The drizzle began to fall just as I walked out to the garage to pound the cranks onto my brand new Profile hub. The weather report called for a 40% chance of rain but that just got bumped up to 100%. We all know what that means… muddy muni! Excellent…
Nick Brazzi and I met Corbin Dunn and Trevor Blackwell in a little neighborhood just off the UCSC campus. Instead of our usual rides down the backside of the campus into the San Lorenzo valley, we planned to take a trail skirting the outside edge of Wilder Ranch State Park. Like our usual rides, we had several miles of winding singletrack ahead, all underneath a canopy of towering redwoods. We shuttled up Empire Grade to start the ride, saving us a few miles of uphill riding (yecch!)
The trail launched us straight into the redwoods on gently rolling singletrack. The tree cover afforded us a little shelter from the drizzle, but the ground was already saturated. The redwoods pawed at us as we rolled past… the trail was a veritable slalom course where one dodged redwood trunks, roots, branches and even a few deadfalls. After a few mild downhill sections we found the beginning of the many stunts Mailboxes has to offer… several doubles challenged us to “clear the gap”. We took a few launches apiece and with no success we rolled on.
Now the trail got a bit more challenging. Here and there we came upon trees laying across the singletrack, some with dirt ramps, others requiring a rolling hop to continue along. I’d hear an “oomph” and someone would shout “pileup!” as a tree would bring our train of riders to a temporary halt. Where we found a nice ramp we’d all stop and give ‘er a few goes until we all felt that we had conquered the obstacle (we’ll see on the next ride ). Then we came upon another or Mailboxes’ treasures… a nice, wide ladder just a few feet off the deck gave us all a little taste of North Shore.
Just beyond, we encounter another tree across the trail. The tree was shaped such that a natural ramp appeared in its midsection. Of course, we all had to stop and give it several tries. After a good 10 minutes of various comical dismounts (Nick ended up sitting on the log comfortably after his first UPD), Corbin rode the tree until the overbrush mobbed him. I made it up and over the log, as did Nick, and that was good enough to keep going.
Around a bend, the ground dropped out from below us. A long, steep downhill section threatened to gobble us all up and spit our munis out. There was a “left” and a “right” option to continue, “left” being a twisty, rocky descent that alternated between steep and kinda steep… “right” was a straight shot, straight down. Very steep. Don’t try walking down steep. Slide down on your butt steep. Did I mention that it was raining? At this point the trail was good and muddy, and the rocks had become rather slick. Corbin made quick work of the “left” option with the help of his squeaky Maguras, and hiked back up to brave the “right”. After a couple slides he determined he was taking it too slowly, so he powered down with a turbo-charged quickness. To our amazement, he made it about 3/4s of the way down. His uni got too anxious and flew the rest of the way down, leaving Corbin with a small hike to find his wheel.
I took the left with a good amount of backpressure, clearing it on the first try with a whoop and holler of joy. Nick followed after a false start, and Trevor pieced it together to bring us to the bottom. We played on a couple more stunts before continuing on to the Next Big Drop. This one was shorter, but had way more rocks and roots. Luckily there were trees at the bottom of our attempted lines that helpfully caught Corbin and I before we plummeted off into the ferns. Yes, we’re treehuggers and we’re proud. We cleaned this section in small pieces, slipping constantly; some of us decided to slide down on our rear ends, but we all soon met at the bottom.
The rest of the trail was uneventful, although the terrain varied widely from soft loam to slick mud to slick rocks and all variations inbetween. The rain picked up a little more, dripping down through the canopy to strike our helmets with a “thwap” and drip down off our noses. We ended up on some overgrown fire road, dodging horse droppings, heading towards the gate that would take us toward the UCSC pastures. As we hopped the gate, we finally emerged from the canopy, with a view of rolling green pastures blanketed with fog and cow patties. We zipped across the pastures back to the roads, the rain now washing off some of the mud I collected in the forest. A few blocks of pavement and sidewalks took us back to our cars, where we concluded our riding for the day.
The combination of yesterday’s flag football and today’s muni ride leaves me walking stiff-legged like a modern Frankenstein (as Nick had observed), but I’m already looking forward to riding Mailboxes again on Christmas eve. The new Profile setup is infinitely greater than my old UDC square taper hub with mismatched bicycle cranks, and it’s begging to see more airtime. Trevor got bitten by the Muni bug and the trail left Nick hungering for more, so it looks like our little group will reconvene in the 'Cruz shortly!