Lagunas Camping

The Laguna Mountains are one of my happy places. Nichol and I spent the July 4th holiday weekend (and then some) at the Laguna Meadow campground.

Our Casa on the meadow

We really love this area not only for cool trails right from camp but also for it just being an awesome place to just to chill outdoors. One of the things we like about it during the July 4th weekend is the lack of fireworks. Within hearing distance of our home are several annual fireworks events that pretty much keeps are dogs traumatized for the bulk of the Independence Day evening. Life is just better for our dogs (and us) up here away from the boomage.

At the UCSD observatories with view of the Kitchen Creek area and beyond.

Did I mention trails? I already posted up about checking out Garnet Peak, but I hit most of the stuff in the area over the course of the trip.

Climbing Aqua Dulce enroute to Gatos Ravine.

The nice thing about camping here is that you don’t have to try and hit everything at once. Some trails in the morning. Some in the afternoon. Hell, why not a post-2nd breakfast ride?

Then of course there is hammock time. Yeah we had a great time!

A run down Noble Canyon

Garnet Peak

I have been talking about doing Garnet Peak with a couple of my buds off and on for years.  The themes of the conversations have usually included phrases like ” Its worth checking out”, “Oh yeah it chunky” and “You will probably like it”.   So while camping in the Lagunas over the July 4th weekend, I decided to give Garnet  Peak a go. This is a short (2.4 miles out-and-bike) hiking trail that bikes are allowed on.   The trail is accessed right from Sunrise Highway if you are on a bike.  Hikers can additionally access it via the PCT trailheads at Penny Pines or Pioneer Mail.   

Unassuming Trailhead.  Garnet Peak in view.

The trail starts off easy enough and appears to be an old road bed.  The trail supposedly gets lots of use but it was not too apparent on this day.  The trail narrows way down and steepened up just before it crosses the Perfect Cycling Pacific Crest Trail.  The raw chunk factor steps up as well. I do enjoy this type of slow tech climbing…for a while.   At some point I was “Yeah, I know how to climb this stuff but hiking it is easier.  I feel I did climb a solid amount of this trail but with plenty of stops. Often times it was stop and eyeball the line for the descent.  Sometimes I just told myself that knowing the real reason was I just did have the willpower to keep throwing down the grunt. 

The chunk of the trail often dictated a climbing line not dead center of the trail.  This is where the chapparral brush took its toll.  I had some good exfoliation going on by the 2/3rds mark up.   I highly recommend some knee/shin guards or pants for this alone.

Views to the North-Northwest.  A side scramble on that rock outcroppings is kinda cool

The views expanded as a I neared the peak.  First it was to the North and Northwest.  The Palomar Observatory was easily seen in the distance.  Closer is a prominent reddish rock formation that you can’t help but wonder what is out there.  There is a barely discernable path out to it from the trail when the formation is right off your left shoulder. (Thats Port Beam for you Navy Schallywags).  It’s worth a scramble around.

Just about at the top. Where the trail goes out of sight is where I started my descent.

The last 50 feet to the summit are not what I call doable unless you are a trials rider.  The juxtaposition of the Anza-Borrego Desert and Mount Laguna made for some impressive views.  It was clear enough on this day to see the Salton Sea and beyond.  This peak is known for being one of the windiest spots in the county and that certainly seemed to be the case on this day.

Garnet Peak

The descent was challenging with a high requirement for precision.  Boy the exfoliation factor was climbing rapidly and becoming uncomfortable to distractingly painful everytime a brush touched already “treated” skin.  I did not ride everything I put on my “ride list” while on the uphill scouting climb.  The common theme with everyone of these balks was I would have to take an off center line than ensured more lower leg treatments.  

Green does not mean soft

This trail was fun, with momentary hints of Type II fun.  The trail is really too short breech into full blown in the moment misery.    Garnet Peak might end up as an annual affair but next time I will bring some lower leg protection.  I would not come out to the Lagunas just to do this trail but if you are a regular you might want to spice up one of your loops by adding this trail.

UPDATE

Here is the video from this outing

Black Mountain and Lusardi

I am doing the Archipelago Ride in a few weeks and I need to continue toughening up the “leather” in strategic locations. I did a Black Mountain loop that I do on a regular basic and then added on the Santa Luz/Lusardi Loop.

Out getting in some miles

For my Black Mountain Loop I started from Black Mountain Park and work my way up to the peak via the main fireroad. I then dropped Black Widow and then took the fireroad back up and cut over to the east ridge trails that included Manzanita, Little Black Loop and Nighthawk trails.

I then connector over to Miner’s Ridge Loop, then Lilac and Ahwee back to Black Mountain Park. I was feeling pretty good when I rolled out for the Lusardi Loop but main was I dragging on the final climb to finish that loop off. I did 23 miles and 3,600 feet for day. Beer:30

Turning 20!

How time flys! MountainBikeBill.com turns 20 today. When this thing started it were no smartphones, high speed data, GoPros and YouTube. Even a hand-held mapping GPS was a tough thing to come by in those days.

From one of my earliest pages on the site. The top of Middle Peak in the Cuyamacas April 2002. Taken with a “baller” 1.2MP digital camera

Thank you all for the motivation to share my love for the outdoors and mountain biking over the last 20 years!


The site came about as more of a progression of information vice a thought out plan. While I do consider my time in the 80’s riding my 10 speed on old logging roads and game trails of North Carolina mountain biking (Or should dare to say Gravel Biking), I got into I got into modern MTBing in the late 90s here in San Diego.

Noble Canyon – One of the handful of pages setup in the new format

I love the exploring aspect of the sport and it was much more exploratory in nature back then. Bringing along a guidebook on a ride was very much a thing. Before long I was checking out places “not in the books” and friends would want me to lead rides or explain to them how they could get there. This lead to hand written directions and maps that got photo copied and passed around. Then came scans and me putting hosting on my cox.net personal account. Somewhere along the line I picked up the nickname Mountain Bike Bill. On Feburary 6th, 2002, MountainBikeBill.com became a thing.

Cocktail Rock on the San Juan Trail, October 2001. SJT was part of the original batch of reviews on the site. This one was ported over from the cox.net site.

If you want a historical chuckle you can check out these historical nuggest of the site that I’m probably going to leave as is and make a whole next page.

  • GPS and TOPOS! https://mountainbikebill.com/GPSandTOPOs.htm
  • Best Viewing Methods HAHAHA https://mountainbikebill.com/BestViewing.htm
  • The FAQ section is horribly outdated https://mountainbikebill.com/FAQ.htm

The site has gone through four major revisions over the years, and while I should have moved to some type of content management system long ago, I will probably keep the old school html thing going. I latest bit of work involves migrating all the pages to a mobile friendly format and tweaking the GPS files to work better with more simplistic mobile applications. Moving videos to my YouTube channel is also another thing to do when I am not doing life stuff like you know, riding a bike and loving on wife and dogs. Then there is that whole pesky work thing.

The Guacamole Trail near Virgin Utah

So thank you all for the motivation to share over the years. While social media in its various forms calls into question the relevance of websites and blogs these days, I plan on keeping this thing going for the foreseeable future. So if you like bad grammar, misspelled words sprinkled with some MTB blabbage stick around.

Sweetwater Bike Park

The Sweetwater Bike Park has been around for a few years now but I had yet to make my way down there to check it out. I was interested hitting up some the trails in area so this was a good fit.

Ran into Jose out at the park.  This guy has an amazing eye behind a camera lens.

I have say this Park is quite a bit of fun. There are a couple of jump lines, a couple of flow lines, a couple of walls and some other assorted MTB skills development bits. It is quite a nice asset for the community.

A fun park

After getting my fill of the place and chatting up some of the locals I headed out to the Sweetwater trails.

Jose making me look like I know what I’m doing

I primarily worked my way up to the top of Rockhouse from the backside. (The front side trail was eat up with hikers). After the

The back side route up.
The top of Rockhouse

From the summit I dropped down into main trails area and a few loops before making my way back to the park where I had started.

The tiki hut

I had forgotten that this area (outside of the trails up to rockhouse) have a lot more climbing to them than the layout would lead you to believe. I did about 14 miles with 2,200ft of climbing. It was a mighty fun day on the bike.

Mt Gower Snooping

This another one of the places that has been on my check out list for quite some time. Typically whenever I had interest it was in the heat of summer which this area has been known to be mighty toasty.

Was I going to get rain on?

That was not the case on this day when I set out to do some snooping. I started off heading up a forest service road that good lists as Eagle Peak road which I’m pretty sure is not right.

At the “end” of the forest service road.

I really enjoyed the views on the way up the climb. Eagle Peak as well the north end of El Captian Reservoir visible and the “new” angles to them were very cool.

Solid Advice

I found a single track just past the end of the forest service road. Well I should say the boundary of the Forest Service land. The road was kinda deconstructed at that point. A short bit beyond that spot I picked up a downhill singletrack that quickly dropped back onto Forest Service land. This singletrack mighty fun.

I soon came to the junction of a route known as the Mt Gower transverse. It appears to see little use from the east end of it that I was at. I hear there are some high quality rock slabs to play on but getting up to the requires a lot of work. I was starting to get rained in so nixed any thoughts hike-a-biking up to those the mountain.

I did indeed get rained on quite decently on the trail back down into the community that I started in. It however stopped raining just as I came off trail so I decided to do some more wandering in the are. More goodies of questionable status were found. I’m looking forward to getting back out there to snoop around some more.

New Bike!

Well it has been nearly five months in the works but I have a new steed in the stables

First spin with the new rig

Before that I spent a long time mulling over (ok more like nuking out) all the details.  27.5, 29, mullet, trail, enduro etc…

Ibis Ripmo V2

I settled in on an Enduro style rig and my top three contenders were the Ibis Mojo HD5, the Santa Cruz Bronson V4 and the Ibis Ripmo V2.

Glamor Shot

With my current rig being a Bronson V1, I was jazzed on paper with the V4.   Once I got my hands on a Bronson V4 just did not feel right to me. The weight distribution just felt off. 

Non-DSO view

The Ripmo on the other felt balanced and relatively light in comparison.  After a test ride I was in.  I spent week thinking about which factory kit or a custom spec build up.    I ended up going with the mostly AXS/XX1 kit with some swap outs.  The primary swap outs were the wheels and brakes.  I went with Hope e4 brakes and tech 3 levers because I love them and did not feel the need to venture from them.    The wheels were a custom build using Onyx hubs to  We Are The One Union rims.

Going from 760 to 810mm bars is taking some adjustments 🙂

I have had the bike out for a handful of rides to date and those have all involved getting the bike dialed in and getting acclimated to the bigger wheels and longer wheelbase.  The geometry change has been less of an issue on the climbs than I expected.  Coming in at a fart under 31lbs, this bikes feels really good under foot when you have to your Billy Goat on.

Pointing the bike downhill is pretty confidence inspiring which was the weak area of my Bronson V1.   With that bike I did not feel like I had much room for error when the stuff got techno-ugly.  Not the case with the Ripmo at all.  Nearly point and shoot in comparison.  I have not yet completed the “mind meld” with “Big Mo” but this bike is already a hoot when pointed down.

Clearly I need more play time!

Roadtrip Finisher – Utah

Technically this is the Sydney Peaks trail but it part of the Bunker Creek route

Day 18 Bunker Creek. Coming off of Brianhead Peak this was a doozie. Starting just at 11,000 feet, you had long views, Alpine meadows, Aspens, Pines. Much of this area burned in 2017 and the trails have been rebuilt, improved and extended.

Virgin River Rim Trail – Navajo Peak Section

Day 19 VRRT – Navajo Peak. I started out with plans to do the Navajo Lake Loop, but half way around I chose to peel off and get my climb on. There was plenty of work to be done but much like the Strawberry Point segment the views were worth the effort.

Ridgeline on the upper end of the Blowhard Mountain Trail

On Day 20 I finished off the “Big 3” at Brianhead with the Blowhard Mountain Trail. I rode with a group of guys from the Giant Bicycle shop in Las Vegas. A great group of guys. The trail was every bit as technical as it was billed to be. Such good stuff.

Indian Rock Art at Paragon Gap

My body decreed that today would be a rest day so for Day 21 I tooled around the countryside a bit which included a stop at Paragon Gap to check out the Indian Rock Art.

Excellent view on the Excellent Trails of Iron Hills

For Day 22, I ventured off the mountians to check out the Iron Hills trail system in Cedar City. This is an exceptional designed and built trail system which was a hoot. I did 14 miles and change with 1,700 feet of climbing. After spending much of my time over the last two weeks around 9,000 feet the thick oxygen rich air down at 6,000 feet was a real joy!

Navajo Lake

After camp near Navajo Lake since being in Utah, for Day 23 I felt the need to knock of Navajo Lake Loop proper since I had only done part of it.

I’m pretty tired…..Think I’ll go home now.

Day 24 Time to head home. Ahh hell, time to go do some of that adult stuff. It has been a fabulous trip. I have gotten everything thing I needed and wanted out of this trip. I’m no sure what that need and want is exactly yet, but I found it out here. For now I’m looking forward to seeing both wife and dogs.

I have amassed nearly a terabyte of footage and photos to do stuff with that will take months to get through. I have melon full killer memories of this trip that I’m bringing back as well. I’ll share when I can.

For now, the RV’s shitter tank is not going to dump itself!