Mountain Bike Bill, Get the Dirt on the Dirt

Hurkey Creek near Idyllwild

Hurkey Creek Park and the May Valley area to the northwest is set in the San Jacinto Mountains near the town of Idyllwild.  The riding here is simply fantastic with buff singletrack, nice flowing lines and exceptional use of the rock. This area is home to a stop of the 24 hours of Adrenalin series as well as Idyllwild Spring Challenge.   These trails are part of the overall Idyllwild MTB scene and you can tell that these trails are made by extremely knowledgeable and passionate people

Directions: From San Diego, take Interstate 15 North to Interstate 215 to the Hwy 74 off ramp. Take Hwy 74 east through Hemet and come up the mountain to Mountain Center. Continue on Hwy 74 past Mountain Center.  Hurkey Creek Park is about 3 miles past Mountain Center on your left hand side.

Hazards: It can get very cold in the fall and spring (as well as winter) and blistering hot in the summer.   The area is also known for it rapidly changing weather conditions so be prepared.

Ride Report: (Note: Additional comments provided by placing the mouse over the thumbnails)

2007 Update


There is so much more to the Hurkey Creek area than just the 24 hour race course.    The Idyllwild Spring Challenge race put on my Idyllwild Cycling sends the pro and expert level races on nearly all of the trails in the area.   They have an really good route description and map of the course which I have included a copy of here on the site.

images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreekMap07.JPG Here is my map of the area.  I have ridden more stuff than I have mapped and some of the stuff on my map is not on the race course description.   Until I get up there without forgetting my GPS at home you can compare the two maps and pretty much find everything.
Here are a few comments I will make about the trails.
Satan's Gut is a whole lot of elevation drop and I generally did not consider it worth the payback required.
When deciding between Missing Link and Exfoliater to get back down the from the May Valley area back to Herkey Creek here are you two primary decision drivers.  Exfoliater is a fast ripfest while Missing Link is more of a slow twisting route.
The death march up the South Ridge fireroad is worth it too come down the South Ridge trail. 
If you generally go up the fire roads and go down the single tracks life is good.  The Cahuilla Cutoff trails is a nice climb after Snakeskin to get up to the Hombres trails.
There is nothing out here that sucks in my book

images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-03JUN07-18.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-01APR07-03.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-03JUN07-28.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-01APR07-01.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-01APR07-06.jpg    images/Trails/HurkeyCreek/HerkeyCreek-MayValley-03JUN07-12.jpg


video I simply love Idyllwild.   The awesome people who are putting these trails together really know what they are doing.  This video was mostly shot in the Herkey Creek area but include stuff closer to the town itself.   I consider this video to be Idyllwild Volume II as none of the trails in my Idyllwild 2005 video are included in this video.  This 13 minute video is 179MB.


Original Report on Hurkey Creek


Picture provided by the 24 hours of Andrenalin Website

2002 24 hours of Adrenalin at Hurkey Creek

HerkeyCreekMap-lr.jpg (137385 bytes) MAP:  Note this is the original map of the Hurkey 24hour race course and elevation Profile.  

Download the TOPO file here.

HerkeyCreekProfile.JPG (54509 bytes)

A Virgins Tale


    Set in the San Jacinto Mountains near the town of Idyllwild, Hurkey Creek Park is an annual stop on the 24 hours of Adrenaline mountain biking race circuit. This is also the place where I got my first taste as a competitor in a mountain bike race. The experience was quite remarkable. The team was affectionately known as the Five Knobs on Knobbies and was composed of Miles, Michael, Cliff, Stan, and myself. 

Pictures from around Camp
A view from out of the tent
    Another view from the campsite    Cliff has an air mattress slightly bigger that his tent!    Camp Clutter    Casa de la Knobbies

    This endurance race is a team event were one person goes and rides a 10 mile mountain bike trail "lap" that has you climbing hills, speeding through open valleys and navigating technical downhills.  When one person completes a lap they hand off a small baton to the next rider and they go do a lap. This relay continues on throughout the day and night.  The team that can complete the most laps in 24 hours in the least amount of time wins.   There are all sorts of categories from solo to 10 person corporate teams to suit your particular level of addiction.  We were in the largest category, five man with a total team age between 150-199 years.  Most of my non-biking friends as well good chunk of my biking friends thought I was "sick" for wanting to do an event like this.  I would have to see for myself. 

Early moments of the race
Less than a minute to go!
    Zero seconds -- A couple of folks get a jump on the clock    Mooo here comes the stampede!    Bikes in the transition area
Tinker goes to hop on the bike
    And the field is off on the Prolouge    Bikes Bikes Bikes!!    And More Bikes

Tinker towards the front of the run            Pic by Michael Paul More Lemans Start fun                              Pic by Michael Paul     Three of the five members of the team were veterans and Stan and I were the "virgins" of the team.  We had come up the day before the race and setup camp early so we could take a leisurely pre-ride of the course.  I did not feel as strong as I have been in the past while doing the pre-ride,  but I still felt pretty good and I was sure I could pull my load in the race.  We all went into Idyllwild that evening for some carb-intense Italian food.  I was in bed by midnight with a belly full of garlic chicken pasta and I slept really good in the cool mountain air.  The following morning greeted us with some rather odd weather.  It started out warm but we were soon socked in with some fog and the temperature dipped sharply.   As noon (the start of the race) approached my excitement level was getting pretty high.  The race starts off with a LeMans start where all the riders of the first lap must do a 1/8th of a mile run. They complete the run by hoping on their bike and then do a The Stampede keeps on coming.              Pic by Michael Paul prologue lap before they are off to the trail.  In the Hey wait for me!!!!                                      Pic by Michael Paul minutes leading up to the start there was music blasting out over the PA system as the racers got themselves pumped up for the start. The last minute before the counter at the start/finish ticked down to zero, the music faded and the crowd when crazy as they yelled out the countdown. The run was down right crazy and resembled a stampede of wildebeest trying to get across a river while dressed in very loud clothes.  Within a few minutes the leaders were done with the run and on the bikes.   The prologue was soon over and our lead off guy, Miles, was off on the trail. I was the fourth rider in the line up so I had a few hours to wait until my turn came up. 

Off course Tinker is out in front                Pic by Michael Paul Pic by Michael Paul     Over the next three hours while waiting for my turn the anticipation  really built up.  I tried to play it cool but I think the guys in camp knew what was up.  I changed clothes a couple of times while trying to figure out the funky weather that was going on and I checked and rechecked my bike to make sure everything was good to go.  I was down at the transition area at least 15 minutes before Cliff could possible get in.  I had placed my bike at the very end of the bike rack closest to the exit onto the course.  My thinking was that it is easier to get around people to get to my bike than get around people with my bike.  The anticipation was really setting in now and I was positioned so that I could see people coming up to the finish before their number was called. (This proved to be not necessary at all.)  Anyway Cliff came in with a really good time (54 mins) and we had a descent hand off and I blazed off to my bike and was off and rolling in no time flat (The start of my first mistake).  I did the classic first time racer thing and hauled ass straight out of the gate, I must have passed 6 or 7 people before I got through the campground and onto the trail proper.  It was shortly after I hit the trail that I realized what an idiot I was. My heart rate was spiked and I was breathing mighty heavy.  Gee this was great, trying Johnson Meadow - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th. to get this under control while going up a hill.  By the Johnson Meadow - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th. time I was half up the first climb I was passed by at least those 6 or 7 people and maybe a couple others.  I pressed on up the climb in "pride" mode, which meant I was pushing in the middle ring even when it was not doing anything for me like when I was stuck behind slower riders. (This was another mistake). I was very grateful to see the top of the hill and I did something right by getting into a bigger gear right before cresting out and I gathered up enough speed to get around someone on a very short section of fire road before rolling back onto the downhill single track that led into Johnson Meadow. This fast twisty section gave me a chance to recover somewhat.  About halfway down this section I came up someone going significantly slower that me and the first real test of my ability to pass on single track.  I did not let the person in front me know I wanted to pass and I missed a couple places to pass if I had some cooperation from the person in front of me.  I finally found a spot and gave them the "on your right" and got around.  I then proceeded to kick it up a couple of notches to get up the valley.  There were plenty of places to pass through the meadow and I got around three more folks.  The trail turns up hill as you climb out of the meadow and I got stuck Johnson Meadow - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th. behind someone for a while climbing this section.  Top of Johnson Meadow (33.42.000N by 116.41.400W) - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th.The single track dumps out onto a fire road where you must make a left and continue climbing uphill.  I pressed real hard here and got around four or five people before heading into another downhill section.  This section was tight and twisty while also being loose and rutty with plenty of stutter bumps.  There was one particularly nasty rut in a sweeping left hand turn that I narrowly avoided getting stuck in. This section finishes off with a quick rise onto a downhill fire road where you can absolutely let it all hang out in a blaze fest that ends with a 120 degree left hand turn back onto single track.  There are two lines through this turn. One on either side a bush. The name of my game here no matter what line I was taking was waiting to the last possible second to brake and then make the turn. This sounds obvious but when approaching this turn with such speed it is a little hard not to break early. 

The Hike-a-Bike Section that was taken out. -- Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th.Top of the 3rd Climb looking SE - Picture taken on a pre-ride on August 11th.    After getting onto the single you are quickly back into the climbing business again. There are many areas to pass on this climb but they all have additional cost to pay in either distance or technical difficulty. This climb is the steepest yet but it is shorter that the initial climb on the course.  If you have ever ridden Anderson Truck Trail in San Diego this is very much like that climb.  I push up this climb in the middle ring again and get around a couple folks.  I felt like my heart was going to explode at the top.  Thankfully the following downhill was not all that taxing and it offered another chance to recover.  Did I take the chance?  Oh no I had to try and reel in the guy in front of me.  About halfway through this section I realized what an idiot I was being and stopped pressing on this guy through a section where there was no chance to pass.  Eventually the course then makes an abrupt left hand turn onto a short but steep and tight twisty uphill section of that bypasses the previous year's hike-a-bike section.  There is a rock formation about 3/4ths of the way where the trail goes through a tight technical section to the left or you can try going the right and powering over the rocks.  On the pre-ride I had practiced the up and over route and it paid off on the very first lap as one guy biffed it while trying to go the left and the guy behind him had to stop.  I managed to get around them both by going to the right and up and over the rocks. Shortly thereafter the trail crests out into most difficult downhill section of the course.  The trail allows for  fast rolling but has enough loose turns, large rocks, and drops to really keep you on you toes. 

One of the Team Basso guys heading down the trail               Pic by Michael Paul Everyone can look like star in this section.                               Pic by Michael Paul After getting through the downhill section things leveled out and before you know it you have to navigate trough a sand-pit before getting onto some double track. This section allows for another bit of recovery. Soon you transition on to a section on pavement where you can do some big ringing to get around people. Soon you hang a right and roll back on to another section of double track that brings to a very short but steep climb.  There is a downright evil sandy section right at the bottom of the climb that robs you of nearly all your momentum.  After grunting up this climb you speed down the hill and onto a section of single track with numerous ups and downs that will allow even the most fatigued of riders to catch a little air. The bottom of this section brings you to a dry creek crossing which is a really big sand pit that bogged most riders down the first time through (myself included).  Once out on the other side of the pit you roll through a short section of the park to the Start/Finish line and into the transition area.

Teammate Cliff getting some air on the SS.       Pic by Michael Paul The start/finish area    At the completion of my first lap I was really whooped, but I managed to turn in a 57-minute lap.  Back in camp I realized that I had drank very little water on the course so I downed a bottle of Gatorade in addition to some Endurox.  It was a little chilly out now and as I started to wind down my wet clothes were making me down right cold.  I also need to eat something but I was really not in the mood.  After getting on some dry and warm clothes I managed to get down some pasta before I decided to lay down for a rest.  I found that my heart was still running a little quick and I was still too pumped up to really rest.  I did the best I could but before I knew it I was up for my second lap.

    I quickly realized my mistakes of the first lap as I was having a tough time getting up the climbs.  About 2/3rds of the way up the climbs I had to get out of the middle ring to keep moving.  It was night time now and I found the HID helmet light I borrowed from a friend working great.  However, when I was going downhill behind someone I found that the high position of the light washed out my vision a little (Like high beams in the fog). (NOTE TO SELF: Be the first person down the hill. If it was only that easy!  I also had a 10W narrow beam halogen light on the handlebar that cut through the dust quite well.  I have done quite a bit of night riding in the past so I felt I was loosing more time due to fatigue than night time riding conditions.   I did a much better job this lap of passing and I managed to pull off a 62-minute second lap.

Teammate Stan with his "Unique"  hat.     Pic by Michael Paul I did not feel that bad, HONEST!                                             Pic by Michael Paul     I actually managed to fall asleep for a short bit before having to get ready for my third lap.  It was quite a wake up call when I got out of the sleeping bag.  It was downright cold!  However once I got out on the course I felt comfortable.  As a matter of fact I was riding okay considering that it was a little after 1 AM.  I was getting better about managing how hard I was riding and I while I was still having to get out of the middle ring and hurting on the climbs I felt like I was moving quicker. Then on the second downhill  I got caught in the mega-rut that was sucking in a lot of people.  I had a nice soft landing in the sage brush and was quickly back on the bike and rolling.  Not even a scratch on me. The start of third downhill was really torn up and did an unscheduled running dismount twice.  I managed to get through this lap in 63 minutes.  As I was walking back towards camp and past all the other night owls waiting for their riders to come in I could not help but think, "There is nothing quite like mountain biking at 2AM on cold Sunday morning".   I was starting to come "Down with the Sickness".

Sunrise on the San Jacinto Mountains       Pic by Michael Paul More scenery from the view of camp    After another cat nap, I was up for my fourth lap.  Cliff came in with his now usual sub 60-minute lap and I was off right around 6AM.  I was feeling pretty decent.  It was already getting light out and I had taken off the handlebar light but left the helmet light on.  I ended up not having to turn it on at all.  I knew this could potentially be my last lap so I made sure to give a pretty good push.  I managed to pass a lot more people than passed me.  As I rolled into Johnson Meadow I got to watch the sunrise over the mountains and what a beautiful sight it was.  The mountains seemed to come alive with varying hues of orange, pink, and purple as I watched the sun walk its way down the side of the mountains.  Soon enough Scenery from Campthe daylight transition was over and I was climbing out of the meadow.  It was quite remarkable that I was not being held up by anyone on this lap and every place were I came up on someone there was a place to pass.  I was either getting lucky or I was getting better at the passing game.  The third downhill was much easier in full daylight and I cleaned the entire lap without so much as a bobble.  I came across the finish line in 61 minutes.

Miles coming in on his final lapMiles after the race    Over the course of the night our team had pulled into 9th place.  As the morning rolled on we realized that we were close to being able to take 8th place, but our 9th place position was not in the bag.  I was on the rotation to bring in the final lap.  But instead we sent out our fastest rider (Miles) in my place to go for 8th place and assure our 9th place spot.  Miles delivered the goods.  Our team "Five Knobs on Knobbies" came in a very respectable 9th place out of 55 teams completing 24 laps.  It was an absolutely amazing experience.  Working together as a team while at the same time having to fight your own personal battles against fatigue, frustration, and the elements out on the course both day and night leaves you feeling a little stronger as both mountain biker and a person.   Even though we were all beat as we laid on the grass devouring the after race pasta dinner we were already talking about doing this again.  Yep, I am definitely "Down with the Sickness" of the 24 hour racing thing.

*** UPDATE ***


I went back for some more punishment at the 2003 race.   This year we where the SCUMBAGs (San Diego County Unified Mountain Bikers And Gearheads).  We switched to that name for the Tucson and Temecula races and decided to stick with this year.