Friday, June 10, 2011

San Juan ride

With dodgy WiFi at the motel last night, this was the only page I had to go on for a ride today (fortuitiously left open on my browser from the previous morning). I'd heard it was a good one, but quite a long ride. I managed to get a jpeg of the topo map on my GPS & work out how to find the trailhead, so this morning with an hour's drive through the June Gloom I was setting off for a ride up a big hill. Luckily for me, another guy pulled up shortly after & he'd ridden the trail before - so I joined Levi, a lifeguard at a beach just a little south.

Speaking of the beach, this was the closest I'd been to the ocean for quite sometime. 250m was also the lowest elevation I've been at for over a year (the London weekend doesn't count), so I was hoping my mountain lungs would hold me in good stead. Straight off the bat, the trail just climbs & climbs - first through fifteen (count them) switchbacks before starting to follow the contour of the hills a bit more. The climbing continued for the first 10.5 km, surrounded by artillery barrages echoing through the hills from the nearby Marines' base Camp Pendleton. Apart from some tricky switchbacks it was all pretty easy & I cruised up with quite a few breaks to wait for Levi. The trail surface was really nice crushed granite, in some places the scrub tended to encroach a little; compared to what I've been riding recently, it wasn't the slightest bit technical (that is, if you avoided the drainage ruts). The gloom wasn't really conducive to photos, but I tried my best. Although it was quite cool in the cloud, I sure noticed the difference in being close to the sea - I haven't sweated so much in who knows how long.
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Switchbacks climbing out of the valley

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More switchbacks, with the scenic Ortega Highway in the background

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A wide easy section

About an ninety minutes after leaving the car, we reached a fork in the trail at Cocktail Rock (so called because it looks a little like a bar). We went left up the wide trail here, eventually completing the loop on the trail that comes up the hill from behind the rock.
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Cocktail Rock with the return of the loop on the right.

We'd done most of the big climbing by now, the loop was mostly undulating. It was quickly into a neat downhill section that was wide & fast, then filled with loose rocks & then rooty & rutted out. It was all great fun, with nothing too difficult there. Near the end of this part we'd left the scrub behind & were riding through meadows surrounding by massive trees - it was a surprise to see these & have some shade (the sun having begun to burn off the clouds just after eleven o'clock).

As we left the meadows behind & I saw this climb ahead, I was pleased to have Levi catch up & tell me to turn right & avoid it.
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There were two more intersections (one with an old sign & one un-signed) where we had to take the right option. We got a bit more up & down in before returning to Cocktail Rock.

From here it was pretty much all downhill & boy was it fun. Nice smooth trail that just went down & down for more than half an hour. It was well worth the pedal up & negotiating all those switchbacks going down was a whole different skill to pedalling up around them. We were back at the trailhead with grins plastered on our faces. I was pleased that I'd taken a punt on the weather (we had a little rain on the drive there) & gone on this ride with another big ride promised in two days' time. I wasn't really hurting or exhausted by the end of 28km of riding & 1000m of climbing in 2:40 riding time - all those rests must have helped.
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All the rocks dotted through the scrub looked a little odd - I kept thinking I was seeing water tanks on the ridge

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Just to prove the sun came out & it was a nice day

After feeding the machine that powered me up the hill we hit the road to San Diego. Just over an hour down the I-5, it was great to be driving back into San Diego & recognising various placenames & exits from the freeway. My month here immediately after leaving NZ two years ago was just fantastic (apart from the mugging incident, of course). Disappointingly, my visit this time has been ill-timed to coincide with most of my Kiwi-American friends being out of town - I was so looking forward to staying in a home again & seeing people I know for a week or two. At least I still have a good riding buddy I met on my last vist - tomorrow is bike-TLC day (must be about my bike's fourth birthday) & BBQ at his house, can't wait.

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