The Plunge … 4,439 Feet of Singletrack Drop in Just 7.5 Miles
The Plunge is the 3rd and final page of the Cannell Trail ... an incredible fun 24.7 mile ride in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. If you have not yet read The Meadows ... Page 1 of the Cannel Trail, that's where you probably want to start. Click Cannell Creek to learn about the second portion of this ride.
After climbing out of the gentle Cannell Creek drainage and passing through a gate I rolled around a corner and was stunned by the absence of the dirt, rocks, and trees appearing immediately in front of me …. as they had most of the morning. At I first I was shocked by a lot of air, empty space, a vacuous volume directly ahead. As my eyes gradually focused afar I began to notice Lake Isabella set in some small hills thousands of feet below. While looking off at nature’s amphitheater it hit me … I was about to begin the Plunge … 7.5 miles of singletrack starting at an elevation of 7,211 feet and ending at 2,805 feet … just up the road from my cabin in Kernville.
While the flyer issued by Mountain and River Adventures (the shuttle company) said there were two distinct sections of switchbacks (called White Knuckles #1 and #2) I never became aware of a whole patch of switchbacks (like on the San Juan trail near San Diego) but, I was pleasantly surprised to find the trail mostly undulating around the contours of the mountains, through trees and brush, between rock formations. I did “notice” the steep 100 foot hike-a-bike the flyer warned of, the only uphill section on the Plunge
- Click Garmin for all kinds of data (including GPX Track) for the Cannell Trail.
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The top portion of the Plunge Trail was composed of mostly white sand … a loose, white powdery substance … the result caused by centuries of erosion acting upon the white granite rock through which the trail wound. The lower portion of the trail was cut into the sides of reddish mountains, and provided a much more stable surface for biking. Both portions of the trail showed signs of the serious drought affecting Southern California the previous 2 years.
Seldom could I see Janis or Grant below me, and the times I could they were usually 300 feet below me. I rode the Plunge pretty aggressively, which required me to use my brakes constantly. My brakes got hot they started making horrific howling sounds … but I had little choice for the trail was so steep that laying off the brakes for more than a few seconds almost assured me I would be traveling between 20 and 30 mph … not good speeds for riding trails built on the edge of 1,000 foot cliffs.
I had to stop a few times just to give my hands and thighs a short reprieve. I kept reminding myself to keep my hands loose but firm. The thighs were burning, as this was not the type of trail where I could just sit on my seat and cruise. Without good body-seat separation I would have found myself not carving a turn sharp enough and losing control. Taking many photos can be a helpful excuse when I am out of breath or some body parts are on fire, so of course, I stopped to take photos.
Janis said he had done the Cannell Trail 2 years previous with a time of 6 hours. He qualified that saying he had accompanied a group of women. My Garmin 800 Edge told me we completed the trail in 4:08 (I was glad to know I hadn’t held them back as much as the women). Our moving time was 3:08, which means we were standing still for one whole hour! That was hard to believe. Maybe I was moving so slow on the climbs that my GPS couldn’t tell if I was moving or not! While riding the Plunge we passed through 4 gates. I never realized how important it was to close the gates on a ride until it was explained to me up on the Uncompahgre Mesa. On that trip (see Tabeguache) someone left a gate open and a couple hundred cattle escaped. The rancher said it cost him a lot of money (in wages) to get the cows herded back into the appropriate fields.
Grant and I rode back to our cabin while Janis had to go back to Mountain and River Adventures to get his car. Janis returned to the cabin and we had a beer out front, and then planned to meet up for dinner … at a small restaurant called McNally’s (we could have just eaten the burritos we had hauled in our packs the entire day)!
Dinner was great … the perfect ending to a great day. The Plunge … the perfect ending to a great trail.
- During most rides I take many more photos than I can place on a ride page. The following is a slide show for the entire ride … 67 photos in all.
- To stop the slideshow and view the photos full screen just click on a photo.