La Costa

This was my kind of way to spend a Monday morning. Taking a spin around at La Costa.

The trail system is bit beat up with braking bumps and braids around obstacles which there is a plethora of rant material to work with on this subject, the biggest one is there is just not enough good legal singletrack in coastal North County. There is good legal singletrack here so it is highly popular and ends up taking a beating.

CDFW showcases in mismanagement skills

The San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) has a Call to Action Alert regarding the California Department of Fencing Fishing and Wildlife’s (CDFW) continued mismanagement of the Calavera Highlands Reserve (aka Calavera Lake).   CDFW officials have been “aggressively” engaging with trails users

While Calavera is a sizable area with a large network of user-built trails that is a good place to get in riding with a descent outdoor experience it is definitely a shit show of redundant trails.    No doubt about it, these are unofficial and illegal trails that the CDFW are wanking about.    There is also no doubt about it that the CDFW does not manage this area.  If this organization was doing its job, they would have been losing their mind a long time ago.  Arbitrarily locking out the public from public lands by putting up fencing and signs and then walking away is not management.

From the periods in which I have interacted with CDFW, I have come to believe they think the land they acquire is “their” land and they are entitled to all of the protections and benefits that private property owners have.    The primary benefit being they get to solely decide who may come on their property and who may not.   It does not matter what their regulations state, the public knows that the land is public.   The public will never accept Calavera Highlands Ecological Reserver as a pristine ecological reserve worthy of locking out the public.   All one has to do is stand atop Calavera Hill and look around.   The public is not staying out.

The CDFW track record in San Diego county seems to indicate that they do not possess the skillsets to properly manage lands that have  an existing recreational baseline that includes people.   Personally I think they depend on academic, non-profits and “friends of …”  groups that do the bulk of the monitoring and management for them.    The primary reason Crestridge Ecological Reserve allows mountain biking is because the Earth Discovery Institute is the de-facto land manager who recognized the benefit of responsible human-powered recreation .   If the Earth Discovery Institute had not pushed so hard for the unique change for this reserve it would not have happened.

Despite the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) being on the San County Regional Trail Plan it is pretty much unattainable as a viable regional trail as long as the CDFW is involved with any of the land along the route.  Numerous sections of the this trail in San Diego county go through lands mismanaged by CDFW and at pretty much everyone of those, the trail has fences and off-limits signs.

The county is most likely going to end up speeding hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a new section of trail for the Coast to Crest Trail near Boden Canyon because the CDFW are not going to allow an easement along a 0.2 mile section of an existing old dirt road!

There are many other examples of the CDFW’s culture of “its my land not yours” mismanagement style throughout the county.    Humans are part of the fauna of the San Diego ecosystems. Until the CDFW develops the skillsets and polices to effectively deal with the outdoor experience needs of this species the organization will continue suffer from a lack of land management creditability with the pubic.    Until that changes the pubic will continue to give the CDFWs signs and fences a big double middle-fingered salute.

CRHT Recon in East County

I have an ongoing project of personally surveying the California Riding and Hiking Trail throughout San Diego County.  I have a page up on my site with an interactive map of San Diego’s counties’ GIS data on where the trail is/supposed to be.  I have been adding my notes on the actual placement and status of the various trail sections.   You have to point and click to see much of the pop-up data, comments and some pictures.  Its pretty much my online notes.  Last month after doing a ride out in the Cuyamaca Mountains I took the long way home that included some of the further out bit sections I had not looked at yet.   The first stop was to drive up to Julian and down Banner grade road to pick up the Chariot Canyon truck trail and then over to Rodriguez Canyon.   This is part of the Oriflamme Canyon loop route that I describe on my site.

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What I was looking for was the CRHT north of the Rodriguez Canyon truck trail.    I found it but is was not where the county GIS data said it was.   It was actually about a 1/10th of a mile west.  It appears that at some point in the past the trail was rerouted to avoid going through private just to the east the current actual trail.   The trail has seen little use but it well defined single track.  Once it rejoins the original track it looks to be an old fire road from my visual from across the ridge.

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The section of the CRHT just north of Rodriguez Canyon Truck Trail.

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Next I made my way back to Banner and then down into San Felipe Valley to scout where the trail crosses Banner Grade Road.  This area is part of the San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area managed by the CA Department of Fencing Fish and Wildlife.  This wildlife area encompasses around 17,800 acres.   The CDFW has established that the only appropriate recreation activity out here is wildlife viewing by foot traffic only, shooting the heads of quail and killing deer.    Evidently there is no room for equestrians or mountain biking to enjoy the historic CRHT that passes through this area.

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I was able to find the trail south of Banner Grade Road but it is getting a hard to follow.   The CRHT crosses Banner Grade road and proceeds across the valley on one of the dirt ranch roads.  I did find a wood CRHT makers just north of the Banner grade road and just south of the ranch road. (Its at CRHT-142A if you are following along with my CRHT page.)

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I then drove down to Scissor’s Crossing and went up San Felipe Road (County Road S2) to pickup the CRHT where it intersects this road.  I did find a post that should be a CRHT marker based on its location but the top of the post had been cut off so there was no distinctive yellow painted “cap” on the post.  This side of the property had a CDFW Wildlife area “No Trespassing” signage.   So even if you wanted to enjoy the CRHT as a hiker you would have a perplexing problem of you could enter from the south but somewhere along your northward journey you would be trespassing.    Along the north side of San Felipe Road, I quickly found CRHT marker posts paralleling the road.

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These posts were typically about 30-50 feet north of the road.    There had been a wildfire through here some time ago and I was having a tough time picking up and following the trail.  This section is also part of the San Felipe Wildlife area with the same foot traffic only or no trespassing access management scheme.  After about a couple of miles of heading northwest along the road I was unable to find any more posts.

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A few more mile up the road I started seeing the newer style CRHT markers right of the side of the road and those continued at quite regularly until where the CRHT turn away from San Felipe Road  (This is at CRHT-161A on my map) and heads up an old dirt road.   I believe this trail starts off as an easement through a bit of private property as it is well signed and easy to follow.  I did not proceed much further up the trail from there.   I will have to assess those bits further north at some other time.   The next significant road crossing is supposed to be near the junction San Felipe Road and Montezuma Valley road (County Road S22).   On a previous outing I had looked for the trail in this area but came up empty.   I came up all blanks this time as well from the truck.   Next time I’ll be out with the bike and explore in from the south were I know the trail exists.   I have done the trail north of the road junction before out through Warner Springs so that was it for this recon outing.

While I still have some miles left to look at in the county and I have not crunched the numbers yet, there is a convergence of threats for this trail developing.   It looks like the number one threat for public access and preservation of the CRHT in San Diego County is the California State public land management agencies.    Let that ruminate in your melon for a while!

Cuyamaca and Cold Springs Trail

This past Saturday I went out to the Cuyamaca mountains to check out the new(ish)ly rerouted Cold Springs Trail.    I started out at the Sweetwater trailhead/parking lot and took the West Side singletrack up to the connector to the Park Vistor Center.  From there I turned from usual route and took the Cold Stream Trail north.

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The trail was pretty featureless but pretty through here until it got to a big oak tree on the edge of the meadow right at the junction with the singletrack connector trail over to the Green Valley Fireroad.

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The meadow must be the typical “tour” turn around point from the visitor center as the Cold Stream trail immediately became must more narrow and interesting beyond that point.

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I had not been on this section of the Cold Stream trail before and I have to say this was a nice bit of trail.

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While stopping to check out this little spot.

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I had some locals come through.  There was somewhere between two and four of them.   It was hard to tell with them zipping in and out.

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Shortly after this spot I went by several junction.  The first was the connector over to the West Mesa parking area and the second was the junction of the Cold Stream Trail and the Cold Springs Trail.   The Cold Stream trail north of her was marked “No Bikes” but the route for today was the Cold Springs trail.  Pictured above is some the trail goodness along the Cold Springs trail.

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The original Cold Springs Trail was 1.2 miles, not open to bikes and was a pretty heinous hike.   The new trail is 2.25 miles long and connects with much further up the Stonewall Creek fire road than its predecessor.  This is a most excellent replacement/reroute of the old trail.   I climbed the last bit of Stonewall Creek fire road and the at the junction with Soapstone Grade fire road I hung a right (east).  Just before I would have to drop down the grade into Green Valley I hung a left (north) onto the California Riding and Hiking Trail.

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That Oak tree in the middle of the picture on he meadow ridgeline was my destination for the day.

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I refer to this group of trees as “The Napping Oaks” because you take a break here, you may find yourself doing just that.

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A wider view of today’s turn around spot.

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While kicking back here I heard some thunder and looking over my shoulder I see that some storm clouds had developed or moved in just on the other side of the ridgeline.   Rain was not on agenda today so I thought it was pretty cool to have a little bit of weather with me on the ride.   No rain ever materialized but it was not long before got rolling again.  I pretty much retraced my path back the way I came all the way to the West Mesa parking lot connector where I crossed the road and picked up the West Side trail and took it south back to the Sweetwater parking lot.   I was a great day to be out enjoying some trails.  I spent the rest of the day doing some recon work with the truck for some of the beleaguered  and neglected sections of the CRHT out in this area of the county.  But that is another story…

Part of Tunnels Open – Semi Rant

First:  This  from San Diego City Parks and Recreation Department.

Please be advised that the trails approved by the City Council on Carmel Mountain and Del Mar Mesa will be open for use tomorrow. Maps will be posted at kiosks.

On the Del Mar Mesa map, as shown below, trails opened by the Council action are shown in black and white. Trails shown in black and red are NOT open due to private property and/or the need for Coastal Commission approval. Maps will be updated once further clearances are obtained.

For Carmel Mountain, all trails appear the same on the map and all are open.

The Council action also included biological habitat restoration on a number of areas previously used for recreational activities. Ranger staff have installed brush, signs, and fences at the access points to these locations. Please respect these access controls along with the ones installed at the Coastal Zone boundary and report any inappropriate behavior to Park Ranger staff.

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Now a bit of opinion from me:  While this progress is the culmination of a lot of work by a wide array of folks working quite diligently it also shows off some of the bureaucratic buffoonery that is all to common when multiple agencies have to work together.  It better than it was but this trail plan is a setup to foster undesired behaviors.   Where are the loops?   Tunnel 4 is the only legal ingress/egress into the tunnels and then you can only go out and back on the Deer Canyon Trail.   The California Department of Fencing Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is the primary players who would not allow for a trail to create a loop to get back from the eastern end of the Deer Canyon trail back to the Eucalyptus Grove.   This failure to manage the flow of trails users will most likely lead to undesired effects such as trail users figuring out their own way to create a loop with those trails which will further challenge the management of this area.   You can bet that when a group of folks do this they will be demonized by the very folks who help create the problem in the first place.    You know people, particularly trail users, are fairly predictable.  In many respects people are much more predictable that the array of critters these intelligent conservationist are trying to protect.  You would think they would have figured this stuff out by now.

Now my recommendation:   Like the city is asking, PLEASE do not go around any barriers, remove any of the brush, debris or tamper with the “access controls”  (What do that have squirrels with lasers attached to their head?)  that has been put up to close off the existing trails that are not going to be part of this trails system on the mesa.   I believe this would be exactly what some of the ANTI-BIKE ANTI-ACCESS folks/agencies would love to see happen.  DON’T TAKE THE BAIT!     I’ll be updating my page on this trail system in the coming weeks

Boden Canyon Update

Here is some news you can use concerning the Boden Canyon portion of the Orosco – Boden Loop.   It turns out the California Department of Fish an Wildlife (CDFW) owns a couple of parcels of land in the canyon and have it designated as an ecological preserve.  The agency’s default policy is that mountain biking is not allowed on ecological reserves.   I was made aware of this by CDFW after publishing the route.   I made them aware of the lack of signage concerning trail use restrictions.   It is my understanding that the signage has probably already been corrected.    I have updated my page, map and GPS files to reflect the CDFW parcels.  Unfortunately, the CDFW trail use restrictions makes it impossible to legally loop together the Lower Santa Ysabel Truck Trail and Orosco Ridge.

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As you can tell from the pictures, the canyon is beautiful and is well worth a hike through.    The only other way you can go legally enjoy this canyon is during hunting season.  During the upland bird hunting seasons you are more than welcome to trounce around wherever you like in the ecological reserve and blast the heads off those birds with a shotgun.    I’m having a tough time trying to make sense of how the CDFW can view killing birds as a more acceptable use for this land than allowing mountain bikers and equestrians to pass through the canyon on the old road.   I’m going to leave my commentary at that for now.    If I get some reasonable justifications for the policy in the future, I’ll provide an update.  Until then beware that you can’t legally do the Orosco-Boden Loop on a mountainbike or horse.

Black Mountain Page Updated

I have finally finished a long overdue update of my Black Mountain in Rancho Bernardo trail guide.

It can take quite a bit of work to get to all of the trails in this area so it took several visits.  I had forgotten just how easy to rack up a bunch of the elevation gain out at this place.

There has been some nice working going out here. The new Lilac trail is a great addition to the place and Miners Ridge Loop is in great shape.  The revised guide includes routes that use the Nighthawk connector which adds some additional options for getting up to the peak of the mountain.  So if you have not been to it in a while it is well worth it give the place another look if you call the San Diego area home.

Cuyamaca Mountains and CRHT Fun

This past weekend Nichol and I rode a modified version of the Cuyamaca Grand Loop.   It is very much looking like spring up in the Cuyamaca Mountains with lots of greenery, blooming plants and wildflowers.

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We started off from the East Mesa staging and rode the singletrack up to the park headquarters and then took the Green Valley Fireroad north.  Instead of climing Soapstone grade.  We took the Upper Green Valley singletrack north and climbed out of Cuyamaca State Park and into the Anza Borrego Desert State Park to the La Cima trail.

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You are certainly not in the desert at this point but the cool thing about the topology here is that in less that four miles the Cuyamaca Mountains drop nearly 3,000 feet into the desert proper. We topped out on the La Cima trail at about 4,880 feet.

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We rode the La Cima trail west to the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) where we the turned south.  This section of the CRHT is really sweet with some great views of the grassland of the Lake Cuyamaca Basin area.   This section of the CRHT is about 2.5 miles long and about halfway through this section you leave Anza Borrego State Park and cross back into Cuyamaca State Park.  The trail connects back up with Soapstone Grade fireroad at the top of the grade and we continued along the Grand Loop rout to the east.   In years past the state park had the California Riding and Hiking Trail closed to bikes in virtually all sections that were singletrack.  They have sense changed there mindset (Thanks to some tireless advocacy work by SDMBA!) and many more sections of the CRHT are now open in the park.  Instead of taking the pavement from Soapstone Grade Road out to Hwy 79 (I think the pavement is called Stonewall Creek Road??), We took the CRHT singletrack.

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The CRHT uses sections of the Minshall, Los Vaqueros and Vern Whitaker trails.  These are some nice sections of singletrack.  They do undulate a handful of times that is going to add your day’s effort but I put the cardio costs well worth it to enjoy these trails.  The CRHT comes out less than 50 yards south of the where the pavement meets up with Hwy 79.  There is also a junction with the northern end of the Cold Stream Trail.  The original plan was to turn right and continue along the Grand Loop route and do Milk Ranch Road and maybe a climb up Middle Peak.   Considering how cool the last section of the CRHT was and the open to bike signs for the next section across the highway,  we opted to continue along the CRHT.

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We immediately noticed that next section saw far less travel that across the highway.   Most of the users are obviously following the road to the north or the Cold Stream trail to the south.  I dig riding on trails that are sometimes defined by matted down grass.  There was also some rocky technical bits that added some nice character to the trail.   At the Azalea Glen trail junction the CRHT become make off-limits to bikes.   This was disappointing and turn west to ride the Azalea Glenn Loop trail which is open to bikes.   This lead us to the Paseo Picaho Campground.  We wanted to get up on the Azalea Fire Road and Fern Flat Fire Road to close off the Grand Loop but we now had to cover quite of elevation over a shorter distance.   A grunting we would up Lookout Road.

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Once we made it up to Fern Flat fire road we turn south and enjoy some mighty long stretches of downhill cruising that took us back down to the West Side single track near the start of the ride.   All together it was 22.1 miles with 3,190 feet of climbing so we definitely earned the post-ride beers and BBQ and Alpine Beer Company.

Updated Los Penasquitos Page

It has been long overdue, but I have finally updated my Los Penasquitos page to reflect the current configuration of trails in the area.

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Yes, it does include the Tunnels area.   More from a trail inventory perspective than a go ride it endorsement.   Although, if those trails were legal I would highly endorse them.  But it is not legal to ride those single tracks to I won’t endorse riding those really awesome trails.

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I also included the miles of mostly shaded single track along Penasquitos Creek.  These are trails that provide a quality outdoor experience that are also off-limits to bikes.    While the best stuff out at Penasquitos is off limits to bikes, there is still plenty of miles of dirt to get yourself in a good workout here.  You can read more about it on the updated page.