Riding in the Forbidden Zone

By Forrest Smith - Drempd.com

Perhaps the title for this post is a bit overblown, but I thought it sounded better than “Today’s Bike Ride”, and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that anytime you do anything outdoorsy or moderately adventurous, exaggerations always make things sound more epic.

I remember while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the other hikers regaling us of stories from his trip and the freak snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow on their camp several months back at Crabtree Meadow. Of course, we were actually camped near them and said hello as we passed their camp on our way up to Mt. Whitney. There may have been a half-inch or so of snow on the ground. But his stories are probably way better than mine.

But I digress.

Anyways, today was a nice little biking trip just north of Ramona, along the Lower Santa Ysabel Road, up through the lower portions of Boden Canyon, along Boden Canyon Road, and back down to the starting point, for a little loop trip of nine or ten miles.

Since I’m not really a mountain biker, this route really worked out well for me. Most of it was old dirt roads, which offer nice grades, no tight switchbacks, and less chance of me flying over my handlebars.

The ride along Lower Santa Ysabel Road stays near the valley-bottom, so there are nice trees lining the creek, and beautiful green grassy areas. Towards the west end of that section, the road turns more into singletrack, but nothing too serious — it’s still an easy ride.

I hit Boden Canyon, and found myself on a nice old dirt road heading north, through more stands of oak trees and grasslands in the valley bottom. The riding was nice, so nice that I missed my road intersection, and kept riding north. Eventually, I turned back, trying to find the road leading up to the ridge, which I wasn’t finding. I gave up, deciding to just ride back the way I came, even considering doing the loop in the opposite direction so I could see where this mythical road met the one I was currently on.

I was flying back down the road (feeling some of that thrill which I think is probably one of the addicting qualities that many find in mountain biking), pretty happy even if my loop trip was a failure, when I saw the intersection. The loop trip was saved! As I climbed out of the valley, my bike started acting up, which makes sense, since it’s old and cheap. My gear shifter broke, so I only had the easy ring on the front, and it only seemed to like a few of the gears in the back (at least I was left with easy gears, since I had a hill to climb).

As I climbed out of the valley (I kind of like hill climbs), I passed a sign which said that bikes weren’t allowed where I had been. I’m a hiker and a backpacker and it always annoys the hell out of me when I see mountain bikers where they shouldn’t be — now I was one of them — but this wasn’t out in the wilderness, and this wasn’t even a singletrack hiking trail. It never occurred to me that I would be forbidden from riding on roads. Oops.

Having made my escape from the forbidden zone, I continued my climb up to the ridge, where I found a nice spot for lunch. I wanted to continue on the ridge, but the bike wasn’t cooperating, so I decided to stick to the plan and just head down the ridge and back to the car.

I looked up the forbidden zone when I arrived home, and it looks like an extremely small section (like a quarter mile at most) of this loop trip lies in the Boden Valley Nature Reserve, which is a real bummer since I quite liked this loop trip.

It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun on a mountain bike, and since the current bike is probably fairly unsafe to ride (I didn’t mention the brakes), I think it may be time to start saving for a better bike. I can’t wait to get out and ride around again.