The Headlands Aren’t Closed

A lot of cyclists think the headlands are closed. Not true – you just can’t use the road. Be creative.

Departing from a trailhead at the saddle of Hawk Hill, there’s all sorts of trails for mountain/cross riding. Since ‘cross season is only a few months away, better start getting in shape now. The trails that run through the Headlands (and beyond) connect a series of valleys. For us that means lots of climbing and descending. With @itsdanno as my guide, we headed across the bridge to do some damage off-road.

The initial descent from the Hawk Hill saddle is a good warm up for off-road riding (although there are some little ditches perpendicular to the trail that are wicked if you’re not expecting them). This is followed by our first climb of the day up Bobcat Trail. Once we make it to the top, I’m still feeling pretty good, ready to conquer the world:

ready to follow me into battle?

A quick descent and we’re down into the Tennessee Valley where several trailheads are situated at the local stables. This is our decision point: head back homeward or beer. Now that’s a silly question. I suppose there was also beer at home, but why not press on to the Pelican Inn and earn it. I’m told the initial climb is steep, but not bad after. As we ride out toward an upcoming fork in the trail, I have a bad feeling. The trail looks steep and takes us into the fog. The initial climb is tough and grinding and eventually becomes too much. If it weren’t for Danno stopping ahead of me to walk it, I would’ve felt like a complete weakling. Not to worry, the next couple dismounts on this climb did the trick, as I couldn’t seem to get any momentum behind me. Eventually I’m back pedaling and find Danno waiting for me at the top:

am I dead yet?

After sorting out our route, I’m assured we just need to ride along the ridge to connect to the trail that descends to Muir Beach and our beer. Which looked like it might be the case, until the climbing started. After a mere 300 ft of additional ascent, we’re finally descending. I can’t remember the exact order of events, but Danno made it a proper cross ride on a steep section of  loose trail with a big eroded rut that caused him to slide out just ahead of me.

I took a different approach. For me it was the 3 ladies taking up 90% of the trail. I said “on your left” as I approached from behind, but not loudly enough apparently. As one of her friends said “watch out,”  the one on the far left instinctively jumped to the edge of the road and directly in front of me, to the squelching sound of my front brakes. Luckily I slowed in time and she nicely apologized as I passed, but behind me I hear the woman next to her say “you shouldn’t be the one saying sorry” in an unforgiving tone. I am sorry. I did not get the memo about the world revolving around you, and for that I apologize. In all seriousness, I am torn. If I politely say “on your left” and assume you’re not oblivious (as I did), I am the bad guy because you jump in front of me and there’s a near collision. If I shout it loudly so there’s no way you can miss it, then I’m just an inconsiderate cyclist with no manners. Further ranting about oblivious people will have to wait for another day. Of course, shortly down the trail while retelling the events to Danno I lost focus on the trail and found myself in a rut and consequently laying in the trail. Thank you ladies.

Further down this descent, we pass a family and one of the kids says “they’re riding down this? that looks really hard” to which I respond “it is” (I don’t think they heard me). With our trials and tribulations behind us, luckily, relief is near as we make it to the Pelican Inn for some fish and chips and beer. Just what the doctor ordered:

suckered in by the beer yet again

As we departed the Pelican Inn, we decided to just take Hwy 1 to Miwok trail since the alternative, a newly opened trail paralleling Hwy 1, looked a) hard and b) not fully bike accessible. A bit of climbing on the road is a nice change of pace, although the knobbies don’t help get up the hill any. While climbing, a girl in a passing car shouted “go Lance” in my direction. I chuckle a bit and just assume I’m just looking that fast. At the crest of the hill, we depart onto a section of Miwok trail which is a very enjoyable climb (gradual and gorgeous views). At the fork where Miwok and Coyote Ridge Trails meet, we headed up, which meant another nice walk for us:

walking – not the first time today, but at least it was the last

In hindsight, we could’ve headed downward since it turns out that the Tennessee Valley trailhead is where the stables are… where we ended up anyway. So revisiting some trails we make it back to the stables and our second to last climb (Marincello trail).  It’s another long gradual climb, which at this point, the legs are a bit numb to the pain and surviving has become the new mentality. I don’t have any visions of record setting times, although, as Danno pointed out, being my first time out there, I did set quite a few PRs this day. Our reward for our last big climb is bombing down the wide-open Bobcat Trail. I maxed out around 28 mph, so not bad for a dirt fire road. A short climb up the Coastal Trail to our starting point and our tour of the Headlands [strava!] is complete and we’re ready to return to the city.

With ~40 miles of riding and 5,000 feet climbed, who says the Headlands are closed?

All the credit for the above photos belongs to @itsdanno, my (volunteered) “staff photographer”. Isn’t he amazing?

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