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Tamarancho - July 3, 2010

Distance: 12.4 miles Ascent: 1,834 feet Moving time: 1:57 hours

Due to the July 4 holiday, we had a few dropouts from the usual crew. Anna suggested that we should consider a ride in Marin County since we hadn't been there. We pretty quickly decided on a trip to Tamarancho in Fairfax based on very positive on-line reviews. Armed with a simple map and 3 passes purchased on-line, three of us headed out to try a new trail.

I was leading and missed the Alchemist trailhead that is behind a small shelter that seems to be a bus stop in the middle of nothing. As a result, we continued to climb up Iron Springs Road to the entrance of the camp. This is a longer route and not as fun, but it may be a good way to go if you are concerned about having enough energy for the ride. We had heard that it was riding clockwise on weekends is preferred, so we went left onto Goldman. A short singletrack with a few switchbacks took us to the junction with the top of Alchemist. We tried the stunt board several times but we couldn't do it. We finally gave up and hit the Goldman singletrack again. We got to the end without too much fuss and found a 5-way junction where we expected a 4-way junction. While we were studying our map, a local rode by and advised us to take Serpentine, so we did.

Serpentine starts with a fast, easy ride on a slight downhill grade through an open grassy area before starting to climb up the hill. It is this part of the trail that earns it name as it goes through many switchbacks up the hill. I think I cleared all of these except one that I didn't know which way to go (and probably wouldn't have made it anyway). We continued on up to the Wagon Wheel trailhead, where we regrouped. We made it through the rock gardens and the climb up the end of Wagon Wheel to the next fireroad junction. The local rider had told us that the fireroad climb up to Whites Hill was too steep to climb. Just to prove him wrong, Anna quickly climbed up the steepest part of the hill before zooming down. We continued on B-17 and B-17 Extension. We stopped at the next fireroad to admire the view and the wildflowers and have a quick snack. We briefly thought about heading out the fireroad toward Pine Mountain but the vote was to head back down B-17 Extension instead.

At the bottom of B-17 Extension, we turned left onto Broken Dam. This trail winds its way through the forest, starting out with a reasonably long downhill before turning to climbing. This trail was also very pretty. Somewhere on the descent, Anna managed to launch herself. Fortunately, she escaped with a bit of dirt on her always impeccable riding outfit and and a few minor scrapes on her knee.

The top of Broken Dam returned us to the entrance gate where we started. Since we had already been on the road, we headed down Goldman to the junction with Alchemist. We stopped to play on the board stunt again and somehow Don managed to kick the valve stem on his rear tire, breaking the rim strip it was attached to. While Don put in a tube, Anna got to act as a human repair stand until she was allowed to play on the stunt again. After putting in the tube, we continued trying the stunt. While we got pretty far, none of us negotiated the entire stunt, defying the laws of random probability! Finally, we headed down Alchemist. This was about the only place we found riders going in the opposite direction (or was it us?). We quickly descended the road and returned to the parking lot.

After cleaning up a bit, we had a very enjoyable lunch at the Iron Spring Brewery and Pub just across the street from the parking lot. We all had different things and they all seemed very good.

We agreed that this was a really fun ride. It was great to be on singletrack almost the whole time. The trails were properly maintained without being sanitized like so many trails. There was some climbing, but they were shorter and more interesting than the long steep fireroad climbs that we so often encounter. We saw a few people, but not really that many especially since it was holiday weekend. It looked like we could have stretched it out quite a bit if we had started a bit earlier and/or planned to stay later. All in all, it was very worthwhile driving all the way there and paying the $5 entrance fee. Having a brewpub waiting for after the ride is another factor recommending this ride.

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