|(More photos after the jump)|
My visit was courtesy of a client visit my wife had scheduled on one of my regular days off from work. She had the idea that I tag along, go ride while she was working, then we would grab some lunch and head down to Point Reyes and enjoy a night there. When she suggested this of course I said yes!
For years, I had been reading on MTBR how great the riding in Annadel was. It was one of the offerings of the California State Parks that was looked at as legendary by riders posting on the message boards of that website. Things had just never worked out for me to get out there, but now I had the chance. I was really looking forward to the trip, and went back into the 'net to look for info on the park and the riding so I was sure of what to expect.
I read the accounts of the recent XC race by Bike Monkey, Annadel XC. I perused all the photos of the trails posted to the 'net that Google collected for me. I looked up ride reports from various sources, such as Ogrehut and Bay Area Mountain Bike Rides. I felt I knew what I was getting into:
I needed to be prepared for a variety of terrain and conditions. The park is known for being the location of quarries that were used in mining of cobblestone and other stonework material used in the rebuilding of San Francisco after the Great Earthquake of 1906. It is also well known for it's volcanic rock outcrops. Much of the video, photos, and trails descriptions detailed how rocky the place was. Looking at the park map, when you see they have given trails names like Cobblestone and Rough Go you know you will be in for a bumpy ride. I figured I could handle it, as I could simply take my full suspension GT.
I did not take my full suspension bike. When discussing the trip, my wife advised she wanted to take the sedan and not the van. My full suspension bike does not fit in the trunk of that car, so I was going to have to take the full rigid bike, which did fit. I have never had a problem taking the rigid bike on any of my adventures, but I had some trepidation about the idea of that bike and Annadel's rocky trails. I did have the Brooks B-17 saddle on the bike, which gives some low-tech minor "suspension" for my damaged backbone, but I figured I would be wise to look for a little bit more of an edge against the shocks and bumps I was sure to experience.
I thought that some larger volume tires might do the trick. I have a Surly Instigator fork affixed to the bike, and that thing has room to spare to put in a wide front tire, up to a claimed 2.7 inch. I researched tires, even posting a request for suggestions on MTBR. I eventually settled on a WTB Bronson 2.3, figuring it would be close to the WTB Weirwolf 2.1 that I was used to in handling characteristics but with a little more height and width to take off some of the impact. I looked all over the Folsom/Roseville/Rocklin area and finally located one place that carried the tire....normally. When I actually got to the bike shop, they had probably every other tire in WTB's arsenal except the one that I wanted. I almost settled for a wide version of my standard Weirwolf, but I hesitated at the price. Since this place knew they were the only ones in the immediate area with this tire brand, they priced their stock at exactly the MSRP, which is pretty high. I won't go into how I understand LBS's need to make a living, how I know what margins they work with on their parts and accessories, but I will say they could give a little bit of grace and not price like that just because they are the only game in town.
In the end I settled for just using my wheels from the full suspension, clad in WTB Weirwolf 2.1's. They would have to do.
Friday arrived and we got a late start, ended up in Santa Rosa running a bit late. I had my wife drop me off down the street from Annadel, and I had a nice minute or two assembling my bike on the side of the road, entertaining commuters driving by. I was going to enter the park via a residential street that accessed a trailhead on the west side of the park. This appeared easier to get to for me than to go to the north or east side.
The trailhead is off Parktrail Drive, which runs off of Summerfield Road. I noted many trail users park on this street by the trailhead, but there is not that much room for that. There is even a sign posted that advises users to park in lots elsewhere. Must be a lot of complaints by the local residents. The trail I accessed is the Veterans Memorial trail. This has a little climb up a hill, then a descent that crosses a weir (dry this time of year) and connects to a fire road running into the park. Veterans Memorial trail is where I first experienced the rocks of the area. Little rock gardens and waterbars made from the rocks were all over this trail.
After dropping to the fire road, the way became smooth as I traveled south and southeast into Annadel. I stopped and looked at a rock wall that looks like it used to be a yard border or foundation of a structure, it was hard to tell. I continued on into the park proper, stopping at a sign by a trail nexus. The road here followed along a little canyon with a creek. I had a choice of going up the Canyon Trail or the Spring Creek Trail...I opted for Spring Creek, as I figured this was the most direct route into the park and to the lake.
I had to stop for a fallen tree, which I lifted my bike over. I passed a gaggle of exercising ladies, who had some friendly comments and smiles. The trail slowly climbed upward, not really a tiring grade but rolling a bit. It was cool (the day was overcast) and I was actually chilly in the short sleeve jersey I was wearing. On one side of the trail the hillside rose sharply, on the other side it dropped away to the creek. Eventually the trail got rockier and rockier, to the point I had a few dabs when my forward momentum was swallowed by a hit against a rock. At on part of the trail it crossed over a dry wash, where I watched three mountain bikers coming the other way negotiate the rocks. They had full suspension bikes, and they looked at me like I was nuts when they saw my full rigid.
I made it up to the end of Spring Creek trail at Lake Ilsanjo. I stopped at a picnic table to eat something and get some little rocks out of my shoes. I was almost ready to leave when I heard voices of children coming toward me. Lots of voices, like you hear at a schoolyard. Along the road came a bunch of kids, late junior high age, walking along with small backpacks. They went to the dam at the edge of the lake and stopped to eat lunch. I overheard one of the adults with them say to some hikers it was a school trip camping and they were on a day hike. A couple of equestrians rode by next, then more hikers. This place was quite busy, more so than even Folsom Lake State Park it seemed.
I got underway again, crossed the dam, then started down Canyon/Richardson trail. I passed more hikers. I came to another trail nexus and went down Louis Trail, since it seemed to be less traveled by foot traffic and more by mountain bikes, as the tracks in the dirt showed me. This was a nice trail that rolled up and down the contours of the hillside bordering the central meadow near the lake. A very pleasant ride until I got to a section with more rocks, many that were hard to negotiate. The dirt got a little redder, and I started to see a lot more manzanita. Once I got to the end of Louis Trail, where it connects to Burma Trail, it looked like I could be on a trail up on the Mogollon Rim of Arizona, in the Sitgreaves National Forest. The geology and biology looked the same.
After being passed by another full suspension rider, I rode down Burma to the nexus with Richardson Trail, then rode down that trail for a bit, heading north. About this time I got a text telling me my wife was only about 45 minutes away, so I had to turn back and find my way back out of Annadel. I rode down Richardson Trail the other direction, southward toward the beautiful evergreen forest that I had not had a chance to ride through. This was the one area that I really did want to ride through, after seeing some helmet cam video coverage of the trails. But since time was of the essence, I rode Richardson down to Spring Creek and pointed myself downstream.
Rolling down Spring Creek Trail was interesting. It took a lot of concentration and body english to thread my way between rocks or to set up a launch from the top of the bigger ones. My hands started to feel a bit of cramping from squeezing the brakes, so I just threw caution to the wind and let myself roll. It turned out to be a good idea, as the ride was a lot smoother when I spent more of it in the air, launching off rocks and swooping the clearing areas of the trail. I must have been going a bit faster than the trail speed limit, but for once this day there were no other trail users in sight.
I got down Spring Creek, rode over Veteran's, down Parktrail Drive, up Summerfield, and met my wife. I dismantled the bike and put it in the trunk while she checked emails. We drove off to Sebastopol for lunch at Peter Lowell's, and I was glad for being done with the rocky trails but sad for not getting to the evergreen forest like I wanted to. Seriously, when negotiating the trails I did get to ride on I began thinking that line from the State Farm Insurance commercial: "Can I get a hot-tub!" Fortunately, the room we had at the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge had a large jetted tub, so I guess I did get my wish.
I will reserve judgement on Annadel until I get a chance to ride the rest of the park. Hopefully it stays open and I get to do this. It was one of the parks on Governor Brown's hatchet-list, one that was going to get closed. Fortunately, Sonoma County stepped in and is now administering Annadel, but the deal is only for a year, so I may not get a chance to see if Annadel is really as great as people say it is.