Another deep sleep after yesterday's exertions (& not quite as chilly) & I awoke when the dogs were let off at about half past six. Another great meal from Sam - a lot of French toast with a nice dash of cinnamon & other goodies. Decamped & loaded the truck with bikes (I had to borrow a spare Juicy 7 from Bill, my brakes were still faded & it wasn't the pads) & we all drove in to Kernville & gassed up (running short on gas was a bit of a theme for the weekend). On the way saw my first American bush fire - a spotter plane, chopper with monsoon bucket, countless fire engines (Forestry Service, Bureau of Land Management, Kern Valley Fire Dept & who knows how many other agencies) & a troop of kitted up firefighters crossing the river & hauling a lot of weight up the hill side. It seemed to be relatively out of control - I didn't get burnt.
From the west shore of Lake Isabella, we drove up to the top of the ridge & past a skifield (it's strange seeing an off season ski field surrounded by pines - back home it's usually all rocks), found the trailhead, & left for the lake. With different front brakes I was somewhat tentative hauling in to more great corners, & Irmina was similar with pretty poor rear brakes. Still it was another great trail - more dirt (& therefore more dust - one had to keep quite a distance behind the previous bike to facilitate useful vision) & nice corners & yet more cases of the trail suddenly turning to rocks. It was mostly in trees, so no great vistas - but did get in to this very cool tunnel of overgrown junipers ("I say, those are my juniper bushes").
Shortly afterwards, we hit another good climb (what is with these climbs when you are going down a hill??) - well practised & not at such an altitude, it was another good middlering grind. I emerged on to a fire road & waited for the others. Apparently we were to follow the fire road down a while & then head in to the trail again. Much to our disppointment we never found the trail again & after riding up hill for a mile or so, trying to find it, had had enough of the sun so we blasted all the way back down to the lake & met Sam. As this was almost the end of our weekend together we got all our belongings in the correct vehicles & headed back to Kernville for a great last meal at some cafe (Sam got out of cooking this time).
Saying goodbyes the others headed back to LA & struggled on very tired north a couple of hours & crashed in some overpriced motel with a very poor shower (I was very much looking forward to ridding my skin of two days' worth of dust & sweat). I think that may have been the end of my west coast mountain biking - a shame that, I had an absolute blast & really enjoyed the challenge of riding on different surfaces, some good climbs, fantastic downhills, great scenery & best of all riding with some super people that I wouldn't have met otherwise. A big thank-you to those that shuttled, showed me rides & were just generally good riding buddies.
16 hours ago