Thursday, July 30, 2009

17 days of Nicaragua-Costa Rica

Kendall and I flew into San Jose on the 13th to spend some time backpacking around Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I had budgeted just a few days in Costa Rica (given the higher prices, tourist traps). We ended up splitting the time 4 days:13 days CR:Nicaragua, a perfect sampling of both countries. This was my second time to Nicaragua; this place is 2nd only to Guatemala in sites and people.

This is going to be more of a picture heavy post rather than a blow-by-blow of the things we did (which would be a long read).

Santa Elena/Monteverde/La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Coffee Plantations and Hiking in Rain Forest Reserves and Waterfalls















San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: Swimming and Resting on the beach


Photo credit to Kendall (any shot of me below is also taken by her)



Granada, Nicaragua: Volunteering at Carita Feliz, Colonial Architecture, Churches, Kayaking on Lake Nicaragua












Leon and Las Penitas, Nicaragua: Body Boarding and Sandboarding on Cerro Negro

















This was my 5th trip to Central America; each time I go, the theme of the trip seems to be one word, humbling. I have foregone trips to Europe in the past because this region has an appeal that goes beyond the sites and sounds of a industrialized city like Rome, France or Barcelona....people, real, authentic people that love to talk.

I purposely only put pictures on the blog rather than stories so that instead of living vicariously through my stories, you will yearn for your own. You might find that your bus will break down, someone will take you into their house for free, take a chicken bus into the middle of the rain forest, ride on the back of a motorcycle to a sugar can plantation, hitchhike, wake up on the top of a pyramid in the jungle, see the national bird, ride down a volcano on a wooden thing that supposedly resembles a snowboard, climb a volcano at night, see lava, etc etc.

Simply said, I encourage you to visit Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua.

Purisima Creek



Touted as one of the best locations to mountain bike in the Bay Area, we saved Purisima Creek ride for last. Redwoods, wildflowers, and greenery are plentiful, in their respective order:







Gar summed up the route: "Blast down some great singletrack, then climb back up." Few rides are such that you can do the climbing at the end. The climb up to complete the loop is mostly on some double track, pretty nonetheless.

This is a ride best down in the early morning since hikers start to descend near late morning. We beat most of the rush as we descended.



Great trail, one of my new favorites of the few I have ridden in northern California. I could get used to riding underneath a canopy of trees instead of the saguaros and cactus of Arizona.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Paradise



The break from the bike continues. We arrived in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua a few days ago. Once a fishing village, it has since grown a little to allow for a small number of tourists....plans for today include swimming and resting on the beach with a book, making lunch and heading to dinner on the beach.

Granada and Leon are in the plans for the next few days. Perhaps a bike rental, we will see.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Old Alpine

Another great area, Kendall, Gar (K's cousin) and I went for a ride up to Old Alpine. Unlike yesterday's ride that had a forest to meadow combo, the entire ride was under a canopy of trees.





A simple ride: ride up before shooting down.



Gar brough arm/leg warmers. Good move, at times it was a bit cold, especially on the descent. Surprisingly cold for an 8:30am start. The early ride meant beating the rush hour traffic on the trail.

I snapped a few pictures on the climb up...



...before we bolted back down to the trailhead. As we neared the car, about 5-6 mountain bikers were starting to make the ascent. Perfect timing.



and headed to a local breakfast place for some coffee and omelets/hash browns.

The route has no technical sections, just a pretty leisurely ride to the top of the mountain and bike. No GPS, but I would guess about 1800 feet of climbing, 7-8 miles one-way.

This place could be a central hub for epic riding. I could link the ride yesterday to today's, add a little bit road in before doing more riding at the infamous Purisima Creek (perhaps tomorrow's ride).

Alpine to Arastradero

Some more California riding, this time up in Palo Alto. We headed from the house that we were staying, up Alpine to Arastradero Preserve. Some fun, easy riding that can be done from almost anywhere in Palo Alto.

This route is a combination of double and singletrack, a quick 2.5 hour ride without any driving involved. We headed up a brief section of road before hitting the Alpine trail.



The amount of shaded sections



to unshaded sections was perfect.



To get to the Arastradero Preserve, we had to ride up about 1/2 mile up Arastradero Road. This area seems to be a the mecca for roadies. Nice rolling hills through beautiful meadows and forests....I can see why.

At Arastradero Preserve, we started exploring without a map. Trails zigzagged the mountain, another choose your own adventure type of area. There were some pretty steep hike-a-bike sections past the Bowl ST



and some other steep up sections


I am stunned at the amount of singletrack that is closed to mountain bikers. Few places in Arizona have no biking signs (apart from wilderness areas). In northern California, a distinction is made between hiking trails and biking trails, hundreds of them line the trail. Understandably so give the large amount of people in California.

We ended up doing two big loops while we were there. Here is a good combo of Kendall cleaning a switchback.





Great riding here in Northern California. We saw only a handful of hikers/mtbers on the trail. Weather is perfect, mid 70s.

More riding hopefully in the next few days before flying to Central America.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cuyamaca to Noble Canyon Epic

I had heard that Noble Canyon was touted to be the best trail in SoCal. It has the perfect amount of swoopy, fast sections and technical rock gardens. Couple it with some a nice 20-mile route from Cuyamaca, and you can make this a choose your own adventure loop. You can resupply in Pine Valley, ride more singletrack while in Noble Canyon, take Highway 80 back to your, etc....tons of option. The one-way route is a certified IMBA epic.

If you plan ahead, you can even store some refreshments at the Green Valley Falls (see 2nd to last picture). I stored a few early in the morning before starting the ride. I added in some more Cuyamaca singletrack


to make this an 8 hour ride with a little under 50 miles. Many websites warn against doing this ride in the summer; they are correct. It was 90+ degrees for most of the afternoon, light when you compare it to weather back in AZ.



The route starts on the East Mesa FR before dropping into the Deer Creek ST. Views are plentiful as this is the highest spot on the route.



The first part had a few scorched areas, similar to yesterday's ride. Life always seems to conquer though.


Indian Creek ST (shown here)


to Noble Canyon. Heavenly, I was underneath a thick canopy, weaving between rocks, then flying around well-built, ridable switchbacks, up and over logs....then repeat for about 4-5 miles. Amazing, in fact, I did not even take any pictures of the area I was having so much fun.

Afterwards, I took out the camera as we neared Pine Valley to snap a few pictures





After a quick out-n-back to the General Store at Pine Valley, I continued on finishing the lollipop-style loop by retracing my steps. I almost hit this little guy on the way back.


A quick out-n-back to Oakzanita peak yielded some more nice singletrack and switchbacks







I vividly remember going to the Green Valley Falls when I was a kid. A 10-foot cliff jump was the highlight of the trip. I had planned to make the falls my finishing point since I knew it was going to be a little toasty.

At the end of the loop, I rode down to the GV falls, parked my bike, hiked the 1/4 mile to the swimming hole, jumped in and relaxed. A few of these were waiting for me upstream, hidden from early that morning.




My GPS turned off/on a few times, but here is the basic profile of the route:



I am missing few sections since the GPS turned off, but about 50 miles with 7800 feet of goodness.

This place has some killer potential for bikepacking trips, I will be curious to see this place during the next few months/years.

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