Cool Critter Encounter

Sunday I did an MTB ride-along with San Dieguito River Park Senior Ranger Dave Hekel. After my recent Coast-to-Crest Trail trip I had some questions about the park and tagging along on his Sunday patrol was an easy what to chit-chat about the park and get in a ride.  I ride Lake Hodges quite often as of late.   It is right on the way home so it is in the routine post-work ride rotation.   I have seen lots of critters out here on these trails.  Deer, snakes, coyotes, rabbits and all kinds of birds.  On this ride I ended up with a critter encounter of completely different sort.

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While riding the “high road” single track on the north side we came across an obviously distressed little coyote pup stumbling across the trail like a drunken sailor. After a quick look around the hillside to see if mom was anywhere nearby, I scooped this critter up.  It was tiny and whopped and did not resist in the slightest to me picking it up.  A quick scan showed that this female pup was not injured but had pretty big tick in one ear.  Dave went up the canyon to see if there was an unattended den but could not find anything.  We guessed that this little gal had been away from momma for a least a full day or two.

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Talk about camouflage.  Look how the coat is a spot on match to the hillside in the background.  While Ranger Dave made phone calls I gave her some water.  I took the top off of my water bottle and turned it upside down and used it as a small bowl. She drank quite a bit of water and it seemed to help as after about 5 minutes she would have a spat of being squirmy.  I’m thinking instincts were telling her to get away.  I found that if you held her close to my chest she would stay  calm. (Much better than the one-handed holds for posing her for the camera)

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(Whooped but still a cutie)

While Ranger Dave was getting all of the arrangements made quite a few riders came by so the this pup because the star of trailside show and tell session.

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(Check out how long those claws are for its size)

Soon the rangers had a plan.   I rode/walked the rest of upper singletrack with this pup nuzzled up between one hand and my chest to a meet up spot with another ranger with a truck. While Dave and I waited for the other ranger to arrive the pup feel asleep in my hands.  There was a point when we wondered if she had “checked out” but then I could feel her chest going in and out so things were good. Once the other rangers arrived we handed off the pup to them and they were off to a nearby wildlife recovery facility.

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After that we went off to finish out the rest of the patrol.   We did encounter a rattlesnake on the trail and I did a slight bump stop into the back of Dave.    Normally seeing a rattlesnake is kind of a big deal but considering that this was the 14th rattler I have seen this year (I typically only see 2-4 a year) along with the coyote pup just a little while ago, this rattler sighting was kind of ho hum.  It was a beautiful day but after the coyote pup and the rattler then return trip back the ranger office was uneventful.  This was a most excellent day to be out  on a bike and  reinforced to me that your next life enriching event could be right around the next bend in the trail.

Sweetwater Cruising

This past week I got to Sweetwater Reservoir for an after work cruise.   It was been quite a few moons since I had been out here and I had been itching to give the place another go.

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Spring is in the air and the hill sides are nice and green.

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Miguel Mountain in the back ground as I head out towards the Steel Bridge.  (The Rockhouse trail is still on my to-do list)

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The bridge is where I normally turn around, but today I was riding with some zip so I decided to explore further “up stream”

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I did find some nice trails both in the valley as well as up along the hillside .   I had a commitment later in the evening so I was watching clock trying to maximize my ride time.      A flat tire shortly after my “turn around time” ate up some of my time buffer so after fixing the flat I had had to get on pedals fairly hard.

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On the way back there are a couple of options on this otherwise out and back route.     Staying to the right will keep you near the reservoir and over to the tiki hut and the left option will take you up to a saddle on the opposite side of the hill.   On this return I saw a third (new since my last visit) option that looked like it might split the difference and do some nice contouring.   Thinking I might be able to save some time, I took this option and soon found out that while this would be an awesome trail coming down, it was a bit of a bitch in the uphill direction.   It was a bunch of work and I am certainly going to hit that trail in the proper direction up on my next visit.   It did not save me any time at all, but getting on some dirt I have not been on before is always good in my book.

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I was feeling whooped at this point and all the undulations were putting some pain in legs as I was still trying to press the pace.

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Just as I rolling back into the camping/staging/playground area parking lot I spotted my first rattlesnake of the year.   It was a baby without even a single rattle yet.    Considering that he was in a area where an encounter with a camper or kid could easily occur I rolled over to the nearby entrance gate where a park ranger was and asked if they relocate them when they find them in this area.   The ranger did confirm they catch and relocate the ones they find in the immediate area.     This was not the ranger’s first rodeo and within a couple of minutes he was over with his snake wrangling gear and soon had the snake moved into container.    In in the next few hours the snake was to have a new home out in the back forty of the park somewhere.     I ended up being just a couple of minutes late for my appointment that evening but felt good about getting in a good ride and doing a good deed.

Black Mountain Shakedown Ride

So I finished building up my  carbon hardtail project and it was time to give it a shake down ride.

I decided to build it up as a geared bike vice a singlespeed.  The frame came from a China company that makes frames for other bike companies including some of the US bike brands.  I have not dug around to figure out what branded frame this is.  I got the frame shipped directly from China for just a little over $300.   I did not go particularly weight weenie on the components and a sizable portion of these came off my Intense Spider, which I stripped down to do some maintenance on it.    

Unbranded Carbon Hardtail frame from Hongfu-Bikes in China
Spinergy Xyclone Disk wheelset 
Intense System 2 .25 tire in rear and WTB 2.4 Muntano on the front  (both with 2.2-2.5 sized tubes)
Fox 100RLC (Pushed) Fork
XT Crankset, Front Derailuer, Shifters and Cassette
XTR Rear Derailuer (Old School) and disc brakes
Thompson Seatpost and Stem
Salsa Seatpost Clamp
Easton Monkeylite XC carbon handlebars
Sette Saddle 
Shimano MD620 SPD Pedals
Ohhh, had to through on the totally unncessary bling bling carbon fiber bottlecage.

So not exactly a full on weight-weenied rig, this bike is 24 lbs dead even.   Time to hit the trail.

One of my kids wanted me to take him and some his buds to the PQ skate park so I opted to hit up Black Mountain while they skated.   Black Mountain has a pretty good mix of enough stuff that would let me get a good feel for this setup.  I started with a climb up the service/fire road and as a expected a 24lb hardtail climbs well.   What I really like was how stiff the bike felt when I got out of the saddle and stomped on the pedals.    At the same time the bike seemed to take the edge off some of the rocky trail chatter.  I have not figured out yet wither there is some vertical compliance going on or wither it is carbon’s vibration damping properties at work I have been hearing about.   Either way the rig is a killer climbing machine that is also pretty comfortable.

On the fireroad climb, I came across this little rattler.   It is mighty late in the year for rattlers to be out, but I’m guessing the record heat earlier in the week had this little guy (about 18″) all confused.   After posing for his closeup, I steered him off the fireroad for his own benefit as you never know what level of dumbassness the next person to come by is going to have.

Back on the climb, things went well, and after a few minor adjustments things the bike was good and dialed.

Once up on top it was a very clear day with downtown San Diego and the Coronado Islands easily seen to the south.

It has been quite a long time since I had ridden over on the East Ridge area so from the peak I headed over that way.   There is a rather steep and rocky descent to get over there and I was quite pleased with how the bike handled through that area.  It is not full-suspension bike but it was precise in its steering and and felt solid when I pressed to play “chess” through some chunk.  There has been some trailwork going out here as well as some new signage.   I was really looking forward to checking out the Nighthawk trail which provides a link between the Miners Ridge Loop and the rest of the trails on the mountain.   After messing around on the east ridge, I grabbed a trail that took me down to Carmel Mountain Road.    After I that I got a chance to test the technical climbing aspects of the bike and the reduced weight certainly helped here.  The weight distribution also seemed to help keep the front end down.   The trails here can get pretty freaking steep so there was some hike-a-bike bits as well.

Once back up onto the East Ridge, I made my way over the Nighthawk trail.  This is a nicely built trail with plenty of rocky character to it.  Once over to Miner’s Ridge Loop, I decided to go clockwise since I could not remember the last time I went that way.    I finished off the dirt action wtih the Lilac Canyon trail and then did a pavement connect up the ball park were I started the ride.   Another good outting on a bike, made even better by playing on a new bike.   Incase you are wondering, this is not a replacement for my stolen 6.6, there is a big squishy bike in the works.