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Chapter 11: Tesoro Viejo

Our ride started much as many of our rides at the Compass at the northeastern end of Woodward Park.  We traveled down the Eaton Trail that leads down to the river bottom along the side of the trailer court and traveled northeast on old Highway 41.  We turned right onto the natural preserve and made another right turn under the bridge of old Highway 41 to the trail that leads to Sycamore Island.  In the middle of Sycamore Island is an old, massive osprey nest on top of a power pole.  We were told that the ospreys have been nesting here for many years and over time have continued building the nest to its massive proportions.  We made our way across the Sycamore Island grounds and arrived at the main gate to the grounds, only to discover that the gate is locked at the end of the season.  The gate sits between two raised berms, so we had no choice but to carry our bikes up the side of the berm onto the other side of the gate.

Once on the other side of the Sycamore Island gate, we traveled northeast on Road 40.  There are two points on our route where Road 40 ends at some private properties and continues on the other side of the properties.  Rather than cut across the private properties, we made our detours and continued onward on Road 41 until we got to Avenue 12, which is an extremely busy byway that leads west to Highway 99 and provides easy freeway access for the people who live in north Fresno.  We turned left on Avenue 12 and traveled for a few miles until we got to Road 39½ and turned right, traveled a few more miles, and turned right on Avenue 14 until we got to Highway 41. This is an extremely busy thoroughfare, and there was no other way across the highway, so we crossed over and traveled along the highway, with cars zooming by, until we got to the entrance of Tesoro Viejo.

The Tesoro Viejo development has been problematic in creating a major development in a location with limited water at a time when we are struggling with having enough water for everyone, but they've managed to incorporate a nice nature easement along a drainage from the San Joaquin River.

The Tesoro Viejo ride starts out in the canyons and ends up in seasonal wetlands. There were lots of cyclists and hikers from the Tesoro Viejo complex all along the River, and we were regaled with a group of cyclists and hikers who created a twenty gun salute archway for us across the bed of one of the creek beds.

Once we got to Tesoro Viejo, we were ready for a hearty lunch after a challenging, hill-climbing ride.  Ed brought sandwiches, and we purchased dessert and coffee at a restaurant.  We enjoyed our goodies in the beautiful outdoor décor of the Tesoro Viejo Center.  After our relaxing meal, we continued onto the bike and hiking path that leads out from Tesoro Viejo.  We were once again challenged by our ride, traveled up steep paths covered with river rocks from times when the river followed a higher path, and down steep canyons.  We marveled at the beauty of the land and lamented how much these massive development projects have changed and will continue to change the land.  In the short time from some of our riding partners’ previous rides, the development’s heavy equipment had bulldozed over some of the older pathways and forced us to follow other trails.

At times, the trails were so steep that we had to dismount and walk our bikes to avoid taking a fall and getting hurt. On our final descent, we walked our bikes down a steep hill and arrived at the river bottom, where we discovered boulders along the river, grinding rocks where the original inhabitants of the land used to sit and grind their acorns, creating pockets into the boulders.  Towards the end of our jaunt we came across two bulls who were enjoying their grass meal. They eyed us curiously and we, fearful of them, slowly made our way widely around the bulls, on the boulders along the river, and across the property fence to safety.

We crossed the San Joaquin River on an old bridge that wasn’t getting much automobile use and was covered with sand from previous times that the river has risen and covered the bridge. After the bridge, it was a short ride to Friant Road, where we looped back onto Old Friant Road and past the Hallowell Environmental Center, where there was a wedding going on.  We bicycled back onto the Eaton Trail and to the Compass at Woodward Park, where our bicycling party broke up and we all returned to our homes, tired but satisfied at our enjoyable bike ride.

We hope you enjoyed this chapter from Juan Flores' Bicycling in Fresno.

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