It had been many moons since I was last rolling through Whiting Ranch. It along with Santiago Truck Trail and the Luge were some of the first “out of town” MTB rides I did when I was first getting in to modern mountain biking back in “The Day”. After doing the big Harding Truck Trail Loop last month I found some new interest in revisiting this trail system.
Whiting Ranch is really a bit too small on its own for my taste for having to drive up from San Diego. Doing it as a loop with the Santiago Truck Trail and the Luge brings it up to a sizable enough ride for the drive.
Since I was last out here the lower portion of the Santiago Truck Trail was graded for some wildland fire management purposes so it was not as near-single track as it used to be. It was still and enjoyable climb up to the top of the Luge.
I had recently done The Luge so I had some familiarity with it on todays run. After a zippy descent it roll down to Cooks Corner and then hooked back into Whiting Ranch to finish off the loop.
I was shooting some video today as well so I will try to get that put together as some point.
You have to pay to play with this loop. 4,711ft of elevation in just under 26 miles will have your legs feeling it on the climbs and your grinning muscles feeling on the descent. You will probably stress some pucker muscles here and there as well. This route has you climbing Harding Truck Trail up to Main Divide and then down Joplin following back hooking up with the Santiago Truck Trail and the Luge.
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.
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.
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.
This past Sunday I headed up to the OC to get in some riding in the Santa Ana Mountains. The adventure of the day was going to be the Trabuco – Holy Jim which combines two really nice trails that are both great descents. The problem is you have to climb one of them. It has been quite a few moons since I had done this loop but I did remember that I climbed Holy Jim and descended Trabuco when I last did it. It only seemed right to give it a go in the opposite direction this time. It wias brisk and breezy when we started off on this lollipop shaped route. Instead of driving up the five mile dirt road to the trailhead we decided to ride it on the bikes on this gradual uphill as a warm up. We were only a mile or so up the road when the wind really started howling as the canyon narrowed and funneled the wind right into our faces. The weather reports later showed that the gusts were upwards of 50mph which I wholeheartedly believe was the case. There were a couple of times when I was hunched over the handlebars and grinding on the pedals and feeling like I was going backwards. We could not help but laugh as it was just so brutal.
Things got better once we got further up the road where the oak trees difused the gusts just enough to take the edge off. The Holy Jim and Trabuco trails share the same lower trailhead at the end of the dirt road which marks the start of the loop part of this lollipop ride. The climb up Trabuco is not a dainty one as you around 2,8000 feet or so over 5 miles and some change. Additionally the trails is often rocky puts a little extra bit of tax on the legs. While we were mostly sheltered somewhat from the wind we would often got whipped around by wind gusts finding there way here and there through the canyon.
About 3/4ths of the way up we started to encounter some small patches of snow which is just down right cool here in Southern California. I like going out to visit snow vice living somewhere where the snow just likes to come over a visit for a while (or months).
As we neared the top Trabuco Canyon we could hear the wind just ripping through the tops of the trees and howling over the nearby ridge tops. While knocking back some snacks at the top of the Trabuco trail which is also the junction of the Los Pinos Trail along the Main Divide Truck trail we ran into several groups of riders. A couple of guys were doing an out and back on Trabuco while another few were doing the Holy Jim – Trabuco version of the loop. The guys coming from Holy Jim talked about snow and ice on one of the passes we would be descending. We had some minor debate about which direction of the loop was worse for climbing on Main Divide Truck Trail. The consenus was that it was uphill in both directions with only minor nuances to be noticed in the “Suck” catergory.
We soon headed off on Main Divide which included a bit of downhill fireroad action. While we did get some wind breaks here and there we were often pummeled by a hella cross wind. It was probably 50 degrees at this elevation with 40 mph gusts. Tacking on another 25-30mph worth of self-imposed wind chill was enough to subdue the usual hooting and woohooing when ripping down the exposed fireroad sections. The views along Main Pain Divide were impressive with the mountains of San Gorgonio, San Jincinto, and San Antonio seen to the west and north.
The Pacific Ocean along with San Clemente and Catalina Islands we easily seen to the west.
These views were not cheap on this day. The Main Divide Truck Trail’s nickname of “Pain Divide” was certainly fitting today. There were quite a few spots were the false summits mentally beat on you just as much as the grade hammered at quads and lungs. The icy descent we were warned about turned out to be no where near as a big of a deal going downhill as it must have been going uphill. There were a couple of exciting moments when the ice, my tires and my brain had to come to an agreement on our direction of travel vice the intended direction of travel.
It is very rare that I would ever find myself cussing on a downhill, but on the final big downhill I was doing just that as I knew I would just have to start regaining nearly all of this elevation within a minute or two. On the final climb the wind was just insanely blowing to the point that it sounded like a jet engine. The cool thing was that the way the truck trail was cut into the side of the mountain we were nearly perfectly shielded from wind even though it was just a few feet above your head. That section of the climb was quite surreal.
Once we topped out on that climb it was mostly a traverse or slight descent over to the top of the Holy Jim Trail. The Holy Jim trail certainly delivered the goods and it was well worth the effort and pain to get over to it. The sweet flowing narrow singletrack was just awesome and the many sections where you are just flying through a vegitation tunnel did wonders to leave burning quads and wheezing lungs way far behind. The gravity gods where smiling upon after our sizable offering we had given to them on this day. When we got back to the trailhead and started down the dirt road back to the truck we had a monster tailwind on a gradual downhill. We zipped by numerous vehicles tip-toeing down the road while we flew over bumps, mudholes and wheelied through the creek crosings. We had already cracked open the first post-ride beer before the first truck caught up with us. We did around 26.5 miles with about 4,300 feet of climbing for the day which made the tasty post-ride beverages taste even better. Good Times!
So after getting back from Japan on Monday, I got in some quality time with my youngest son Jake on Tuesday and Wednesday. The boy has been growing like a weed and was in need of resizing/refreshing some of his hockey gear. HockeyGiant.com has a large store in Anaheim so a shopping outing was added to the day’s to-do list. The San Clemente Single Tracks (aka “The Weedpatch”) was right along the way so a pit stop in order. There a couple of ways to get into the area and we parked off of Cristianitos Road. This is real popular place for the local surfers hitting up Trestles to park so we looked like the odd men out without a surfboard in tow when we headed out.
We had not started out our morning planning on going for a ride so I had made the breakfast equivalent of a extra large all-meat pizza comprised of eggs, toasts, grits (the real all-natural stone ground stuff) and copious amounts of thick-cut applewood smoked bacon. (Just for the record, all-meat pizza itself a breakfast food group!) While breakfast had been mighty tasty we were still pretty stuffed when we started pedaling. Jake had kicked my ass on the climbs during our last outing but that was not the case today. My youngest buck soon learned that one of the skill sets that Dad honed while obtaining his official old guy qualifications was the ability climb hills with a belly full of bacon.
One nice thing about this area is that even when you are climbing there are plenty undulations here and there that break most of the climbs up. Bacon burps on the climbs and smiles on the descents was the theme on this outing. I always enjoy all the flowing swooping goodness out in this area. The trails conditions were also good out today. My favorite time out here is in the spring when everthing is green but there was nothing to complain about with it today.
We did about a 15 miles of trails out here before loading up the bikes and continuing on up to Anaheim to beat up on Dad’s wallet at the hockey store. Another good day out a bike made even better by spending it with one of my boys.
Bill O’Neil and I met for a cruise through Aliso and Wood Canyon Park in Laguna Hills of Orange County today. My last ride out here was cut short due to a mechnical so today was really my first time seeing the majority of the trails in some number of years. I found it amazingly depressing how bad some of the trails have been widened with go-arounds that seemed to be at nearly every minor obstacle. The Cholla trail for example is just a complete mess compared to a handful of years ago. I wish people could just check their ego and get off and walk the stuff they can’t ride instead of making or taking the go-arounds. (I know preaching to the choir here)
Here is a shot at the top of the Rock-It trail. Plenty of go-arounds here as well. This was a mighty fun descent (following the original lines). Once down Rock-It we worked our way over to Mathis. My memory of the steepness and length of this climb has been dulled over the years. It was quite vividly refreshed today as it took quite a bit of gruntage to get my Intense UZZI up this climb.
Once up to the top of Mathis we continued up along the ridge fireroad to “Top of the World” This was a good place to take a breather and enjoy the views of the Pacifc and Laguna Beach. From here we went back down to Mathis and picked up the “Car Wreck” trail.
This was my first time on this trail and it was quite a bit of fun. I managed to not get any pictures taken of the technical bits. The picture above is just after all of the technical bits along with the namesake remains of an old vehicle. This trail feeds right into the Oak Grove Trail. A pretty section of trail.
The next trail we hit up was the Dripping Cave trail. There were some nice tree lined bits as well as some short grunt working climbing in the direction we were going.
We farted around a bit at the at actual dripping cave
Some of it was just downright photo posing. It was right about this time we thought we heard the sound of tiny bubbles trying to escape from finely crafted brown glass bottled far off in the distance. We set out to investigate the sound and found the offending bubbles (in my truck). Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA and Mission Brewing’s Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout were tasty accompaniments to post-ride chit-chat. Another NON-Bad day to be on a bike.
Last weekend I decided to roll up to Orange County and hit up the San Juan Trail which I have done in quite some time. It weather called for cloudy but I figured it might be different once I got away for the coast. It was a bit misty as I traveled up I-5 before turning inland on HWY 74. The misting stopped but it was indeed cloudy all the way to the trail head. After getting all the bike and clothes bits all setup I started up the six mile climb to the first decision point “Cocktail Rock”.
As I climbed I could see a soupy cloud layer in the mountains up and ahead of me. I knew that I would get some cloud riding but I wondered the ceiling of the cloud bank was going to be as riding above that clouds can be pretty awesome. As I worked my way up the trail the clouds got closer and closer.
I did not start this ride at the ass crack of dawn by a long shot (think leisurely brunch time roll out) so as expected and meet a handful of folks on their way down that mentioned that it was clear up top. As I continued my climb I soon entered the clouds and visibility go down to around 50-100 feet which was kinda cool to be riding through. Moisture in the air was collecting up on my arm hairs giving me what looked like a water droplet sweater. By the time I got up to cocktail rock the clouds had moved up higher in the mountains so there was not sunshine to be had for me at the top.
From Cocktail Rock I decided the “Lollipop” at the top which is comprised of the Old San Trail and the current or “new” San Juan trail. There are merits to doing the loop in either direction on this day I decided to do the counter-clockwise direction. The clouds settled in amongst the old groves along this route made for a ride that a very ethereal feel to it. The cloud riding continued for the remainder the loop as well as most of the descent of back down from Cocktail Rock. By the time I finished the loop I was quite ready for six mile return to the trail that was all downhill except for one “bump” near the top.
As I neared the bottom of trail the sun even decided to make an appearance which was a nice way to finish off the ride.