Noble Canyon Fun (Kinda)

I finished off my riding during our camping trip up in the Laguna Mountains with a run down Redtail Roost, Los Gatos, the Meadow and then onto Noble Canyon.

Upper portion of Noble Canyon

What an awesome day it was with the exception of a total of 345 milliseconds. I clocked myself pretty good on Stairway to Hell and banged up wrist and arm pretty good. (It my defense I was on the original line and not the new lower easier line). I was pretty thumped but shook it off and kept going. I managed to do another endo on the Extra Credit and that was pretty much me for the day.

I banged up my other wrist, gave a little extra smack down to the rest of my upper body and broken my derailleur hanger. The cause of the second endo was pretty easy to understand, I was riding a bit timid which is not a good idea in that section of trail. If I would have been smart I would have skipped that last climb (aka Whore) and extra credit and bailed off for a road finisher. I only had a couple hundred yards of trail left of Noble at this point, but not only was my bike broken, my will to ride was broken. I can’t think of the last time that has happened.

Recovery Mode

So for the rest of the day, I enjoyed the hammock and settled in for some Motrin and bourbon therapy. The following day I was already feeling more beat up than the day before.

The Prefect Cycling Trail

That next morning we did a hike from Camp. I must say that it felt exceptionally odd to be hiking on the Perfect Cycling Trail.

Laguna Mountains Trailfest

I had a really nice time up in the Laguna Mountains this past weekend.    The San Diego Mountain Biking Association was putting on the 2nd Annual Laguana Trailfest.    It was a Friday-Sunday event that included lots of organized rides, demo, food, music clinics and much more.   You know, A Festival!   The event was being held and the El Prado group tent camping sites and I wanted to have the comforts of our traveler trail.   So I went up on Wednesday and got spot in the adjacent Meadow Loop campsites.

Casa Del Bill and Nichol for the weekend

With the campsite acquired and setup it was time for a late afternoon spin through the area.  I had a good time and I used up all of the day.

Big Laguna Meadow. Hmmmmm I’m thinking Arbys

I might have gone a hike as well

Trail Goodness!

I caught this guy eyeballing up the compressor line!

I ended up spending the night up in the trailer and headed off to work the next morning and was back on Friday for a weekend of festival.

Bacon cooked in a cast iron skillet over a campfire. Yummo!

Trailfest was an exceptionally well put on event and I had a great time.  I’m already looking forward to it again next year.  One thing I did not manage to do was take any pictures.  Instead take a look at the SDMBA Photo Album of Trail fest.

On the way to Red Tail Roost

I ran into Bengt with whom I worked with for a period of time in Bahrain.  We did the bulk of the Poker Ride together.  Here is his video that as well as some bonus footage of the upper section of Noble Canyon.

On the way to Redtail Roost

I got the campsite through Sunday night so we I would not feel rushed to get out of there on Sunday, so as the festival wound down I went out for another loop that included a climb up to Red Tail Roost down to and then up Aqua Dulce, a run down Gatos and a loop around the meadow with a diversion up to the kiosk.

After a post-ride refreshment it was time to pack up and move on out.   It was a nice weekend to be out on a bike!

BLT, Redtail Roost and Noble Canyon

Saturday Nichol and I went up to Big Laguna Meadow to get in some biking and a night of camping.


It was quite a pretty day with some fall colors up in the trees and exceptionally nice temps. After setting up camp we did a cruise around meadow.


We were up bright and early the next morning to meet a gang-o-folks down at the lower Noble Canyon Trailhead for some playing around for the better part of the day.  We left some vehicles at the bottom and then drove up to the Redtail Roost trailhead off of Sunrise Highway.    There were at total of 10 of us in the gaggle.   Redtail roost is a fun trail that goes along a wooded ridgeline for a ways before descending down into the Laguna Meadow area.    Encountering a dude all decked out in camouflage early along the trail was good reminder that it is hunting season up here.   I was also glad I passed on wearing my buckskin jersey and Viking helmet on this ride.


After descending Redtail Roost we climbed up Aqua Dulce to the top of the Los Gatos trail where we then descended down to the meadow.    But not without playing a few features here and there.  Here is Michael playing on a skinny.


Dave getting in some log action as well.  Once down on the meadow we went up the east side of the meadow a ways and the did a side loop that included a portion of the connector trail that goes between the meadow and the Pacific Crest Trail.   Once back at the meadow we went around and up the west side of the meadow and caught the connector over to Penny Pines and the upper Noble Canyon trailhead.  It was here that David’s frame broke where the downtube meets the bottom bracket.   So he broke off  from the group for a very dodgy ride back to Redtail Roost along Sunrise Highway.


It was Noble Canyon time now and there was plenty of good stuff as always between the top and the bottom.   Here is Jenny rolling through the woods up near the top.


James playing on a jump about halfway down or so.


James rolling into the “Stairway to Hell”


Kevin meets Stairway to Hell.  I was kind of jealous of his superlight rig earlier in the ride, you know like on the climbs.   I was pretty stoke with my rig through these parts.  After spending most the summer riding a XC hardtail rent-a-wreck my long-legged stretched out full suspension couch felt awesome through this stuff.  Woot Woot!


James working through some chunk.     By the time we hit the bottom trailhead most folks’ mileage device had us doing between 24 and 25 miles with a little under 2,800 feet of climbing in.   While the rest of the crew headed out, I went back up to he meadow and we broke camp down at a leisurely pace and then headed out for tasty BBQ and Beer at Alpine Beer Company.   Another good weekend on a bike.

Laguna Mountains Camping

Last Sunday through Wednesday  my youngest son, Jake, and I did a three-night camping trip up in the Laguna Mountains east of San Diego. We got in some mountain biking, hiking and some good just kicking back time.


Nichol joined us on the first day for a bike ride around the meadow, dinner and some marshmallow destruction before heading back home to play responsible adult while the boys played in the dirt.  Over the last few years there has been some reroutes to the meadow loop as well to some of the spur trails.  I would say they are all for the better.


Back at camp, the marshmallows did not stand a chance.


The morning of day 2 was meet with some leisurely breakfast making before hitting up some of the trails.


Some play time on the Los Gatos trail was had.


Jake working on a skinny.


Jake working the camera.


We spent the early part of the afternoon just chilling out camp watch the squirrels trying to figure out how to get to our camp treats.  This guy was craving some Cheetos.   That afternoon we did a hike nearby that include the PCT connector trail from the meadow.


Day 3 we were up pretty early to hit some of the other Pretty Cool Trails in the area.   We rode the meadow over the Penny Pines Trailhead and then made our way over the Pioneer Mail Trailhead where we picked up the Pine Mountain Trail.  We took the Pine Mountain trail over to the Indian Creek Trail at Champagne Pass.    Indian Creek is the primary legal trail connector for bikes between Cuyamaca and the Laguna Mountains.


We dropped off of Champagne pass to the east on the Indian Creek trail heading back to towards the Lagunas.


Jake loves him some downhill fun but is not a fan of climbing at all. He wonders why every place can’t be like Mammoth or Big Bear. Once we got to meadow pictured above, I took great pleasure in letting him know it was 3 miles to anywhere from here in either direction and it was uphill in both directions.  We continued on the Indian Creek Trail to the east and climbed up to the junction with the Noble Canyon Trail.


From there we turned north and climbed Noble.   (Colloquially known as the “Elbon” trail.)   There is a recently completely reroute of Noble up near the top.  The reroute eliminates a couple of road crossings.    The new section is much tighter and a twistier that the original section and while a bit loose right now it should bed in nicely once we get some rains.   I’m sure some of the Strava-tards and will wank about the reroute messing with their times.  (My suggesting to those folks is shut up, just ride faster or turn to juicing.)    Noble Canyon has its loyal followings of which some subscribe to the “Never Change My Trail” mentality so I would expect there will be discontent for a few months.  Personally I think the reroute is going to be really nice once bedded in.


We took the “shortcut” spur trail that connects back to west end of the meadow vice going all the way back to the Penny Pines Trailhead.  Once back at the meadow it was a quite spin back to camp.


It was pretty hot during the middle of the day so we kicked back in the shade of camp for a while before jumping in the truck for a swing by Laguna General Store for a Mexican Coke (The south of the border variant is made with real cane sugar vice corn syrup…tastier)  and an Ice Cream bar  before we did some recon work for some of the other trails in the area that are on my to-do list. Dinner that night was some tasty rib-eyes, grilled asparagus and zucchini with some brown rice.   That night we shook off the food coma by strapping on the headlamps to do a mini night ride out on the meadow that included some lights off time to check out the stars on that completely dark night.


The next morning I was up before sunrise to get in a solo ride while the boy slept in.  Presumably there would be no one else out of the trail as well.  Sunrise was a Pretty Cool Time of day to be out and about by yourself in the woods.    On the way back from the 16 mile loop I saw Mr. Wyle Coyote out looking for breakfast.  After the initially moving away from me for a bit the coyote went back to hunting once establishing that I was not there to bother him.   I watched him for a good five minutes or so before moving along.


Jake was just waking up when I got back to camp. A second round of coffee was in order for me and it was time for breakfast all around.   After breakfast it was time to break down camp and head out of the mountains.  I had a great time on the camping trip with Jake.   With the exception of a few minutes, we did not have data  coverage so having Jake “unplugged” was a bonus.   With no competition with the all powerful 3G/4G  it allowed for things like watching the “Campfire TV”, gazing at the stars, observations of the “little” things and conversations that would rarely occur otherwise.  Good times.   With some new GPS data and observations,  I’m planning on updating some of the maps, files and pages I have for this area on the site, so stay tuned.

Some Noble Canyon and BLT Play Time

Time to catch up on some photos that have tried to get lost over the last few weeks in a smorgasbord of work, holiday parties,  family visits and a cross country road trip (non-biking..but some intel was gathered).   A few days before I headed out to the east coast to start all of the festivities, I meet up with some of the SDMBA folks and Leslie Kehmeier, IMBA’s Mapping Specialist.    Noble Canyon is one of IMBA’s Epics and Leslie while on a Southern California swing wanted to refresh the information of Noble Canyon and check out the trail for herself.    Mark (SDMBA’s USFS Liason and Board Member)  had put together all of the logistics together for the ride and a great day out in this awesome area soon followed..


The route that was put together for the day was a point-to-point route from Red Tail Roost in the Big Laguna Recreation Area, down into the Big Laguna Meadow proper and then onward to drop Noble Canyon.

Leslie is an avid photographer and was sporting a DSLR along with a couple of lens.   I know first hand what a pain carrying that gear can be sometimes and she was carrying around more stuff that I normally do.   Here is Leslie getting some monkey action on to get the shot on the Gatos Ravine trail.    Some of the pictures in this post are from Leslie.

Los Gatos near the top

Big Laguna Meadow has brown up for the winter but it is certainly still pretty.  At the time of this posting, the meadow is most likely covered in snow.

Mark working the “Stairway to Hell”

A shot by Leslie of me on “Stairway to Hell”

Leslie working through the chunk of “Extra Credit”

Mark riding the “Roman Wall” near the bottom of the trail.

Soul Ride in the Laguna Mountains

Wednesday was pretty freaking hot (by San Diego Weather Weenie standards) with a bit of mugginess thrown in due to a bit of weather on the way in.      Steve and I decided to pass up triple digit sufferage in the usual Alpine spot and head up into the Laguna Mountains for what we consider the “Soul Ride”.   Big Laguna Meadow and the network of surrounding trails.

One of the reasons we call this the Soul Ride (Along with the overused “Chicken Soup for the Soul” reference) is that it is just a fun time out on the bike.  While most of the usual places around San Diego County have browned all up and gotten into full on summer mode, you can still find plenty of greenery and wildflowers out and about up here.

It was cooler in the Laguna Mountains but it was still 90 when we started.   It was quite overcast when we started but there was just enough breeze to keep things reasonable.

Steve brought out the clown bike so of course a show had to be put on.  This rock is known as “Dental Plan” because if you screw up you are going to need one.

Later on in the day there was a bit of a break from the full blown overcast which made for some nice bit of afternoon color.   This is the connector between the Noble Canyon Trailhead and the Big Laguna Trail.  If you are going to do the Tour De Noble you will be on this trail at some point.  Today we did this trail as an out-and-back to refill our water bladders at the Noble Trailhead.

We are on the northernwest of the meadow here.  This was one of the fire boundary lines that held during the 2003 wildfires that swept through the area. There were thousands of acres burned to the west (behind me in this shot).   The area has been recovering well.

This is a nice scenic spot along the southern side of the meadow.  The only thing it needs is……….

A stupid human trick!   (I can get Steve to try anything when I pull out the camera)   Steve had eyed up this line before but had not pulled the trigger before. I think it took him having my high quality steed underfoot to allow him to pull this off.    This line has been named “Compressor”.

This picture should explain the name.   7.5″ of travel in the rear and 7″ in front were fully used on this move. 

Stuntworks over it was time to work our way back to the vehicles as pulled pork sandwiches and tasty microbrews at Alpine Beer Company were calling our names.   Our chosen path was one less traveled with some challenging bits.  This Wednesday did not suck.

Noble Canyon and the BLT

What an awesome weekend I had.   Jeff Sherman was down for the weekend from Kernville for the weekend and Bill O’neil came down from West LA as well.   Friday was yummy grub and tasty beverages at Stone Brewing Company.   Saturday was Big Laguna – Noble Canyon ride.   We had a sizable group of 11 and did it in semi-slacker fashion by cutting out the Pine Valley and Indian Creek segment and doing a point-to-point ride versus the classic climb-o-rama Tour De Noble

We started thing off up top by taking the Redtail Roost singletrack down into Aqua Dulce,  from there we worked our way up to the top of Los Gatos Ravine.  We did of course play on a log or two in the process. 

Trickier than it looks.

Once on Los Gatos we stopped and played on an feature or six.   Here is “Dental Plan” 

 Some more of “Dental Plan”

There was some log ridage and log pileage to be played on.

Once down on Big Laguna Meadow.  We went clockwise around to the west side where we found the “Water of the World” pond almost frozen over. 

Halfway up the west side we cut back over to the east side of the meadow at the lake and the went up the meadow counter-clockwise.  There was some log chunkage found to play on before making our way over to Noble Canyon.

Noble Canyon was as awesome as always and the there was some log airage to be had.  

As well as some Rock Airage.

Stairway to Hell did not disappoint.

Stairway Chunkage.

A bit of roman wallage on Extra Credit. 

After polishing off the trail we were treated to the first release of Kernville Brewing Company’s Chocolate Porter creation courtesy of JFSH…….Tasty Stuff!

A mighty fine day on a bike with old and new friends a like.

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

A tale of Mistakes and Epicness

“I forgot my camelbak.”  That is how this tale of forgetfulness, epic trails, conditions and people starts.  My buddy Bill O’neil had never ridden Noble Canyon out in East County San Diego.  Noble Canyon is designationed a National Recreation Trail and is one of the IMBA Epic Trails.    If you live in Southern California is basically considered a must do.  So Bill was on his way down to my house from LA on Saturday.  The plan was to hang out on Saturday and then ride on Sunday.   Bill called me when he was halfway to my house when he realized that he had forgotten his camelbak.  This was no big deal as I had spare smaller 70oz camelbak that would work.  

So Bill gets down to my house and as he is always good for, he brought some might tasty beverages and spirits along with him.  We ended spending the evening enjoying them while tinkering with bikes.  Bill is also a pretty accomplished quitar player so there was also a bit of jamming  going on with my boys as both of them have recently picked up the quitar.   It did not take long for my boys to be give Bill the Wayne’s World “Were not worthy” salute.   It was a bunch of fun.   When the lights finally went out in the house, I had no problems falling asleep.

The next morning came pretty quickly and I found myself just a little “foggy”.   We were not doing the full “Tour de Noble” today.  We were doing a point-to-point that included Noble, the Big Laguna Trail (BLT) and the  Laguna Mountains.   So this meant two trucks.    As I packed all the stuff into the truck I ran through the mental checklist:  Bike, Shoes, Clothes, Helmet, Gloves, Glasses — CHECK!   Off we went.

The weather had made a dramatic turn over night as a storm had moved in and there were had been some intermittent rain overnight and the skys look somewhat menacing but with hope of blue on the horizon.   The Lagunas are a long way from North County San Diego so the thinking was that the weather might be different at the trailhead.   On the drive out, I had resigned to the fact that we would most likely get rained on at some point during the day, but we had a good chance for some incredible conditions.

Once at the bottom of Noble we started making the final preps to leave a truck at the bottom.   Then I noticed it.  My Camelbak was no where to be scene.  CRAP!   How the F$%k did this happen?  I did the checklist: Bike, Shoes, Clothes, Helmet, Gloves, Glasses,,,,,,,DAMN IT!    Checklists suck if you leave stuff off of them.   Okay lets figure things out.   Bill still had the small Camelbak I let him borrow.    However, the only other things in that Camelbak were snacks and a multi-tool.   No pump, tubes or patches.   This is where some of the real coolness of the day first came into play.   There were three other riders at the trailhead getting ready to head out.  They were gratious enough to let us bum a tool and tube from them.   I was able to find a patch kit stashed in my truck so we were covered in that area.   On our way to the top we stopped at the Pine Valley Market and picked up three 1-liter bottles of water to stuff in my jerseys.   (My camera was also in my camelbak so all of the pictures here are from other trips on these trails) 

Once at the upper trailhead at the RedtailRoost Volunteer Center off of Sunrise Highway it was pretty cold at 39 degrees and and breezy.  My trusty windbreaker was (you guessed it) in my Camelbak.    My garb for the days was shorts, knee warmers, long sleeve jersey with a short sleeve jersey on top and a pair of wind-proof winter gloves.   Being in the clouds of a brewing storm was pretty interesting as you had what looked like fog but you also had the whipping breeze that had a primordial type of feeling as forest just sort of disappeared into a gray but shifting nothingness as the different densities of the clouds would pass by.

The opening section of trail was really cool as the moisture from the night before (or maybe even minutes before we arrived) had patted down the trail enough to make for perfect traction.   It was fast rolling and gripped in the corners at near velcro strength.    After a good bit of ridge riding that was mostly downhill we connected up with the Aqua Dulce fireroad and climbed up to the top of Los Gatos Ravine for one of my favorite singletrack descent into Big Laguna Meadow.    It has wonderful flow and enough grade to keep you ripping along with little in the way of pedal action if you just want to cruise.

(This is Indian Creek Trail, but this was the fogginess of most of the ride)

Once we got out onto the meadow, we were smacked with the full force of the wind and for some period of time it was just hunker down and keep mashing the pedals to keep moving forward,  Since the wind was mostly blowing from the south, once we got on the south side of the meadow we gained a little shelter from the breeze.   At this point we were both pretty stoked not to have gotten rained on yet.  We were making pretty good time as moving meant generating warmth and rest meant loosing warmth.

Big Laguna Meadow during sunnier times

We soon made our way to the far end of the meadow and onto the connector to upper Noble Canyon trailhead.  While grabbing a quick snack at the top of Noble we encountered our first bit of snow.  It was just a few flakes here and there but it was indeed snow.  We were soon on our way down the Noble Canyon trail.   We were not on the trail more than five minutes when the wind got to howling pretty hard and I thought I was getting sand blown into my eyes.  The problem was that there was no sand nearby.  After a minute or so I figured out the stuff pelting me was not sand my but very small bits of sleet.   Besides the slight stinging that the sleet gave when hitting you at speed, it was not bad as it mostly bounced off so my clothes were not getting soaked.    The sleet only lasted for a few sessions of a minute or two at a time.  Once we dropped a little elevation we got down below the clouds that were producing all the wind and things became pretty calm in comparision. 

(Above Big Laguna Trail in April of 2007)

Noble Canyon was freaking great as always and the overnight moisture made for a ripping good time.   I was throughly enjoying showing off some of my home turf.  I ran into one of my local riding friends who was riding up Noble while we descended.   He had forgotten his trail grub and was planning on cutting the ride short.  We hooked him up with enough snacks to keep him going.  We both thought that after all of the generosity our three buds at the bottom had show us it was the least we could do.   It was shortly before the “Stairway to Hell” that the help of the buds at the bottom became pretty important as Bill got a flat.  Luckily we had that pump and tube to get us going again.  While changing the tube it started to rain.  While it was cold and biting we were both pretty stoked at this point as we had fully expected to be rained on hours ago.   

Stairway to Hell at the 2005 SSSSS (Spring SoCal Single Speed Summit)

Once we got rolling again it was time for the “Stairway to Hell”.  It is a technical challenge of jumbled rocks without a line per se, more like a general direction to go, and it was wet.   On the first attempt, the tires were somewhat doing thier own thing on the wet rocks and it gave me the hebegeebees enough that I lost my momentum.  The second time was a charm as I trusted the bike and tires to make thier own “adjustments” properly if I kept the speed up.   By the time we got to the longest and last climb of Noble Canyon a somewhat steady but very light rain had settled in.  The good news was that we were climbing so it was easy to keep warm by burning calories.   As luck would have it the rain let up when we reached the top of the climb.   The last technical bit down to the lower trailhead (known as extra credit) has always been one of my favorites and it did not disappoint.  

Down at the bottom, we were ready to make quick work of getting the bikes in the back of the truck and get the heater going on the way to retrieve the other truck.   This was when Bill discovers that he left his truck keys in my truck AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN!  Holy Crap!   What to do, what to do?  This is were the coolness of Mountain Bikers came into play once again.  A couple of guys hooked me up with a ride to the top the mountain.  They were a ready life saver and I can’t thank them enough.  As we neared the top of the of the mountain there was snow coming down pretty hard and it was obivous it had been coming down for a while.   There was about 3/4ths of an inch of snow on my truck at the top and the temperture was 31 degrees.   Enough of the snow managed to survive the drive back down the mountain that I was able to craft a sizable snowball that turned out to be just perfect for pelting Bill. 🙂

Over mexician food in Alpine with some fellow MTBers coming in from another ride, we recounted the day’s adventure.    The trail was only a portion of what made the story an epic.  The trail conditions certainly played a major portion of the story, but I say it was the awesomeness of my fellow MTB junkies that made the day great.   Without the help of five strangers, this would have been a pretty miserable day.  I hope many days of good Karma  come to these five guys.  Instead this day being a disaster, is destined to be recounted numerous times over fine whiskey or tasty microbrews.

Isn’t that what started this whole mess in the first place? 🙂