What exactly makes an Epic? Wither it is online or recounting the days adventure at the trailhead, the question comes up quite routinely. Difficultly, length, scenery, conditions, the variables in the equation are numerous and subjective. The Palm Canyon trail fits just about everyone’s definition of an epic. It is a big classic desert ride than can be brutal for the ill-prepared or in the wrong conditions. I’ve done this ride a whole bunch of times and have the checklist of extra stuff to bring pretty much tattooed on my brain. There is something about the misery from forgetting this kind of stuff in the past that files that stuff in a mentally easy spot to find.
That ready file was opened up Monday afternoon on the drive back home from our Christmas travels when the phone rang. “Hey Bill, what do you think about doing Palm Canyon tomorrow? Hold on a second…. Hey Honey, do you mind if I do an all-dayer tomorrow? …..Dude, I’m down, how does 7:30am at the Von’s parking lot sound? … Sweet! See you then.” That was all the planning involved for this ride. Both Bill O’Neil and I have been on enough rides and trips together to know the drill. Now lets get to that checklist.
O-Dark:30 came O’Damnearly and I was headed towards Palm Springs much earlier than my body would have liked. There was sugar and caffiene in ample supply on the drive. I was taking the “country” route which took me past the upper trailhead near Pinyon Crest on Highway 74. It was a mighty brisk 37 degrees when I went by there. A made a mental note to give the “fellows” a break and change into the bike gear at the bottom. Neither Bill or I were able to rustle up any of the usual suspects for the ride on short notice so it was just Bill and I headed back up the mountain after shuffling stuff around between trucks. It had been two years since either one of us had done this ride so I was stoked. Bill had never done the Pinyon Flats trail and it had nearly been five years since I had last done that trail so we opted to start from Pinyon Flats vice the Palm Canyon trailhead proper.
It addition to being brisk, there was a biting breeze but it was otherwise an exceptionally pretty day. Layered up we set out. I had nearly forgotten how flowy and swoopy Pinyon Flats is in most spots. I was having so much fun, I did not even pull the camera out. Once we met up with the Palm Canyon trail, one thing became blissfully obvious. The trail conditions were simply the best I have ever seen. The rains had packed the soil and enough moisture remained to provide both great traction with no additional drag on the tires. Mother Nature had served up some downright sexy dirt.
Killer trail conditions and an exceptionally clear day with the temperatures somewhere between cool and mild is what continued to develop as the day went on. With just the two of us, we were not burning any daylight on regroups and other delays that typically scale up with the group size. We were not really hammering, just flowing along taking advantage of the wonderful conditions. Before long we were at the bottom of Dry Wash. A three-mile sandy climb awaited us. While chilling here it was nice to realize that barring some misadventure we had a huge daylight buffer now. The ride up until now had been so awesome that I could have cared less if I had to walk nearly all of the next three miles if the sand sucked.
The sand did not suck. The dry wash was also in the best shape I had ever seen it and for the most part completely rideable. You still had to look for the firm lines in the sand but the wash was not in its usual death march form. After the wash it was time for the Hahn Buena Vista trail after a break at the dozer. Once again the trail conditions were incredible. The camera remained packed away as nearly all things must yield to the sirens song of tires holding their line through flowy downhill goodness.
After the giggling like school boys descent we payed back some elevation up the Catherdral Canyon and then over to the saddle at the Wildhorse and Claire Burgess trail junction. There was a good dose of fatigue set in at this point and the breaks came a little more often. It was all good as there are far worse things to do than stopping and smelling the flowers around here.
I love the Wildhorse trail, the plummeting elevation drop on either side the ridge top section this trail make for some splendid views. There is also a mental boost of seeing your destination below. It is much better seen in person than described.
The ubiquitous trusty steed shot from the peak on Wildhorse with San Gorgorino is in the distance. It had been sometime since the Spider had seen some trail love so it was called into action today. It was certainly the correct weapon of choice today. Man I love this bike, such a wonderful XC machine.
After dropping the steep switch back section of Wildhorse we worked our way through the Goat Trails and soon rolled back down to the lower trail. What exactly makes an epic? There was no debating that question this afternoon, all the variables of that equation were scattered across the 30 miles of awesomeness countryside that lay behind us. There was nothing do now but celebrate the Palm Canyon Epic.