It was less crowded, for one, what with it not being a three-day weekend, and less windy. The deciduous trees are definitely beginning to change color, providing pops of pink and orange on the hillsides, making the pretty views even prettier. We did our regular route and my legs felt strong for a change, no doubt due to the fact that I only put 3.25 miles on them on Saturday instead of 7+. I rode the flats faster, was right behind H on the climb up My Nemesis and managed to ride all but three of the Sweet Sixteen switchbacks, including #5, which has eluded me for several weeks since the rains washed out the trails.
My word, what a nice day
Best of all, I felt strong enough to follow H back on the trails rather than taking the paved Silver Quinn bike path from the backside of Round Valley to the trailhead. I've been wanting to do this all summer but have been waiting until I felt I had the legs - on Sunday I did and, now having seen what that section of trail is like, I feel like I can abandon the paved portion going forward. The trails (I have no idea what we rode on, except for part of Rusty Shovel, and then we landed on trails we take on the outward bound portion of our ride, just riding them backwards and ending up at the Nouvelle [Practice] Loop) were in great shape, not washed out at all, and just rolled up and down. The only steep section I have dubbed the Staircase - a short steep uphill section, then short and flat, then short and steep uphill, then short and flat, then short and steep uphill - and H warned me about it, telling me "when you get to the [junker] car, get in your lowest gear and then don't stop pedaling." I followed his advice and made it to the top without problem, albeit panting a bit.
The last slog back to the truck wasn't even too bad since there wasn't really a headwind. H did have to stop for a moment or two when a friendly off-leash dog decided he wanted to run with H rather than with his people, but aside from that it was uneventful. I'm not about to give up hiking to spare my legs for MTBing, but this was a really good ride. My legs are just going to have to get stronger.