Garden Check

Over the Oakland  Hills there is a city. It’s a city mostly composed of chain restaurants, boutique box stores, and lawyers. That city is Walnut Creek. Mild density roads create insane traffic down Ygnacio Valley Road,  mall like main streets leave little room between traffic and the door zone, and the food options are all over priced frozen dishes.

Shell Ridge
Shell Ridge

But there is something else there. And I’m not talking about Rivendell. It’s the open space. Hidden behind an office park of medical professionals and a neighborhood of multi million dollar homes is an entrance to Shell Ridge Open Space. I have explored this network of fire roads before, but yesterday I dedicated more time to push further into the open space and see as much as I could see, hopefully making it all the way across the ridge to Mt. Diablo State Park.

The fire roads are perfect for a large tired cross bike (even a skinny one might do well). Rolling hills dip in and out of valleys with wide hardpack to carry speed into challenging climbs. There was only one section that was mildly technical (there is a lack of this in the East Bay, but I don’t have an all-mountain bike, so these trails are fun enough). I was going so fast into it I was forced to commit (luckily I kept rubber side down).

Valleys-Shell Ridge
The fire roads went up and down through these gorgeous valleys.

It’s not really the riding that makes the Open Space phenomenal, it’s the scenery. A typical Californian hillside with rolling dry grass pocketed with beautiful oak trees, all backdropped by Mt. Diablo in one direction or the Oakland Hills in the other (the undulating hills cover the sprawling suburbs of the East Bay magnificently). These rolling grasslands do lead to some sun exposure, luckily I had enough water to push on to Wall Point Road. Which if you ever wondered why it’s called Wall Point Road. It’s most likely because it’s a wall. I ended up walking a good chunk of this (no shame in that), but man, it looks killer in the other direction (maybe some day). On Wall Point, the views switched directions, now sitting on the north side of the Open Space I could look straight across Livermore valley to Mt. Hamilton, the only point higher in the Bay Area than Mt. Diablo.

Oak Tree Silhouette-Shell Ridge
Oak trees stood solitary from their brethren.
Looking Over Livermore
The views from Wall Point.
Wall Point Road
When Wall Point wasn’t straight up and down it was a blast.

Diablo was where I headed next. After pushing up steep off-roads all day, the climb up Diablo was pretty tame. I settled in the right cadence. I passed a few riders on the way up. It was getting to be around 4 o’clock when I reached the summit. It was the clearest I had ever seen from the top. I could see straight out the Golden Gate from the top of Diablo, where supposedly you can see the most geographic area in the US. Which makes sense since looking East, everything is so incredibly flat (I was amazed on tour earlier this summer that I was a whole day out and I could still look out and still see Diablo commanding the skyline).

Diablo Views
Diablo is always watching.

On the way down I passed all the aggro roadies on their way up. Some really pushing a hard speed to the top. If you ever want to see some of the Bay Area’s best riders, this is the place to see it. Sure, I’d rather see a guy going 3 MPH that says hello than someone cranking 11 without the even acknowledgement of another rider, it still is pretty amazing how fast they go. I went down the North Gate road, which I think is the prettier side, as you go through Rock City where the road is covered with beautiful oak trees. Then the road cuts out to some beautiful views of Livermore before finally the road hugs the mountainside so beautifully, as if this were a high mountain pass in the Alps.

Coming Down Pavement
The road down Diablo.

I flew down to the suburbs where I flew by traffic before reconnecting with the series of multi use trails. Being late in the afternoon I settled into a calm speed to respect other users (unlike some stretchy pantsed jerks, if you want to ride fast, get on the road). I usually took BART home from these rides in the past, but yesterday I was determined to link back home. My legs were burning but it was only one more climb over the Oakland hills before home. At that moment I was only chasing daylight. By the time I hit Moraga the sun was already shaded by the hills, but there was enough ambient light I felt confident I’d make it home. I took the final turn in Moraga before heading out of town over the hills and something happened. I’m still not sure what, but I hit the ground hard and my front was flatted from the fall (wasn’t the cause as it was a slow leak). Dusting myself off, my knee really ached. By the time I changed the flat it felt far too dark to head over the hills. So I headed over to BART to call it quit. Close enough.

Walnut Creek is a strange place surrounded by great riding and I’m excited to have it that close. Between the empty Open Space and the challenging Diablo climb it’s a great place to string along a good variety of rides.

Over Diablo
– Manny Acosta takes great photos of the East Bay golden hills (I think his photos are mostly south but some are here as well). Check out his Flickr.
– A documentary on Rivendell with great shots of the Open Space.
– Cycleicious’ Flickr set on the Tour of California this past summer, where they climbed Diablo on the second to last day.

via Blogger

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