Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stagecoach 400: Day 2

I woke up as it got light and after quickly munching on some bars tackled the rest of the climb. Towards the end, the jeep trail becomes very steep with a few hike-a-bike sections that are challenging. Not just pushing your bike, but requiring a bit of climbing and keeping your balance as you hoist up the bike. It is very nice to do that first thing in the morning because it would become grueling in the middle of the day in the heat, but I have positive memories of that stretch.

Then it goes down on the other side towards Highway S-2, which is where the Overland Stage Coach Route of 1849 passed through. Still deep sand and I took a good tumble on the descent with the big chainring taking a bite out of my shin and was probably one of the last ones to make it to the small store at the intersection with the S-2. Jill Homer (1st on the left) was already to leave as I rolled in. Brendan and Mary are in the middle of the picture.

After a short stretch on S-2, we turn right and then comes one of the tougher climbs: Oriflamme Canyon. I've done that climb a few times as part of Rich Wolf's Julian Death March and riding on my own, so I wanted to make sure to get out of the desert before mid-day. Surprisingly, Oriflamme didn't feel too hard and even packed I rode almost the whole climb (whereas I have pushed more of it on previous attempts unloaded). No pictures there and this doesn't look like anything, but it still is a very rewarding view back once you made it to the top!

Some beautiful, although not very long, single track through meadows follows. Almost feels like an alpine area, although this is only about 4000 feet.

Then a bit more single track climbing towards Noble Canyon. That's where I caught up with Jill Homer, but that was the last time I saw her on the ride as I was getting stronger now that the desert was over. 

Noble Canyon is one of the most famous mountain bike trails in Southern California and it isn't bad, but just not my favorite. I don't think it lives up to the hype. Mainly rocky descent, technical and hard work, not fun flowing single track. Largely rideable, even with bikepacking luggage, Chunk riders, i.e. those that enjoy carefully working through small sections of technical trail, or downhill bombers may like it, but it isn't a trail that I find exciting.

And as soon as you hit the bottom, you turn right and it goes up just as steeply, but now on a paved road! That came as a less pleasant surprise, especially as now the sun was getting rather strong. After gaining elevation again, a very nice stretch followed. It was now the middle of the afternoon, but I would have loved to camp in that meadow area for the night.

The rest of the afternoon and early evening was uneventful, slowly got into the San Diego area, some of it through Cleveland National Forest with a few smaller towns. I had dinner in Alpine, I believe. The final big challenge for the day was another long and steep hike-a-bike. That turned out to be questionable routing decision as it crossed an Indian Reservation and the tribal Sheriff didn't want people there. So the earliest riders were chased away and had to take a much faster road short-cut, as did slow riders the next day. But I arrived late in the evening and didn't see anybody on my long hike. You end up at a trashed abandoned house on top and then descend into ritzier suburbs. Met Jay Rall, another rider at the top, first cyclist undertaking the route I had seen for most of the day, about since passing Jill near Julian in the morning.  Hard to know exactly how the area looked as it was night time. Eventually, I was on a trail along the Sweetwater Reservoir and stopped there for the night. If I had known the trail better, I would have gone another hour or so further.

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