Updated GPS and TOPOs How-To Page

Well long overdue, I finally got around to updating my GPS and TOPO Information Page to reflect what I’m actually doing when preparing maps, and moving GPS data around.  While I’m sure some of the information will seem convoluted, it is what has been working for me.   I have included some information and links about some various freeware applications and data that can make your outdoor life with a GPS as little easier and cheaper.

Before you go digging into the geekery, remember GPS units are great as they help us keep track of where we are going and give many of us the confidence to venture out into areas we would otherwise never go without a guide. I am no fan of folks who will blindly upload a track into thier GPS, strap it to the handlebar and go follow the arrows on the screen. We all need to remember that we are only one set of dead batteries or a crash away from not having that gadget available to us. It is not a matter of if, but rather when and where it is going to fail.

Will you know what “point” you are at when that occurs? A compass, map and some orienteering skills will serve you well at that point.

Now go get lost! (It is a lot of fun)

Two Peaks and Two Canyons

For the mid-week ride this week, it ended up being a doozie.   The plan was to met up with some folks for a ride through Spring and Oak Canyon at 5pm.  I was able to finish off the day’s work early and figured I had enough time to get some mileage before the scheduled ride.

I parked at the trailhead for the Spring and Oak Canyon ride (Bushy Hills at MTRP campground) and did some street riding over to the Mesa singletrack for a climb up Cowles Mountain.    It was a beater as usual but love trying to clear the waterbars at their highest points but by the time I got up to the fireroad I was contend to get up the trails.     The fireroad up to the top was as always brutal.

At the top of Cowles I was still looking really good on time so I decided to do the out and back to Pyles Peak.   Plenty of waterbars here as well which made the down section pretty fun.

I was at the turnaround spot on Pyles Peak before I knew it and it was time for return climb back up to Cowles.   I was still feeling pretty good when I got back to the summit and was all smiles on the way down the Big Rock trail.    I got back to the campground just a couple of minutes before the first person showed up for the 5 pm ride.   I could have been happy with a beer and some dinner at this point, but yeah I already said I was going to do the ride.  

Spring and Oak Canyon was a good ride, but I had to dig into the energy reserves pretty deep to stay on pace with the fresh legged crew.    I was good and pooped when we finished up and shortly thereafter we made our way over to the MTRP visitor center for the monthly SDMBA advocacy meeting.   I slept well that night.

Playing in the Big Bear Back Country

Sunday I ventured up to the Big Bear area with Bill O’Neil for a bit of back country goodness.    The person who first turned me onto this route asked that I not give out the names so I’m honoring that.   Other than having to spend some quality time with the topographic maps there is no reason why you can’t go out and discover this ride for yourself.

We would ride/hike a series of trails over several peaks with some fantastic views.   I had worn my SIDI biking shoes which was not the best choice for the adventure today.   I have a couple sets of MTB shoes that have more rubber in the sole which would be much more hike-a-bike friendly than todays selection.

The terrain in this area is fairly energy sapping.   Squared off rocks that slip and slide underneath your wheels makes for interesting descents where finesse of the controls and the nerve to let the bike make it’s own small line adjustments are a must to keep the rubber side down.   This stuff also puts a little extra calf burn on you in the hike-a-bike sections.  We did plenty of  this in the higher elevations.  Along one of these section I was surprised to see both a solo rider as well as two other riders (Actually at that time they were hike-a-bikers) later on.  It was the first time in 3 years that I have seen anyone other than some hikers and the a couple of mounted forest service rangers.   

For me the long stretches of hike-a-bike were well worth it for the views and the techy descents.

Of course what goes up must come down.   We eventually did a bit of road interconnect  before hopping onto a classic Southern California trail. 

We took a break at a campground near the final trailhead to refill our Camelbaks and to grab some snacks.   The campground was closed for maintenance but the water was still on so we chilled at one of the campsite benches.  Within minutes of our arrival the little guy who runs campsite #1 came over, introduced himself and attempted to persuade us to kick him a little something for looking after the place.

Now, I know your not supposed to feed these guys but he was certainly a veteran of the campground gig.  Not to mention he was so damn cute!

The final trail was in pretty good shape and it was a blast as always.  The creeks were flowing well and the one pictured above got me pretty good.  I picked a bad line through the creek and found the deepest part of the crossing and a sizable rock.  Combined with my less that stellar effort I executed an endo to a perfect 5-point landing in the creek.    That was Brisk Baby!   There were no other unplanned dismounts for the rest of the ride and by the end of the day we had put in about 28 miles and a lot of smiles.

Springtime Local Stuff

With my current work schedule  as well as both of my boys playing hockey  I have been staying pretty busy.    This has forced me to spend more time hitting my local stuff than spending the time to get to farther away trails.   As such I have found a revived bit of stoke for the stuff right on my way home and nearly right out my front door.    This is not so much as a ride report as some random pictures from some various bits of the local goods.

Stopping to smell the flowers at Daley Ranch.  This place is always a good place to get your butt back in shape and about 15 minutes from Casa Del Bill.

La Costa is about a five minute drive from my house and while a fairly small area it can be connected with other areas for 50 plus miles of nearly all dirt riding.  For the last few years La Costa has been the starting point of the Archipelago Ride.

Calvera Lake is less than two mile from my house so it is pretty nice to roll right from the garage.    It is a pretty time of year there as things are still green. 

Tom is checking out one of the Calvera locals.

This local was down for a closeup. 

Los Penasquitos Canyon is right on my home so it gotten back onto the mid-week schedule.    I finally got a chance to check out the Cam Ru trail.   I must say this a pretty cool trail.  It is great to see that San Deigo County Parks and Recreation department can create a real trail when they want to.  

The flowers have been blooming for some time now in the canyon.  I felt pretty lucky to have this hummingbird nearly fly in front of  camera.


Deer are often a spectator of your efforts if you are chasing daylight.   I have seen a bobcat in the canyon as well but he did not let me get my camera to eye before slipping into the brush.

It has been nice to remind myself that you don’t have to travel far to get in some ride stoke in this part of SoCal.

MIA Status

So man, long time no post for me. Truth be told, I have been enjoying other pursuits as of late. After spending plenty of time traveling and riding over the summer I have found life at home in the “slow” lane really freaking fun. I have been on the bike a bit, but first a little catchup.


The family (and a couple of friends) played hookie one day and enjoyed some mid-week fun at Knoxberry Farm. No lines was pretty freaking awesome.


Over Thanksgiving, we kicked up some dust in my Brother-In-Law’s yard with the go-carts.


Then there has been the weekly hockey practices and games. If it is not Jake on the ice at the Escondido Iceoplex,


It is Will at Tricity Inline rink. Always good times.

Early this week, a few friends and I did a little riding east of the Laguna Mountains. This is an area that I have not done much riding in so it was cool to check out some new stuff. Kitchen Creek, Fred Canyon, and Thing Valley were all on the menu.


It was not too long into our uphill exploration that some of the white stuff made an appearance. While just in the shadows at first, by the time we got up into the Lagunas proper there was more snow that not on the trails.


It is always a treat to get snow on your tires here in Southen California. Today’s dosage was just right, while enough to be a bit burdensome in spots it was for the most part  fun to hear the crunch under your wheels.


After bit of play up top we worked our way back down to lower elevations and a welcomed bit of warmth.  There looks to be some good scenic loops that can be put together out here. I have to go back a time or two to get everything figured out. One thing is for certain, I had a pretty cool time out there on the bike.

Back to Hitting the Local Stuff

I got back from Japan a couple of weeks ago and have been taking it easy for the most.  Enjoying the “normal” things in my life like the kid’s hockey games, practice, honey-dos, etc…. Oh, and I managed to break my FN left big toe just strolling through the house.    So not much in the way of blogging about mountain biking.  But I been squeaking in some ride here here and there.

Before the toe breakage, I met up with one of the usual suspects at one of the usual suspect spots for some playtime on the rocks.   After not riding here for over six months, the rocks and all the moves looked bigger.   I’m going to have to repolish my game in this area.

Just a couple of days ago, I tested out the toe on ride through Calvera with my youngest son, Jake.  While the toe was mildly a pain, it is okay to ride with.


What I was really stoked about was how well Jake was hanging.   I rode at around 90% of my normal pass and he was right there the whole time.  We did not do a whole lot of stopping either, just riding.  

Kids never seem to amaze me at the rate at which they progress.   We had a really good time out there and we got in around 12-14 miles all together.  It was a good day to be a Dad and on a bike.

“Taiiku no hi” Ride

 This past  Monday was Columbus day in the United States, but I’m not in the States.  Lucky for me Monday was also the Japanese Holiday of  “Taiiku no hi” which is “Health-Sports Day”.   What better way to celebrate that than a bike ride. 

Fall is happening here.   The summer heat is gone and the cooler temps of fall have taken over. There are no huge splash of colors just yet but you can tell that mother nature is dusting off her brushes and shaking the paint cans.

The closest mountain to town is Yumihari.  I have been on most of the flanks of this mountain and have found some stuff to ride in all those areas.   The place suffers from little use and even less maintenance.    This place would be incredibly awesome if there were enough riders to keep this place debrushed.  I was focusing on the southern area today and was quite pleased with what I found and that it is seeing some use.   One such trails was an awesome benchcut along a ruggedly steep hill side.

I eventually found my way over to what I was looking for.  There is a large statue that you can see from town perched up along the ridgeline that I had been eyeing from work for a couple of weeks now.    This thing is huge.  At least 20 feet high and it sets top of 20 foot raised base.  This was a great spot for some snacks so I enjoyed them while taking in some of the views. 

There was an old couple there tending to the grounds.  Eventually the husband and I struck up a conversation which was a mixture of my bad Japanese, his bad English and a healthy dose of International Charades.   From the jest of the conversation, the man was 70 years old and his father made the sculpture.    He was very proud of his father’s work.  He was also proud of the fact his wife was much younger than him (only in her 50s).   The wife snickered at this and gave him a gentle slap on the arm.  While I did not catch what see said, the facial expressions translated to something along the lines of “You Dirty Old Fool”.  While he looked old, he was mighty healthy and was doing some significant work like cutting grass, trimming back branches, etc…   I hope to be that spry when I am his age.  You can tell they loved and cared for this place.    After a bit more broken chit-chat over a can of coffee he gave me, I was on my way.  After such a nice little life enriching experience I could have called it a day right then and have been quite happy.

Lucky for the me the old man had “Charaded” me some more information on trails, so settting off from the shrine, I did some more snooping around.

What the old man had pointed to was a really cool bit of trail where you descend down along a mostly steep ridgeline through a forest of mixed bamboo and hardwoods.   It was a pretty fun descent with some scary bits thrown in when things got rocky and really steep.  

After this I climbed back up the mountain and hit some one the loops I have done several times which put me back onto the side of the mountain I wanted to be on.   After another rather technical descent I popped out into another neighborhood.   From here I zipped along a series of narrow twisting sidewalks that descended the rest of the way down the mountain back into town.  I love when the navigation calls for anyway that is downhill to get “home”.    I might get another ride or two in before I leave Japan but if not this would be a downright cool closer ride.

Tooling around the Tawaragaura Peninsula

Yesterday, I decided to check out the peninsula to the south of Sasebo.  The plan was for this to be road ride and be on the lookout for some trails to explore on another day.  I was actually looking forward to a ride where I did not have to deal with the arachnid gauntlet of webs across the lightly used trails around here.  Last weekend, I must have taken 50 spiders to the face and it got old.

Peeping around on the online maps it looked like the peninsula was gong to be “country” so I packed plenty of snacks.  Onigiri is my favorite ride snack in this parts. It is a triangle of rice with some type of filling on the inside (I dig the tuna) and whole thing is wrapped in seaweed. 

After a bit of hilly road work I got to a pretty cool park overlooking the “99 Islands” area.  The islands are quite pretty and as you travel around there are every changing views as your angles to the numerous islands change.

The main road I took while heading out on the peninsula stayed up on the ridgelines for the most part.  There are quite a few old farming roads that head down to the various nooks and crannies along the shoreline.   Many of these roads are much more narrower and far more interesting that most of the “Trails” built by the various land mangers in San Diego County.


While humping back up one of these old roads, I came across another crab.   While I’m only a couple hundred feet above sea level here, I was still amazed to see them up this high.  I did a little research and found out that the crabs here have adapted to living away from the tidal range so you can find them all over.   Like the one I saw last week, this bugger did not like having me around.  He did manage is get some pressure on my thumb through my glove and I must say that this little guy has got quite a pinch. Doesn’t he look pissed?

As I ventured further out towards the end of the peninsula I found the roads turned away from the southern tip.  I managed to find an old road bed turned trail and decided it was worth a look as it would keep me working my way south.    I learned a spider sweeper technique for riding around here.   I take a nice green stick about 3 feet long and keep it between my right hand and handlebar grip.   When I see spider webs I sweep the stick around out in front of me.   It works well when climbing non-technical stuff, but not so much when descending or in technical stuff.   Of course I look like a crazy mashup of  a mountainbiker and an orchestra conductor on crack but what the heck the spider thing gets old after a while and this lets me keep moving. 


The old road bed led me up to what I believe is a series of old WWII bunkers.  (I have yet to confirm this, but I am told there are nuemerous ones in the area) Some of them are dug into the side of the mountain while others are dug down into the mountain.  They were really trippy.   This was the biggest one with five interconnected bunkers dug into the side of the mountain right at the summit. 

This was one of the ones that was buried down into the top of the mountain.


When I was in the large interconnected bunkers, I was not alone.  There were some bats that called this place home.   When I got too close that started flying around and moved into the adjacent bunkers.  Since I had started at one end by the time time I got to the last bunker, they were all concentrated into the one room.  They did not want to go outside and since I was standing in the archway between the rooms, they were a little perplexed.  I spent a lot of time working on getting a shot of these little guys.  They would often buzz within a foot of my head as they thought about going past me to get to the other room.   The camera flash usually sent them wheeling around away from me.

This is the best closeup I was able to snag.  Ain’t he cute?   I heard this species is closely related to the endangered Texas Perot Bat.

After harassing the bats for long enough, I continued along my way of poking around on the peninsula.  There was lots of farm patches up here as well as a small community.  Looking back to the north I could see pretty much every peak I have gotten to so far in Sasebo.

I decided to drop down to the Shirahama Beach were I was expecting to see hordes of Japanese hotties in bikinis.   I had to settle for nearly having the beach all to myself while enjoying an onigiri and views of the East China Sea. 

The water looked inviting but you would have to watch out for these critters which were in abundance.

I spent quite a bit of time checking out some of the nooks and inlets. I’m sure some are only accessible via boat.   I took lots of notes and waypoints of the many old abandoned roads and nearly overgrown trails that dot the area.  I have enough dots and dotted lines for a return visit.

I got to a road junction where I could take the fairly direct route back, or I could take the more round-about way back along a big eastern chunk of the peninsula I had not gotten to yet.  Thinking that I could stay down along the shoreline I took the road downhill into a small fishing villiage.  I really like these small seaside towns, I feel like I’m closer to the culture when in places like this.   I dig watching families fish, old couples tending to thier crops or just strolling along the narrow coastal streets.  The people are so warm and friendly particularly when you know enough of the language to exchange basic greetings and be polite.   When you look on the maps the peninsula is listed as Sasebo, however the three or four folks I talked with on this ride all asked if I had came “from” Sasebo.  Clearly they don’t think of thier quite little neck of the woods as Sasebo and now, neither do I.   The ride back along the more scenic route was anything but the flat cruiser shoreline ride I had expected.  Between the little fishing villiages the road would climb back up into the hills and then drop back down at the next village.  I don’t know how many undulations I went through but by the time I got back to the hotel I was throughly pooped.   It was a good day on a bike.

Toro Peak Access

It has been brought to my attention by a lawyer representing the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians that the land around the summit of Toro Peak is part of the tribe’s reservation lands. Since my original posting of Santa Rosa Mountain and Toro Peak page in 2003, they have added signs to alert the public to the fact you will be trespassing if you go all the way to the peak. I have requested a meeting to see exactly where all of the boundaries are and get the full story on things. In the interim from what I have gathered from other sources you would cross onto the reservation lands shortly after the fork in the forest road at 12.8 miles. This is roughly halfway between SR-21 and SR-22 way points on my map. You can find numerous printed guidebooks and online resources that make no mention of the land ownership and access issues. Sometime in the last six years keeping the public off of Toro Peak has become a greater concern to the Cahuilla Indians. Hopefully my photos of this truly magnificent peak will satisfy your curiosity because you will be trespassing if you climb the last mile or so to the summit yourself. Also don’t forget to check out one my early additions to the site.