Palm Canyon will give you everything you’d expect from a desert trail.  Rocks, sand, cactus, steep drop-offs, exposure, and plenty of off-camber single track.

Clouds hiding the desert sun.

Most riders dread the mention of rain in the weekend forecast.  After all, the thought of hitting the trails on the weekend is all that gets us through our work week and the stresses of life.  Thanks to a certain group of riding friends, I’ve learned that there is no cause to be disappointed and now the sound of rain actually puts a smile on my face.  I’m smiling because I know that when it rains here, the temperatures in the desert are dropping and it’s the perfect weather for riding Palm Canyon.  The cooler temperatures make riding there comfortable enough to endure the 3 hours it will take me to do this classic Southern California ride.

When others begin to make non-riding plans for the weekend, I grab my larger CamelBak and begin to pack my essentials.  More tools, more water, and more fuel are necessities for me on this ride.  Although this ride is shuttled, there is still a lot of climbing to do, and support from the driver is impossible once you begin.

You can’t soar with the eagles, if you hoot with the owls.

Today’s ride is going to be great!  My day begins at 5:30 a.m. and just as forecasted, it’s raining.  This crew is usually all guys, but today I have two of my girlfriends riding with us.  I am not too concerned about the 6:00 a.m. meet-up this morning because I’m often given an earlier start time than the rest of the group anyways.  Not funny, but I guess I deserve it.  I once stayed out too late the night before a Palm Canyon ride and completely overslept.  I never made it to the ride.  That’s when I was told by El Commandante Loco that “you can’t soar with the eagles, if you hoot with the owls” or something like that.   It was funny and I haven’t made that mistake again.  Looks like he’s over it though, because meet-up was 6:00 a.m.

Love riding with these ladies.

The Palm Canyon Ride will give you everything you’d expect from a desert trail.  Rocks, sand, cactus, steep drop-offs, exposure, and plenty of off-camber single track.   Everyone is happy and excited to ride!  We are shuttled to the top and begin our descent into the desert.   Today, there is plenty of cactus on both sides of the trail.  More than I remember from past rides.  At some points, the trail has me feeling like I’m in the board game “Operation.”  Having to carefully maneuver between the cactus and thankful that I have on my knee and elbow protection because I’m still hitting it.  I’m a small person and can only imagine that the broken pieces of cacti that I see littering the trail in front of me have been busted off by the larger guys riding in front of me.  Ouch!

The desert is beautiful today.  I’m so happy to be here.  The dirt is perfect and the rain clouds are hiding the sun!  We are all having a great time riding, laughing and taking pictures.  Even posing some of the guys in our photo shoot. This mountain biking crew is such a fun group of people and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Crushing the sand section.

We finally reach the sand wash or as most locals call it, “3 Miles of Hell.”  It’s a grueling cadence through the deep sand and the only thing that keeps me pushing through it, is the thought of reaching the mid-way point to eat lunch. I’m craving real food!  I’ve packed a hearty turkey sandwich, an apple, a PayDay candy bar and Gatorade.  Yes, I eat all of it and just in time.  The sun is beginning to find its way through the clouds and we are asked to start pedaling again.  No problem.  I’m refueled and I know that the next portion of our ride brings chunky rocks, drop-offs and exposure.  Just a few of my favorite things.  I smirk and begin to pedal again.

I am smiling from ear to ear on this portion of today’s ride.  I have plenty of energy, the desert views are amazing, the dirt is tacky, and the tread on my new tires is gripping the rocks as I ascend and descend them.  My bike and I are in sync with the trail; there’s no better feeling than that for me.   I’m on it!

Before our final descent, we stop for a final meet-up with the rest of our group.  While the guys are busy chatting, I notice a bighorn sheep just behind them.   This beautiful horned friend blended in so well with the rocks and was not startled by the bells on our bikes.   It freely roamed over the rocks and across the trail without a care for us observing it.  What a special treat to add to the end of our ride.  It really was “the icing on the cake”.

Bighorn sheep checking out our skills

Keep Pedaling

– Jackie R.

How to do the Desert