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New Ancient Oaks

Something new on something ancient sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, but a new section of the Ancient Oaks trail in Russian Ridge has been opened, so we had to give it a try.

The new Ancient Oaks trail head is just a few feet past the familiar sharp right turn that has been ridden many times before. The new trail head is hard to miss since there is a 10 foot wooden bridge there. The singletrack trail heads down the hill through very nice oak forest.  There are several very tight switchbacks that can be navigated if you are careful or handled with a quick manual turn.

The trail deposits you at the Audrey Rust Commemorative Site which includes a new parking area off of Alpine Road (a potential bailout point if needed) and a permanent pit toilet. There also seems to be a foot trail for a bit of exploration.

We headed down Mindego Hill Trail, which is really a gravel ranch road, that pretty much heads straight down the hill. There wasn't much to see and speed for speed's sake wasn't really worth it. After the descent, we all agreed that it would have been much better to have a singletrack that ran roughly parallel to road with more switchbacks to decrease the grade and speed while being more scenic and pretty. This would be a good improvement for the future.

At the bottom of Mindego Hill the ground flattens out just were there is a fence and a sign prohibiting bikes. Apparently, this old ranch road is "too sensitive" to allow bikes to use it, though it seems to be open to all other uses including horses and MidPen maintenance vehicles. Go figure.

Fortunately, the Charquin trailhead is on the right side right at the "No Bikes" point. Charquin was a long climb with a few pretty steep sections (though this may partially reflect that we weren't familiar with the trail which always makes the climbs seem a bit worse. Climb, climb, climb until we finally got to the bottom of the first part of Ancient Oaks.

We continue on Charquin and up Hawk Ridge before returning to our "usual" route. In contrast to the lower part of Charquin, Hawk Ridge seemed a bit easier than in the past.

Overall, the new part of Ancient Oaks was nice but the Mindego Hill descent and subsequent climb back up Charquin made the value of this loop questionable. It doesn't seem worthy of being added into the "normal rotation". It might be better to go down the new section of Ancient Oaks and then ride back up it. Now we know.

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