One day a year ago, as I set out to investigate the old Crusher Quarry, I was standing off the fire trail looking at something when a rattling sound came from up the hill. Two mountain bikers burst out of the woods in a spray of dust and gravel and jerked to a halt nearby, rear wheels tipping off the ground. “That was intense!” I heard one say. Then they rode a few yards down the fire trail to Mountain Boulevard, where someone in a pickup had just arrived to meet them, and a minute later they were gone, with no one the wiser except for me.
Where they’d come from, tracks ran up a delta of dirt to a narrow trail.
It was really steep, and slippery too (that was a dry winter, you’ll recall). A false move might get a rider impaled on young acacia stumps. And if another biker had hurtled down upon me I had precious little space to duck. I climbed the trail a bit nervously. None of us really belonged there.
Bikers get an intense ride here. An intense ride is a legitimate thing. But isn’t all they see here just a blur of trees during their minute of white knuckles? What I saw was untreated erosion on the ground, an unpermitted trail in the city’s Leona Heights Park, and a community of scofflaws for whom it’s their personal secret.
After a while I struck off the trail to continue my own intense hike, and that was that. Then the other week I found the trail’s top end, near the Merritt College parking lots.
The trail is pretty nice up there. Not exactly legal, but not in the city park either. Useful. I even approve of it. I saw access to some nice countryside with splendid views, a well-built trail that suits the slope, and a community of avid cyclists for whom it’s their personal secret.
Once again I got sidetracked, so I haven’t traveled the whole trail yet. Clearly, though, the top and bottom segments, Jekyll and Hyde, meet at the fire road in Leona Heights Park. It would be really nice if the lower part were converted to foot traffic only, with erosion control and occasional steps. Mountain bikers could take the fire road down to McDonell Avenue.
At Leona Canyon Open Space Preserve, less than a mile south, “the park is an ideal place for hiking, running, biking, dog walking, and similar activities.” The intense, pellmell riding experience can be had on either the Artemisia or Pyrite trails there — just not the thrill of living outside the law.