Bixby’s Canyon

Near my house there is an abandoned canyon. I say “abandoned” because no one claims it. The two big HOAs nearby don’t claim it, the few houses that are not HOA don’t claim it. Once the most recent HOA finished, they sealed the end off with a “water control” feature, so it’s no longer a through put trail. Getting to it requires knowledge of the main entrance, which dumps you to the centerish, or jumping through a gate near a water tower to get to one of the trails near the start, or riding down a private drive. The private drive people are friendly enough, never saying anything if there’s a quick ride through to the trail.

The trail was, at some point, some kind of service road for a sewer, or the minor dam/water control. The road, long unused, has grown over, and eroded to near single track . Some very nice amphitheater rock formations grew graffiti that some locals painted over. There was an attempt to take the canyon over by some local home owners, but, the rally failed and nearly all that remains is the trash can for dog waste.

It’s kind of sad, but it’s beautiful. You see very few people. It’s largely quiet. At only a mile or so long, and at the end of several dead ends, there’s not much noise. Some of the manhole covers have become sitting spots for quail. The wrecks of several children’s forts hide back in the bushes, the nearest thing I have to old school houses like in the Midwest. I stop atop one of the hills, looking at a sunset that shows the end of a craptastic day, and lean a little over the handlebars of a single speed MTB that gets used almost solely for this purpose: pulling up hills and rolling out away from things. I’m reminded of a great California poet who is almost lost to the ages: Robinson Jeffers.

Jeffers writes: “Men’s failures are often as beautiful as men’s triumphs, but your returnings are even more precious than your first presence.”

At the end of four months of junk that are somehow supposed to be the building blocks of success, I have on my hands the wreck of normal life, gone fallow in the name of ambition. Friends are out of touch, relationships are not tended to, and miles are un-ridden. As I’ve tried to build something (as the song says, “my empire of dirt”), other things have faltered. That whole balance thing. But the bike is forgiving and familiar. Some oil on the chain, check to see the tires hold air, gloves, helmet, and we’re off. Dirt or street, the bike is always there, ready to take the role as guide, for places passed quickly by car, forgotten by to-do lists, or simply neglected by mental fatigue. It hears no excuses, accepts all apologies, and silently brings the journey back to a simple time in which the wheels spin, the air sings past my ears, and peace grows inside.

Returning really is more precious than my first presence. I’m ready to be back behind the handlebars now.