My interest in Ellie Lane Mountain Biking started a few days ago when one of our county’s best riders (Slipstream!) posted a ride on Strava. I knew the riding would be quite challenging as soon as I saw the title of his post … “Hellie” Lane.
But I am always up for a challenge and I love to explore new territory. So to Ellie Lane I traveled.
The parking lot was small but I found only one car there when I arrived. As I got prepped I inspected the various signs posted at the trailhead. One said “Trail Adopted by Efraim Garcia.” After the ride I found out he maintains the trail as a volunteer … so I sent him a message thanking him for his efforts.
After riding along the side and backs of the houses the trail began to gain altitude. I made a sharp right turn and avoided the Table Rock Trail on the left. Slipstream! had gone up that way and later regretted his decision.
After the hard right the trail dropped down a pretty steep incline, skirted a pond, and disappeared behind a mountain. Once around the base of that mountain I followed a sign saying Old Miner’s Trail and began a nice, gradual climb along a path etched nicely into the lower slope of the mountain.
Not more than a half mile later I came upon a grove of eucalyptus trees. As I pedaled into the copse the trail became lined with beautiful purple flowers … and then suddenly ended.Actually, I had come to a “T.” I took the trail to the right (which was a mistake) and began to climb quite abruptly. I was able to grind up the incline for about a hundred yards until the conditions got worse. Not only was I up against a steep incline but the trail tread quickly turned into the stairway to hell (except hell is supposed to be down, right?)
While thrusting my bike over these obstacles I came across a patch of hikers coming down … none less than 70 years old. I actually heard one of the ladies talking about 10 minutes before we met (I think her husband must have been partially deaf!) As we passed each one of them told me I was crazy for taking a bike up there and I agreed!
Just after I passed a junction on the left I came across a young man (Kevin) out hiking solo. Somehow we got to talking about the movie called Martian. From that movie we hit various topics for about a half an hour. I am so glad I wasn’t in a hurry nor him either!
Well, after hike-a-biking for another quarter mile on the Ellie Lane Trail I finally topped out at a small saddle slightly lower than the surrounding peaks. From that spot I could see for several miles to the east, west, and south. If the day had not been so hazy I am sure I could have seen the Pacific Ocean. That would have made all the hike-a-biking much more worth it. I am not sure I have done so much hiking since hoofing it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back with my son-in-law, Jeremiah!
By inspecting Slipstream!’s route on my GPS I saw he had turned around at the saddle. I had originally planned on following Slipstream!’s track the whole ride, but Kevin had just recommended I keep going and hit the Iron Mountain Trail … so I did.
Going down this segment of the Ellie Lane Trail was quite a bit easier ride … especially since it was going downhill. The worst part were the logs they had (ineffectively) used as water bars. Most the logs were loose and the trail users had walked around them … widening the trail and also allowing the water to flow around.
Within a few minutes I had joined the Iron Mountain Trail, and was heading back toward that trailhead. I was quite surprised to see how rough this trail had become since I had last hiked up there a few years previous. I guess the hundreds of hikers using the trail each week must have taken their toll.
While weaving my way through one of the rough sections I happened to look up and see two young men ahead holding up their arms for me to stop. They pointed to the trail and yelled, “A rattlesnake!” The snake was quite long but had a tail ending in a sharp point … just a gopher snake.
Near the bottom I took the Wild Horse Trail, which skirted along the west side of a different pond only to bring me right back to the Old Miner’s Trail!
I climbed the half mile back to the eucalyptus grove but this time took the left turn at the junction. The trail continued to rise steeply but the tread allowed me to stay on my bike.
I took the first trail on the right which took me south, back toward the stone staircase (where I had met Kevin). Instead of getting back onto the staircase I made a left turn onto another trail which looped back around toward the north, eventually leading me to the Table Rock Trail … my ticket back down to the truck.
The Table Rock Trail was a blast to ride down. I set me shocks to “soft,” lowered my seat all the way, parked my butt an inch or two above my rear tire, and sucked up hundreds of drops. Several times I was on the verge of losing control. I didn’t fall but found myself in the midst of a bush or tree a couple of times. At one point I noticed some vultures circling over my head and started wondering if they were some kind of omen!
I cruised into an empty trailhead and looked at my GPS … only 8 miles! Ellie Lane Mountain Biking had been quite a challenge. I don’t know if I have ever completed a tougher 8 miles.
*Note- The next time I do this ride I will start the same way (up Old Miner’s Trail), but take the left turn in the eucalyptus grove. Then I would take the first right, travel to the Ellie Lane Staircase, over the summit to Iron Mountain, back to Old Miners, left again in the eucalyptus grove, and stay left all the way back around on the Table Rock Trail. The ride would be a little shorter but require a lot less hiking.