Okay it has been quite a few moons since I last rode the San Juan Trail. This past Monday I made a return trip. The trail is the trail over course but I was a little taken back by the condition of those bottom 10 switchbacks that you open up with.
Those switchbacks have always had thier troubles with errosion and they were pprobably the more maintenance intensive bits. That being said these switchbacks have damn near been replaced with lollipop turns. Here is an older picture of that section.
Take a look at the switchbacks now.
They are all rounded out. WTF? People were making those turns on downright arcane MTB rigs. With all of the modern bike tech that is out there right now why is this happening?
I have my theories. Most of them involve some type of rider/tech with “tard” or “hole” added to the end of it.
After mentally grumbling about how much easier and less rewarding these switchbacks now are to clean I realized another fact. This trail still goes freaking uphill. Its good stuff. This was my first “epic” trail and still a classic in my book.
I did not do the lollipop on this day. I was plenty fine with heading back down after chillaxing at Cocktail Rock for a bit.
The descent rocked
I needed to pedal off so Christmas cookies calories so Dave and I headed up to the San Juan Trail to get in some climbing. I’m pretty sure there are some Thanksgiving Turkey, Halloween Candy, San Diego Beer Week and Octoberfest calories to be dealt with as well
It was a bit cool at the trailhead but just a few switchbacks up the trail it was quite comfortable. The day turned out of to be simply awesome with warm sun and superbly clear skies. San Clemente and Catalina Islands were easily seen. The further up we climbed the more impressive the views became.
I have been spending most of my riding time lately on my XC hardtail so taking out the my long-legged UZZI with it additional weight and heft on this ride was quite a bit more work on the climb. I was quite happy to see cocktail rock when we got there.
We did the traditional loop at the top in the counter-clockwise direction. I had not forgotten how fun this trail can be but I had been away from it just long enough for each to turn had a bit of “Oh I remember you” excitement to it.
The main descent back to the trailhead was a rip roaring hoot. I have ridden this trail in what I would call perfect conditions before where the dirt could be best described as “Hero Dirt”. That was not the case on this day, I would call it “Normal” which was also great. It was the kind of dirt where you could easily overdue it in the turns and ending up loosing control. But if you paid attention you could hear your tires and the dirt telling you when you were approaching the limits of traction. I had big stupid grin on my face every time I was able to make the tires and dirt sing to me in the turns as my long-legged bike was shining in gravity direction it is optimized for. We polished off a great day of riding with some tasty burritos in San Juan Capistrano before heading back to casas.
Sunday was a return to the San Juan Trail at the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains. The weather was in the typical range of So-Cal Awesomeness.
The climb up from the bottom went well. There was a really stiff wind that sometime gusted to what I would guess would be 25-30 mph. On several occasions I had to put a foot down to keep from being blown off the trail. Luckily, the trail weaved around sidehills enough that there was lots of wind breaks.
The views were pretty impressive from up at Cocktail Rock. On this ride I decide to continue on the New San Juan Trail were I enjoyed technical sections and fun swoopy stuff in the trees.
I took a bit of breather near the junction with the Viejo Tie Trail before continuing on to the Old San Juan Trail. I got the oppurtunity earn some Karma points by helping out a guy change a flat how had forgotten his pump and tire irons. After that I enjoyed the descent and cruise down through the meadow along the Old San Juan Trail. The climb back up to Cocktail Rock was just as much of a beater as I remember, but it was nice in that I had not done this segment in some number of years. I ran to a MTB Bud (aka Mushroom Dave) there and we chit-chatted a bit before it was time for the fun 6 mile descent back to the trailhead.
The descent was quite awesome, with one 2 second exception. While I kept looking ahead down the trail other riders on thier way, I got suprised by another rider just past the apex of a blind turn. The loose decomposed granite in the turn and my hard breaking do not mix too well together and the bike slide out from under me. Another thing that did not mix to well was my knee and the decomposed granite which resulted in a minor fleshwound (make sure to use your best Monty Python impressionation while saying it). It cleaned up quite well but pretty ugly at first. Luckily I did not hit the dude or his bike as that could have made things much worse.
A litte bloodshed aside, it was an awesome day to be out on a bike.
What a great way to start off the new year with some dirt I have never been on. It has been on the list for quite a few years but I had never gotten around to get getting on it. From what I have been told we hit the trail when it was in the best condition in years. This trail is not for everyone, ummmm it would probably not be a stretch to say this trail is not for most riders. It has a grunch of hike-a-biking and some steep and often hairy descents. I’ll be getting a page up on the site before long on this one. For now here are some pics.
Rodman with some earlier “Just a Warmup” Hike-A-Bike.
The views did not suck all day.
Some of the mild Downage.
Where is Waldo on this brutal Hike-A-Bike Section?
Here’s a hint.
Mark on one of the ridable climbs. We were on the peak in the distance earlier.
More trail goodness.
Pretty much all the Hike-A-Bikage is done now. The San Juan Trail works it way along the face of the Sugarloaf peak in the distance.
Some techie bit near the bottom.
All in All, I would have to say we brought in the Newt Year in right!
I woke up really tired this morning and was not really feeling a desire to ride. I knew I needed to ride, but I just did not feel too interested to get going. Over the last four days I had not been sleeping well and I spent most of yesterday at the hockey rink as it was opening and both of my boys played games. So after setting on the couch for a while flip-flopping on wither to go back to bed or not, I decided to go for a ride “anyway”.
The San Juan trail was the trail of choice today and it was to be a solo effort. As luck would have I ran it Mike and Larry who I had not ridden with in a couple of years. I would tag along with them for the whole day. It was quite comfortable at the lower trail which I knew from experience meant it was going to get hot today. I had my logged legged bike so I was going to be mostly a spinning effort up the trail.
On the climb up, Mike’s rear shifter went on the fritz keeping the bike in the 11 tooth cog in the back. This is not exactly a gear you want to try pushing up San Juan. Mike had a bit of thin rope in his pack so after a bit of MacGyver action when had in a gear the would be manageable.
I have always been slow to adapt to the heat so the 80+ temps and my fatigue were catching up with me near the top, so after reaching Cocktail Rock, I decided to just head back down from there. Mike and Larry decided to come down from there as well. The extra effort required to get the bigger bike up the hill paid off with a very cushy and zippy descent back down.
Awesomely Beautiful Day
I ended up running to folks I had met a few weeks earlier out on a ride, and then further down the trail I ran into one of my frequent riding buds on his way up the trail. After a few minutes of chit-chat he was back to climbing and I was back to having a ripping good time down the hill.
Larry on descent
Mike on the way down.
Once down at the bottom, Mike whipped out a cooler with some Deschutes Brewing Company’s Mirror Pond Ale. Yummy!! So this solo ride that almost did not happen turned out to be a really good social event