I follow the road uphill and slither through the gap in the gate that marks its end. A deep rut runs down the middle of the wide trail, the remnant of a long-forgotten winter storm. After more than a year of drought, everything’s dry and the dust puffs up from under my wheels like an anemic dragon. The weather forecasters talk of El Niño and a heavy rain coming. But for now, the leaves hang brittle on the chaparral, the neck scruff of California’s coastal mountains, and it all feels like tinder ready to flame. — The Layers That Make The Ride.