CRHT – Beauty Mountain Wilderness

The last couple of weekends I have spent some time riding and a little bit hiking around the northern part of San Diego County and into Riverside County. I was able to get out on the final northern section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) in San Diego County.

The California Riding and Hiking Trail splitting through the Beauty Mountain Wilderness
The CRHT is not in the wilderness through here but does split it right down the middle
Here is a traditional style CRHT marker. This is along Cooper Cienega Truck Trail
New style CRHT marker
I did not expect to find a pond along the route but it was a really cool surprise.
Hmmmmm, going to have to take another look at this at some point.
This section of the CRHT is part of the Stagecoach 400 bikepacking route
This section of CRHT could use a bit more traffic.
The CRHT a little south of HWY 74 and just east of HWY 371.

One thing that has become obvious during my roaming along the CRHT and research.  When the Pacific Crest Trail was first established  in 1968 it “commandeered” quite a few sections of the then existing CHRT in San Diego County and the Anza area in Riverside County.  In at least two locations I have found the traditional style CRHT markers along the Pacific Crest Trail.   In the years following the establishment of the PCT the desired PCT routes were created/rerouted off the original CRHT, leaving the CRHT to wither away or left unprotected from future development/protection.  The impact of this was not readily apparent until many years later when in 1988, the USFS dubiously banned mountain bikes from the PCT without proper public input.

Early morning hike along the PCT

Pulling back to a larger scale, from the area just east of Cuyamaca Lake to at least Paradise Valley (Highway 74/371) area the California Riding and Hiking Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail typically parallel one another to varying degrees.   San Diego County has the concept of restoring the CRHT as part of its master trails plan but I see the PCT being nearby as a deterrent to getting this historic mountain bike accessible back country trail restored.  I see the PCT sucking the bureaucratic willpower away from the CRHT effort.   I would love to  I am very supportive of the Sharing the PCT movement as well was the removal of the blanket bike ban in Wilderness being spearhead by the Sustainable Trails Coalition.   You should take a look at what those efforts are trying to accomplish.    If both the Sharing the PCT and San Diego County CRHT restoration efforts were to come to fruition the  routes/loops that could be done with both of these trails would be absolutely amazing.     We can all dream!

CRHT Snooping

This weekend I did some more recon on the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) between Warner Springs and Chihuahua Valley Road. The area pretty much qualifies as the North Back 40 of the county. I have updated my GPS files and interactive map on my site. If I mention a mileage marker or waypoint here, it is referring to that map.

I started this ride at the CRHT and PCT access point near the top of the paved section of Lost Valley Road (CRHT-193A). I have done this section before where you climb along the remnant of old old Lost Valley Road before the Pacific Crest Trail joins in from the south.

Some of the PCTA minions playing games with the CRHT signage.

At this junction some of the minions of the PCTA have messed with the CRHT signs to try and cover them up and in typical PCTA fashion put up no-bike stickers. The CRHT is open to bikes and just because the PCT is using the CRHT doesn’t mean they get to kick bikes off of it.

Climbing along the CHRT which also happens to be the PCT. (Near CRHT-196)

After about 9/10ths of a mile the CRHT (at CRHT 196A) continues north and downhill as the PCT turns to the northeast and uphill. Beyond this point was new CRHT to me.

The CRHT just north of the split off from the PCT.

The CRHT which is still the remnant of the orginal Lost Valley Road was pretty raw beyond this point. Initally there was a fair amount of elevation shed off (200 feet in about .4 miles)

Near the bottom of the initial descent.

After crossing over a stream bed the trail, you will have some punchy climbing bits for the next half half mile. The trail much more trail than old road now. Through this one mile section the trail will leave Cleveland National Forest, cut through a corner of BLM land and into private property.

Typical/Orginal CRHT trail posts/signs.
This private property has an honored easement through it.

The trail comes out to a junction with a farm/ranch road. The CRHT contines north along this ranch road which sees very little usage. The trail gradually losses elevation through here and get a little washy/loose in a spot or two as it descends down to an area called Johnson Canyon on some maps. The ranch road makes a sharp right hand turn in this area (CRHT-199A).

The actual CRHT through Johnson Canyon

The actual trail turns off the road to the west here and is a narrow singletrack. The trail is following a creekbed which is loose and a bit bear up from the horse usage. Between CRHT-199A and CRHT-200A there is good bit sand to slog.

The ranch road looking east at CRHT-199A

A better option if you are not interested in dealing with some sand slogging is to stay on the ranch road when it turns east. It will soon cross the creekbed and turn back to the west. The actual CRHT will rejoin the ranch road at CRHT-200A which bypass just under half a mile of the mostly sand slog.

Less than a quarter of a mile further up the ranch road from where the CRHT rejoins the road you come to a diversion off of the CRHT at CRHT-201.

Shortly before CRHT-201 and the diversion route. Note the traditional CRHT sign post under the tree.

At this point the property owner just north of this point is not honoring the CRHT easement. I do not know the story and legal bits regarding this specific property but the owner had some signs that said “California Hiking and Horse Trail” to divert people around his property.

Considering that this is not the CRHT the property owner who made this signs could call it whatever he wants. Clearly the owner is also anti-bike since he left out the “Riding” part.

The diversion around his property is a dirt road.  I know the the original route is also a dirt road so I’m not so sure there is a net loss here.

This is the north end of this diversion. The CRHT is supposed to be that dirt road on the other side of this gate to the south.

At CRHT 201A, the diversion rejoins the original route.  The property owners has a gate up at this point.

Further up the road (CRHT-202) there is more fencing off to the west preventing access the original trail.  Based on seeing the same type of faux CRHT signs, this seems to be the same property owner.  You have to continue north on the dirt road where it will turns to the west for a short ways until the north and becomes paved.

In 2014, this corner was the staging area for Bucksnort Mountain Trails. There were proper CRHT signs are up here back then. Since then the property owner has put up fencing and removed the proper CRHT signs. New signs stating “California Hiking and Horse Trail” have been erected with arrows showing the diversion of the trail around the property.

After this I made my way north.   The CRHT is alongside the pavement through here.   The CRHT turns off the west alongside Chilhuahua Road.  I turned off to the east on the dirt Lost Valley road.   I did some some 12-15 miles of exploring out this area and made my way back to CRHT trail head where I started from.  It was a perfect type of day to be out on a bike.

Laguna Mountains Trailfest

I had a really nice time up in the Laguna Mountains this past weekend.    The San Diego Mountain Biking Association was putting on the 2nd Annual Laguana Trailfest.    It was a Friday-Sunday event that included lots of organized rides, demo, food, music clinics and much more.   You know, A Festival!   The event was being held and the El Prado group tent camping sites and I wanted to have the comforts of our traveler trail.   So I went up on Wednesday and got spot in the adjacent Meadow Loop campsites.

Casa Del Bill and Nichol for the weekend

With the campsite acquired and setup it was time for a late afternoon spin through the area.  I had a good time and I used up all of the day.

Big Laguna Meadow. Hmmmmm I’m thinking Arbys
I might have gone a hike as well
Trail Goodness!
I caught this guy eyeballing up the compressor line!

I ended up spending the night up in the trailer and headed off to work the next morning and was back on Friday for a weekend of festival.

Bacon cooked in a cast iron skillet over a campfire. Yummo!

Trailfest was an exceptionally well put on event and I had a great time.  I’m already looking forward to it again next year.  One thing I did not manage to do was take any pictures.  Instead take a look at the SDMBA Photo Album of Trail fest.

On the way to Red Tail Roost

I ran into Bengt with whom I worked with for a period of time in Bahrain.  We did the bulk of the Poker Ride together.  Here is his video that as well as some bonus footage of the upper section of Noble Canyon.

On the way to Redtail Roost

I got the campsite through Sunday night so we I would not feel rushed to get out of there on Sunday, so as the festival wound down I went out for another loop that included a climb up to Red Tail Roost down to and then up Aqua Dulce, a run down Gatos and a loop around the meadow with a diversion up to the kiosk.

After a post-ride refreshment it was time to pack up and move on out.   It was a nice weekend to be out on a bike!

Black Mountain – RB

My day job was been rather pesky by infringing on my Saturday so I only had to time to squeak in a short ride.   I had not been out to Black Mountain in Rancho Bernardino.    In had been at three years and change since I last rode here.

Looking west from Black Mountain

I knew some development was in the works in the area but I was a little surprised at how much at been developed since I was last our there.    I will definitely need to update  my page on this area as there home where some trails used to be.       The good news is the open space park is under good stewardship and the San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) have a good relationship with the management of this area.   Some new trails are in the works and in progress.

Miners Ridge Loop

I did a counter-clockwise loop from the baseball fields along the service roads to the summit, night hawk, miners ridge and the lilac trail.    All of it was in pretty good shape.    I am going to make a more concerted effort to update things with the latest on this area.   More to follow on that.

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