Minh and I went mountain biking today with the Xtra Trail Riders and the South OC Mountain Bikers Meet-Up group. Trail chosen for the day was Marshall Canyon – Potato Mountain. The weather was perfect for this because it wasn’t too hot or too cold, and the trail had good bits of shade and sun. (Side note: this is a big bonus for California, 72 deg F and sunny at the beginning of January.)
This out-and-back trail is a pretty good ride. There’s a mix of trails from cross-country style switchbacks and stream crossings, nice single track through shaded forests (watch out for the poison oak), fire road climbs and descents, and some technical single track descents through some looser gravel/dirt. Doesn’t have much for those looking for crazy downhills or jumps, but good for those riders who want a good ride with a good view at the top. If you’re lucky, one of the previous riders to summit Potato Mountain will have left you a little snack of sun-baked potato. Your choice whether or not you want to eat it. God only knows how long it’s been sitting there.
I can’t give you stats for the entire ride, since my Garmin died about halfway down the mountain, but I can say that our group was done in about 4 hours (yes, it was a very long ride for us), with everyone very dirty, sweaty, and tired. I, for one, was dying on the climbs. I’m not a fan of hills, so I was taking every possible opportunity to rest (shady spots, brief plateaus at mid-climb, even walking a bit). Usually, having a long climb means that there is an equally long (in distance, not time) descent awaiting you later. However, this doesn’t always mean that the descent will be fun. In the case of the descent from Potato Mountain, the trail can be very loose and rocky at parts, which is definitely not ideal for me. I hate loose trails on descents because I have a horrible habit of going too fast for comfort, then trying to slow down, but end up locking my breaks and slip/sliding to the ground or going over my handlebars. This happened at least three times during the descent, and I’ve got the scratches and bruises to show for it. Luckily, I didn’t get too beat up on the ride – still walking and no blood shed. Need to work on those braking skills though. Any tips?
Although I didn’t love the trail, it’s probably one that I would do again given the opportunity and an improvement on my technical mountain biking skills. I think the descents would be a lot of fun if I can work up the courage and skills to really bomb down it. Although, dodging hikers and horseback riders does prove a little more difficult at higher speeds. Also, the single track through the trees and streams at the beginning and the end (which are the same, just going different directions) are the kinds of trails that make me LOVE mountain biking. That made up for the climbing and falling… a little bit.