A Night at Uvas Canyon Park


Carrie and I have been bicycle touring for about eight years. And in that time I’d only once joined a friend for a tour. We have friends who ride bicycles regularly. We have friends who love to camp. But it seems we don’t have many friends who want to combine the two activities. I don’t know what’s wrong with our friends. Bicycle touring is about as splendid a thing to do as I can imagine. What could be better than spending the day riding through pretty landscapes, getting the heart rate going, eating anything without guilt, and then crashing in a tent under the greatest roof of all?

So it was a pleasant surprise the other day when I received an email from Carrie asking if we wanted to join our friends Lauren and Xabriel for their first bicycle tour. The plan was to ride about 25 miles south to Uvas Canyon County Park, camp the night, and then head home the following day. Carrie and I agreed that this would be a good introductory route, with scenic roads and no sustained climbs.

The night before we left, Lauren and Xabriel brought their bikes by our place so we could outfit them with spare racks and panniers. Lauren seemed a little unsure that she could cram a night’s worth of stuff in only a pair of panniers. We gave Xabriel the beefier rack and larger panniers. He could haul any of Lauren’s extras if needed. My inner gear nerd was about to expound on the joys of ultralight packing, but I held back, not wanting to make them feel like what they planned on packing was wrong or inadequate. I could show them the spreadsheets that itemize my gear and its weight another time ๐Ÿ™‚

Off to Uvas

The next day we planned to meet at the grocery store en route at about 10:30am. It turns out that there are two Nob Hill grocery stores about two miles away from each other. Carrie and I rode to one and Lauren and Xabriel rode to the other. After we sorted that out and finally found each other, we headed down the road, four happy people enjoying a crisp, sunny day.

The first part of the ride to the town of Morgan Hill is pretty much flat. We passed acres of fallow farmland and then entered downtown Morgan Hill for a lunch break. Carrie and I bought some falafel sandwiches. Lauren and Xabriel did the Mustachian thing and busted out some bread and meat and made their own sammies.

Carrie and Lauren sitting next to our parked bicycles during lunch.
Carrie and Lauren chat during our lunch break in Morgan Hill.

With spirits still high and bellies full, we headed west toward Uvas Canyon County Park. Aptly named, Uvas Canyon County Park resides in a steep-walled canyon where wild grapes were once abundant. As you get closer the park, the roads become increasingly steeper. Carrie and I prefer rolling or mountainous terrain to the monotony of a flat road, and we have the gearing for it, so we were enjoying the challenge. Xabriel however was riding a bike with harder gearing and was probably the one carrying the most weight. Despite these setbacks, he made it up every steep pitch that the road threw at him until he relented at a probably 20 percent grade just before the park entrance.

Carrie, Lauren, and Xabriel are all smiles as we ride toward Uvas Canyon County Park.
Carrie, Lauren, and Xabriel are all smiles as we ride toward Uvas Canyon County Park.

Once in the walls of the canyon, we could feel the temperature dip by at least 10 degrees. As we arrived at our campsite I immediately donned all of my layers, including my sleeping bag, which I wrapped around me like a shawl. Carrie had a good laugh at my expense, but I was warm, just barely. As a test, I decided not to bring pants. I wanted to find out if shorts and knee warmers would keep me warm enough in temperatures near freezing. Well, I can safely conclude that wearing shorts and knee warmers in near freezing conditions is a stupid idea. Pants, or even better, tights, are required for comfort. Everyone else had brought plenty of warm layers.

After a short hike in the park to warm up, we returned to make dinner. It was getting dark and even colder. Our warm mac n’ cheese hit the spot, as did Xabriel’s mini flask of whiskey. But before long, I got too cold to stay outside any longer. All I wanted to do was to curl up in my sleeping bag and get warm. So we retired to our tents at around 6:30pm.

I'm doing my best to stay warm, despite my lack of pants.
I’m doing my best to stay warm, despite my lack of pants.
Lauren and Xabriel brought plenty of layers to stay warm and happy.
Lauren and Xabriel brought plenty of layers to stay warm and happy.

All night I was at the cusp of shivering. I had to sleep close to Carrie to borrow some of her body heat. Next summer we plan to hike the John Muir Trail. As I fought off the cold all night, I ran through the options of what to bring to stay warm while on the high elevation route. All I know is that whatever I bring, it will have to keep me warmer than what I used on this trip.

Return Home

In the morning our main objective was to eat breakfast and to hang out in the patches of sun that were filtering through the dense canopy of oaks and bays. We kept on all of our warm layers as we departed, as we were about to descend about 1,000 feet out of the cold canyon. Once we reached Uvas Road, it felt so nice to be in full sun. I felt like a reptile, gaining energy and life as I warmed up. I was even warm enough to shed some layers.

Lauren descends Willow Springs Road. You'd never guess that California is in a major drought by the looks of all that green grass.
Lauren descends Willow Springs Road. You’d never guess that California is in a major drought by the looks of all that green grass.

On the ride back to San Jose along the flat stretch of road from Morgan Hill we had to battle a slight headwind. Carrie and then Xabriel led our paceline as we passed by the now familiar fallow fields. We arrived at the Nob Hill where we met the day before to procure some sandwiches from the deli. It was a good way to end the trip, eating some sammies next to the bike racks while the sun’s warm rays embraced us. It seemed like Lauren and Xabriel had an enjoyable first tour. And Carrie and I got to enjoy the rare company of friends while on a tour. Win, win.