Remote Panoche Valley not so quiet now

A welcome sight no matter which direction you’re riding.


When we started riding to New Idria in 2003, we didn’t see too many cars as our ride group headed home to Paicines via Panoche Road.

Sixteen years is a long time in Silicon Valley years, so it came as no surprise that I saw a fair amount of traffic on the way home today. The 12 p.m. departure from Panoche Inn in the heart of Panoche Valley made it peak travel time, which didn’t help.

So what’s going on here? Well, for one the dirt bikers have switched their riding from Clear Creek to New Idria and environs, where county roads are still open, free of BLM harassment. Quite a few of the trucks driving by had dirt bikes.

I must have seen 20 big RVs driving the narrow, bumpy road. Where did they come from?

I’m sure some motorists driving sedans were looking for the mythical Super Bloom. Sorry, it did not materialize, but I saw plenty of wildflowers after a wet winter.

Owl’s clover on Panoche Road, at Panoche Valley looking west.


Finally, ConEdison’s 247 MW solar farm is taking shape. It probably doesn’t generate much traffic on a Sunday, but I can imagine it would on a weekday.

Panoche Valley solar farm in the distance, or is this a mirage?

As I sat in a Panoche Inn lounge chair looking at the distant emerald green hills, contemplating life and how it’s constantly changing, I saw what looked like a shimmering mirage, or a lake. I looked closer and, sure enough, it was solar panels. After years of environmentalists throwing up roadblocks, ConEdison finally started building, albeit it’s greatly reduced in size from the original plan.

Panoche Inn, under new ownership.


In the bar, I talked with the new owner. The dollar bills still hang from the ceiling.

The weather gods showered me with mild temperatures, sunshine and fair breezes. The hillsides burst with colors. There’s a narrow window here for best bike riding. Once the rains go away, the land turns a drab brown.

Green hills, the way you want to see them on this ride.


I finished riding at 2:30 p.m., 55 miles in the saddle. Such is life in the slow lane.

After the ride I learned that Judy Garland’s third husband owned a ranch in Paicines, and the “town” used to be called Tres Pinos, which today is now three miles up Hwy 25.

Parents of Lieutenant General Janet C. Wolfenbarger, the highest-ranking woman in the United States Air Force, live in Paicines. It’s a small world.

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