Cowboy Gambling

Thanksgiving has brought me to Las Vegas.    Besides overeating with family getting out to the Cowboy Trails in the Red Rock area just west of town was on the list.   A series of winter storms was rolling through the area so the weather was a bit iffy.

Rolling the weather dice in Vegas!

Well Las Vegas is a gambling town so I opted to roll the weather dice and hit the trails.   I have ridden here before and near the trails handle rain very well.    When I arrived at the trail head it was quite brisk at 47 degrees and wind gusts up to 20mph.   I have gear so it was go time.

Rolling up Bunny

I was interested in doing some of the trails I had not done before.   Last time out I climbed up a technical bit of desert goodness that is now been named Kibbles and Bits.   I don’t recall that trail being named last time.  This outing I went “Bunny”.    A couple of years ago while working in the Pacific Northwest, I asked a local bike shop guy if bad weather was expected and his response has really stuck with me.   “There is no bad weather, only bad gear.”

Red Rock across the valley. I’m either on Bunny or Kat in the Hat at this point

My gear included a long sleeve jersey base layer, a short sleeve jersey on top of that followed up with a cycling specific windbreaker/jacket.    I had bandanna tied low around my ears.   While I was a bit cold starting out, this was a good combo after a short distance up the trail.    I had on a set of knee warmers and some wool socks.   This was pretty good at the start, but I could have easily gone with full length leg warmers.   I love my wool socks as it is pretty much the only type of socks I wear year round.    On this particular day, the wind was cutting though those socks a bit more than I cared for but it was manageable.

A few snow flurries happened while I worked up Cat in the Hat and Fossil Canyon.
The clouds looking more “snowie”
Looking back the way I came on Fossil Canyon

When I got to the junction of Fossil Canyon I took First Finger as I was pretty sure I had not been on it before.    First Finger was not sheltered from the wind much and I while I was fairly comfortable for the most part my toes were pretty cold as the wind just cut right through my shoes and socks.   The temperature was dropping as well.

The lower end of the SARS trail.

After First Finger, I got onto the SARS trail.    I had been on this trail before and my intention was to get up to the Ridge Trail and then take Bomb Voyage or Bob Gnarly down.

Climbing up SARS

A very short segment of of descending into shallow canyon SARS turns back into a climb.    The snow started to come down pretty solid at this point.   This was not bad at all as I was sheltered from the wind while in this canyon.   My toes were damn cold at this point.   As I neared the top of SARS the wind got to be really biting and my toes were really unhappy at this point.    I pulled the plug on heading up to the ridge and decided to take Boneshaker down.

The descent on Boneshaker in the snow

I have done Boneshaker before and it certainly earns its name.    Now that I had committed to bailing out there was a knew level of calmness in my head since I was no longer having to make those risk vs reward calculations.    This was a good thing as you need your wits about you when working your way down this trail.  The snow was pretty close to horizontal now and the windward side of my face was almost numb.  It was pretty cool to see this place in this state.    I had a surreal moment while going through a series of technical rock moves on Boneshaker when my speed and direction became perfectly in sync with the near sideways falling snow. For a second or so it looked like the snow and I were motionless while the trail moved underneath us.  It was so cool!

Boneshaker dumps off around about 1,000 feet in a mile and it certainly felt warmer as I rolled into the trail head.   The thermometer in my truck read 37 degrees.   Some would say the house won this gamble, but upon further reflection now that I can feel my toes and the windward side of my face, I rolled off that ridge line with some great memories.

The sun is supposed to be out tomorrow!

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.