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Words by Leah Lind-White: California’s biodiversity is a feat of artistic and natural ingenuity. Spanning 100 million acres of land and 840 miles of Pacific coastline, it is not surprising that the coastal forests, high mountain ranges, arid deserts and grassy plains tempted curious cyclists to venture off the pavement and take to the hills for the first time.
Having grown up among the coastal redwoods but spent several years residing in the desert, these contrasting and brilliantly rich landscapes have always held a uniquely alluring quality. Yet, the past year has given me new insight into these environments, as circumstance set me on course to oscillate between the states’ northern and southernmost trails with near perfect symmetry.
To the north, the towering spires of redwoods and ancillary undergrowth of ferns give rise to quiet and loamy trails to wander. Wheels turning over duff, while above, fog sidles by branches as spiders scaffold shapes to catch the dew. The trail, often relapsing into the untarnished forest it came from, gives rise to natural flow on steeper slopes, interrupted only by the occasional dodge of a leisurely salamander or slug out for a silent saunter. Riding here is a rush, but comes also with requisite pauses for breathing in the musty sweetness and soul-nourishing solitude of this cathedral on the coast.
While coastal redwood riding inspires a softer and more introspective approach (as well as at least one Google search in the hopes of purchasing a quieter hub), Southern California riding takes a uniquely different approach. Outfitted with a hearty dose of rock and sagebrush closer to the ocean, these rim-shattering and suspension-devouring trails incite rock-anthem-worthy raucous style. The snaking singletrack through low foliage looks, in the evenings, akin to a pyrotechnic display, as plumes of dust erupt behind skittering tires over graveled ground and jagged rock drops.
Toward the east, the wind- and water-sculpted landscape creates a pallid and geometric aberration, composed of thin spines partitioning uniform slopes of sand. An amalgamation of sorts, these southeastern desert escapades seem to elicit a moment of contemplation at the ridgeline, but soon morph into an exhilarating ride thanks to the free-form nature of soft and sloping slalom turns down a sandy face.
Rocks to Redwoods: one state, different worlds.
Rocks to Redwoods