This past Sunday I headed up to the OC to get in some riding in the Santa Ana Mountains. The adventure of the day was going to be the Trabuco – Holy Jim which combines two really nice trails that are both great descents. The problem is you have to climb one of them. It has been quite a few moons since I had done this loop but I did remember that I climbed Holy Jim and descended Trabuco when I last did it. It only seemed right to give it a go in the opposite direction this time. It wias brisk and breezy when we started off on this lollipop shaped route. Instead of driving up the five mile dirt road to the trailhead we decided to ride it on the bikes on this gradual uphill as a warm up. We were only a mile or so up the road when the wind really started howling as the canyon narrowed and funneled the wind right into our faces. The weather reports later showed that the gusts were upwards of 50mph which I wholeheartedly believe was the case. There were a couple of times when I was hunched over the handlebars and grinding on the pedals and feeling like I was going backwards. We could not help but laugh as it was just so brutal.
Things got better once we got further up the road where the oak trees difused the gusts just enough to take the edge off. The Holy Jim and Trabuco trails share the same lower trailhead at the end of the dirt road which marks the start of the loop part of this lollipop ride. The climb up Trabuco is not a dainty one as you around 2,8000 feet or so over 5 miles and some change. Additionally the trails is often rocky puts a little extra bit of tax on the legs. While we were mostly sheltered somewhat from the wind we would often got whipped around by wind gusts finding there way here and there through the canyon.
About 3/4ths of the way up we started to encounter some small patches of snow which is just down right cool here in Southern California. I like going out to visit snow vice living somewhere where the snow just likes to come over a visit for a while (or months).
As we neared the top Trabuco Canyon we could hear the wind just ripping through the tops of the trees and howling over the nearby ridge tops. While knocking back some snacks at the top of the Trabuco trail which is also the junction of the Los Pinos Trail along the Main Divide Truck trail we ran into several groups of riders. A couple of guys were doing an out and back on Trabuco while another few were doing the Holy Jim – Trabuco version of the loop. The guys coming from Holy Jim talked about snow and ice on one of the passes we would be descending. We had some minor debate about which direction of the loop was worse for climbing on Main Divide Truck Trail. The consenus was that it was uphill in both directions with only minor nuances to be noticed in the “Suck” catergory.
We soon headed off on Main Divide which included a bit of downhill fireroad action. While we did get some wind breaks here and there we were often pummeled by a hella cross wind. It was probably 50 degrees at this elevation with 40 mph gusts. Tacking on another 25-30mph worth of self-imposed wind chill was enough to subdue the usual hooting and woohooing when ripping down the exposed fireroad sections. The views along Main Pain Divide were impressive with the mountains of San Gorgonio, San Jincinto, and San Antonio seen to the west and north.
The Pacific Ocean along with San Clemente and Catalina Islands we easily seen to the west.
These views were not cheap on this day. The Main Divide Truck Trail’s nickname of “Pain Divide” was certainly fitting today. There were quite a few spots were the false summits mentally beat on you just as much as the grade hammered at quads and lungs. The icy descent we were warned about turned out to be no where near as a big of a deal going downhill as it must have been going uphill. There were a couple of exciting moments when the ice, my tires and my brain had to come to an agreement on our direction of travel vice the intended direction of travel.
It is very rare that I would ever find myself cussing on a downhill, but on the final big downhill I was doing just that as I knew I would just have to start regaining nearly all of this elevation within a minute or two. On the final climb the wind was just insanely blowing to the point that it sounded like a jet engine. The cool thing was that the way the truck trail was cut into the side of the mountain we were nearly perfectly shielded from wind even though it was just a few feet above your head. That section of the climb was quite surreal.
Once we topped out on that climb it was mostly a traverse or slight descent over to the top of the Holy Jim Trail. The Holy Jim trail certainly delivered the goods and it was well worth the effort and pain to get over to it. The sweet flowing narrow singletrack was just awesome and the many sections where you are just flying through a vegitation tunnel did wonders to leave burning quads and wheezing lungs way far behind. The gravity gods where smiling upon after our sizable offering we had given to them on this day. When we got back to the trailhead and started down the dirt road back to the truck we had a monster tailwind on a gradual downhill. We zipped by numerous vehicles tip-toeing down the road while we flew over bumps, mudholes and wheelied through the creek crosings. We had already cracked open the first post-ride beer before the first truck caught up with us. We did around 26.5 miles with about 4,300 feet of climbing for the day which made the tasty post-ride beverages taste even better. Good Times!