Messing around in the San Jacinto Mountains

This weekend I decided to head out for an overnighter in the San Jacinto Mountains.   There are a lot of great trails around here and we were interested in messing around in some lesser ridden areas.  Bill O’Neil and I met up fairly early in the morning and the temps were already quickly climbing.

We did a bit of driving around on some of the back dirt roads to finalize our game plan and investigate all of the options.    This gate showed much promise so we decided to add this area to the two-wheeled investigation efforts.

With a plan negoiated that included such phrases like “Do you think those thin brown lines are too close together on the map”,  “It sorta flattens out after the first seven miles” and “Just for the record, this segment is your idea”  we started turning the pedals into the dry 90 degree heat.

After what I would consider a rough opening bit of terrain, heat and grade we got up onto a small plateau were thoughts of tasty steaks and carne asada burritos started running through our heads.

This small herd of around 10 or so cattle were following the old ranch road we were taking.   Special note on Trail Etiquette – Bikes yield to horns. 

The old ranch road turned out to be a nice route that we took.  We soon worked our way over to the next segment that turned out to be a bit brutal when combined with the growing heat and pockets of dead air.   My hiking calves got some work in here and there on this segment.

As we neared the top of the ridgeline sadddle we were shooting for we got into some trees and a breeze picked up which made a huge difference.  We were already considered with rationing our water considering how far we had to go still.

Once at the saddle we proceeded along a trail that followed the ridgelines for quite a long way.  There were some great views along this route.

This was most definitely a pretty cool trail.

Cool rock formations on the ridgeline.  The wind was often howling up here which was great for beating the heat but it was enough to blow me off my intended line a time or two.

This was really cool bit of exploring we did but it was certainly no cakewalk with the heat that was out.  By the time we got back down to the truck, we were more interested in our first liquids being water more so that tasty hop and malt goodness.  After a bit of truck-side recovery we were off to the  Paridise Valley Cafe were some excellent baby back ribs with the fixins were chased with a couple of tasty beverages.   After that we found a back corner of the Garner Valley area to set up camp in the dark.  We spent the rest of the evening  recounting the festivities of the day while sampling tasty San Diego area micro-brews.

View from the tent when I opened my eyes

The view from my tent when I first opened my eyes.

Forgive Me Father For I Sinned…

Bill: Forgive me father for I have sinned.  I has been over 3 months since I last rode my bike on any routine basis.

Father:  Jesus! <Skies opens, bright light, booming voice…>

Jesus:  What you say?

Father:  No, No, No, I didn’t mean you.  You know, it was the figure of speech thing.

Jesus:  Will you please stop doing that crap!  How do you expect me to listen up for you if you keep hanking my chain?  This ain’t exactly an easy job I got here buddy.  Keep it up and I will fire and brimstone your ass into the next eternity!

Father:  Sorry about that, I’ll work on it.

Jesus:  Yeah, you do that.  <Skies close>

Father:  Sorry about that my son.  So three months off the dirt.  What have you been doing?

Bill:  Father, I let myself become consumed with my work so between my work and my family the biking fell to the wayside.  I got out shape and gained more weight than I would care to mention and generally lost some of my passion for riding.   I also drank lots of really good beer that I had not justly earned .

Father:  What exactly do you mean by good beer?  Be careful how you answer my son.

Bill:   Oh, lots of Stone, Pacfic Northwest microbrews as well as some good east coast brews.

Father:  East Coast you say, have you ever had any of the stuff  from the Victory Brewing Company.

Bill:  Oh My God Yes! (flinched while hoping the sky did not open up), Thier Wild Devil Ale is simply amazing!

Father:  Je……(Stops mid-word, while looking skyward), Man that is some great stuff,   Hate the name but love the complex flavor.

Father:  So anyway my son, balance is very important in everyone’s life.   Without balance, things are just not right.  Take you for example, even through the fine mesh and dark shadows of this box, I can see you have turned into quite the unbalanced lard ass.

Bill:Jes….<Once again a skyward flinch occurs>, come on father try not to sugar coat it for me.

Father:  My son, there is many paths that could be followed, but you must go into the San Jacinto Mountains.  There you will not only atone for your sins, but you may refind the passion you have lost.

Bill:  I will go my father.

Father:  Oh and don’t pass on the Southridge and Snakeskin trails, those are some bitchin bits of singletrack!  Now get outta here!

So bright and early on Sunday morning I went out to Idyllwild for a bit of riding with Bill O’Neil.  I knew I was going to suck, but there are far worse places to suck at than Idyllwild.  We did do the semi-slacker thing and left a vechicle down near Hurkey Creek and then drove up into Idyllwild to start the day with a run down the South Ridge Trail.

There was still some snow up top which was quite a treat.  Just enough to look pretty.   Right out the gate I knew this was going to be a pretty cool day as the conditions were as good as I have ever seen it here.  Just the right amount of moisture in the trail to create that magical balance of traction and speed.   Good Stuff.

We did not drop much elevation before the snow patches were gone and we were left with the sweet flowy goodness that I have long loved in this area.    Oh yeah I did suck.  I was huffing and puffing on all but the slightest of climbs.

The springtime action is in full effect in many places around here.  After tooling around in the May Valley area when took the Missing Link trail down towards the race course.   After Missing Link we decided that it we needed some more May Valley action so we took the most direct way back up into the area.   We climbed Exfoliator.  Now I have descended this trail dozens of time and it is an absolute blast…going down.   Climbing this trail is a much different story.    I was pretty freaking disgusted with what a wussy I had become during my layoff.  One more climb up the fireroad and I would be return to turn mostly downhill back to Hurkey Creek.

Shortly after the climb we ran into some of the natives who were up for showing off some of the bits have not gotten on yet.   I am always amazed at the high quality trails that “grow” out here.  We were not disappointed but the additional singletrack goodness left me completely cooked and fighting off the early warning signs of cramps.

When it was time to head for the beer cooler, Exfoliator was indeed more more fun in the proper direction.    The last hill to climb to get up to the top of “Rage in the Sage” proved to me my own little hell as I was cramping badly at this point and was lagging behind the other pretty bad.   After that it was all downhill gravy and it was soon time to enjoy some properly earned brews.   My legs hurt but I feel that fire in my belly again for mountain biking.   Time to go get back in shape.

Herkey Creek and May Valley

Springtime riding around Idyllwild is some of my favorite stuff around SoCal.  Unfortunately due to some ill-timed (like there is ever good-timed) injuries and a horrible bout of poison oak,  I missed the spring riding in the area.  Even though I knew it was going to be hot I met one of my regular riding buds who was in the area for a wedding this weekend.   Considering that he was going to be up late with the reception and all, we opted for a 9AM start time from the Herkey Creek Campground area.  We knew it would be even toastier with that start time.   Hot it was but a fairly consistent breeze kept it just hot vice blistering.  We brought plenty of extra water and electrolytes and kept to a “heat management” pace on all the significant uphills.

The trails can get pretty loose here during the summer.  I was quite impressed with how well the trails are holding up and I am pretty sure it is due to the care that most of the locals take when riding this system.   You can not rail this stuff like you can during the spring and moist times and it is impertive that you hold the lines and skillfully use the brakes.  The trails simply can not hold up to skidiots and turnblowers.  There was plenty of evidence to show that some of the people who do blow a turn took the time to stop, go back and make an effort to repair their damage, or at least brush out their off-trail tracks.   I hate to say it, but you just don’t see that generalized level of trail ownership by the routine-users in the more urbanized areas like Orange County and San Diego.  We should all take a lesson from the Idyllwild folks.

 Bill Gets Air
In addition to enjoying the flowy twisty singletrack goodness that this place is known for, we played around and a few rocks.

Bill O twisting
Here is one of the twister rocks bits that is nearly a maze.  Hats off to the builders of this.    

This was a great finish to a good week of riding, which included some of my local stuff, and the Santa Margarita River Trail (aka SMaRT).  I was slacking with my camera for those rides, but here is a ride report on the SMaRT ride on SocalTrailRiders.org.

-Bill