The Bear Mountain Cycling Adventure program is a new program which will be offered by Roaring Camp in 2008. It's a shining example of a great eco-tourism experience which combines learning about the local history of Roaring Camp and the biological species which inhabit the old growth forest. On top of that it's an enjoyable ride thought the woods.
My wife, child and I were on the inaugural intermediate program run to give feedback on the experience. I have been interested in this program since it combines a docent led outdoor educational experience with mountain biking - a challenging physical activity.
Paul Nakamoto - the Director of Business Development at Roaring Camp and a mountain biker - helped to develop the program. Our guide and docent was a Cabrillo College student Eric Lynberg. I was really impressed with Eric's knowledge of the forest. He grew up in the San Lorenzo Valley and learned about the forest and plants from his parents - who were passionate about nature and the outdoors. This job represents an amazing opportunity for him to combine his passion and knowledge of the forest with his love of mountain biking.
The adventure starts with a fire road climb to the top of Bear Mountain with stops along the way so that Eric could discuss some interesting historical and biological points of interest. This breaks up the climb so that you can savor and learn about the forest - and take a breather if you aren't physically up for the climb.
The Roaring Camp property was spared the logging that took place in the Felton/Henry Cowell properties. Many of the old growth redwoods and douglas fir are still standing. Eric identified and pointed out interesting examples of redwood (with spurs which are characteristic of old growth), manzinita, madrone, ponderosa pine, coffee berry, douglas fir, tanoak and bay trees. He knows how the indigenous Ohlone Indians used the local plants for food, customs and medicine. He also discussed the local history of Roaring Camp railroad and Felton.
At the top, we would rendezvous with the tour train at Bear Mountain to hear the conductor discuss the cathedral grove fairy ring. After the train left, we headed for a thrilling and swoopy downhill single track run back to the Roaring Camp grounds. My daughter was laughing and enjoying the ride down from the back of a trail-a-bike. Weeeee!!
It was a great adventure and it was the first time that my wife and daughter had ridden in this part of the forest. Eric was impressed that I managed to clear all the logs and A-frames pulling a trail-a-bike. I've had a lot of practice.
The Roaring Camp folks really figured out how to do eco-tourism safely. Eric has first aid training and carried a kit and a radio. He was in steady communication with operations and understood the train schedule so that the ride doesn't interfere with the running of the trains. He carried a GPS device that contained a map with way points that showed his exact location. The way points were co-ordinated with emergency services so that response time would be very quick if an accident were to occur.
I have been looking for a program like this to promote as a great activity for middle and high schools. Not only could it satisfy criteria for outdoor education (they are working on expanding the program to satisfy educational curriculum) and it could instill a love of nature in students (Eric's enthusiasm is infectious) but it could also help to mitigate the effects of a sedentary lifestyle by providing a physically challenging mountain bike ride.
Roaring Camp offers several outdoor adventure programs including the Bear Mountain Cycling Adventure. Pricing is reasonable at $25 (if you have your own bike) for a great interpretive ride through the amazing biodiversity of the old growth forest. The downhill run is pretty cool as well. A great value for sure.
Consider checking out the Roaring Camp Outdoor Adventure program if you come to the Santa Cruz area and are looking for an interpretive experience combined with a guided ride though awesome forested single track. You'll love it!