Full Moon Ninja Training

Dave & I hit the trail Saturday around 7:15pm

We had talked about doing a night ride on Palm Canyon before, but never hammered down a date for it. Dave proposed a ride this last weekend to coincide with the full moon. Perfect. Except for the weather report: cold, rainy… even snowy depending on elevation. Gusty winds everywhere.

Saturday night: In Idyllwild, clouds rolled in. Cold, wet, and gloomy weather. Snow was flying here & there. Preparing for the ride, I pondered what sort of discomfort this adventure might hold. The worst case scenario could have been, well, pretty bad: 5-6 hours of cold rain, in the dark, in a canyon, far from roads. We bundled up in winter riding gear, packed plenty of calories in our packs (bananas, chocolate… sardines) and decided to roll the dice. Some of my concern about getting cold was allayed when Dave told me he’d packed a full flask of Bulleit. While bourbon’s false warmth might not *actually* keep core temp up, it can certain help warm the soul when the going gets tough.

Full Moon Ninja Training requires a special time & place. For one, it doesn’t work in areas with tree cover; too many shadows. You need a clear view of sky. Desert is good. Preferably a desert away from too many city lights.

We parked at the Palm Canyon trailhead in Pinyon, about halfway down the mountain toward Palm Desert. The sky was threatening. Rolling out from the parking lot, I turned my lights on to make sure they’d work, then turned them off for the rest of the ride… all the way down to Cathedral City. The full moon beamed down on the trail, when it wasn’t blocked by fast  moving clouds. Cold gusts of wind pushed light rain in our faces.

The pinyons & ribbonwoods near the start cast dark shadows on the trail, and clouds obstructed the moonlight from time to time, but exited as quickly as they’d arrived, pushed by fast winds. Some unexpected wind gusts on ridge top sections caught us by surprise, even blowing us off our bikes once or twice. I wasn’t set on riding the entire route without lights, but the further into the ride I got, the more comfortable I became riding by moonlight.

By the time we’d dropped through the chaparral climate zone the shadows disappeared. The sky was clearer, the wind… calm. Quiet. I could clearly hear Dave’s tires rolling on dirt, the sound of the critters rustling in the brush. Cholla cactus glistening in the moonlight. This was a special ride. Magical, even.

We stopped at Lunch Rock for a fresh cuppa joe. Dave had the foresight to pack his Esbit stove and some instant coffee. A godsend with the peanut butter cups I’d packed. We sat out a light rain and pressed on.

(this was the only successful pic I managed that night)

We dropped down into Cathedral City after midnight, via a trail we hadn’t been on before that brought us to a residential area. We rode through a series of quiet streets and resupplied ourselves at a Circle K. Surprisingly, nobody batted an eye at what must’ve been an odd sight; two guys emerging from the desert on bikes in the middle of the night. We rode asphalt for what seemed a small eternity back to my car, and the drive home. We got back around 3am.

I woke up Sunday morning in a daze.  Did that really happen?


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