It was not planned but I found myself awake at four something this morning. (Thats O-damn:Early for this retired military guy) After determining that getting back to sleep was probably not going to happen I managed to shuffle to the coffee machine without stumping a toe. Somewhere along the ensuing journey to coherencency the MTB gear managed to get loaded in the truck. The destination was not decided until I had to pick a freeway on ramp.
I pulled into the staging area for the Upper La Cima and Lucky 5 trails about 30 mins after sunrise. I was doing a switchup on one of my favorite routes in this area. I normally start down near the bottom of the mountains and climb up to here. I wanted to enjoy the mostly downhill half of this route in the early morning light.
Boy was I rewarded with some fantastic light as well as nice temps for this late June morning. I always enjoy these trails but this was something special. Some of it could have been my own low expectations of muted summer “brown” but the early morning light put a nice pop of color on the landscape.
As I worked my way to Soapstone Grade and then Stonewall Creek fireroad I was pleasantly surprised to still have the good light holding on. The Cold Spring and Cold Streams singletracks were just glorious. It was not until I was heading down the Westside singletrack did the last remnants of the morning glory relent to the rest of the day.
I was stoked to have seen some my “old” favorites literally in a new light. It was now time to eat my vegetables after enjoying dessert first. The temps were climbing quickly and it was pretty much all climbing back to my truck. The price of admission was well worth it as I closed out the loop using Green Valley fireroads followed by Upper Green Valley singletrack. This will not be the last time I do this dawn patrol ride.
I was ready to get in a sizable ride, but when record highs projected I decided a mighty early start with plenty of water was in order for my outing up in the Cuyamaca Mountains. I was at the trail-head at sunrise and was rolling shortly thereafter. The temps were nice at that time of the morning but I knew it would not last.
I made good time up the West Side trail and the Green Valley Fireroad and was on the Upper Green Valley Singletrack before things started really warming up.
I really enjoy the La Cima trail along with the Lucky 5 trail so at the top the Upper Green Valley singltrack I did the out and back on those two trails. I “imagine” that someday when MTB access to the PCT is restored you could make a good loop with it and the Pedro Fages Trail. Even if you could do a legal loop with those trails I would have a hard time passing up the downhill section of the La Cima trail over the the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
The CHRT is mighty nice through here. While on this section I saw a pair of Coyotes and one of them had a rabbit in his mouth. I really wish I had my real camera (DSLR with some quality glass on it) with me. My phone has a really good camera on it suitable for a lot of situations, but it is no match for a DSLR with a quality lens on it.
It was plenty toasty at this point. I started with a three liters in my bladder and 750ml in a separate water bottle with a couple of electrolyte tablets in it. By this point in the ride I had killed the water bottle and refreshed the tablets and filled with water from my bladder. I connected up with the Marty Minshall trail which skirts near Lake Cuyamaca before coming out across from Milk Ranch Road.
It has been a while since I had been up Middle Peak and I was interesting in seeing how things are progressing since the fires back in 2003. Without the trees on the mountain, there was little respite from the sun which was cooking things at this point. I was pretty stoked at how well I was handling the heat compared to how things were pre-surgery but the climb was still plenty taxing. After a water check at the top, I decided that it would be unwise to try and complete the ride without restocking up on water. The descent down Black Oak was fun but the descent down Milk Ranch Ranch Road seemed like wasted elevation loss.
Once back at HWY79, I diverted off the planned route over to the general store at Lake Cuyamaca to resupply my water. While there I found a giant frozen ice stick that I simply could not live without. I enjoyed it along with nice cold Gatorade. I completely refilled water bladder even through I doubted I would need to all of that to get back to the truck. Better to be safe that sorry in these conditions. If I had a mechanical in a bad spot I could end up being out here a lot longer than planned. I also figured that if I came across someone in distress I could help.
After enjoying my treat and the shade on the porch of the store I made my way back to the Marty Minshall trail where I retraced my route back to the top of the Soapstone Creek Fireroad. I descend this fireroad and picked up the Cold Spring Trail. I was feeling tired at this point but was still stoked at the fact I was not destroyed by the heat.
As I descended down the trail you could felt the temperature climbing. By the time I connected back up with the West Side trail it was roasting. No more stopping for pictures at this point, I was ready to be done. When I got back to the truck it was was 103 degrees. My truck reads a little high after sitting so I think 98 or 99 is closer to legit. The difference being DAMN HOT and REAL HOT! Either way it was a new milestone for me in dealing with the heat. I went through 5.0 liters of liquids on the day along with six electrolyte tablets (Nuun brand).
A couple of weekends ago I did a combination of hiking and biking in the Descanso and Cuyamaca area doing a bit more of my ongoing project to assess all of the California Riding and Hiking Trail segments in the county. I have updated the interactive map on my page to reflect some of the details.
(Disclaimer: I’m going to ramble in this post and make some references you may have to follow along with on my site and other linked documents. This post is just as much notes for my own use later as it is something to share.)
A good portion of the CRHT has been lost to road construction over the years in the Descanso area. The trail still exists leaving Descanso to the north and all the way up through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Unfortunately a large majority of it is off limits to bikes due to a state wilderness designation in 1982.
The State Wilderness designation inside the boundary of the State Park is an unnecessary designation as all of the preservation goals could have been achieved using other existing State Park systems administrative tools. It is my opinion that for many decades now there has been a cadre of politicians out there that view the number of acres of wilderness they gain every year as a feather in their hat. So while the designation of this existing state park land in 1982 increased those wilderness acreage numbers, it did not protect any additional land. It was already protected from development. What did it do? Well it banned cyclist access to an existing multi-use trail that was established in the 1940s.
At the north end of Descanso Trail Road, the CRHT is once again a trail. It is a single track and mostly climbs for about 2 miles to Cuyamaca State Park and the southern boundary of one of its segments of wilderness. There is no other legal access for cyclists beyond that point. This section south of the state park is a bit over grown in spots and the tread could use some TLC n spots. The CRHT continues north as singletrack and is better maintained by the state park. After maybe 1.5 miles the CRHT comes out onto South Boundary fireroad. South Boundary fireroad is not in designated wilderness. The CRHT follows South Boundary fireroad north to the junction of Arroyo Seco Fireroad which is cherry stemmed out of the wilderness. At the end of the Arroyo Seco Fireroad the CRHT continues northward as the Fox trail which is singletrack.
The the Fox trail ascends steeply in spots to the junction of the West Mesa trail and finally the Fir trail which ends at the Fern Flat fireroad and the northern boundary of the West Mesa wilderness. This is a superb section of the backcountry in the park with incredible views both to the west and east.
When the Fir trail (aka CRHT) reaches Fern Flat fireroad the CRHT turns north as the fireroad until it veers off to the east as the Azalea Glen trail. This trail is not in the wilderness but it still off limits to bike. The trail is often quite steep and would be pretty technical in many spots in the upper half. Near the bottom of the eastern flank of Cuyamaca peak the CRHT (single track at this point) splits off to the north from the Azalea Glen trail and is once again open to bikes (and named CRHT). After some meandering it then crosses HWY79 and proceeds around the west and north flanks of Stonewall Peak.
However when it get to the junction of the Los Caballos trail it becomes off-limits to bikes. Just a few years ago this section of the CRHT was open to bikes northward all the way to the Soapstone Grade fireroad. Where the CRHT joins Soapstone Grade Road it once again become open to bikes. This was the northern apex of assessment on these latest outings.
While I don’t know the whole story, I looked up the latest approved general plan for the state park and have some theories that I hope to get some clarifications on with some other people. The 2015 approved park general plan called for the expansion of several cultural and natural preserves inside the boundary of the park. It looks like the expansion of those preserves brought with it the loss of cyclist access to the CRHT in those expanded areas.
Also in the general plan were some wilderness boundary adjustment that should have opened up the Blue Ribbon trail to cyclist in the southern area of the park, but as of last weekend, the no bikes and wilderness signs are still up. It would have been really nice if the CRHT would have been cherry stemmed out of the Wilderness to restore cyclist access to this historic route that predates even the Pacific Crest Trail. This really falls into the category of bitching at this point since I did not participate in the public comment period when the revised general plan was being worked.
While I have not done my due diligence at this point to find out the whys, it looks quite a bit like the park is a bit slow to implement the portions of the approved plan that would benefit cyclists. One thing is for certain the classic Cuyamaca “Grand Loop” will never seem as grand after seeing what the loop could be if cyclists were allowed to ride the CRHT as it was intended.
I was pretty stoked to finally be able to get a way from the house in the midst of all this COVID-19 BS. The plan was to take the RV up to the Herky Creek Campground and base camp there for the weekend Nichol and got up there on Friday afternoon and a couple of hours later my longtime MTB Bud Bill arrived. We spent the afternoon and evening grubbing out catching up and sampling tasty whiskeys. Bill and I have learned a thing our two about our proclivity to try and solve world hunger around a campfire at night when there is a bike ride the following morning. We set an alarm clock, not to get up in the morning but to go to bed 🙂
The weather was pretty foggy the following morning it looked like we might get some drizzle action as well. We had the right gear so off we went. Today’s ride would be Pine Cove and Hub Trails.
We took advantage of the spousal shuttle service leaving Bill’s truck at the Hub Trailhead while Nichol dropped us off up in Pine Cove
It has been more than a couple moons since the last time I had started from Pine Cove so it took me a couple of minutes orientate myself. I ended up taking the route I new and then later in the ride realized that few new connectors had been added that optimized your elevation loss/gain. Our basic route was a bit of Project X, Toptimater, Dreamwalker, Hard Sun and Tubs.
The cloud cover kept the temperatures at just in the comfortable range. We got ourselves turned around a couple of times snooping on some of the new stuff (since the last time I rode there) but that is all part of the fun of this area.
That evening was more tasty grub and good times. The next morning the sun was out and it was time for some more fun on two wheels to the east of where we were base camped.
The Pretty Cool Temps and cloud cover were gone for this ride and replaced with gorgeous sunshine and warmer temps.
Spring was still holding on in a few spots.
Bill harassing the locals
We had a great time out on a nice bit of trail. This was my second time out on this route and I was really stoked to show off some of the bits of trail that included some of the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
Back at camp we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, before breaking camp and rolling back to San Deigo. I had reserved the spot for Sunday night as well, but I enjoy not having to be rushed out of the site on the last day. This was a nice weekend getaway and good opportunity for Bill to check out live in the RV for some of less local adventures I have planned with this rig in the future.
The last couple of weekends I have spent some time riding and a little bit hiking around the northern part of San Diego County and into Riverside County. I was able to get out on the final northern section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) in San Diego County.
One thing that has become obvious during my roaming along the CRHT and research. When the Pacific Crest Trail was first established in 1968 it “commandeered” quite a few sections of the then existing CHRT in San Diego County and the Anza area in Riverside County. In at least two locations I have found the traditional style CRHT markers along the Pacific Crest Trail. In the years following the establishment of the PCT the desired PCT routes were created/rerouted off the original CRHT, leaving the CRHT to wither away or left unprotected from future development/protection. The impact of this was not readily apparent until many years later when in 1988, the USFS dubiously banned mountain bikes from the PCT without proper public input.
Pulling back to a larger scale, from the area just east of Cuyamaca Lake to at least Paradise Valley (Highway 74/371) area the California Riding and Hiking Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail typically parallel one another to varying degrees. San Diego County has the concept of restoring the CRHT as part of its master trails plan but I see the PCT being nearby as a deterrent to getting this historic mountain bike accessible back country trail restored. I see the PCT sucking the bureaucratic willpower away from the CRHT effort. I am very supportive of the Sharing the PCT movement as well was the removal of the blanket bike ban in Wilderness being spearhead by the Sustainable Trails Coalition. You should take a look at what those efforts are trying to accomplish. If both the Sharing the PCT and San Diego County CRHT restoration efforts were to come to fruition the routes/loops that could be done with both of these trails would be absolutely amazing. We can all dream!
This weekend I did some more recon on the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) between Warner Springs and Chihuahua Valley Road. The area pretty much qualifies as the North Back 40 of the county. I have updated my GPS files and interactive map on my site. If I mention a mileage marker or waypoint here, it is referring to that map.
I started this ride at the CRHT and PCT access point near the top of the paved section of Lost Valley Road (CRHT-193A). I have done this section before where you climb along the remnant of old old Lost Valley Road before the Pacific Crest Trail joins in from the south.
At this junction some of the minions of the PCTA have messed with the CRHT signs to try and cover them up and in typical PCTA fashion put up no-bike stickers. The CRHT is open to bikes and just because the PCT is using the CRHT doesn’t mean they get to kick bikes off of it.
After about 9/10ths of a mile the CRHT (at CRHT 196A) continues north and downhill as the PCT turns to the northeast and uphill. Beyond this point was new CRHT to me.
The CRHT which is still the remnant of the orginal Lost Valley Road was pretty raw beyond this point. Initally there was a fair amount of elevation shed off (200 feet in about .4 miles)
After crossing over a stream bed the trail, you will have some punchy climbing bits for the next half half mile. The trail much more trail than old road now. Through this one mile section the trail will leave Cleveland National Forest, cut through a corner of BLM land and into private property.
The trail comes out to a junction with a farm/ranch road. The CRHT contines north along this ranch road which sees very little usage. The trail gradually losses elevation through here and get a little washy/loose in a spot or two as it descends down to an area called Johnson Canyon on some maps. The ranch road makes a sharp right hand turn in this area (CRHT-199A).
The actual trail turns off the road to the west here and is a narrow singletrack. The trail is following a creekbed which is loose and a bit bear up from the horse usage. Between CRHT-199A and CRHT-200A there is good bit sand to slog.
A better option if you are not interested in dealing with some sand slogging is to stay on the ranch road when it turns east. It will soon cross the creekbed and turn back to the west. The actual CRHT will rejoin the ranch road at CRHT-200A which bypass just under half a mile of the mostly sand slog.
Less than a quarter of a mile further up the ranch road from where the CRHT rejoins the road you come to a diversion off of the CRHT at CRHT-201.
At this point the property owner just north of this point is not honoring the CRHT easement. I do not know the story and legal bits regarding this specific property but the owner had some signs that said “California Hiking and Horse Trail” to divert people around his property.
The diversion around his property is a dirt road. I know the the original route is also a dirt road so I’m not so sure there is a net loss here.
At CRHT 201A, the diversion rejoins the original route. The property owners has a gate up at this point.
Further up the road (CRHT-202) there is more fencing off to the west preventing access the original trail. Based on seeing the same type of faux CRHT signs, this seems to be the same property owner. You have to continue north on the dirt road where it will turns to the west for a short ways until the north and becomes paved.
In 2014, this corner was the staging area for Bucksnort Mountain Trails. There were proper CRHT signs are up here back then. Since then the property owner has put up fencing and removed the proper CRHT signs. New signs stating “California Hiking and Horse Trail” have been erected with arrows showing the diversion of the trail around the property.
After this I made my way north. The CRHT is alongside the pavement through here. The CRHT turns off the west alongside Chilhuahua Road. I turned off to the east on the dirt Lost Valley road. I did some some 12-15 miles of exploring out this area and made my way back to CRHT trail head where I started from. It was a perfect type of day to be out on a bike.
Last weekend, I took a freind of mine (Jim) out to the Cuyamaca Mountains to show him around. The weather was overcast around rhe county and as we headed up into the mountains it started to get a little foggy. At the trailhead we were pretty much socked in.
We started up the west side single track. After crossing over highway 79 we came upon some wild turkeys which are plentiful in this area. We made our way north along the Green Valley fire road until we got to the bottom of Soapstone Grade.
From there we continued north on the Upper Green Valley single track and climbed our way up to the junction with La Cima track right by Sunrise highway. During this climb the clouds/fog cleared up as we got up above it. Things were pretty beautiful at this point and the La Cima trail over to the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) was a great as ever.
While riding along the CRHT it was pretty cool to look over towards Lake Cuyamaca and see all of the clouds to the west being pressed again the mountains. It was like the mountains were playing giant linebackers protecting our pocket of sunshine.
We connected up to the Cold Springs trails for some super fun descending down to the south. Down near the bottom we once again rode back down into the clouds.
Today I went out for a quick spin in the Cuyamaca Mountains which rarely falls into the “This Sucks!” category.
I started from the East Mesa parking lot and took the East Mesa singletrack up to the visitor center where I connected to the Green Valley fire road. I took this up to the Green Valley single track and work my way to the La Cima trail.
The La Cima trail took me to the California Riding and Hiking trail, which I took south where I hooked up with the Stonewall fireroad and then over to the Cold Springs trail.
At the bottom of the Cold Springs trail I crossed HWY 79 and hooked up with the West Side singletrack and took it south back to the East Mesa staging area. It was definitely a fun day on the bike!
The San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) has a Call to Action Alert regarding the California Department of Fencing Fishing and Wildlife’s (CDFW) continued mismanagement of the Calavera Highlands Reserve (aka Calavera Lake). CDFW officials have been “aggressively” engaging with trails users
While Calavera is a sizable area with a large network of user-built trails that is a good place to get in riding with a descent outdoor experience it is definitely a shit show of redundant trails. No doubt about it, these are unofficial and illegal trails that the CDFW are wanking about. There is also no doubt about it that the CDFW does not manage this area. If this organization was doing its job, they would have been losing their mind a long time ago. Arbitrarily locking out the public from public lands by putting up fencing and signs and then walking away is not management.
From the periods in which I have interacted with CDFW, I have come to believe they think the land they acquire is “their” land and they are entitled to all of the protections and benefits that private property owners have. The primary benefit being they get to solely decide who may come on their property and who may not. It does not matter what their regulations state, the public knows that the land is public. The public will never accept Calavera Highlands Ecological Reserver as a pristine ecological reserve worthy of locking out the public. All one has to do is stand atop Calavera Hill and look around. The public is not staying out.
The CDFW track record in San Diego county seems to indicate that they do not possess the skillsets to properly manage lands that have an existing recreational baseline that includes people. Personally I think they depend on academic, non-profits and “friends of …” groups that do the bulk of the monitoring and management for them. The primary reason Crestridge Ecological Reserve allows mountain biking is because the Earth Discovery Institute is the de-facto land manager who recognized the benefit of responsible human-powered recreation . If the Earth Discovery Institute had not pushed so hard for the unique change for this reserve it would not have happened.
Despite the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) being on the San County Regional Trail Plan it is pretty much unattainable as a viable regional trail as long as the CDFW is involved with any of the land along the route. Numerous sections of the this trail in San Diego county go through lands mismanaged by CDFW and at pretty much everyone of those, the trail has fences and off-limits signs.
The county is most likely going to end up speeding hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a new section of trail for the Coast to Crest Trail near Boden Canyon because the CDFW are not going to allow an easement along a 0.2 mile section of an existing old dirt road!
There are many other examples of the CDFW’s culture of “its my land not yours” mismanagement style throughout the county. Humans are part of the fauna of the San Diego ecosystems. Until the CDFW develops the skillsets and polices to effectively deal with the outdoor experience needs of this species the organization will continue suffer from a lack of land management creditability with the pubic. Until that changes the pubic will continue to give the CDFWs signs and fences a big double middle-fingered salute.
This past weekend, I got out into the Cuyamaca Mountains. Main this place has some nice scenery and trails. We started from the San Diego River staging area just off of HWY-79 and took the west side single track up to the visitor center and then took the Green Valley fire road to the Upper Green Valley single track for a climb up to the La Cima trail by Sunrise Highway. We then looped over to the California Riding and Hiking Trail. From there we took Soapstone Fireroad over to Cold Springs trail and then loopback on the west side trail. We were a bit past the greenest time of the year but there were still plenty of blooming flora. Good Stuff!
Steve and Rodney climbing the Upper Green Valley Singletrack
The board members of the Pacific Crest Trail Association were seen out and about in Green Valley.
Plenty of water to cross on the west side trail.
The Cold Springs Trail
Bloom along the entire hillside
Rodney on California Riding and Hiking Trail. This is one of my favorite sections of this trail in the county.
Steve working his way up to the “Oak Trees”.
Lake Cuyamaca has both a upper and lower dam to help keep the “normal” water contained in the south end. You can see the upper dam as the thin line of land in the middle of the picture. There is water in the entire upper valley which is just incredible.
I believe Steve is trying to convey that this trail is the #1/Ichiban Trail 🙂
I am overdue for an update to my Cuyamaca Mountains page. I think I am going to split it up into two different pages to cover several of the routes you can take out here better.