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Saratoga Gap - May 13, 2010

Distance: 28.8 miles Ascent: 5,661 feet Moving time: 4:09 hours

The weather was great and I went to Saratoga Gap because I hadn't been there in a while. I thought I might do a nice short ride out to the Christmas Tree farm. I decided this should just be an endurance paced ride (rather than speed). Combining the weather, the beautiful scenery and the pace resulted in a much longer ride than I had planned!

The ride started out much like most other Saratoga Gap rides, but I notice that in some places where I might be breathing hard on other rides I was not breathing too hard. I attributed this to a slightly slower speed, but I was not complaining. I zipped through all of the switchbacks on Peters Creek and continued out the Bay Area Rim Trail. I got to the Christmas Tree farm and still had lots of energy, so I kept going. I rode the length of Skyline and Russian Ridge open spaces down the Rapley Road. A short ride up Highway 35 where I descended Crazy Pete's and Coal Road down to Alpine Road. I ascended this to Page Mill Road.

I crossed over into the Montebello open space and descended White Oak (before it gets rerouted) and climbed back to Highway 35 on Skid Road. I crossed over the highway and returned via the Bay Area Rim Trail, the lower part of Peters Creek, Long Ridge and Saratoga Gap trails to the Saratoga Gap parking lot.

The weather was great in terms of temperature and clear skies. There were lots of birds, lizards, and squirrels all along the ride. I saw a coyote in the Skyline parking lot. I stopped at the Jikoji Pond on the way back to get a message. The pond had lots of lily pads and small floating plants almost covering the whole surface except for an area near me. I noticed a small fish in the pond, but closer inspection revealed legs. It was a newt swimming around! I looked some more and suddenly there were lots of them. I didn't try to count them, but there were at least 40 in a small area near the shore. As I finished with the message, the area was covered with the floating green plants, hiding the newts. I couldn't get a good picture of them. There were lots of wildflowers, with one hillside on the initial trail in Russian Ridge covered in yellow, blue and orange flowers.

This turned out to be a much bigger ride than I had originally planned, with over twice the planned distance and 3x the planned ascent. The "endurance" pace really worked, as I did not feel completely dead at the end (but I was a bit tired!). The wildflowers and newts were a real treat. Too bad you missed it!

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