Autumn is a stunningly wonderful time to turn the pedals, especially in the mountains. The autumn riding experience is a bit more gentle than summer and the hot sun. While the days are shorter, there is still plenty of time to get a ride in.
The colors of autumn, and the muted light that comes with this season, simply makes time on the bike somehow better. For a real taste of autumn’s finest, head to the foothills and the mountains with your bike. It is a pleasant break from the sometimes frenetic pace of the city.
The autumn color dance generally starts with the aspens in the mountains. Hope Valley and into Tahoe lead the way. The trees in the city chime in too. When the aspens, cottonwoods, red stick dogwoods, and dogwoods are done in the higher parts of the mountains, the lower reaches light off.
That’s what’s happening now. Apple Hill in Camino, in the foothills of El Dorado County, is colorful, and beautiful. At this time of year though it is not a good place to ride your bike.
The weekends turn the area into a large slowly moving parking lot. The pies, cakes, apple strudels and all the other wonderful attractions draw thousands of visitors over the weekends. It is only slightly better during the week, but the point is that riding around all those cars is dangerous.
Pollock Pines has a rich palette of colors, which extends into the American River Canyon along US Highway 50, and none of the traffic of Apple Hill. The temperatures range from cold in the mornings and evenings to cool during the day. Perfect riding weather. The same can be said about the areas on I80 at the 4,000ft level and above.
Where to ride? Just about anywhere. A very good ride, with some small bit of climbing, is right in the heart of Pollock Pines. This ride will take you onto the back roads in a richly forested and colorful part of this area.
Park on Pony Express Trail, to the east of the Crystal View Station. Your ride starts by heading west on Pony Express trail, past Crystal View Station, where you’ll make a right hand turn onto Forebay Road, which is across from the Safeway.
You’ll pick up some speed here, and will continue past the El Dorado Forebay. There’s a steep decline right past the lake, but you’ll need to temper your speed. You’ll be making a left hand turn when the road starts to flatten out, onto Blair Road.
Named after the Blair family, a historically important Pollock Pines family, Blair Road rolls through a wonderfully forested tableau. There are some ups and downs, but nothing that should stop the average cyclist. Continue on Blair until it dead ends into Pony Express Trail. Turn right.
Continue on PET, past the historic Sportsman’s Hall restaurant, until you come to the next intersection, which is Ridgeway Drive. You can only turn left here. Take the turn. This road gives you very good views into Weber Canyon, and far off in the distance, the mountains on Highway 88.
There are a couple of climbs here that might test your legs if you are a novice. Just gear down and keep pedaling. These climbs are relatively short, but you’l definitely know you’re climbing.
You’ll come to a stop sign when you reach Sly Park Road. Turn left, and ride up to Pony Express Trail. Turn right. This is probably where you parked your car. Keep riding. You’re not done yet. This road, referred to by locals as Bullion Bend, is one of the nicest parts of riding in Pollock Pines.
As you ride east, look to the north and you’ll see some of the burn area from the King Fire. You’ll also see, if you hit it right, a riot of colorful leaves on the red oaks and some dogwoods that are in abundance along this road.
When you get to the first gate, just past the Bullion Bend monument, it’s time to turn around. Stop at the monument, read it, and you’ll find out the reason this is called Bullion Bend.
You’ll ride back along the road. Your car awaits. Hungry? Crystal View Station has a subway. There’s also Sportsman’s Hall, which you road past after turning from Blair Road.
Your ride on this route gives you a very good idea of how wonderful the roads are up here cyclists. There’s plenty more, but that’s for another day.