Paradise, California sits along a section of the foothills known locally as ‘the Ridge’. The Skyway, which is one of the four main roads to Paradise, runs from Chico (at around 100′) to Inskip (at around 5000′) and now, beyond to Butte Meadows. Along the way, as you climb, you’ll run into Paradise, Magalia, Lovelock (pop 10), Stirling City (pop 300) and finally Inskip (pop 3 if they aren’t out shopping). The Ridge itself is a narrow backbone of rock and dirt running between two small valleys. One side contains the Feather River, the other, an area known locally as the Little Grand Canyon or Butte Canyon. One of the two Chico Creeks runs through Butte Canyon and Honey Run runs alongside the creek. If you take Honey Run, you’ll also pass by the Honey Run Covered Bridge and then come to Centerville (pop 20?) before climbing up to Paradise through a series of switchbacks as it climbs the canyon wall.
The eastern side canyon has the north fork of the Feather River and an old series of viaducts or flumes. No road, save a private dirt road that runs only partway, runs the canyon.
The other main paths up the Ridge are Neal Road, which goes from Hiway 99 to Skyway at the base of the town of Paradise, Pentz Road, which runs from Hiway 70 to Skyway at the top of Paradise, Clark Road (also called Hiway 191) which runs from Hiway 70 through Butte Creek Canyon and bisects the town south-north before finally connecting to Skyway just before Pentz, and the aforementioned Honey Run, which runs from canyon floor and Skyway up to about mid-town where it connects Skyway again. Skyway is the only ‘modern’ road, being four lanes.
Regardless of the path you choose, all share one common trait: they are steep. Skyway, for all it’s modernity, has gallon jugs left by doers-good bunched up in pull-outs for overheating cars on hot days. The valley floor is at around 50-100′ above sea level and the town sign, welcoming you to, and hoping you find the name of the town to be everything it implies, lies at around 1100′. From there, the town goes about six miles south to north, and rises from 1100′ to about 2300′. From east to west, every main road is characterized by a steep ridge running down across it, so that, from any of the main drags (east to west: Honey Run, Skyway, Clark, Pentz) to any other main drag, you must climb toward the ridge separating Skyway from Clark. The bottom line is there is no flat ground.
I live midway up the town at about 1800′. I also live midway between the two canyons which define the East and West boundaries of Paradise. I’m on the eastern side of the ridge that runs north-south through the town. From my driveway, up the court and to the main drag, Clark, is a 121′ climb. In about 1/8 mile. Good warmup. Running just west of the ridge (small ‘r’ denoting that hump in the center of town) is a rail-trail converted to bike use from the old logging railroad that ran the length of the Ridge back in the day. Now, speeding 40 ton trucks carry their farmed logs down Clark at breakneck speeds regardless of weather.
From my house, I can go up the drive and to Clark and then up or down to go west and find the trail. Paradise was not constructed with cyclists nor pedestrians in mind. Most roads other then the Skyway and Clark have no sidewalks and very few have even shoulders. As you get further from the main drag, (which in a town of six miles by three miles, isn’t very far!!!) you might lose even pavement. So I can go up to Central Park and over to the trail or, as I do normally now, down Clark to Pearson (about a mile) and over to the trail. I like this route as it gives me more space to climb and I get to start out downhill!
The bike path itself mirrors the town south to north. Starting just after the sign at about 1110′, it goes to Skyway and Pentz at about 2300′. A good climb all the way. The trail itself is paved and in good nick all the way. Sometimes, following one of the torrential rainstorms, it will spend a day or two covered deeply in pine needles and small branches, but the town cleans it pretty regularly. It also has mile markers set into little blocks alongside and benches at most major crossings. It runs, typically, along the backs of homes and businesses, so scenery isn’t top notch. But either you’re dropping at 25mph or climbing at 5, so scenery isn’t top on my list – yet.
Where I typically pick up the trail on Pearson, it’s at about 1450′. I try to ride to Rocky Road before turning for home. That allows for a round trip of: home to Pearson (1850′ to 1450′, 1.3 m) then up to Rocky Road (1450′-2050′, 4 miles) then down to Wagstaff and east to Clark and home. Round trip it’s about 6.8 miles total. Sometimes I go the rest of the bike trail to Skyway and Pentz (1450′ – 2300′, 6 miles on the trail) for a total of about 9.4 miles. I’ve done now a 13.1 miler (from Neal/Skyway to top of Old Skyway) and a 14.8 miler (halfway down Neal to Rocky Road – 670′ to 2050′). Those are my longest rides to date.
My goal is to ride three times a week. At least my 6.8 mile loop each time. I was extending it by a mile or so every week, but I’m finding a significant challenge both physically and mentally at the 14 mile mark. Neal was never intended for bike use and it’s very, very steep. Especially for a guy on week 9 of bike ownership. Who’s a bit out of shape. Like WAY out of shape. And never, ever exercised in his whole life.
So there you have it, my version of Riding the Ridge. I like to post about my rides, perhaps to excess. That’s fine. I like dissecting them and remembering them. I try to include my mile markers and what’s coming over the headphones, too. I use the Cyclemeter app on my iPhone, so I include some of that information, too.
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