El Corte de Madera ~ 2002

Mountain biking heaven!

El Corte de Madera Preserve, part of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, is a 2,821-acre slice of heaven about 30 miles south of San Francisco on Skyline Drive between Kings Mountain and Alice's Restaurant. The preserve is in the upper reaches of ECMD Creek which drains into the Pacific Ocean and extends up the western side of the crest of the ridge system that separates west San Mateo from the San Francisco Bay's Basin. The confluence of ECMD Creek and Lawence Creek mark the extreme southwest corner of the preserve. Going upstream, the former goes north then bends east, the latter goes east and bends north, both forming a beautiful basin high on the ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The land was logged in the early 20th Century, so except for some massive trees that were spared, the forest still shows the scars. The good news is the logging left behind a system of challenging single-track trails that have been opened to mountainbikes.

Besides a worthy 19-mile loop around the preserve there are other great trails transecting the side ridges and creeks. The terrain is impressive, but not real diverse. On top of one of the side ridges is a technical section of tafoni sandstone that winds through an open area of manzanita (2% of the preserve) before dropping down into the more typical coastal mixed evergreen/second-growth redwood forest (the other 98%) Some of the deep forest sections are very beautiful and cool in the summer. The best time is early in the morning in summer when the fog filters through the forest as the sun slowly melts it away.

May-slide show

I had just gotten my camera. I think this was my second visit and AZ's first to ECDM.

August-AZ's new bike

We took AZ's new El Saltamontes down to El Corte for a great day of hammering.

Nov-with TF

A beautiful autumn day at El Corte with TF

Dec-SC injury

SC sustained a nasty injury. He had to go to the hospital. TF and I remained and rode - we are bad.

Sunday, September 1, 2002

Auryn Turns Tail - Goes Full Suspension

The End of Team HardTail as we once knew it

Yesterday, I went with AZ on the maiden voyage of his new El Saltamontes(!). It's a fantastic bike made by a small shop in near Sacramento that also fabricates airplane parts. Auryn visited the shop and bought his frame on the spot. Then he brought it home and assembled it for this ride.

We went down to the El Corte de Madera park and did most of the big loop, starting at Skeggs Point and going clockwise around the park.

The new bike performed worthily, and Auryn suffered one crash, washing out on a sharp turn on the Steam Donkey trail. No damage to the hardware.

It was hot as hell which magnified the suffering. The only respite from the heat was in the canyon of ECDM Creek. The loop crosses the creek twice. The southern crossing happens to be the most remote point in the extreme SW corner of the park. Here, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the shade and cool stream. Auryn washed his ow-iee and some hard core riders came by. The last 60 vertical feet are heinous - two out of three of them rode all the way to the creek, including the final 6' drop. Amazing. Then they boogied over the big log and up the trail to the south, but were briefly detained by a broken rear derailleur.

The godfather of HardTail.

The Methusaleh Tree

November 2002

Indian summer day in El Corte

There's nothing like hammering through the forest on a warm, autumn day. The smells of autumn, the noticeably shorter days, the colors. TF and I started to do the regular clockwise loop starting with Sierra Morena, but then we took a detour to visit the Methusaleh Tree, one of the few magnificent trees that were spared by the loggers.

From there, we backtracked and ended up doing about 20 miles of hard up and down, some technical, some do-or-die. We had to bail at a paved road - it was getting dark.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Exploitation photos, right here

Last Sunday, Team HardTail re-convened at El Corte de Madera for a last chance at that awesome forest before the weather gets really wet (which it did the very next day). The plan was to ride the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, opposite the way we have always ridden it. In attendance were TF, SC and your correspondent.

We got off to a slow start, but once our bikes hit the Tafoni Trail, we were hammering for sheer joy. TF and I were racing and SC was somewhere behind. Soon, we pulled over to wait for him and he showed up complaining about how his chain came off his ring. We moved on to Vista Point, me cutting off TF's pursuit until suddenly, my chain broke. Shit! So while TF and I were fixing that, we all noticed the ugly gash in SC's right leg. He had fallen into his ring and opened up the skin so that we could see muscle. Yow! No blood, but still hard to look at.

SC wisely boogied to St Luke's Hospital and after a long wait was treated to a nice local anaesthetic and seven (7) stitches. Fortunately, we were still on the ridge so it was easy to get back to his car.

SC is distinguished as the first Team member to sustain a go-to-the-hospital injury. He is also reknown for trying to take a shortcut to Tahoe from atop the Flume Trail last September. SC is not only an international playboy, dude is a survivor.

To honor SC, TF and I went back to the original plan and hammered out about 18 miles, finishing up near sundown. The forest was damp but not wet. There is lots of sticky clay on the fire roads, but the trails were in excellent condition. Doing the reverse loop was like visiting for the first time. SC would have dug it. Now that we're truly in the wet season, I don't know how long before we can get back to El Corte.

Here's a short slideshow (2.3 MB quicktime)

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