I've become quite enamored of watching the sun rise from somewhere up in the Santa Monica Mountains. I bought lights for a commuting experiment but they've also opened up the morning: get over the road part of the ride while it's still dark, and then enjoy the growing light as I climb.
I took Friday off from work, intending to do a fairly long ride, but I think I ate the wrong thing for breakfast. It was kind of interesting. Tired from the work week, but still better to be out there. Usually I start off rather cranky and slow, but as things warm up the operation gets smoother. This time, just about as I was hitting my stride, I think the Pop-tarts did me in. It was a struggle getting up Temescal Canyon from the beach. So, I turned east on Sunset and then rode up into Will Rogers State Park. Dawn was approaching. I rode through a little valley and a bird flew out from the trees, beside me. I looked over. Big, dark, chunky. Owl? Yes. I heard it call... and it was answered by another. I stopped and listened to their duet for a minute. Lovely. Then I rode on up to Inspiration Point and watched the sun rise over the San Gabriels.
Saturday was the day for whims. Where to go? East. Then north on 11th Street to San Vicente, east and then 26th Street to Sunset. Up Mandeville Canyon. Westridge seemed to intimidating so I rode up Mandeville for the first time. Interesting place. Big houses, quiet, the scent of bluegrass mixed with chaparral. It's a long, gradual climb. I just steamed along as the sky brightened. Thick overcast but the air was dry. I found a trail that climbs out of the canyon and went up that, eastward. Eventually it gains the top of the ridge. Well, I'm this far, I might as well go to Mulholland and get some water at the old Nike base. I cruised along. The sky was interesting; torn clouds overhead, some virga off to the south over Palos Verdes, vapor below about 500 feet with clear air above that so that I could see Catalina clearly under the clouds. Very nice light for photographing plants, if I'd had a camera. Sometimes, in particularly interesting places, I get off the bike and walk so I don't fall over while looking. Reached the Nike base, tanked up, listened to a large convocation of quail kibitzing in the brush among other birds, and then decided--another whim--to ride down the Amalfi route. Took one of the little side trips along the ridge and just sat on top for a time, watching clouds, enjoying the subtle colors of the buckwheat and other plants drying out with the season. And then I rolled on down the hill and headed home.
Sunday was interesting. Took off north along the beach, got on PCH to Sunset, up to Paseo Miramar. Shut off the lights and enjoyed the quiet. The sky was clear, air damp and warm. At the end of pavement I got off and walked to enjoy the growing light but the sun was still far off. I could see wisps of vapor down in some of the canyons. Paseo Miramar is good for getting up there quickly. I reached the local maximum and took a little side trail to the top of the ridge, and could see vapor thinly veiling the valley ahead, the one with the beautiful oaks and hummingbird sage. It was flowing southeast, through the draw and down the canyon, where it dissipated. I rode down, into the thin mist and then up the next hill. Beyond that is Topanga Canyon, and it was about half-full of fog flowing to the sea. Various streams of vapor got separated by projections from the canyon walls, kicked up and away; some would evaporate, others would rejoin. I went to the top of the bump to the north and could see the canyon full of cloud that overflowed through the low spots along the ridge leading to Tripett Ranch down into Sana Ysabel. On the way back I stopped to see what happened to all that vapor as it approached the ocean... and it just evaporated half a mile from the beach in the warmer air. Inland was a deck of cloud below me, its far edge lit by the rising sun in a line of burning gold. The sun came up, wham, no attenuation, casting red light on the far side. I realized that for most of the years I've ridden around here, I've started too late.