Cuyamaca – ABDSP

It was time for a dawn patrol ride in the Cuyamaca Mountains and Anza Borego Desert State Park.   I was at the trailhead bright and early.    Too early was my first thought as it was quite brisk (mid-50’s) and I was dressed for the heat to come.

I started out at the San Diego River Staging area.  The early morning temps  made for a zippy start to help keep the blood flowing.

Still some flower out and about in the fields.

I made my way up the west side single track and then cut over to the at the visitor center and picked up the Green Valley fire road.

Mule Deer, the Ross Perot of the deer family.

I saw turkeys and some deer along way.   When I got to the bottom of Soapstone grade fire road, I took the Upper Green Valley single track.   About half way up the climb you leave the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and enter the Anza Borrego Desert state park.   Now it looks nothing like a desert up here.

Along the La Cima trail heading east

Normally, I hookup with the La Cima Trail and head west toward Lake Cuyamaca and the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT).  Today I turned east on the La Cima trail where I went for just over a mile up and over a ridge to the La Cima Trailhead.   This was a nice bit of trail.   At the La Cima trailhead I picked up the Sunrise trail and continued east.

Views along the Sunrise trail

What a nice bit of trail.  There were one spot where you could look down into the Anza Borrego Desert and see the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea is out there in the haze.

I took the Sunrise trail out to its end at the entrance to the Lucky 5 ranch and the northern terminus of Deer Park Road (private property).   This was my first time on this bit of trail and I must say I liked it.  I have heard that there is a trail planned that would stay on the south side of sunrise highway and connect the Sunrise trail all the way over to top of Noble Canyon.   I am all about new trails and I would gladly welcome such a trail.     Interestingly enough there is already a trail that connects those two points together.  The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is that trail.  There are access points to the PCT at the the entrance to the Lucky 5 ranch as well as at the top of Noble Canyon.  Unfortunately bikes are off limits on the PCT.   Now this particularly section is not off limits to bikes because it is in wilderness.  No it is strictly off limits to bikes because the PCT has a blanket ban on bikes mostly because the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) feels bike should not be on “their” trail.  (I’m grossly generalizing their position that from their perspective makes sense)   To me it seems to be a nearly a no brainer that allowing bikes on the PCT section that is on the north side of the Sunrise Highway from Lucky 5 to Noble would alleviate the need to build a trail between those two points on the south side of Sunrise Highway.   This makes me wonder, would the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) rather see additional environmental impacts created in this area to create a redundant trail just so they could continue to keep bikes off of the PCT?  Is their need to maintain a certain trail experience greater than their land stewardship goals?   Would the organizations that support the PCTA simultaneously oppose the creation of the new trail on the south side of the trail due to environmental impacts while also opposing the sharing of the section PCT on the north side of Sunrise highway?   Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm.

Well after my deep thoughts I started working my way back the California Riding and Hiking trail.  It was well into mid-morning at this point and things had warmed up to near perfect cycling temps.  Along the way I came upon the fellow above.

 

After a bit of snake and camera juggling, I was back on my way and rejoined the CRHT which took me to Soapstone and Stonewall fire roads followed by the Coldsprings trail and the then back to the staging area via the westside single

Good times on the trails!

More Cuyamaca

I was back out in the Cuyamaca Mountains this weekend.

Spring is still hanging on. Today I started out on the west side singletrack and then crossed over to the visitor center and then took the Coldwater trail northward.

If you look close there are two turkeys in the field.

The climb up and over to the Stonewall peak fireroad was quite manageable. This is a really well built trail that I have found to be manageable and engaging in both directions.

Blooming goodness in July!

Once at the top of Stonewall Peak fireroad I turned east. Technically I was in the California Riding and Hiking trail (CRHT) at this point but the next section north of here is what I consider the “real trail”. When I reached the junction of the CHRT and the top of Soapstone Grade fireroad I had to think about my options.

It has been over a decade since I found myself and this location having arrived from the west. I have long ago given up on climbing Soapstone grade to this point as the Upper Green Valley singletrack at at the bottom of this grade is so much better. My other option is to climb the next section of the CRHT which would be good but it is fantastic in the southern direction. I decided to descend Soapstone grade and then climb Upper Green Valley singletrack.

I have been doing a fair amount riding lately and I feel I have been on the fitness and injury mend as if late. I felt really good on this climb and I think I did as well as I ever have in recent time. I still can’t beat that that much younger version of me but that is a different story. I ended up climbing the La Cima trail over to the Lucky 5 staging area (a first for me). I resisted the urge to poach the PCT back to CRHT today and made my way back along the La Cima trail to the CRHT and back the way I came. It was glorious!

East Mesa and Oakzanita

I made it out to the Cuyamaca Mountains for a a dawn patrol ride this morning. It was a brisk 55 when I started out but it not take long to warm up.

The east side singletrack followed by the fireroad climb up east mesa was quite manageable.

It was about a three to four mile climb up to fireroad to get to the single track that tasks our across the meadow.

I was a little bit past prime time for the wild flowers but there were still a plenty. I took the singletrack out to where you start descending down towards the Indian Creek trail. Here is some info on that option.

After a very peaceful break I retraced my tracks back to the fireroad. For something new to me I took the Oakzanita peak trail.

It was a little under two miles long and most of the climbing occured during the last half of a mile or so. Most of the peak prominence is on its western slopes so you have already gain much of thr elevation when coming in from the east. The last half mile is very much a loose rock and techy bit of fun ckimbing.

The view from Oakzanita peak was really cool and worth the effort. On the return trip, I took an unmarked trail that took me most of the way down the mountain. It was a great bit singletrack. It popped me out on the East Mesa fireroad. This was the upper Descanso Creek trail and saddly it is not only marked at the bottom, but also marked no bikes. Its a shame as it would be my preferred way to come off the mesa. I would not want to climb it. After that it was a quick spin on the East Side singletrack back to my truck. A great morning in the bike.

Above the clouds in Cuyamaca

Last weekend, I took a freind of mine (Jim) out to the Cuyamaca Mountains to show him around. The weather was overcast around rhe county and as we headed up into the mountains it started to get a little foggy. At the trailhead we were pretty much socked in.

What a bunch of turkeys!

We started up the west side single track.   After crossing over highway 79 we came upon some wild turkeys which are plentiful in this area.  We made our way north along the Green Valley fire road until we got to the bottom of Soapstone Grade.

Climbing above the clouds on the Upper Green Valley single track.

From there we continued north on the Upper Green Valley single track and climbed our way up to the junction with La Cima track right by Sunrise highway.    During this climb the clouds/fog cleared up as we got up above it. Things were pretty beautiful at this point and the La Cima trail over to the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) was a great as ever.

On the CRHT

While riding along the CRHT it was pretty cool to look over towards Lake Cuyamaca and see all of the clouds to the west being pressed again the mountains.   It was like the mountains were playing giant linebackers protecting our pocket of sunshine.

Heading back down into the clouds

We connected up to the Cold Springs trails for some super fun descending down to the south.  Down near the bottom we once again rode back down into the clouds.

Not a shabby day to spending a weekend morning!

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.