Wednesday was a mighty fine day in San Diego so an after work ride was in order. The ride today was Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak. I have done this ride quite a few times and I always enjoy the technical as well as cardio beat down this place can put on you. I started the ride at Mesa Road on the Santee side of the mountain and hooked up with the Mesa singletrack. This singletrack has a bunch of railroad tie waterbars that can really help you work on your uphill ledge climbing skills. The nice thing about them is you can usually pick how much ledge you want to attempt as the waterbars are a uniform height all the way across the trail.
I still have no idea how many of those waterbars are on the trail, but it is a lot. It has been some number of years since I cleaned this trail and today was no different. I suppose if started taken the easier lines I would had a much better chance of cleaning the trail but what is the fun in that. Yes the singletrack kicked my ass but I certainly felt a little polish on the ledge skills by the time I came out on the fireroad.
It has also been some number of years since I cleaned the freaking steep fireroad up to the top. However I did just that on this day. I can’t say that it was physical prowess that got me up the fireroad, nope wisdom was the primary factor in cleaning the fireroad. Right from the get-go I put the bike in the granny gear and paced myself up to the top. Having done this climb some number of times I knew right were the easier spots were and I made a point to go even easier through these spots to try and get the heart and lungs under control. The fireroad is steep enough that in quite a few spots I had my nose just inches above the handlebar to keep enough weight on the front wheel to keep it from popping up. My the time I got to the top I was microseconds from a cardio meltdown but was glad to pedal it out. It was not the most macho way to clean the fireroad but it counts.
The views from the top were pretty darn nice with quite a few people out on the mountain.
After I was able to get my lungs back into my chest. It was time for the out and back trail to Pyle’s Peak. I am a big fan of the trail. It sees a ton less use than the rest of the trails and has quite a bit of technical character to it.
The Pyle’s Peak trail is not too long but it is a lot of fun. Above is the view from end of the Pyle’s Peak Trail looking back Cowles Mountain. Yep there was some work to be done to bet back up to Cowles from here.
The sagebrush seem to be digging the wet winter.
Once back up to Cowles things were pretty zippy the rest of the way. The fireroad is so steep that you really can’t enjoy it as much as you should because you have to keep the on the brakes to maintain control. Once back ont the singletrack of the Mesa Trail life is grand with lots of micro-chunk and small jump opputunites. It got even better when I split off onto the Big Rock trail which has even more of the rocky goodness. This is a really fun in town trail that some often refer to as “Little Noble”. One thing for certain it was a nice bit of fun. The Big Rock trail took me back to Mesa Road and my truck. A mighty fun weekday ride with a really good workout through in as well.
For the mid-week ride this week, it ended up being a doozie. The plan was to met up with some folks for a ride through Spring and Oak Canyon at 5pm. I was able to finish off the day’s work early and figured I had enough time to get some mileage before the scheduled ride.
I parked at the trailhead for the Spring and Oak Canyon ride (Bushy Hills at MTRP campground) and did some street riding over to the Mesa singletrack for a climb up Cowles Mountain. It was a beater as usual but love trying to clear the waterbars at their highest points but by the time I got up to the fireroad I was contend to get up the trails. The fireroad up to the top was as always brutal.
At the top of Cowles I was still looking really good on time so I decided to do the out and back to Pyles Peak. Plenty of waterbars here as well which made the down section pretty fun.
I was at the turnaround spot on Pyles Peak before I knew it and it was time for return climb back up to Cowles. I was still feeling pretty good when I got back to the summit and was all smiles on the way down the Big Rock trail. I got back to the campground just a couple of minutes before the first person showed up for the 5 pm ride. I could have been happy with a beer and some dinner at this point, but yeah I already said I was going to do the ride.
Spring and Oak Canyon was a good ride, but I had to dig into the energy reserves pretty deep to stay on pace with the fresh legged crew. I was good and pooped when we finished up and shortly thereafter we made our way over to the MTRP visitor center for the monthly SDMBA advocacy meeting. I slept well that night.
Yesterday I planned on attending the San Diego Mountain Bike Associations advocacy meeting at it’s usual location at the Mission Trails Regional Park’s Visitors Center. The meeting was not until 7pm. Just enough time to get in an after work ride, get a bit to eat and get to the meeting. I had not been up on Cowles Mountain in a long time so I was excited about hitting it. I started from Mesa Road and caught the Mesa Trail. The chaparral had been growing nicely since my last visit and in many spots you are in a vegetation tunnel. This was really nice as it was quite toasty when I started so shade and a bit of a breeze kept the bake factor down a little.
Waterbars, Waterbars, Waterbars…There were just as many as I remembered. I like them as it is the uphill ledge action is a good skillset to hone. Since my last visit there has been a lot more go-arounds and widening created. Plenty of evidence of both shoes and tires as the culprit. Once up on the fireroad the state of my “slackerness” became apparent of the climb up to the top. No cleaning this mountain today as twice I had a total cardio redlining followed by a meltdown.
While it was not as clear as I have seen it in the past it was still a great viewpoint. The out-and-back to Pyles Peak was great. I basically owned that entire section of trail as I was the only one on it. The “in-town” solitude you can usually find on this trail combined with more waterbar action is one of the reasons I like it so much. The returns trip back up to Cowles had plenty of technical climbing challenges. The worst of them come when you are nearly back to the top which means most people (including myself) are nearly spent. There is one set of waterbar switchbacks that I have still yet to clean.
The ride back down the Big Rock trail was a cool as ever. Condition-wise the trail could use some work, but at the same time I like it as morning challenging with the ruts and such.
Post-ride, I cleanup and head while heading to a nearby store to grab some Gatorade, I spied a treasure that I could not let slip away. A bomber of the Stone’s 12 Aniversary Ale, A Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. To say it was yummy would be a grand understatement. Did I desire so a beer after just a rather small mid-week ride? Well no I did not. I owe the beer and bike gods an epic ride at a later date.
The SDMBA meeting was a good one, lots of stuff discussed There were some fresh new faces that are energetic and already taking action to further legal mountain biking access in the county. There were plenty of words like jumps, downhill and freeride talked about. Lots of things in the works and you can expect there will be plenty of oppurtunities for people to help. The meeting went long and I was pretty darn pooped by the time I hit the sack. Another good day to be a mountain biker.