On Palomar mountain
We are, quite literally, spinning our wheels here in San Diego. Ha! But really, we have too much time in San Diego while waiting for my (Daisy’s) defense date for finishing my PhD. After spending a few days resting and getting work done, we decided to hit the road again. We spent four riding days in the mountains around San Diego, getting very close to Mexico in the process, and we loved it. The coast has been good, but it is the mountains that we truly love. This was a great side trip, despite the fact that it was during a heat wave! This post is longer than usual because it was such a great four days. If you want, just scan the pictures and you will be convinced!
Sunrise in San Diego
We left San Diego well before dawn on our first day out, knowing that the heat would only get more intense later in the day. Even at 4:30 am, it was about 70 degrees. It was wonderful to ride on the empty streets and watch the stars get brighter as we moved away from the city. We stopped for `lunch’ in an orange orchard before 10am, when the temperature was already uncomfortable. Luckily, we were carrying a LOT of water, and we would need it.
Our route took us up a 4,500′ climb over less than 10 miles along a dirt road. You read that right: it was awesome! The road criss-crossed a steep hill overlooking a valley, eventually leading us into scattered trees and finally a full forest. It was hot, and steep. We stopped frequently for rest in every bit of shade we could find. Once it got really hot (95+) we laid down in the shade of a tree and slept for two hours. A passing thunderstorm woke us up, cooled us off, and got us back on the road.
Resting in any patch of shade available.
The view down from midway up the climb.
Jason on the dirt road.
That night we stayed in a beautiful, if mostly abandoned, state park. For some reason, I decided to do a load of laundry in our camp bucket after dinner. It was a terrible idea!! I got nearly 40 mosquito bites before rushing into the safety of the tent. We were sound asleep by 8 o’clock. What a great day!
We slept for nearly 12 hours. We ignored the alarm we had set and enjoyed the relative cool of our high altitude camping spot. It was a stunning ride along the side of the mountain, and we were amazed at how far away the valley floor seemed. Eventually, it was time to descend, but we took a much more gradual (and more paved!) route. It was wonderful. We finished the downhill portion at Lake Henshaw, a resevoir that is chock-full of wild birds, even if it is quite low on water. The resort on its shore also had a BBQ restaurant where we treated ourselves to lunch as soon as they opened.
Lake Henshaw in the distance.
The climb away from the lake was gradual. We passed through a few small towns where we stopped for cold drinks and groceries. The plan had been to ride to another state park campground, but we ended up stopping a few miles early to camp alongside another reservoir. The campground called itself a park, with a ‘resident ranger’, but we are quite certain it was privately owned. After we paid we asked if there was a problem with raccoons. They said yes. Then we asked if there were food storage containers. They said no. So…. where should we store the food? In your car, they said. Ha! The campground host advised us to “eat it all” once we pointed out the obvious fact that we didn’t have a car In the end, we stored our food in a (clean) trash can with a very heavy rock on top. Regardless of our amusement with the campground host, the lake was beautiful. We enjoyed watching hummingbirds, bats, herons, and other birds.
Clouds rolled in during the afternoon.
In the distance, the desert.
A lovely spot to camp for the night.
Our third day was just as great, if that’s possible. When we woke up the sky was perfectly clear. By the time we finished breakfast, a giant stormcloud covered the sky. We started riding with the smell of rain everywhere, but somehow we avoided getting wet. Our route was wonderful: views over a wide expanse of desert, nearly non-existent traffic, and we slowly climbed through various ecosystems.
Stormclouds over the desert : stunning!
Loooong views down the canyons.
Descending towards our oasis of a campground.
Then we reached the top, and proceeded to descend for what seemed like forever. It was beautiful. We brushed up against the US-Mexico border on the way to our campground. It was so difficult not to take the turn and start riding the Baja right then! We resisted though, and ended up in a county park that was like an oasis in the desert. For $5 each we had literally the entire place to ourselves. That night we heard coyotes yipping and crying eerily outside the campground, but we slept well.
Finally, the next day we rode into San Diego. The first few hours of riding were through dry scrub brush with low traffic, but we were quickly engulfed by San Diego sprawl. Our ride ended near Jason’s friends’ house, where we chilled for hours reading books until they got off work. We had a wonderful dinner with them (Thanks Colin and Jaime!), and slept well in their attic.
Next time we pass here, we’ll take the turn for Tecate and cross into Mexico. !!!
As I write this, I am in the San Diego airport getting ready to fly out east. We will be in State College for one week so that I can defend my dissertation and finally complete requirements for my PhD. After that, we will spend a few days visiting with my parents in San Diego and then finally, finally enter Mexico October 3 or 4. I am looking forward to the next two weeks!