Sometimes I come up with a hair brained scheme, this may have been one of them? Adventure on a bike and the allure of the great wide open. The question arises, why we do what we do? Like why did Hillary climb Everest? I dunno know maybe because it was there or he was looking for a great view.
Now I’m not comparing myself to Hillary or any of the great elite athletes, because I can be a potato with the best of them and those folks are a whole different category. Sometimes, sometimes I get a little whisper in my ear to go do something adventurous. I’ve traveled repeatedly to the Pacific Northwest for cyclotouring, all over Southern California, San Diego, Orange County, Ventura/Ojai and yet the mountains behind my home always seem intimidating and mysterious and for good reason. The Angeles National Forest is located just minutes from an urban sprawl with a little over 18 million people yet this young rugged range abruptly juts above the Los Angeles basin, rising at it’s highest point Mount Baldy 10, 069 feet and comprises an expanse of 1, 024 square miles, has survived countless massive burns and floods over the course of human habitation. Like any adventurer, I explore the San Gabriel’s because it’s looming out there, for the views and camaraderie. So explore this expanse I do.
Mount Pacifico has come up numerous times in conversation, amazing views with a stark desert and pine tree terrain now charred from the ’09 Station Fire which devastated 251 Square Miles. Back in ’14 my cohort Evan and I rode up from Acton/ Vincent Grade (near the Antelope Valley) and rode the 4100′ 17 miles to Mill Creek Summit, then 10 miles and 1898′ up Mount Gleason Road to Messenger Flats Camp on the front side of Mount Gleason, the following day we descended back to Little Tujunga Canyon by way of Santa Clara Divide Road. We nick named that ride the “Epic s24o ride” and with good reason. The views and terrain were incredible.
I ride often up big Tujunga Canyon, but have yet ridden from the Angeles Crest Hwy/Big Tujunga Canyon Road/Angeles Forest Hwy junction to Mill Creek Summit. So the unknown was the allure.
My good friend Curtis drove up from San Diego early and we departed from my home at 9:30am. And yes another heat wave was upon us with triple digits! It could be worse! It could be raining. We figured at elevation we’d have some relief from the heat.
I pretty much knew what to expect from my house to the first junction I mentioned above, everything ahead on Angeles Forest Hwy was all new territory. After climbing 3058′ and 15 miles we popped out the other side of a tunnel and made lunch at Hidden Springs Picnic area.
This shady spot was a welcome relief. After lunch we trudged on and upward and though my legs felt good I was feeling a bit dehydrated. I brought three full water bottles, Curtis four* (figuring to refill at Mill Creek Summit Fire Station at mile 22) and at this point had about half a litre! I underestimated the heat and knew I needed to find water but didn’t know where that would be? As we continued to climb I noticed to our right the signs of human activity. I also noticed lots of signs with “Don’t stop here!” not the friendliest invitation. But this sliver of activity along a parched creek had me curious. I noticed a fellow sitting under shade near a motor home, I paused along the side of the road and hailed him, “do you have water?” he replied yes.
It turns out that this community along Mill Creek has been homesteaded since the late 19th century. His wife’s father had homesteaded 40 acres which is how they came by the property. Once there had been a Gas Station, Cafe and apparently a christian center with Olympic sized pool built with the help of Louis Silvie “Louie” Zamperini. While we re-hydrated with water from a 200′ well his wife was down below meeting with members of AFI about film location. We both greedily drank our fill of the cool well water and topped off our bottles.
After saying our good by’s and thanks we continued on making a few brief stops along the way, Baughman Spring and shaded turn outs. We passed a gorgeous campground Monte Cristo Creek CG but it was closed for repairs.
We reach Mill Creek Summit and the Fire Station around 3pm after battling fierce head & side (the Santa Ana’s were blowing) winds that literally blew you off the shoulder of the road, we had climbed 4900′ over 23 miles.
Curtis and I both agreed a rest break was in order. We situated ourselves behind the fire station where the shade, picnic tables and view were. Since I’m doing this years COFFEENEURING CHALLENGE I figured this would make for a worthy spot. I work Sunday through Thursday so a Friday is a weekend day for me, all within the rules.
We serendipitously met John and Taylor two PCTer’s who’d hiked from the Canadian border South. Apparently, and I didn’t really know this the South to North is the usual direction and the other way is considered the wrong way. They told us there was a group out there called the “Wrong Way Gang”. Curtis asked them how many miles they averaged? They hike 25 miles a day!
This was a great opportunity for them because of the available water so they could have a warm meal. When they’re low on water it’s dried food and some mornings they admitted they couldn’t have coffee. They shared their trail names with us, Spiceman & Chilli Pepper. John had acquired Spiceman because his Mother had mailed a care package with loads of spices to a designated drop point, I didn’t catch where Taylor got her name? They figured to be done by October 31st just in time for Dia De Los Muertos and then it was back to Alaska where they live and work at a ski resort.
We lingered maybe a bit too long but we were pretty pooped. We started the last part of the ride/grind around (I’m estimating here) 4:20pm . The Mount Pacifico Fire Road began behind the Station and climbed in earnest immediately past the gate.
After grinding out another 1330′ and 3 miles, losing daylight the reality sank in, we weren’t going to make Mount Pacifico! We chose instead Forest Service Road 3N90 towards Round Mountain Camp. We never found the camp, tired and ready to stop we opted for a beautiful flat promontory with 360º views. All those pedal strokes and finally we had our payoff.
The evening was pleasant with a comforting breeze and balmy temps and we drank our beers chatted and retired early, weary ready for sleep.
Our morning started before the sun crested the eastern ridges, yet it was light enough to break camp and begin making breakfast.
Coffee & Tea were brewed, breakfast munched on while we watched the sunrise along with all the orange clad hunters toting rifles stalking deer. Fortunately, we were also wearing orange so not to be mistaken for their prey. We heard many a shot and surmised they’d probably frightened off all the deer. The night before we spied deer along the ridge where we made our camp.
The evening before we decided the whole route was too much and we agreed that we would ride back the way we came.
So down the mountain we rolled past the blinking hunters trying to process what they were seeing! Two bearded gents on bikes loaded with gear. They’re probably still trying to fathom us. We sailed down miles of hard won grinding from the day before.
What took us over five hours in the saddle the day before took just two hours and we were back where we started. Plenty of time to be with our loved one’s.
Despite my eye’s bigger than my stomach planning, the ride was a blast! We found adventure, the amazing views and time on and off the saddle with a good friend! Not so hair brained or potato like after all. Time to plan the next adventure on two wheels.
Stats: For S24o** ride and 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge ride 2:
- Distance ridden: 53.5 miles.
- Elevation Gain/Loss 9056′
- Temp range: 98ºf to 60ºf
- My bike ridden: ’03 Rivendell Atlantis (Aka Ol’ Willy)
- Curtis’s bike ridden: ’15 Bantam “All Rounder”
- Coffee: Trystero Coffee Roasters (Los Angeles) Kenya Othaya Gatuyani Peaberry (ground coarse)
- Coffee Method: Pour Over.
- Coffee Equipment: Snow Peak Giga Power Stove (auto), Trek 1400 Cookpot, Titanium 600/ 20 oz Dbl walled mug, Helix Coffee Dripper with Melita #2 Natural filters and Porlex Stainless Steel hand grinder (Japan).
*Curtis’ Custom Bantam Bicycle Works bike is a 68cm frame with room for 4 water bottle cages.
**s24o is a sub 24 hour bike tour/camp.
You can check out my other pictures not posted here on my Flickr account to the side bar.
As Always thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.
And I’d love to hear from you.