San Diego Backcountry Tour – Velorambler plus one

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Our plan was to ride four days with three overnight camps. Thursday, the first day, would be the toughest. We would ride from Poway to La Jolla Indian Reservation Campground. The distance is 40 miles, but the elevation change is more than 4000 feet. That’s more than 100 feet of climb per mile. There are two big climbs to get there. First we had to climb up to Valley Center on Valley Parkway from Escondido. Then we drop down into Pala Valley and start climbing again up the side of Palomar Mountain, until we reach the campground on La Jolla Indian Reservation. We tentatively planned riding to William Heise County Park in Julian on Friday.

Here we are as we prepared to leave. We have our bikes loaded it’s 8:00 AM and we’re ready to go. I didn’t ride the bike this time. Last time I did, the bike, gear, water and rider weighed three hundred pounds. I was probably about that this time.

Ready to go

Ready to go. Neil (Velorambler) left and Paul (plus one) right

When we reached Lake Hodges we crossed over on the pedestrian bridge. We met Ranger Brian in the middle and had him take our picture. Lake Hodges is very green, though there is no water under the bridge right now. The lake was much higher a year ago.

Lake Hodges Bridge

Lake Hodges Bridge

You can see the traffic on Interstate 15 behind Brian. The ridge line in the distance is where Valley Center is, our first big climb of the day.

Ranger Brian

Ranger Brian

Here is Paul taking a break after the tough climb up to the crest and before riding down into Valley Center. According to the map the climb is from 8 to 18% grade and about two miles of climb. That’s not even the hardest climb of the day. The heat made the climbs even more challenging.

Crest of hill on Valley Parkway before going into Valley Center

Crest of hill on Valley Parkway before going into Valley Center

After the climb we dropped down into Valley Center. I stopped to have a smoothie and a short break in Valley Center. After that we dropped into Pauma Valley. Paul wanted to stop at the Subway by Harrah’s Rincon Resort, for lunch. He had a salad and I had a cold water. Then we rode on toward Highway 76.

Elevation 2000 Feet

Elevation 2000 Feet

Stopped to take this picture. We were already pretty worn out, but we have about another 800 feet to climb. We started the day at about 560 feet and will end it at about 2200 feet, after climbing to nearly 2800 feet. Might not seem that tough, but remember we were carrying fully loaded panniers with camping gear and food. It felt like the temperature was about 100 F. It’s a tough climb, even on a cool day. Hot weather makes it even more challenging.

La Jolla Reservation Campground

La Jolla Reservation Campground

We finally arrived at the campground at about 5:30 PM It had taken us nearly thirteen and a half hours to travel 40 miles. I’ve done this ride twice and it doesn’t seem to get easier. IT was a good test for a future ride up to Crescent Lake in Oregon. The distance is a little shorter at Crescent Lake, but the altitude gain is about the same.

The La Jolla Reservation Campground is primitive, but they do have showers. We thought $20 a piece was a little expensive for bicycle camping. We weren’t in any position to make another choice. We had to pay $15 each for camping and a $5 “environmental” fee. You can rent inner tubes to float down the river. They also have a video game room, if that’s your thing. Portable toilets are everywhere in the campground. We chose a “family site” that was reserved for the day we left. Not a bad site, except it was too close to the entrance. Flood lights are on all night long in driveway and vehicles are coming and going. Because of the river, the noise was minimal. I slept pretty good, except when leg cramps woke me. I had the same issue the last time I rode here. Rolaids or Tums seem to help. I’ve also read that dill pickles and mustard straight from the bottle will stop them.

We had a masked bandit come into the camp a couple of times. It’s good to remember that Racoons are everywhere and will raid your camp if you leave out anything to tempt them. They aren’t picky eaters and they are smart enough to figure out how to get into most packages. I’ve read they will even chew a hole in your panniers to get to your food.

Here's Paul Holding up Tree at La Jolla Reservation Campground

Here’s Paul Holding up Tree at La Jolla Reservation Campground

The next day Paul was feeling much stronger. He demonstrates by bending over this giant oak tree. 🙂

Vellorambler and Tent

Velorambler and Gear

I didn’t feel so strong, and could barely hold myself up, let alone smile.

We planned to ride Friday to ride to William Heise County Park in Julian. The next day we planned to either ride back to the start, or stop in Ramona for another night. This is the route we planned.

Instead we took this route to go to Ramona. We spent the Friday night there.

It was quite a few miles more before we left the La Jolla Indian Reservation. I think we crossed four or five reservations on our trip.

Leaving La Jolla Indian Reservation

Leaving La Jolla Indian Reservation

It was a beautiful morning Friday and we cruised along heading east on Highway 76 on our way to Lake Henshaw.

Velorambler taking a picture of Paul taking a picture of Lake Henshaw

Velorambler taking a picture of Paul taking a picture of Lake Henshaw

The lake was lovely and there seemed to be quite a bit of water still. We started to ride up Mesa Grande Road. But, the grade was steep and our legs were tired, so we decided to ride to the junction with 79 and bypass Mesa Grande. We still ended up climbing a bit up to Santa Ysabel, which is at just short of 3,000 feet.

Highway 79 to Santa Ysabel

Highway 79 to Santa Ysabel

We decided to stop at The Santa Ysabel Mission.

“The Santa Ysabel Asistencia was founded on September 20, 1818 at Cañada de Santa Ysabel in the mountains east of San Diego (near the village of Elcuanan), as a “sub-mission” to Mission San Diego de Alcalá, and to serve as a rest stop for those travelling between San Diego and Sonora.”

Cemetery at Mission Santa Ysabel

Cemetery at Mission Santa Ysabel

The cemetery is small, but still being used today. I recognized some recent headstones. I didn’t go in, just took pictures over the fence. We did manage to find an electrical outlet where we could charge our phones while we recuperated and hydrated. I have learned to drink a full bottle and refill whenever the opportunity arises. It’s hard to drink to much water when you are working this hard.

Commemorative Bell at  Mission Santa Ysabel

Commemorative Bell at Mission Santa Ysabel

I thought the commemorative bell was fascinating. It closely resembles the bells that were placed along El Camino Real in 1906. Most of those bells are gone now, but a few still remain. Up around Santa Barbara you can see them along Highway 101.

We arrived at Dos Picos Park in Ramona after a grocery stop, at about 2:00 PM. There was a sign at the Ranger’s office that the campground was full. We asked and were told that they had a space in reserve, and since we were riding bicycles, they would make a space available. It was cheaper than the Reservation Campground and we got a premium spot. The only negative was that we were right across from the cabins and someone decided to leave the porch light on all night. The campground was noisy until late. No river here to mask the sounds of other campers.

We had a visit from another masked bandit. Paul left a partly eaten block of cheese laying on some ice. The raccoon could not resist. It was dark at the time, and I heard some noise. There was the little bandit munching away. We threw away the cheese and cleaned the camp. We need to learn to be very careful with food in camp. Raccoons seem to be everywhere and they will steal anything they can eat. Certain smells really attract them.

Breaking camp in Ramona

Breaking camp in Ramona

Paul wanted to take a picture of this sign, because his son works there.

Orfila Winery Escondido

Orfila Winery Escondido

We had a great stay in Ramona and we started packing Saturday morning. We were back to the start at about noon Saturday.

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