is not allowed to be going up this trail will not get very far. Last weekend I was told that this is the worst bit of the Condor Trail based on, well, it is a motorcycle trail. This one is a lot narrower than the motorcycle trails I have encountered before. The slow speed humps that develop have not developed here. It actually looks less like a motorcycle trail than Johnson Ridge, where it has been illegal to ride one for a couple decades.

green up a side canyon
A bit of green grass up a side canyon.

There is a little bit of water in the creek as the canyon shrinks. We ride a little bit before coming to some switchbacks. Narrow and exposed, they are not the most surprising thing to think that people ride their motorbikes over so far. Each for our own reason, we just walk the bikes up these.

suddenly more vertical land
The land is suddenly a little more vertical.

Around the corner, there is more exposed trail working upward. Water has made it rocky and rough with a tight V down the middle. It does not look attractive for riding and we are still 4.5 miles from the further road as the crow flies. Were it just me, the bike would have been abandoned shortly after leaving the road and I would just hike up to the top happily. Bruce wants to be on his bike, but the stuff ahead is not really for my beginner self. He also wants to be down before it is dark. There is another way up, so it seems most reasonable to give this one up for now.

back out the canyon
Heading back down and out of the canyon.

As we go by, we take the opportunity to travel the spur along Rancho Nuevo Creek until a little short of the wilderness boundary. There is a little more water in this creek and the fords along the road are wet. The first has plenty of sand over the ford to make it look slightly hazardous to do on the bike and Bruce pauses. I figure I can just step over it and am across quickly. Too quickly and without enough attention, in fact, as my back tire hit the water with a good splash directed at me.

Rancho Nuevo Creek
On the way for a short ride up Rancho Nuevo Creek.

It is a short ride, and soon we are zooming back, across the water crossings. This time I get splashed riding through the water as the back tire kicks it up and onto my arm. We are back to the cars in time for lunch.

Apache Canyon

We head north for Apache Canyon. The canyon and a couple of motorcycle trails beside it have geocache hides. Bruce has been here before, so we go up the road a bit to where there are some he has not found yet. It is not all pedaling. One hider decided people should get out and walk up a steep hill along the way. There is plenty of sand in the canyon and even more on the side trails, which makes me not really want to try them. I remember many times hitting sand along the beach bike paths and how badly it would end up every time I tried to turn on it. The creek crossings have water here and one even has enough flowing to make a good sound. The sand in the crossings looks more worrisome than that on the road. We go a couple miles up until it is time to turn. It seems that I am too focused on sand because there is not one photograph to show off the wide badlands canyon and its occasional inholdings at the end of the ride.

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 2 Mar 2016

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