Rolling through the Dog Days of Summer

Man long time no post.  The Dog Days of Summer have seemed to go on forever.  I spent most of the summer either down by the coast or as high up in the mountains as I could get.   La Costa, Lake Calavera, The San Clemente Singletracks and the Laguna Mountains have been the been most of my main riding haunts.

 Pretty Cool Trail

Of course there have been some excursions outside of the local range as well as places not fit for public blabbage.  Here is a Pretty Cool Trail off the beaten path that during the right kind of weather would be within sight of Palm Springs.

Homebase of my employeer is Philadephia and I am part of small contigent of folks who take care of things here on West Side.   Quite a few of my co-workers back in Philly are mountain bikers as well so we when they are out here we try to squeeze in some “Off Site” time with me playing Julie the cruise director.   Here is Jonathan out of the Laguna Mountains lugging around my UZZI.

Some good summer monsoon clouds rolling in.

Rocking a log ride 

I have been up on the Big Laguna Trail more times this summer than I have in quite a few years combined.    Here is Michael Paul riding the big log on the Los Gatos Trail.

From the top of the of Los Gatos trail near Mount Laguna you can get in some awesome views when it is clear out.   In the center of the picture above is downtown San Diego and Point Loma, 49.5 miles away as a crow flys.

Here is a zoomed in shot.  The downtown buildings are in the middle and Point Loma is on the left hand edge of the screen.  For a number of years I worked out at Point Loma and I always marveled at the handful of days in the winter when you could look at downtwon with snow capped mountains as the backdrop.   It was pretty cool to see the view from the opposite direction on this day.

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From another visit, here is my youngest son Jake making a run at the big log on the Los Gatos Trail.

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  This was a successful “One and Done” run for the log ride.  I’m going to have to watch out for this boy.

Big Laguna Meadow Cruise

The weather was pretty freaking awesome this past weekend out in the east end of San Diego County.     It was a wonderful time to head out to the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area for some playing around on the Big Laguna trail.

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While just a few days away from the offical start of summer, there was plenty of green and patches of wildflowers here and there.

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While riding technical stuff and challenging yourself is always fun and exciting sometimes just getting out on a nice sliver of singlerack in some beautiful countryside good for the soul.  Such was the case of on this day.

Tasty Beer from Alpine Beer Company afterwards does not hurt either!

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 Coast-to-Coast Big Laguna Ride

Back in the summer of 2008, while on a business trip to Philadelphia,  JD showed me around one of the local riding spots.  It was good stuff so I was glad to return the favor when my schedule and JD’s line up this past week.   One cool thing about air travel in the westward direction is the time zones work in your favor.  JD took the first flight out of Philly on Monday and was in San Diego just before lunch.    I met him at the airport with an extra bike and we headed east.   Well not directly east.  JD got here before lunch but his luggage decided to catch some brunch back in Philly and catch him at his hotel later.     A quick stop by a local bike shop netted JD a fresh set of SPDs and some shoes before heading out.

The Big Laguna Trail system in the Laguna Mountains Recreation Area was the designated “off-site conference location”.    Sure there are gnarlier bigger rides like the Tour De Noble nearby but this area is super pretty this time of year and we did not have all day. 

 Cruising the ridge off of Red-Tail Roost.   I’m a big fan of Red-Tail Roost followed up by Los Gatos Ravine.

Cruising the north side of the meadow.

 

 Yeah, Work Sucks!   I think we talked enough shop to confidently say we were not playing “hookie”.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

We did a pretty good chunk of trails in the BLT system.  On our final segment back to the truck the afternoon light started to make some of the colors in the meadow pop which made for a nice way to finish off the ride.   That’s the way Monday’s should feel.

BLT Fun with the Grommets

FORWARD:  This is repost of an online post I made in September of 2007 after my boys and I spent a weekend camping in the Laguna Mountains.   I am in the process of updating my page and maps on the area.  While doing this I noticed I did not have this story anywhere on my site.  This post here is designed to “capture” the story within my site.

Me and my boys are in between thier youth hockey seasons right now so we took advantage of one of the free weekends to get in a little camping and riding in the Laguna Mountains. While the biking was not the primary goal for the weekend we had a lot of fun and I am quickly starting to get a couple little dirt addicts on my hands. We got to the Laguna campground late in the afternoon Friday and just did get setup before dark. Saturday morning we took a spin around the Big Laguna Trail.

The BLT is a great place to take kids that are looking for a “big” ride. My youngest Jake was getting a bit bounced around on the uphills with rocks so we stopped and did some sessioning on how to unload the front wheel when going over the stuff. He picked it up really quick and owned the stuff the rest of the morning.

We stopped and messed around with the cows

Hmmm……..cranberry sauce, gravy…..

By 1PM we were out on nearby Lake Cuyamaca fishing. The keyword is Fishing NOT catching.

So it was Chicken for dinner that night. The rest of the evening we spent screwing around with the fire, smores, and flaming balls of marshmellow goo.

The next morning we decided to do the BLT in the other direction this time.

Stopping to check out the Indian Motareos(sp?) (In case your wondering my oldest boy Will gets that from his Mother

Jake’s handiwork with the camera.

And Will messing with the camera around camp.

After the ride, we took our time breaking down camp and where rolling towards home by 1:30pm. It was a great weekend with the boys and if you are ever looking for a good place to take your kids beyond the local parks this place is pretty good in my book.

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? 🙂

Chicken Soup for the MTB Soul

During this past week, I took a “personal day” from work and headed out to the Laguna Mountains for a day on the bike.   I have ridden the Big Laguna Trail (aka “BLT”) lots of times but never really all the stuff at once.  The BLT has always been inconjuction with something else like a camping trip with the boys, the Single Speed Summit, or part of the “Tour De Noble”.   Either way I have done the various part but not all of it at once.  Today I was going to put all the pieces together.  

I left mighty early from home at my usual heading off to work time.   Right off the bat it felt great to make that first left when I usually go right.    The drive was great.   I felt like an enlighted lemmin heading towards a hills, while the rest of the world marched towards the 9-to-5 cliff in their shiny metal boxes. (Yes, I am a Police Fan).   I watched to the sun break over my destination in the distance.  I was enjoying a cup of coffee like I always do in the mornings.   This cup used the same grounds, water and machine as yesterday, but it just seemed to taste better when facing east and away from the city.

When I arrived at the trailhead at the Meadows Information Kiosk east of Big Laguna Meadow, it was a glorious morning with a slight crispness to the air with the smell sound of autumn as a slight breeze rustled through the trees that still head most of thier leaves.   Heading out on the trail it was obvious that I have been slacking on the bike as of late.   I really did not care at this point as I had the whole day  and I was out myself.  This was not to be a training ride, this was about “Just Riding”.  

All throughout the day, I took all the forks in the trails that I normally don’t take.   I went up trails I know are best done the other direction, but hey, I wanted to see what was at the top.    I focused on the all the upper trails to the east- northeast of the meadow to start with before venturing down to the meadow.   I would end making a couple trips down to the meadows just to catch the next spur trail that heads uphill and away from the meadow.

 

I would only see a couple of bikers and a hiker over the course of the day and it was just perfect.   I felt so alive and revived during this ride.   It is funny how therapuetic the sound leaves crackling under your tires and a cool breeze on you face can be.  This ride was an MTB version of a Day Spa and it was just what the doctor ordered.