Levi titled his Strava ride in Annadel yesterday “June-uary.” Though we may have been teased last month that our water woes have been put to rest temporarily, the reality is that we are still knee deep mired in our three year drought. The benefit to these dry days that we are experiencing is the incredible weather for enjoying the outdoors. The difference this year to last, is that the early rains put our verdant seasonal grasses and wildflowers back on their customary calendar.
Riding in the winter has its challenges as downhill shaded corners are littered with slick spots combined with associated storm debris. The overwhelming benefit is that the cooler temperatures certainly make mountain climbing easier where the vistas of our enormous landscape are spread out before your gaze.
There are too many such rides to list, but I will highlight Rockpile Road for one. Rockpile road for most is the road that crosses Lake Sonoma via the bridge where the boating masses launch their crafts from over sized diesel trucks during the summer months on alcohol fueled hot afternoons. No harm in that, is there? Sign me up! Most people do not realize is that there is much more to the area as the road continues for another ten miles past the bridge where it climbs and travels along a ridge-line towards the northwest section of Sonoma County.
What I like about the ride is that for one, the climbing is hard. However; there are sections of relief where the screaming that comes from the legs may recover briefly before the next round of misery. The roller coaster continues upwards to an elevation slightly over 2,000 feet just before you reach the Kelly Road gate at the end. By Sonoma County standards the road quality is excellent, wide and well maintained. At the beginning of the climb, the scenery is of oak and grassy hillsides that turn to chaparral, ending in a transition to grasslands dotted with Douglas fir’s and laurels on the shaded hillsides. The best part is that people are few and cars are fewer.
At the end of the road is maybe my favorite vista in the County. To the west, you can view the fog shrouded hills of the Pacific near Annapolis. Looking eastward you can see Cobb Mountain, Mt Konocti, and on a really clear day the Snow Mountain area in Lake County.
Wildlife is present everywhere with the sparse population. Deer, wild boar, fox; raptors of all types and coyotes seem to be everywhere. On my last ride, I noticed black bear scat along the road in several places. As with all adventures, I will point out do not even consider throwing your bike over the gate and continue riding unless you either just happen to have a property deed in your bike jersey or enjoy looking at the wrong end of a gun barrel. The fellow that came through the gate last Friday with the gold teeth that warned me about bears could have doubled for the “No stinking badges” bandito from the movie “Treasure of Sierra Madre.”
If you are looking for some added pain or enjoyment you can take a right turn where the gates are and ride down Cooley Ranch Road another mile to where the gate lies to enter the preservation area. The shaded forest down the hill is where you will spook all the wild boars, three 400 pound monsters jumped out last Friday when I went down there, which will help encourage you to make the brutal climb out of the canyon. Be safe and get your sorry self outdoors!
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