I’ve been doing a bit of Mt. Laguna singletrack on Friday evenings with a colleague and his friends. Some conflicting feelings about trail riding have kept me from the mountains for a while. As transportation cyclist, I have issues with driving a car and burning fuel to, then, ride a bicycle. But some phenomenal recent rides in our backcountry and in Los Angeles, Redlands, and Orange County have shaken me from my do-gooder green funk. There are trails I ride to regularly from Central San Diego: Los Peñasquitos Preserve, San Clemente Canyon, Tecolote Canyon, and Rose Canyon. The road-wear on my rear knobby tire testifies to this. But I’m now all for driving out to a ride – carpooling preferably – if it means getting out into nature.
San Diego County contains the most biodiversity of any county in the lower 48 – and our mountains – a mere hour from downtown – are full of pine, cedar, oak, and many critters. One such critter is the mountain lion. There are also rattlesnakes. And cows.
I got a late start to meet my group at 5pm, but I figured some spirited driving would get me there within minutes of the start. Then it rained while I passed on Interstate 8 through Mission Valley, and traffic seized up. I arrived 15 minutes late, and the group had already left. The group spoke about the diminishing daylight this time of year after our last ride, and I hoped they’d begin without me, as I didn’t want my tardiness to delay the ride. Indeed, upon arrival, I discovered they had already begun. I was relieved.
Without much thought, I got my Rawland off the rack and started a long downhill before turning into the forest for technical singletrack. The Rawland is not a mountain bike, per se. It as a rigid all-rounder fitted with 650B (27.5) Pacenti Neo-Moto 58mm knobbies run at about 35psi. I love this bike on trails, as the larger wheels roll over most things and the old-school approach makes finding a line more important than bombing over everything, which dual suspension facilitates.
Once I entered the forest and the technical stuff, I had a thought. “Aren’t there mountain lions around here?” Then I had a couple more thoughts: “Don’t they hunt at dusk?” and “Aren’t trail users advised not to ride or hike alone?” Its kind of like spear fishing or snorkeling. Once a white shark enters one’s thoughts, it cannot be expelled.
I began singing and then talking very loudly, so as not to surprise a wandering lion. I talked about my work: “I need to finish this PROJECT!” Then I talked about the ride: “I’m coming around the CORNER!” When I saw the moonrise, I began making up words to the Creedeence song “I Hear a Bad Moon Rising.” It was a lovely moonrise:
My paranoid ride was nearly complete, after circumnavigating Big Laguna cattle lake and skirting Nobel Canyon. Heading back up to the parking lot, I came upon a few large cattle standing on the singletrack. The rutted trail had already suggested heavy cattle presence. One of these cattle was particularly heavy – a bull. That word seems a bit cartoon-ish. But is there another word for a large cow with a penis and sharp horns? The other cattle trotted off after I made cowboy noises like like the bad guys did in Shane. But this bull just focused on me, and then began huffing and shifting his weight around, kicking up dust with his legs. I stared at him. He was locked in on me. I stood between him and a barbed wire fence. I saddled up, and slowly pedaled by. He never took his eyes off me. I somehow made it past the beast, and then rode like hell up to the safety of my oft-ambling Volvo wagon.
When off pavement, I prefer fire roads and hard-pack trails with an all-rounder fat-tire roadish bicycle, as such riding provides many opportunities to enjoy the view. Sometimes, singletrack focuses my vision too much on the ground, and not enough on the wonderful wilderness I’m passing through. But one of the great things about riding singletrack in the wilderness is that it delivers you right into the wild, and all the primordial fears come with it (fears of a city kid, admittedly).