Blazing Trails at Water Dog

04 Dec

It was a sunny, crisp late fall California morning, the kind that promises to warm up quickly. So Jill, Cindy and I were itching to hit the trails with their post-rain tackiness. But this time, instead of grabbing our bikes we grabbed McClouds, Pulaskis and other trail building tools and got to work. ‘Cause Mother Nature may have created the forests and grasslands, but she doesn’t build the trails we ride, run and walk on. Volunteers do.

Our destination: Water Dog Lake Park in Belmont. Water Dog offers a rare taste of wilderness in the middle of the urban Bay Area: its canyons are deep, its bay-facing vistas expansive, and its streams largely untouched. How wild is it? Well, mountain lion sightings are not unusual.

Water Dog is also rare in that its trails not only welcome mountain bikers, its trails were largely built by mountain bikers. The singletrack designed by John Finch, Berry Stevens, Patty Ciesla and others is often technical, with ladder bridges and narrow boards allowing the trail to hug the canyon’s steep slopes. Water Dog delights thrill seekers, but has a reputation of leaving less skilled riders battered and bruised. More than one of my friends has been badly bitten by the ‘dog.

But on Saturday, my friends and I came out to Water Dog to build an easy-rated trail around the lake and tame the beast just a little. Led by Kevin Sullivan, a Belmont Parks & Recreation Commissioner and fellow mountain biker, we joined a team of other volunteers working on the new-and-improved Lake Trail. Volunteers have been working on this trail since before 2008, when I first joined a trailbuilding crew and helped pry out a small boulder.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a few hours of scraping hillsides, lifting lumber, digging foundations and drilling boards, we reaped the sweet rewards with a spin around the park. I strapped on the GoPro to capture the dizzying descent down the 17 well-banked switchbacks on the Finch Trail. Thank you, John, Berry, Patty and Kevin. It was totally awesome and only a little gnarly.

If you were building a mountain bike (or walking) trail, what would you want it to be like?


Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Dirt Trails, Issues & Infrastructure


5 responses to “Blazing Trails at Water Dog

  1. Katie

    December 5, 2011 at 4:07 am

    Holy crap on the switchbacks, nice work on the trail work girls

  2. cindy

    December 5, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Very nice riding Janet!

  3. Hoghopper

    August 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks for your work. I ride your trails once a year when i come out to visit a friend. In Texas, I’d drive three hours to ride trails like that, if there were any that close! Here’s my video going back up all your switchbacks:

    • ladyfleur

      August 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      The real credit goes to Kevin, Patty, John, Berry, Becky, David and others who have coordinated all the effort over the years. I’ve just shown up for a couple of work days. Nice little video of the uphill version. I used to prefer it uphill vs downhill, but I’ve gotten so out of shape the downhill may be easier now. 🙂


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