Cuyamaca Cruise

Today I went out for a quick spin in the Cuyamaca Mountains which rarely falls into the “This Sucks!” category.

An oak at the bottom of the Green Valley singletrack
An oak at the bottom of the Green Valley singletrack

I started from the East Mesa parking lot and took the East Mesa singletrack up to the visitor center where I connected to the Green Valley fire road.   I took this up to the Green Valley single track and work my way to the La Cima trail.

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I love this spot along the California Riding and Hiking Trail

The La Cima trail took me to the California Riding and Hiking trail, which I took south where I hooked up with the Stonewall fireroad and then over to the Cold Springs trail.

Great views in the Cuyamaca Mountains
Great views in the Cuyamaca Mountains

At the bottom of the Cold Springs trail I crossed HWY 79 and hooked up with the West Side singletrack and took it south back to the East Mesa staging area.    It was definitely a fun day on the bike!

Cruising through the Cuyamacas

This past weekend, I got out into the Cuyamaca Mountains.   Main this place has some nice scenery and trails.  We started from the San Diego River staging area just off of HWY-79 and took the west side single track up to the visitor center and then took the Green Valley fire road to the Upper Green Valley single track for a climb up to the La Cima trail by Sunrise Highway.   We then looped over to the California Riding and Hiking Trail.     From there we took Soapstone Fireroad over to Cold Springs trail and then loopback on the west side trail.   We were a bit past the greenest time of the year but there were still plenty of blooming flora.   Good Stuff!

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Steve and Rodney climbing the Upper Green Valley Singletrack

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The board members of the Pacific Crest Trail Association were seen out and about in Green Valley.

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Plenty of water to cross on the west side trail.

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The Cold Springs Trail

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Bloom along the entire hillside

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Rodney on California Riding and Hiking Trail.   This is one of my favorite sections of this trail in the county.

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Steve working his way up to the “Oak Trees”.

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Lake Cuyamaca has both a upper and lower dam to help keep the “normal” water contained in the south end.   You can see the upper dam as the thin line of land in the middle of the picture.   There is water in the entire upper valley which is just incredible.

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I believe Steve is trying to convey that this trail is the #1/Ichiban Trail  🙂

I am overdue for an update to my Cuyamaca Mountains page.   I think I am going to split it up into two different pages to cover several of the routes you can take out here better.

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…

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.

Another Cruise in Cuyamaca

Nichol and I went back up to Cuyamaca State Park this past weekend for another ride.  We started at the staging area by the San Diego River and went up the west-side connector trail to the Visitor Center

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From there we took the Green Valley fire road up through the valley to the bottom of Soapstone Grade.

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Instead of making the left hander and going up Soapstone Grade fire road which is part of the Cuyamaca Grand Loop,  we continued straight onto the Upper Green Valley Trail and climbed up to the La Cima trail that roughly parallels Sunrise Highway. This section of trail was fairly rocky which extracts some additional energy out of you beyond what the grade would tell. As you near the top of the trail you leave Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and enter the Anza Borrego State Park.

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We then took the La Cima trail west and enjoyed some sweet flowing mostly downhill singletrack for a couple of miles.

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When then turned south onto the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT).   This a is really nice section of singletrack that offers some great views of Lake Cuyamaca and the surrounding grasslands.

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For the first half of this section you are doing some mild climbing before the trail transitions into mild descending with good flow.

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Just before the CRHT joins up with Soapstone Grade fire road at top of that fire road’s steep climb you leave the Anza Borrego State Park and reenter Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.  From here we turned east on Soapstone Grade fireroad for about a mile of flat land cruising.

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We then took the Stonewall Creek fireroad south from here which shed off elevation fairly quickly back down into Green Valley.  There are both some rocky and sandy sections on this fire road that if not handled well, can lead to an unplanned dismount at speed which could be hard to stick the landing.   Stonewall Creek fireroad connected back to the Green Valley fireroad where we retraced our route back to the truck.  This was a little over a 17-mile lollipop shaped route that had a little over 1,800 feet of climbing involved.   This was Nichol’s longest and hardest ride to date that offered some new technical challenges for her.  To celebrate a ride well done that did not include any blood letting we sampled some of the offerings from Nickel Beer Company in Julian before chasing down some Mexican food.   It was a good day to be on a mountain bike.

A windy and chilly romp through the Cuyamacas

Today I decided to go check out Cuyamaca Rancho State Park as I had not been there after the 2007 wildfires.   We have been having some awesome weather as of late here in San Diego so I was blissfully expecting more of the same for the ride today.  The early morning clouds hovering over Vista made me think all was not going to be well up in the mountains.  I keep just about all of my cold weather stuff in a small bag, so I chunked it in the truck and was on my way.  At the the trailhead it was overcast and the truck thermometer read 40 degrees.  Not heinious by a long shot and I had the right gear.  However, upon opening up the truck door the breeze was quite biting.  As I was getting all layered up what I would guess were gusts of up to 20mph were letting me know that today could get real interesting.  I started off from the Sweetwater staging area and  headed north up the west side trail towards the vistor center.  I had barely gotten started when I came across a flock of wild turkeys.  They were quite content to run ahead of for quite some time before veering off the trail.   I had only brought along my ultra wide angle lens for the camera so trying get a good shot of them would have been futile so I just enjoyed the encounter and rolled on.  Once at the visitor center I hooked up with the Upper Green Valley Fireroad and continued northward.  

Taking the Upper Green Valley fireroad is part of the large counter clockwise loop known as the “Grand Loop”  that I was intending to do today.  The cruise/mild climb up Green Valley was pretty nice as I was mostly sheltered from the wind but I could watch the clouds spill over the top of the ridges to the west and continue on with great haste.   Often times I could hear the winds rippinng across the top of the ridges.  

 

At the bottom of Soapstone Grade I veered off the traditional loop to check a trail I had not done before.   While the trailsign was not up, I believe it is called the Upper Green Valley Trail but I have also heard it referred to as the La Cima trail.  The singletrack climbed gradually for the most part and it had some nice rocky character here annd there.  I was getting a little more exposed to the wind the further I went up.  About 3/4th of the way up this trail (about a mile) I left Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and entered the Anza Borrego State Park.   The trail ultimately went out to the two-laned Sunrise Highway and loosely paralled it both to the east and west.  I went to the west and after a bit of climbing followed by some swoopy descending I connected up with the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CHRT).

Once I was on the CHRT, I was not sheltered from the gusty winds much and the intensity of the winds had built up.  (I later learned the winds were 25-35mph with an advisory out for gusts up to 65mph)   I often had to countersteer into the wind and just put my head down and pedal on.

The CRHT was in great shape and I was amazed at how much water was in Lake Cuyamaca. I had not ridden this section before and I was impressed. 

The open alpine meadows were exceptional to look at and the singletrack was swoopy and fast once things turnned slightly downhill.   Even with a now biting cross wind, there was some zippy sections along through here.  I also came across a pair of coyotes in this area.   They were certainly not the acclimated to humans types like we often seen in the semi-urban areas.  This couple were definitely not interested in being anywhere near me and they were heading up the ridgeline in  a hurry.  After 2.4 miles the CHRT connected up the top of Soapstone grade and I continued back along the traditional Grand Loop route.   Once I made it out to HWY79 I headed over to Milk Ranch Road, I had a decision to make.  The wind was gusting pretty bad and my toes were getting pretty darn cold despite the winter wool socks I had on.   I could climb Middle Peak and descend the Black Oak trail or just skip it and stay on Milk Ranch Road.  After grabbing a very quick bite to eat and shaking out the feet I decided to do the climb even though I could see that the clouds were completely engulfing the upper half of the peak.  

This place has never been the same since the 2003 wildfires.  It is such a tragedy the awesome old oaks and goliath pines on this peak burned in that fire.  As I made my way up the mountain I could not help but be once agained saddened by the loss of such a forested treasure.    

As I neared the top I entered the clouds and while I was sheltered fairly well from the wind coming from the far side of the peak, I could hear it howling above me.  The Middle Peak fireroad does not go directly over the peak, instead goes close by it  as it circles around to the other side of the mountain.   I was not interested in any side trip up up to the actual peak here as it had gotten colder and moister.  As the fireroad transitioned over to the east slope and topped out at 5,800 feet the shelter from the wind disappeared.  It was now in a very stiff cold and gusty headwind.   Luckily it was time to turn downhill on the Black Oak Trail.   

I last remember this as a ripping fun singletrack with lots of rocky character.    While most of that is true, it was a very segmented ripper today as there were at least a dozen deadfalls across the trail.  The visibility was also an issue due to the clouds and the fact that I had to keep wearing my glasses to keep my eyes from being dried out in seconds.  Once down to the lower half of this trail the deadfall was no more and things got zippy was again.   Somebody somewhere downwind may have heard the faint sound of giggles riding along with the clouds as I descended through here.  The Black Oak Trail drops down to Milk Ranch Road where I hooked up with the Azalea Springs, Fern Flat, West Mesa and Japacha series of fire roads to get back and my truck.   The visibility was rather short through most of this route and the wind was still often stiff.   My feet were freezing, and I was ready to get to the truck.  The good news was most of this route was a zippy descent and who was I to argue with gravity.   Fireroad or not, it was plenty of fun.  I even got to see a herd of deer up close along this route that included two sizable bucks.    I was happy to see my truck and was once again was thrilled at exceptional quality of it’s heater.   While the elements made today a bit of challenge, it was once again a good day out on a bike.

Lost Webpage Found! Cuyamaca – Noble – Big Laguna Epic

Riding from the Cuyamaca to the Laguna Mountains and back is a really awesome ride that can range from 31 miles upwards  towards 40 to 65 miles and beyond according to what you add on at the ends.    The most I have done is around 40 miles.   I have made a couple of videos of this ride in the past but I thought it was about time that I put together a page with maps and pictures of the ride.   As I working on the map I came across a map file with a similiar name as the one I was starting.   When I opened it up I was surprised to see it was the route I was working on.   I started digging around through my local copy of my website and found a page I had orginally done up in 2003 and updated in 2007.  Somehow, when I did my big website makeover in 2008 I failed to include this page in the menu directory for the trails.

East Mesa in Spring 2007   

More East Mesa Spring Goodness

Wildflowers in Big Laguna Meadow

While part of me is a little bummed that I missed this page in the first place, it is sort of cool that it shown up now.  It is like finding treasure I buried myself and forgot about.  

Check out the Cuyamaca to Noble Loop