Monday, June 29, 2015

SDRP Mtb Patrol 2.0

Well it's been two years now since the San Dieguito River Park mountain bike patrol came into existence. Over the past couple years we have made great strides on bringing the mountain bike community to the fore front of trail advocacy and protection. The patrol has put in over 1,200 hours on the trails covering countless miles and offering assistance whenever needed. They have been on hand directing emergency crews to downed riders, they have assisted in many of the events the park has hosted throughout the years and they have effectively established themselves as a visual presence within the park. Many park users have taken notice and appreciate the the added sense of security the patrols bring.

They have also been an invaluable resource for me. Having the patrol out there helps me and the park stay on top of the many issues that can come up on the trails. If a tree goes down it usually gets reported within hours, if a section is overgrown same thing. This ability to receive issues in real time lets us react quickly to it before it becomes a bigger problem. The number one goal in an open space preserve is resource protection, the best way to do that is to keep the trails in great shape, the volunteer patrol is helping us accomplish that goal.

Thanks to the many people and companies within the bike community (North of the Border bike shop, SockGuy, Ranchos Cycling, San Diego Mountain Bike Association, Spy Optics, Hero Kit, Nite Rider, WD-40 Bike and the Quick n Dirty Mtb series) we have been able to keep the wheels turning. Without their support we could not have made it this far.

So what does all that mean? I want to see good things continue to happen, I want to see programs like this progress and become the norm not the exception. I will be holding another open training for new patrollers on July 19th and invite anybody with an interest to come. If you ride the trails of the San Dieguito River Park and want to help preserve them I need your help. The training will run from 8 to 10 at the San Dieguito River Park office located at 18372 Sycamore Creek Rd. Escondido, 92025. We will have a group patrol ride after the training.

If any of this sounds interesting to you then get a hold of me at to get on the email list.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Coach Whipped! -Part 3 The Final Push!

I know, three parts to this story, your probably bored to tears right now, my epic ride has become a saga. Let's continue. Where were we? Oh yes the crew was just settling down for the night and everything was good. I awoke a couple of times only to find out that our nice clear night had turned incredibly foggy, I could now barely see more than 20 feet and upon sticking a hand out of my warm cocoon I realized everything was soaking wet. I choose to ignore it and went back to sleep. I would deal with that crap later. Early morning came, I wanted to keep sleeping but the constant drip, drip, drip was making it hard, I had turned over on my side just in time for a single well placed water droplet to detach from it's high tree perch and descend down and into my ear canal with a wet splook sound. Fine, whatever, I'm up, lets go. We quickly started shoving wet gear into bags and beat a hasty retreat from our nights accommodations.

We made our way towards Lake Hodges and familiar territory for me. Another rider joined us briefly then disappeared into the fog just as quickly. Quietly and effectively we moved up the valley, we were now moving as a unit, where one went the others followed. A quick stop for breakfast and a fuel up as more well wishers came by for a chat and 'atta-boys. The fog had dissipated and the sun shone down on us once again. We took the opportunity to dry our gear out at the base of Raptor Ridge, looked like a garage sale and as we baked ourselves in the sun like a lizard on a cold day we answered more queries from various trail users. It was fine I knew as soon as we left this spot there would be no one left to ask questions we would again be on our own.

Ghosts in the trees. 

We settled in for the climb out of San Pasqual Valley followed by Upper and Lower Santa Ysabel truck trails and lastly Black Canyon. The sun beat down us once again and I thought back to the coolness and wetness of just a few hours before. What a strange play in weather, I guess the longer you stay out here, the more you get to experience. I zig-zagged my way up the canyon, not necessarily because the terrain was hard but to seek the shade of any tree or structure that would afford me such a luxury. The more I rode the more I kept seeing the footprints of the lonely midnight marchers that wanted to get back to Idyllwild that much faster. It didn't matter, there was no reason nor want to chase, I applauded their effort, hit the chill gear and steadily climbed. We reached the top and took in the views of the valleys on both sides, from here it would be a downhill plunge towards the resort of Lake Henshaw. It was a quick ride down Mesa Grande grade and before we knew it we had rooms for the night and an hour left before the restaurant closed. We talked and drank into the night and I fell asleep excited and hesitant at the same time, I was now having fun and did not necessarily want it to end.

We woke up early-ish to get started, loaded up on the remaining supplies we would need to get back to Idy and set off retracing our steps to get back on course. It was a nice brisk morning kinda like the one we had started with soooo long ago. It was only day five but it had felt like a month since I left Idyllwild, at one point I even forgot what day it was, nice! I felt good and pulled most of the way into Warner Springs. There was once again rumor of hot coffee and breakfast at a PCT stop in the area so of coarse we stopped to investigate but again we were denied. How's that song go "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad". The box of chicken noodle soup I had just bought at Lake Hensaw would have to suffice for now.

Towards Lost Valley and the land of false summits we climbed, with the weather being nicer than expected we made quick work of a lot of sections we thought were gonna be tough. Everyone was in good spirits and my bike even seemed a bit lighter. That last part was bullshit, my bike was still as heavy as ever I think I had just gotten use to it somehow. Brendan lead the push through the valley of the lost and beyond, I happily followed his pace and before I knew it we had closed the lollipop loop and we were now on the final push home. 

We revisited Sunshine Market, got a quick snack, a beer and an extra tall boy for celebrating at the top of Jim Truck trail. We crept our way up trail, unfortunately it had seen a lot of horse action since we had passed through a few days earlier so riding up any of it was out of the question. One last push and we were over and into the mountains again. The pine smells, cool air and of course that tall boy of coors was just the right motivation to keep on keepin on.

With less than 20 miles to go I wondered if I really even wanted to get back. I mean I had been on this journey for five days now and was just starting to feel acclimated to the whole process. I asked the group if we should just keep rolling on to some other destination, maybe camp out another night, keep the feeling going. Alas it was not to be, the last two climbs into Idy were upon us as we went back to the task at hand and easily motored up and over. We decided to jump on some kind Idy single track to heighten our stoke level that much more before we entered into town. There was not much fan fair as we rode ourselves through town, all the hoopla had died down since all the front runners of this so called race had finished days before. Brendan's wife Mary was on hand with a nice ice chest of cold beers and an order of pizza was in to the local pizzeria. All in all it was a most excellent adventure. Will I do it again next year, who knows, I didn't even fully commit to doing the ride this time around but it happened. If I do I would probably change a few things as it pertains to the bike. Although the Surly ECR is an excellent platform to go bike packing with it does not necessarily play nice over the long haul. A front shock might help for starters, less weight maybe. But that's for another time and another day on another adventure. Huge shout out to Brendan and his lunatic brain for coming up with such a fun bike packing event and for keep me on the straight and narrow, and to Tyrel for being a great riding partner and all around good guy. This is definitely one trip that I can call EPIC! Till next time Team Keeping It Real!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Coach Whipped! Part 2 -It's just over that next hill!

We rolled, slowly out of Agua Caliente in the cool morning air of the desert, it was refreshing. As the body slowly started to wake I begin to feel the aches and pangs of the previous nights fits. I adjusted in the saddle continuously as we snaked our way down the desert highway towards the first real climbing of the trip. Down to the Butterfield Ranch for some coffee, maybe breakfast, again sounded good, again we got their too early. I grudgingly followed on towards Oriflame Canyon, I had never had the privileged of meeting the canyon before so I really didn't know what was in store. I started to follow Brendan up the canyon, it wasn't so bad, legs felt ok, continued climbing things were getting pretty technical now. Switched down to my bail out gear and continued on and on and on and on. The heat slowly crept back and soon I was walking, pushing, sweating and cursing again. This sucked my mind kept shouting at me, but the body kept on, it was going to be a long day.

The battle between mind and body ensued. We broke out of the canyon and hid in the bushes for shade. At this point my food consisted of  granola, dried fruit, some trail butter, gu's and some random cinnamon bears. I would save those as rewards. Besides the gummy bears nothing really seemed that appealing. I was depleted and forced myself to eat. Off to the next hill, all I could really do at this point was to follow someones wheel and I desperately hung on. The mind truly checked out, it looked for escape strategies, and saw demons behind every false summit. At one point those demons conspired to pull me off the trail and have their way with me. They reached out at me with long thin branch like fingers, grabbed my front tire, yanked on my bars flashed bright lights in my eyes. Where the hell was I, the body was now on full auto pilot while the mind watched for demons, good places to bail out and was fascinated by the occasional wild flower.

I got really quiet, I thanked the people around me for their effort and strength. I found energy in their perseverance. The hills started to blend and the mind continued to wander. I looked back over my shoulder down towards the desert and could see the vast distance we had traveled, I found energy in that. After what seemed like days we came to the Oakzanita camp ground to refuel with snacks and water. Much to my surprise the owners were watching us all on the computer via Spot Tracker and had prepared soup for the riders coming thru. BONUS, that soup was the best ever soup I ever had in my life ever. I had both the chicken with matza balls and the beef. Nothing better to get you motivated than salty, fatty soup with chunks of meat in it. I was a new man, well almost, there was still plenty of work to be done. Alpine = bed, food, beer and it was just over the ridge.

Food changed everything and my mind slowly started to reengage. The last miles into Alpine flew by as I anticipated the icy cold beer and much needed rest. I stayed at Alpine Apartments/Hotel a funky situation were you call a guy, give your cc and he texts you back with a code to room. I was tired, it worked and the bonus was Alpine Brewery was LITERALLY a stone throw away. We regrouped in the arms of the brewery and we ate and we drank and life was good. I headed back to the room with a little buzz only to find a stick lodged in my back tire. Upon removal a torrent of Stans erupted from the tire. Late night repair while buzzed, fun! Eventually I slept.

The next morning I felt great hopped on the steel stead and set out to meet up with my riding partners. Their hotel apparently had breakfast, today we would finally cash that check. Sausage gravy never tasted so good. We again rolled out in the cool morning air. It was great and I was able to actually enjoy the ride.
View down to the Ocean.
The ride down towards the ocean was great, all the trails we came across were new to me and I embraced the sights and sounds. Sloan Canyon, Sweetwater, Bonita all fun. The hills were full of wild flowers and magnificent. Most of the focus was on calorie replacement, every chance we got we ate, a sandwich here, pizza slices there, cokes, candy and so it went.

As we popped out of the trail systems and onto road we begin to open it up and put miles down. A one point as we were turning towards the Silver Strand we found ourselves in the midst of a sea of fixie hipsters out for a Sunday ride. They rode with us awhile asking the various questions one would ask someone on a 400 mile ride then they were gone. The Surly was a big hit with them. The ocean air hit our senses full on as we rode towards the ferry. We were almost there when crossing the street my front tire let out a hiss followed by Stans that would again not be able to seal the puncture. I had no more 29x3" tubes as I had used the spare the night before. I'll admit I had a little panic attack until someone on the sidewalk said "There's a bike shop right there." there was Hollands Bike Shop, but before I had a chance to go in Brendan produces a tube of super glue and goes to work. It held enough to enable the Stans to do it's magic. After a quick air up I quickly bought a regular 29er as a back up just in case. From this point on I would worry about my tires.

We were finally on the ferry and on our way into downtown San Diego. The ferry was hot and stuffy but an interesting addition to the route. Working our way back up the coast the game plan was to push on until we saw fit not to and that was about the size of it. Various groups of people that had been stalking I mean watching us on Spot Tracker came out and joined our caravan as we turned from the coast to start our return ascent back to Idy. While I appreciated the company it kinda freaked me out a bit. Sure they were friends, but after almost 3 days on the trail I almost didn't want the interaction. My mind became incapable of holding or relating any meaning of the conversation that was going on around me. It was explained to me later that it was a symptom of what was termed "Trail Brain".

Darkness set in as we made our way back onto the trails. It was decided that a beer stop was in order, upon finding a location to drink said beer we would determine a sleeping spot for the night. Turned out the drinking spot would be our sleeping spot. We set up camp under a nice moonlit night and I fell asleep looking into the vortex of infinite stars.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Coach Whipped! Part 1 -Get past the desert at all costs!

Was it 4:30, 4:45 I couldn't remember what time I set my alarm for it felt like I had been waiting for it all night. I stirred then laid there for a moment and thought, "400 miles, argh" then headed towards the bathroom. The cabin was cozy but I could tell that wasn't the case outside so a warm shower set things off right and the preparations began. As I begin to wake and think about the coffee and scone I would soon have I looked over at my bike. We had become good friends, I had the notion that a steel fully rigid bike with 3" tires was the way to go for my first 400 mile bike-pack trip, so I spent a lot of time riding it to prove myself right. Every time I picked it up it seemed really heavy, I had convinced myself that it was normal but cringed every time someone went to handle it for fear they would call me out and say "That things a pig your never gonna make it!" or something to the sort. There it sat waiting to be brought to life by the energy stored in my legs or so I hoped.

I set out towards the intended start spot early enough to get coffee before the intended start time. I made just in time to find out the coffee shop would not be open before our grand departure, oh well, this pattern would repeat itself. A quick adjustment and the intended hot caffeinated liquids were found and all was right. What was I doing? Oh yeah 400 mile ride with 70 other like minded individuals. Still sounded like fun. Small talk was prevalent then a hush as Grand Master Brendan explained the rules. Follow the course, self supported, you're on your own, don't call us, high fives and smiles when you get back and maybe beer. Then we were off somewhere around the intended time headed in the intended the direction.

The banter out of town was nice I knew before long it would cease and all men would be on their own. The air was cool and crisp as we zipped through the mountains, I relished in it's sting as we headed out of Idyllwild towards what we all knew was gonna be a HOT day in the desert. The news had reported all week that their would be record temps around the county and especially in the desert. Hell awaited with open arms and intoxicating views ready to pounce on the unwary traveler with fits of body cramps and nausea.

So we went, I was in good spirits as we entered Coyote Canyon the first of the desert sections. The bike handled well in the sand and I was having fun, friendly rivalry ensued on the washes out of the canyon and candles were burned too early.

I made it to Borrego Springs in not too bad of shape but the heat was present and it was climbing in centigrade by the minute. I had told myself I was too "try and eat healthy, don't load up on crap". I had done well up to this point and was convinced I could make a go of it. Unfortunately or not so unfortunately depending on whom you ask tacos was the easiest thing in town. So tacos it was followed by horchata and a red bull. Fueled??? and hydrated I set off towards the second desert section Fish Creek.

The wind and heat on the road to Fish Creek started to do its damage on me and my pace slowed, I caught up with some over riders along the road all had the same look. IT WAS HOT!! So hot that one rider was overcome by it and the desert heaves set in, I felt bad for him and quickly assessed my odds. They were still good I had plenty of energy despite the repressive heat.

The turn into Fish Creek was an eye opener, well over a 100 and the wind decided it was done for the day. I rode on and on cursing the sun asking for release, I passed riders in the dusk, we stopped, nobody spoke, no words could be mustered forth. I saw shadows of bodies in the sand I secretly envied them but I forced myself forward. Mecca aka Agua Calinte waited and it was only miles away. The desert spat me out onto the highway and wearily I made my way.

I saw a purple lights dance on the hill interrupted with some intermittent green ones in another area, I was close or about to be abducted by aliens, either one was preferable to my recent condition. My condition on the approach was not good, muscles fired randomly in my legs and I was on the verge of seizing up. I had gone to hard in the heat and I was about to pay the fee. I stumbled into Mecca noticed some familiar faces, gave a random high five, walked in the store, couldn't comprehend what I was doing, walked back out of the store and over to a picnic table were I gingerly tried to stretch out and rest. Cramps ensued and I tried to mute my pain from the others around. Riders came and went some stayed, some dropped out, electric dance music played in the distance and yes purple lasers caressed the plateaus of the surrounding desert hillsides. It was surreal and calming, I gained enough energy to try and find supplies for the next day. I at least needed water, the store would not be open early enough to re-supply before departure. It was still my plan to depart in the morning despite what my body was telling me. The night was nice, warm and occasionally interrupted by cramps.

I awoke early with sore legs but no more cramping. Ran into Brendan again on the way out of the head and commented on his dapper PJ's, he had obviously had a better night than I. He was also on the same flight plan so I decided to hook up with him and some others. I needed help to get me through day two. Alpine was the goal but over 7,000 feet of mountainous terrain stood in the way. It would be a pivotal point in my ride.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Sage of Beers!

Brew Crew!

As a park ranger, avid cyclist, hiker and  all around outdoor enthusiast nothing I enjoy more after a long day on the trails is a nice, cold refreshing beer. I've been brewing my own for almost 20 years and have experimented with a lot of ingredients and one of my favorites has always been California Sage. It gives the beer a nice flavor but more importantly the smell puts you right back on the trail.

Fast forward to earlier this month. I had entertained the idea of brewing a beer to benefit the San Dieguito River Park for years but it was just not in the cards until recently. With the help from Jess Norton from the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy we started to reach out to different breweries around the parks focused planning area. Jess was contacted  by head brewer Devon Randall of Pizza Port Solana Beach and a plan was put in motion. Devon had brewed a beer in the past that reflected the style we were looking for and most importantly she was open to the idea of using California Sage and joining forces with a local park in an effort to raise funds.

Myself and Jess were invited to take part in the brewing process and as a home brewer I was elated at the thought. Until then my biggest batch was 10 gallons usually done at home in my apartment. A 7 barrel system is huge. We arrived at 6 o'clock in the morning fired up and ready to brew. We immediately got to work on the mash tun and started adding the grains.
I heart grains!
The smell of the mash that early in the morning was inviting and invigorating, I could see myself fitting well into the role of brewer pretty easily. After the mashout and recirculation we sparged the grains in a process called lautering that separates the liquid from the grains which is then transferred into the wort boiler.

The hops were added after some boiling and at the end of the boil the star ingredient California Sage was added. Jess, Devon and myself gathered the sage the day before within the park corridor so that it was nice and fresh.

Devon and Jess picking sage.

The sage smell now permeated the brewery.

After the boil we got a good sense of how the beer was going to turn out. The smell of sage came through very nicely and and the color matched the rolling grasslands throughout the park. Into the fermentor it went, yeast was added and the magic began.

Coast to Crest Trail Ale w/ sage!

Overall it was a great experience for a great cause. I want to thank Devon and Pizza Port brewery for the opportunity to work with them on such a fun endeavor. I also want to thank the Jess and the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy for bringing two of my passions (brewing and trails) together. I think this is the first time at least in San Diego that a partnership like this has happened and hopefully not the last. 

The first ever Coast to Crest Trail Ale brewed with California Sage will be ready for release this coming Monday, April 27th. Pizza Port will be having a "Hoppy Hour" from 5 to 8pm and there will be a special CTC ale t-shirt available. Hike, bike or get yourself there somehow and enjoy a unique beer created for a great cause.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sharing Our Trails

Last year I attended the California Trails and Greenways conference and one of the main topics of discussion centered around how to deal and avoid user conflict on trails that are becoming more and more crowded. There were many theories as to why most if not all parks in California have started seeing a monumental rise in trail users over the past 5 years. Everything from social media to the rise in popularity of mountain biking and adventure running. Whatever the reason the fact remains that there are more people on the trails than ever and form time to time there's gonna be some issues that come up.

So how do we deal with these ever increasing pressures? We become proactive, we seek to educate and we take on some responsibility for our actions. While talking with some Santa Monica mountain bike trail volunteers and CORBA members at the conference I found out that one of the tools they were using was an informational brochure about the importance of "Sharing Our Trails" that outlined what each user (hiker, biker, equestrian) could expect to encounter while out on the trail and most importantly what role they could play in avoiding conflict.

We have put these brochures in all the kiosks around the San Dieguito River Park. Please stop by, grab one, take a look and pass it on. "Let's work together to keep our trails safe and enjoyable for all."

Online information about about this program can be found here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A bike ride down the Coast to Crest Trail.

I've been a park ranger with the San Dieguito River Park for over 15 years now and I was an avid volunteer mountain bike patroller and trail worker with the park for 5 years before that. I've seen a lot of the changes within the park over those 20 years and I have seen a lot of the parks corridor that stretches over 55 miles from Volcan Mountain near Julian to the ocean in Del Mar but I had never been able to match all the puzzle pieces together until just recently. I had always wanted to feel the full experience of hiking or biking the San Dieguito River Park Coast-to-Crest Trail from the time I first learned of the parks vision of linking open space corridors from the north, south and east together.

My journey on the Coast-to-Crest was not new one, former SDRP director Dick Bobertz, Poway City Council Member Jim Cunningham and Bill Simmons all took on the lengthy task of hiking the trail in a series of 6 days spanning from 2013 to 2014. The San Dieguito watershed that covers 346 square miles also has also been featured in the book Coast to Crest Trail and Beyond- Across San Diego County by car along the San Dieguito River. The last hike down the corridor was done by a group of High-Tech High North County 11th grade students over a 7 day period in the Spring of 2014, that story is featured in the book We Chose Our Own Adventures by Alex Snyder. While I would not be the first one to take on such an adventure I would be the first to link the Coast to Crest Trail by mountain bike.

Monday, February 2nd “Groundhog Day” seemed like a fitting day to make my run at the Coast-to-Crest trail. I started from the Volcan Mountain trail head off of Farmers Rd around 0800 and headed towards the Santa Ysabel Preserve- East trails and jumped on the Kanaka Loop trail that would take me to Hwy79. From these trails you get a good sense of just how big the SDRP corridor is. The views are incredible as you pass through oak woodlands areas and large expanses of grass lands.
Smelling the pines and getting ready to head out.

After existing from the SYP-East trail I had to get on Hwy79 for a few miles and then turn onto Mesa Grande road heading towards Black Canyon Rd. The alignment for the trail through the Santa Ysabel Preserve- West area is still in the planning stage. Whatever it is it will be a great trail. I’ve been able to hike a lot of that area and the canyons in there are great. After a brief diversion around I was back on track and riding on the Upper Santa Ysabel Truck Trail. You know you’re in the canyon lands now. The road and hill sides begin to steepen and the terrain starts getting a lot rockier. From here you can see straight down the corridor to the Hwy78 as it comes up from San Pasqual Valley. Fortunately the rains this year made for some more stunning views. From here you descend into Pamo Valley where I picked up the main road leading to the Lower Santa Ysabel Truck Trail and eventually out onto Hwy78 and into San Pasqual Valley. The big picture was finally starting to take shape.
Looking down into Pamo Valley from Upper Santa Ysabel truck trail.
Even though I had been pretty much in the park the whole way I felt a little more at home once I got onto the San Pasqual Valley trail. The bulk of the parks operations are focused within this area so it is very familiar and as soon as I entered the orange groove and smelled the blossoms at the beginning of the valley I was at ease and enjoyed a nice ride through the grasslands area and up over Raptor Ridge again giving me another great view down the park corridor towards the ocean. I was getting closer but still had miles left. The ride down Raptor is twice as nice as going up. I was then out across the flood plain and into the Lake Hodges area. There’s been a lot of work around the lake shores lately with the removal of many invasive eucalyptus trees and it is already starting to make a difference. The native plants are gaining a better foothold and thriving. Oh yeah the rain helped as well. I continued down onto the Del Dios Gorge trail after the Lake Hodges Dam paralleling Del Dios Highway and then onto the Santa Fe Valley trail.

Raptor Ridge and Lake Hodges Dam.

Heading into Del Dios Gorge and Santa Fe Valley trails.

After crossing into the Lusardi Open Space Preserve you can pick up a connector to San Dieguito road. From this point I followed the San Dieguito road down towards El Camino Real. Again the connector for this area is still in the works but could follow much of the same route. I followed El Camino briefly until I regained the Coast-to-Crest trail again at the Del Mar Horse Park.
The trails in the Coastal area of the SDRP are the youngest we have. Most of what is down there was built within the last 4 to 5 years and it’s coming along very nicely. This is the point where the San Dieguito River joins with the ocean and the lagoons. All the lagoons you see were created as part of a large wetlands restoration project headed up in great part by Southern California Edison. Continuing on I could smell the ocean breezes and I knew I was within miles of the beach. Now following the river to the ocean I crossed the Lagoon Boardwalk (currently in danger of being removed) and passed by the Del Mar Fairgrounds and eventually on to the river’s mouth “Dog Beach” and the end of my journey. All told it took me about 6hrs to complete the 72mi route down the San Dieguito River Park Watershed.
Birdwing Open-Air Classroom
Lagoon Boardwalk
Looking back east.
This trip through the park was an absolute eye-opener for me. It was not until my journey was complete that I really understood what it meant to have a plan like this in place. The benefits of having a dedicated wildlife corridor not only helps now but ensures that it stays that way for generations to come. The obstacles ahead of the San Dieguito River Park are still numerous and great and in most situations it’s going to take some real cooperation and sacrifice on behalf of all the entities that make up the park. After 20 years of working for and with the park I am proud of what we have accomplished so far. It is my sincere hope that I get to one day see this project to fruition. 

Reaching the beach!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dezert Daze: My first bikepacking trip

I have been a biker and backpacker for quite some time now and a couple months ago I had the chance to finally combine the two. I had wanted to go bikepacking for awhile but just never had the chance to until Brendan Collier from The Hub Cyclery organized a trip from Idyllwild to Borrego Springs. I was in like Flynn!

Always being a fan of "stuff" I quickly picked Brendan's brain to see what I needed as far as essential bikepacking gear goes. As the author of the Stagecoach 400 race and avid bikepacker I knew his expertise on the subject would be all I needed to get started down the roads of bikepacking. I was set up with the Relavate Designs "SweetRoll" bar bag and "Versace" seat bag and to my surprise combined they were more than enough to fit the contents of my backpacking gear.

I had set up my SS Siren ready to run fully loaded with bikepacking gear and had actually done a couple of test rides to get a feel for it. But as they date approached I was very easily talked into trying out a "fat bike" for the trip into the desert. Although my expertise on "fat bikes" was very limited (I had put about 15mi on a Beargrease demo earlier that year) I decided why not, the benefits of having a 5 inch tire in deep desert sand fully loaded kinda even sounded appealing to me.

The Silver Fox
I drove up to Idyllwild that morning excited about the adventure ahead. As soon as I pulled into the Hub parking lot I saw a lot of familiar faces including the "Desert Fox" himself. This was gonna be fun. There was a lot of commotion in the hours leading up to the departure. Bikes were being outfitted with various bikepacking accouterments. A burrito order was placed and a couple of beers consumed, the rest were packed for the trip. After a brief announcement from Brendan we were on our way out of Idyllwild.

Heading out the initial feel of a loaded down "fat bike" was, well cumbersome at best. But after about a half an hour it wasn't so bad, fortunately there was enough dirt road type of riding to get used to the weight before we rocketed down the Keen Summit singletrack. We continued to make our way through Garner Valley and up over into Anza Valley. It was a pretty cold day and for the most part the pace was steady. I really didn't notice how chilly it was until we hit Anza for a refuel stop. I also began to notice how late it was getting and that there was no way in hell we were getting to the camp site by nightfall. All apart of the bikepacking experience I guess. Fortunately I had packed a light away but I was in the minority. Things would get interesting soon.

As the light of the day waned we made our way into the desert. I was glad to be out of the cold wind and starting the decent down into Coyote Canyon. I was enjoying the fading light and the cool colors it was putting out across the desert when Dave came flying past me on the decent exclaiming to me that my "fat bike" handling skills may be in question. It was more like "get that big gal under control." I thought to myself "have fun once you hit the sand with no lights".

No sooner had the thought been thunk when I came around the final corner that dropped into the sand wash to find Dave down in said sand with the front wheel looking like a taco. After a brief moment of silence Dave motioned for us to keep moving, he had been down this road before and like any truly self sufficient man he had it under control, that and Brendan wizard of wheels was only a little bit behind us. I took a rider (Angel) and proceeded to Bailey's cabin our destination for the evening. Now it was dark as I led Angel down the sandy road, every now and then I would here a noise only to look back and find Angel lying on the ground. No matter what kind of bike your riding in the sand if you don't have a light it's gonna be difficult.

Spam Sushi "Yum!"
We made it to the camp and immediately went about starting a fire. Within the next half hour or so everybody eventually made it in. We all set up our digs for the evening and got some food started. Some prepped food, some ate burritos from earlier, some even went so far as to make brownies in a portable dutch oven. All in all there was plenty to go around. The evening culminated in drinking the all left over beer and much of the whiskey supply and then attempting to not fall into the fire pit whilst spinning yarns. There was brief talk of an alcohol fueled game of foot-down in the corral but no takers. I fell asleep happy, under the stars with the wind snapping at my bivy.

The next day we all awoke to a nice sunrise and no wind. Had breakfast and cinnamon rolls thanks again to Brendan's dutch oven, Dave's wheel was tuned up and we were back on the trail before we knew it.
Morning has broken.

Now we were in the desert proper. Deep sand, baby head rocks and the willows lay ahead. I had a little foreshadowing of what the Willows had in store for us from a trail trimming excursion with Brendan the week before. I headed up the charge threw the willows and successfully navigated it till it's end. There was a lot of blind leading the blind for awhile but eventually it let out into a nice wash and then back onto the sandy trail. Ohh and that "fat bike" I was riding loved every minute, it was finally at home in the desert terrain. We made a quick stop at Indian Canyon to check things out. Fun little hike but we never found that Indian sweat house, in hindsight it was probably because we were in the wrong canyon. Lesson learned.

The rest of the trip was pretty mellow, a lot of sandy roads and great scenery leading out of Coyote Canyon and eventually some paved road and a quick stop at the desert sculptures then into Borrego Springs. We had a great lunch and were shuttled back up to Idyllwild.

Would I do it again, yep in a heartbeat. If you are looking for adventure like this then just you wait, I'm sure that Brendan is currently rubbing his hands together at the thought of another fun trip to the dez. If your new at the game of bikepacking have no fear for Brendan is well qualified and a veritable font of adventure riding/racing knowledge.

So how do you not taco your wheel- don't make fun of someone minutes before, instant karma sux! As for debauchery, you'll have to actually go out there to experience that!