Cuyamaca Mountains and CRHT Fun

March 26th, 2015 by MTBBill

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

A Return to Golden Eagle

March 17th, 2015 by MTBBill

This weekend I got up at O-damn early and I traveled up to the Los Angeles area to catch up with an old friend.  What better way to catch up on things than during a bike ride.  After swinging by his place we continued northward to spend some time on the Golden Eagle Trail.  What a nice chunk of trail.


The lower portion of the trail was scorched by a wildfire in the last couple of years but the recovery process is well underway. The climb was a good punch to the cardio system.  The two McDonalds sausage biscuits that I had just recently polished off for breakfast and were now sitting like a couple of bricks in my gut also helped with the challenge.  I should know better by now, clearly I’m a slow learner.


Sausage sweats aside, once we got a little further up on Liebre Mountain we cleared the burn area and things got back to how I remembered them.  (Both for my stomach and the trail!) There are some seriously nice ribbons on dirt on this mountain with incredible flow across both grassy hillsides and through forests of oak trees.


Now Bill and I have done many a road trip together over the years and somewhere along the way, Bill got me sucked into the pursuit of tasty bourbons and scotch.  So in addition to enjoying some awesome single track on the mountain we both brought some spirit samples from the home cabinets to share.  I’m pretty sure bourdon taste better outdoors and adds a little something to the flavor of a Clif Bar :-)


After tooling around on the Liebre Mountain ridgelines the descent down the Golden Eagle trail was quite a rip.  It was the awesome kind of situation where all your sensory systems are fully engaged to help produce the required muscle/body action and your brain seems to shift from conscious  controlling to supervising.  That wonderful state of being fully in the moment.  While I did not notice it on the climb,  the fire damage near the bottom had made the usable trail’s usable tread even narrower than normal in spots which required some high speed precision in spots.  It was a great day to be on a bike.

I’ll be tweaking the route description on my page in the coming days to reflect my latest understanding of the place.

Hodges, Black Mountain, Sycamore

March 15th, 2015 by MTBBill

I have hit up several different places over the last week.


I started the week off with meeting some new and old friends for a spin through Sycamore Canyon and then some.  There will be some updates on my site in the coming weeks for this area.  Biggest takeaway for now is to stay east of the watershed running down the middle of the canyon as the Marines are patrolling their land that is on the west side of the seasonal creek.  Instead of parking at the dirt lot near Mast and Medina, park at “Hole in the Fence”.   Google Map   9100-9140 Birchcrest Blvd, Santee, CA 92071 and park near there.  This is a neighborhood so remember to be a good visitor in their hood.  Be quiet and don’t thump your system.   Trail starts through the hole in the fence at the end of Birchcrest.    Exploration is good for the soul!


I have been refreshing my knowledge of the Black Mountain area in preparation for a webpage update and there were a couple of back corner trails that I had not been on in a long time.  So an after work ride was in order here.  I kinda had lost an appreciation for how much climbing you can get in out here.  Often times when I’m researching an area I put together a route that allows me to cover the most trails and trails I have not been on it a while.   This latest research route I did was 14 miles and included 2,900 feet of climbing. No wonder muscles and joints were wanking the next day!


I came across the fellow while out on the trail.  Literally! I came across him.  When I realized that this big fellow was a snake I was way to close to stop and not prepared to bunny hop over him.   Boy was he pissed!

2015-03-14 11.32.52-4TB

Nichol had been out of town for a while so Saturday we took a welcome back cruise on familiar ground out at Lake Hodges.   It was unseasonably warm but as far as I’m concerned there is no time like the present to start getting acclimated to the hot weather.  Ahhh, the kind of problems we have to deal with in San Diego.


Updated Los Penasquitos Page

March 8th, 2015 by MTBBill

It has been long overdue, but I have finally updated my Los Penasquitos page to reflect the current configuration of trails in the area.


Yes, it does include the Tunnels area.   More from a trail inventory perspective than a go ride it endorsement.   Although, if those trails were legal I would highly endorse them.  But it is not legal to ride those single tracks to I won’t endorse riding those really awesome trails.


I also included the miles of mostly shaded single track along Penasquitos Creek.  These are trails that provide a quality outdoor experience that are also off-limits to bikes.    While the best stuff out at Penasquitos is off limits to bikes, there is still plenty of miles of dirt to get yourself in a good workout here.  You can read more about it on the updated page.

New trail goodness at Black Mountain

March 7th, 2015 by MTBBill

I spent a couple of afternoons this past week getting reacquainted with Black Mountain in near Rancho Bernardo.  The Lilac Canyon trail has recently been rerouted and it is way much for the better.


The trail still starts from the Miner’s Ridge Loop trailhead but now instead of steeply descending down to Carmel Valley Road it down contours along the north slope of Black Mountain around to the glider port.


Shortly before the trail reaches the glider port a single track forks off to the north and pass under Carmel Valley Road.  This is another nice section of singletrack that works its way around to the north side of the Black Mountain Ranch Park (baseball fields).   This provides a direct connection to the Santa Luz/Larsardi Creek Loop.   This is a really nice trail connection that I’m stoked about.     I’ll be updating my site soon with new data on the trail.


I had kinda lost my appreciation for just how much climbing there is at Black Mountain.    The first ride out here I did about 17 miles and 2,500 miles and on the second ride I did 16.75 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing.


It seems mighty early for the rattlers to be out and about already but this fellow above was the third rattler I have seen this year.   I came around a turn and I was at that distance where I had to decide wither to bunny hop the snake or throw out the anchor.   I chose to throw out the anchor and ended up pulling off a totally awesome nose wheelie stop that I’m positive I could not pull off again if I tried.


The Miner’s Ridge Loop is in fantastic shape right now with the rain we had the previous week.   If you have not been out here in a while you should go check it out while the greenery of spring is in full effect.

Feels like spring at Penasquitos!

February 21st, 2015 by MTBBill

With all of the destruction that has happened in the Penasquitos Canyon area over the last decade due to land development coupled with the various land management agencies waking up with from decades of management slumber the whole area is kind of a land management circus show.   The only groups that are making out in this deal are the developers and the folks making a living off protecting Fairy Shrimp (I’m still looking for a good recipe BTW)


My Los Penasquitos Canyon page has been absurdly out of date ever since the development started.    I have decided to finally update the page so I have been riding out here as of late to refresh my GPS data and try to figure out the best legal way to ride out in this area that is not completely mudane and boring.    It is fairly tough as the mountain bikers have very little in the way of legal quality trails.  It seems the only things that are not endangered out here are no biking signs.   (Just for the record that trail in the picture above is not single track, it is more like a baby stroller trail, ATV trail, etc…)   You can get in some good riding with a quality outdoor experience but you are going to have illegally share with the hikers and the equestrians and blow by closed signs.


The Camino Ruiz trail is the nearly lone exception to legal boredom of highway wide fire roads in the canyon offered to mountain bikers.  This  is a nice chunk of single track.


Ok, ranting aside, the  warm weather streak we have been having in February has both plants and critters getting confused.   Flower are blooming and the everything is nice and green.


Chasing the sun greenery


It is pretty early for the snakes to be coming out already.   This is a rather healthy looking whip snake.


It was in evening time so he was mighty sluggish and very easy to handle.   He seemed more than happy to leech some heat off of me before getting anxious to head off.


Last weekend at the San Clemente Singletracks I saw my first rattlesnake of the season but he was uncooperative for the camera.  I saw my second rattler of the year at Penasquitos Canyon this week and this fella was more amiable to getting his picture taken.   The guys are going to be sucking when the weather shifts back to typical temperatures soon.


Daley Ranch after work rides

February 7th, 2015 by MTBBill


So Nichol has been looking way too comfortable riding around Lake Hodges as of late so it was time bring on something a little more challenging for the after work rides.


Nichol meet Daley Ranch.  Just for the record the top section of the East Ridge Trail was the only time she hike-a-biked any section of the first ride out here.  I have a feeling it is just a matter of time before I’m chasing her up the hills.


We were chasing daylight on our first outing so we did Creek Crossing to Sage to the Jack Meadow Loop.  After the loop we took the East Ridge trail back to the Creek Crossing trail and back the trailhead.  It was only 9 miles and change but was more elevation change than the 18 mile loop we last did at Lake Hodges.


Our second after-work ride at Daley this week started out the same but at the top of the Jack Meadow Loop we took the Hidden Springs trail (aka “The Wall”) up onto the western ridge where we rode the Engelman Oak and the Cougar Ridge trails (fire roads) over the Crest trail.  The trail is holding pretty well considering that we have been way short on rain for a long time.    After the Crest trail we took the ranch access road back to the trail.    This was only a mile longer than the previous outing but added about 500 feet of additional climbing.      This is a good time of year to be riding out here with mild temps and greenery all around.

XP-10 Jump Starter Review

January 28th, 2015 by MTBBill

I’m planning on doing some solo adventures in the not so distant future and while I believe I have the being sufficient aspects of mountain biking out on the trail figured out, I assessed that I needed to shore up my solo base-camping and exploring with my truck self sufficiency a bit.  I always carry a set of jumper cables in my truck which are great if there is another vehicle around but what do you do if you are out in the middle of nowhere and your battery goes dead?  Luckily it has not happened to me yet but I have had a couple of scares.    The Rainbow Rim Trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for examples qualifies as an out in the middle of nowhere ride.   You lose cell coverage at least 20 miles before you get to the trailhead and you could be waiting a day plus for someone else to come along if you are out there in the middle of the at certain times of the year.  I wanted a way to jump start my truck should the battery go dead without having to resort to install a second battery and isolator system in the truck.  I also did not want something that was bulky or weighed a ton. Additionally, I wanted a method to recharge my various gadgets I would have around the truck base-camp (laptop for futzing with photos, DSLR and GoPro Batteries, etc…)


So after a bunch of research and gawking with various offering I bought the Micro-Start XP-10 Jump Starter/Personal Power Supply from Antigravity Batteries. I have had it now for a few months and the XP-10 fits the bill for my needs and then some.   The Lithium-Ion Jump Starter/Battery Pack is quite small for the power it provides.  Its 9″ by 3.2″ by 1.2″ and weighs just 1 lb. 2 oz.   It comes in a simulated leather carrying case with an assortment of plug in and out cables.  It regards to its primary purpose of jumpstarting my truck, it has that covered in spades.

The Smart Clamp Jumper Cables


It comes with a diminutive set of battery clamp cables (14.5″ Long) that plug into a specific port on the end of the battery.    Antigravity calls them “Smart Clamps” since they check for things like reverse polarity and how bad off the battery is discharged.   To use just hook up the clamps to your car battery, plug the clamps into the XP-10 battery and turn it on, if you get a green light on the clamp, hop in your vehicle and start it up.  The XP-10 provides 300 starting amps with a peak current of up to 600amps!  The directions tell you to disconnect the battery clamps within 30 seconds of starting your vehicle.    I have disconnected my truck battery completely and this thing was able to start my truck.  I did this several times and the battery still showed a full charge.  There are videos of folks starting six and eight cylinder trucks dozens of times on a single charge.


Now for the personal power supply features. The unit has two USB Outputs that can provide 2A and 1A of charging current for whatever USB devices you may have.  At the same end of the battery as the USB ports is the connection for the battery clamps (normally behind a rubber cover) and a LED flashlight that has High, Low, Strobe and SOS modes. The company’s website list the battery as 18,000mA capacity and the back of the case list it as 66.6WH which I’m not sure how many smart phone recharges that will get you but a lot seems be in the right ballpark. More importantly the amperage it can provide is impressive.  The literature does not give a lumens value for the “Hi-Power” LED flashlight.   The beam on the light is more a flood than spot.   Comparing to some of my other flashlights I would guess this is around a 100-130 lumen light.   While the light can be handy it is was not one of my needs when looking for a jumper starter.


The kit includes a short 4 way USB cable that has iPhone lighting and 30-pin plugs along with USB mini and micro plugs.


On the side of the unit are 5 LEDs that give an indication of the unit’s charge level.  The power of the battery is such that I can use the battery for other things and still be confident that it could start my truck as long as I have 3 LEDS left.  The single button that operates the unit is located on this side as well.  Once turned on, the unit can detect if the devices are not drawing any power and will automatically shut itself off.   One of the outputs its provides is a 12V 10A circuit that can be used for a wide array items.  The kit does not include a female cigarette socket to the 5.1mm DC plug cable which would be quite handy.  This was not a deal breaker for me as you can get it for about $11 on the companies website.  But in my case I had one already from another piece of gear.


An additionally output is a 19V circuit that can handle up to 3.5A.   The majority of laptop makers in the world seem to have settled on 19 volts as the charging voltage for their devices.   The kit includes a small DC plug jumper (5.1 mm that fits both the 12V and 19V ports) and 8 adaptors that fit the majority of the laptop manufacturer’s offerings.   Note for you Apple folks, the MacBook Pro and Air laptops use different voltages (16.5V or 14.5 based on various models and years) so making a custom adaptor is not a simple task for your equipment.


Charging the XP-10 is as simple as using the provided AC-DC charging adaptor or the 12V cigarette plug adaptor. The XP-10 also has built in overcharge as well as over-discharge protection circuitry.  Amongst the other devices of this genre, the overcharge protection and the ability to be charged from a vehicle (12-14V) were huge selling points for me.    Some of the other units could not be charged from a cigarette lighter port or did not have overcharge protection.  The ability to charge the unit in this manner allows me to use this battery around camp and I can recharge it from the truck while driving to the next location.   Additionally I have a portable/backpacking solar panel (which I’m going to review later) that can output the correct voltage to charge this battery as well.   This means I can let the sun charge up the battery over the course of the day while I’m out playing on the trails and not worry about it being overcharged (which can damage batteries).  I can then use this battery to recharge my toys back at camp without having to be concerned about draining down the batteries in my truck.

I don’t have fancy official testing stuff like graphs of voltage/amperage over time stuff.   Here are some practical things I have done with battery pack.  All of the following was done on single charge.   I disconnected my Toyota Tacoma’s (4.0L V6 Engine) battery from the truck and started the truck three times.  Yes, this battery pack  jump started my truck three times with no battery in the truck whatsoever.   The following day I recharged a coworkers Blackberry from 5% to 70%.  Later that day I recharged another Blackberry from 8% back to 100%.   During this time the charge level on the XP-10 battery went from 5 lights (which I assume to be mean 80 to 100% full) down to four.  The following day I recharged my ASUS Zenbook Laptop (quad-core i7 Intel processor) from 11% back up to 96% (while I continued to use it) before the XP-10 shutdown as it was discharged.

I’m pretty freaking impressed with this gadget.  The MSRP is $209.99 and I paid around $150 for my unit.  I consider it well worth the investment for the versatility and piece of mind it provides.


Chasing the Sun at Lake Hodges

January 25th, 2015 by MTBBill

I have been hitting up Lake Hodges as the after-work ride as of late.   It is right on the way home at it only take a handful minutes to be out on the trail after getting off the freeway.


Here is Nichol working a log ride.


Critters seen along the trail.


Views from the trail behind and above the boat launch.


A mechanical on the Tuesday ride turned me into a reluctant single speeder.   Of course it happened right after the apex of the ride.


So I have not dusted my night-time riding gear in quite sometime.  As an after-work ride in January chasing the sun is always part of the equation.   The sunsets have been pretty awesome as of late so “losing” the race with the sun is its own reward.


Greenery at SCST

January 19th, 2015 by MTBBill

I spent an afternoon this weekend showing Nichol around the San Clemente Singletracks (aka San Onfre State Park aka “The Weed Patch).  The trails are in great conditions and the winter greenery is in full effect.


It is really awesome that the state park legalized the majority of the user-built trail network out here but I always find the “Cultural” names they gave the trails funny.  (And nearly unpronounceable to boot).  The Pacific Ocean is off in the distance here along with the Oregon and Ho Chi-Min trails.


Climbing “Stitches” which I think the park calls “Yuma’ukawichum Pompe”.  No matter what you call it, it is a nice bit of trail.


Cruising “No-Tools”.  This trail got its name because no tools were used in its original construction.  Folks just rode the route enough that a trail bedded in.  Off in the distance in Santiago Peak and the San Ana Mountains that are home many a trail such as.  Trabuco and Holy Jim, the San Juan Trail and West Horse Thief  just name a few.


Nichol working a turn on “Holeshot”.  It is really hard to ride all of the trails in a single visit as you would have to double up on a few loops to reach all the trails .  I estimate you would do nearly 30 miles with a healthy dose of elevation change.


We only a did fraction of the trail system, but certainly earned post-ride beers and a stop by one of my favorite burger stops in the area, aptly named Burger Stop.    We are definitely going to get back here a few times over the winter just to enjoy all of the greenery on these excellent trails.