Misadventures in El Morro Canyon

Not Again!

Yes, again. In an my first attempt at what is looking to be my last MTB ride for a long, long time, I managed to do something that few cyclists have ever done before. That is: snap off the seat of my bike while riding it. For the second time. On a completely different bike than the first time, in a completely isolated incident. I know, I know. I’m just that good.

I was on my way to El Morro State park, a circa 10 mile ride from my house, and the best mountain biking within riding distance. About five miles in, on a heavily populated jogging/cycling/dog and kid walking trail, the seat snapped unceremoniously off of its post and flew out from under me. I, however, was completely unscathed. In fact I was not even startled. You see, I’m practically a professional at handling seat-snapping disasters. It turns out that my Camelback (thanks, Sabrina!) was the perfect size for carrying an offsnapped saddle—so I rode home. I spent half of the all-standing ride home deflecting confused glances from various passerby and the other half warding off my own grotesque visions of spin classes and awkward impalements.

A quick switch-a-roo with the good ol’ road bike seat back home, and I was on the verge of going with the “screw it, I’ll just drive to the trail option.” But then I remembered the reason I’d opted to ride to the trail in the first place: the $15 day-use parking fee. So it was back on the bike and down the coast. Only when I reached El Morro, I found that there was construction on the only left hand turn signal (and subsequently no left-turning for me) at the entrance to the park. Several miles down PCH and one “City Limits” sign later, I found a place to turn around. So it was back on the bike a up the coast.

And then there was El Morro Canyon. When I rode El Morro last Spring, I was on my mom’s totally rigid, bright green Performance MTB from nineteeneightywhatever. It was also my second time mountain biking in my life—the first time being when my cousin and I walked our bikes up a mountain in Idaho and sort of rode down. Also, that first time in El Morro, I was alone, accidentally ended up on the advanced single track, crashed, and walked more than half the way down with an irrational fear of mountain lions lingering in the back of my mind. Naturally, I had the time of my life.

This time I rode up the long way, around the edge of the park. The El Morro ridge trail starts off with a pretty nasty climb (possibly steeper than the hill climb in Berkeley on average, but shorter) that I just barely heaved up, before it flattens out in to a nice little stretch with some rollers and a view of the ocean that would’ve been postcard perfect if it weren’t for the smog and the power lines and the police helicopters. After reaching the top, I turned off on what I think was the “Missing Link” single track which was actually, not terrifying, but—get this—fun.

Soon I ended up back on the real downhill portion, the single track I accidentally found myself on last time. There was at least one part that was definitely more suited to the skill level of the guys in the “Roam” movie than to my own. Yea, I walked that part (more like got off my bike, rock-climbed down and then reached up to grab the bike). But, I could ride most of it which was an enormous improvement. It could be that the only reason I didn’t fall was that the trail was lined with cacti—and falling often seemed far more dangerous an option than just gunning it down the slope. On second thought—let’s go with the ‘enormous improvement’ thing. That sounds much better.

After a minor bought with the randomly striking disorder known as being “lost” (El Morro has pretty poor signage) I found my way onto the fire road past the Deer campground. Then there was a short stretch of uphill single-track that had some pleasant little switchbacks for all you Tamarancho fans out there. I asked the only other mountain biker I’d seen all day for directions, and then followed the fire road (named Mach-One, for some reason) back to PCH. Even after months of being spoiled by riding up north I can’t say I didn’t have fun facing the exposed, cactus-lined, erosionally challenged slopes of El Morro Canyon.

Those are gonna be the last cacti I see for a while. Vi ses, desert! Hej, there, snötackte stad!

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