Cuyamaca Peak Singletrack … I Could Not Find It!
While working at the aid station a fellow told me about some singletrack beginning at the top of Cuyamaca Peak and heading down to one of the fire roads below. The ultimate goal for this ride was to find and ride such a track.
My secondary goal was to ride as many miles and do as much climbing as I could. I was feeling motivated after watching the 100 mile runners (see Aid Station for this Post) the previous Friday and also thinking of my buddy (Kevin) who is always looking for more hills to climb (he had just returned from Europe where he and his wife rode bikes across Spain).
I didn’t pull into the Cuyamaca horse staging area until 11:15, having spent most the morning looking at the Global Strava Heatmap, and incredible collection of all the Strava tracks recorded by all the riders in 2015. At first I was looking for the mysterious Cuyamaca Peak singletrack the guy had told me about, but soon got distracted. Suddenly I looked up and found the time was 10:00 … and I had not even gotten dressed, filled my hydration pack, lubed my chain, etc.
I found only one other car in that huge parking lot (which is under some kind of construction) but heard a whole bunch of voices as soon as I exited the truck. I looked toward the bridge for the construction workers (there were none) and quickly distinguished the voices were coming from the opposite direction, from the trail to the east.
I looked, blinked, and looked again. Amidst a cloud of dust I spotted the most hikers I have ever seen at one time! They were heading up the East Side Trail.
While looking at the hikers I suddenly felt my breakfast hit me and looked longingly toward the end of the lot where two port-a-pottys used to stand. I jumped back into the truck, drove up to the visitor center, used their facilities, and returned to the parking lot … still only occupied by the solo car.
Soon I was speeding up the West Side Trail, wondering how many rattlesnakes I would see on the day. Years ago, when I bought my first mountain bike, the seller said he had always encountered snakes along West Side Trail. I have biked that trail at least 20 times and never seen one, but since several rattlers had been spotted by 100 mile runners last Friday I kept on the alert.
In short time I was riding past the bathroom I had earlier used and stopped to take a photo of the old Visitor Center which burned years ago. I could have taken the Cold Springs Trail from the Visitor Center but decided to ride up Green Valley a bit so I could get a little extra climbing on the Hill Trail, which leads back to the Cold Stream Trail.
While motoring along Cold Stream I came across the only snake I would see the entire day … a huge black-and-yellow banded King Snake. He had almost finished crossing the trail from left to right … with the tip of his tail still in the bushes on the left. I veered hard to the left and entered the bushes (there was no way I was going to get stopped). My momentum carried me through the bushes and I returned to the trail. I felt maybe I had missed him completely for by the time I got stopped and turned around he had disappeared (instead of thrashing around like snakes I had hit before).
I climbed the new Cold Springs Trail, rode over to Soapstone, and dropped back into Green Valley.
Once back into the valley I the temperature seemed to skyrocket … not a bit of breeze could I detect!
I really enjoy ascending on the Upper Green Valley Trail … and old doubletrack transformed into singletrack by Mother Nature. Not too steep, not too rocky, just a gentle, winding path (but with no shade).
Sweating profusely, I ate my two oranges at the top under the pine trees lining the south side of La Cima Road, and drank a great deal of my Scratch.
Feeling somewhat refreshed I start pedaling hard around the mountain toward the Cuyamaca Valley, thinking maybe I could get a PR on that Strava segment. At one point I rounded a turn hard and swung too wide, my front tire washing out causing my bike to lay down. I found myself hopping down the trail, not the least bit hurt except where my right ankle had hit my pedal as I had shot off the bike.
I quickly ran back to my bike, jumped on, and finished the run … and still got a PR!
I stopped a dozen times to take photos along the California Riding and Hiking Trail, for I never cease to be awed by the flat expanse of the grassy Cuyamaca valley backed by Stonewall, Cuyamaca, Middle, and North Peaks jutting up behind. The dark blue of the shrunken Cuyamaca Lake only adds to the setting.
I decided to ride the pavement over to the Stonewall Mine, figuring many of my website visitors have never knew existed. I was glad to find I was the only person on the site (the last time I had to maneuver around all kinds of people to get photos).
Climbing Middle Peak was a grind, as usual. Part of what makes this a difficult climb stems from the eight foot walls of brush lining the sides of the fire road, blocking all breezes and views.
This area used to be all trees but burned badly in the fires, the trees replaced by brush. The burning of trees did seem to allow more flowers to grow.
The Black Oak Trail took me down to the junction of the Milk Ranch and Azalea Springs Roads. Immediately after the fires Black Oak Trail used to offer exquisite views to the west, but once again, the dense brush had me riding in a tunnel.
I traversed up to Azalea Springs and ate a nutrition bar, then continued on until I hit the Cuyamaca Lookout Road.
I could tell the road builders must have been told, “Make the path to the top as short as possible … no switchbacks allowed … just head straight up the mountain.” For the majority of the trip I had my bike in granny gear and could hardly keep the pedals turning.
Near the top I started looking for the infamous singletrack. I came across something called the, “Conejos Trail,” but noticed a no bicycle sign at the very base, mostly covered by weeds.
I continued to grind up the road, kind of in a daze, my legs suffering But a couple turns later I was startled by a loud noise to my left. When I glance over I saw a young lady in a bright blue shirt on a horse just stepping onto the pavement from a fire road. I knew this must be the Burnt Pine Fire Road and was disappointed when I saw the No Bicycle sign. I had hoped I could ride this road down toward my truck if I never did find that Cuyamaca Peak singletrack I was hunting.
The girl was very polite, and let me lead up toward the top. I pushed hard to stay in front of her but eventually had to stop for a breather, allowing her to pass.
I had been to the top of Cuyamaca Peak a half dozen times before, but this was only the second time on a bike. Even though the air was quite hazy, I was still enamored with the views.
While snapping pictures on the north side of the tower the girl (who I later learned was named Barbara) and her horse approached (they must have first gone to the south side of the tower). I began to write my name in the booklet I found in an ammo can when Barbara spoke, asking me about the contents of the can.
From there we proceeded to engage in a most pleasing conversation about horseback riders and mountain bikers sharing trails. I told her I truly enjoy running into horseback riders on the trails. I have never been yelled at and have had a lot of fun joking with them and sharing trail information. She said she had been embarrassed by how some horseback riders treat mountain bikers, but had once experienced a biker coming so fast he slid right under her horse! She said he had headphones in and most likely didn’t hear her coming. But even then she did not yell at him.
As I pedaled over to the southern side of the tower Barbara began to walk Reggie back down Lookout Road. After a few more photos, I also began to creep down Lookout Road, checking for any break in the brush, not wanting to miss that elusive Cuyamaca Peak singletrack.
I caught up with Barbara right before she took the right turn down Burnt Pine Fire Road. Reggie jumped when he heard the squawk of my front brake … causing Barbara to have to wrestle with him. I apologized for the incident and said goodbye.
Riding down Lookout Road was a little more fun than the grind up, but not a lot. I think I wore off at least half of my brake pads during that five minute spin. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed having biked up and down the paved mountain and not being able to work my way down some tantalizing Cuyamaca Peak singletrack.
I have biked the Fern Flat Fire Road for years and have found the surface in the same state of deterioration as many others … most of the dirt was washing away leaving only mostly loose rocks. This road does offer some great views of Stonewall Peak and the Cold Creek drainage.
I took the West Mesa Fire Road, Japacha Fire Road, and the West Side Trail back to the truck, arriving just as the sun was setting.
What a beautiful day, a wonderful ride, but … I never did come across that mysterious Cuyamaca Peak singletrack!
During most visits I take many more photos than I can place on a page. To view every image I captured … 87 photos in all, please visit my Photo Gallery site.