Monday, October 28, 2013

An Enjoyable Ride to the Top of Table Mountain

North of Oroville, California, are the north and south Table Mountains--and on a Sunday morning, October 20, I finally rode to the top of the north mesa. The photo at the right is a view from Oroville of the south table with the north behind it.

Sunday morning was a good day to make this ride because the traffic was light. I rode almost the whole way but walked toward the top off and on while taking photos. Also, to be honest, I felt no compunction to bust a gut. The road is steeper as one approaches the top! I had not been on this road for many years. There is a bleak beauty to the place. I really enjoyed the climb, so I must be getting in shape. The ride from my parents' place was about 25 miles roundtrip. Table Mountain is a big part of Oroville, dominating the landscape above the town and being a winding trip all adolescents seem to drive at least once.

The beginning of the ride is like much of the outskirts or Oroville--some flats and a bit of climbing as the road eases into the foothills.

I chose this ride on Sunday morning, October 20, because I just felt like climbing. I'd grind down to my low gears, and when that wasn't good enough, I'd gear up about three and stand and mash the pedals.
The green sack is filled with all the clothes I took off between eight and nine o'clock. The sun heated the mountain up quickly, and maybe the climb warmed me, also! The fall is the perfect time to ride and climb because the temperature misses the extremes.
Because the road skirts the ravine and is not at the top of the mesa, the views are bound by trees as the ride ascends. Colors are faded by the morning sun, but the silence and the space were just what I needed.

That's California's Central Valley in the distance.
 In the haze are the Sutter Buttes, the smallest mountain range in the world. One thing I like about riding into the foothills is how quickly one can get above the valley and gain a new view of the environment.
There are several "tables" to Table Mountain. Cherokee Road goes to the second table, wending its way between the two mesas. The road is twisty and quirky, often leaning the wrong way into a turn or sagging at the road's edge where the earth has slipped away. Sunday morning allowed me to enjoy the road with little traffic.
This is the top--looking pretty normal until turning around and seeing the vista from the mesa's edge. Because the mesa is big, except for the lava runs, much of the environment looks like the valley with scrub oak and bleached grasses. The road across the top is pretty flat, having some ups and downs as it winds through the lava flows.

This is me at the top. Further on, according to Google Maps, is a ecological research station. If I would have known that, I'd have pedaled a little more. It's a unique experience to pedal up the steep hills and then to reach the top and see a flat expanse. Where's the downhill? In this case, a ways across the mesa.

Here's standing on a bluff after ducking through a barbed wire fence.
 It appears that the slopes ease off to the valley. It was not possible from where I was to capture the precipitous drop-off of the mesa that is so dramatic from the valley.

On the way down are a series of ravines and saddles as the lava spread and cooled.
 Bypassing the first table is a climb and then a drop down between the two tables to a short series of meadows. These meadows were used for dirt and mud trucking and other motor mayhem, at least in my brother's time.

Cherokee Road continues on as Oregon Gulch Road heads off and on into the boondocks. These steep roads are OK because it rarely freezes or snows. On those rare occasions that it does, folks just stay home till the sun melts the freeze. I stopped off here on way down the mountain.

At the bottom of the gulch is a stream. The road continues on into the canyon "breaks" as washboard gravel. Even though close to town, one can quickly get into an area where few people travel. People live on these roads, but there certainly is little through traffic, although the road does loop around to Highway 70. This photo is a "where the sidewalk" or paved road ends moment.

I didn't want to mess with washboard gravel and the possibility of puncture vine thorns. However, up this road my mom attended a one-room school in the boondocks over 70 years ago. The school is gone now. This photo is at the bridge where the pavement ends. There was a pretty stream below. Maybe the trip to the school site is one I'll take in the spring before all the puncture vine thorns mature and harden, as they are now in the fall.
The reservoir above the powerhouse diversion dam creates a quiet boating experience. I saw folks kayaking there the first morning I rode this far. I ate a 2nd breakfast beside the water on my first trip in this direction a few weeks ago. I only got as far as the reservoir on that first trip and had to return because of limited time.
My gag shot. Here I am next to the bridge over the aqueduct that moves the water to Southern California. I wonder if someone called the sheriff: "We've got a 555 on the Cherokee Road aqueduct bridge . . . " As I was setting up and taking the shot, a couple in an SUV came whizzing by, shouting "Woo Hoo!!!" Let my freak flag fly.
Then it was down to the Feather River and across the pedestrian/cycling bridge. When I went to high school, this was the only bridge. Now just east of this bridge is one for cars.
This trip may be the cap of my biking here in Oroville this year. It looks like I'll be going home in a little over a week. I'm glad to be going home (I've been here for 6 months), but the riding here in Oroville is a great variety of valley riding and mountain climbing, whatever I want. I can always visit again, though--and I will.

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