February 25, 2018

Yuma: Sugarloaf Mtn.

Yuma, AZ. What comes to mind? The Sand People from the original Star Wars? A territorial prison from the pioneer days? Heat? Sand? A gas stop on the way to San Diego? Perhaps all of the above. I had heard of some trails there years ago, seen some pics and it looked interesting at the very least. It was never a place I'd consider driving 3 hours just to check out. I figured if I was ever passing through the area with both my bike & a bit of time to spare, I'd give it a whirl. The time had come.
I must be getting close!! The Imperial Sand Dunes rise above the I-8 corridor along the border in CA.
I thought Sugarloaf Mtn. would be a bit more pronounced from afar, but it blends into the surroundings and looks more like a series of hills or folds in the landscape. I drove north of town a few miles on two-lane farm roads to find a few cars parked at the trailhead. This must be the place.
Very cool stonework. Found out later that it was done by a friend's father who lives in Yuma.
My plan was to keep it short, 1 1/2 hours max. I also wanted to ride the high point of the system to take in the views. I found a route online that fit the bill, a CCW loop just under 10 miles.
There's not much vegetation here, but what grows is the heartiest around.

The Lunar has landed.

More craftsmanship with trail markers.

I may have missed a turn or two, but the plus-sized tires didn't mind the short sandy wash sections.

Considering how rocky this place is, the trails are relatively smooth.

Pop the champagne, top of Sugarloaf!!

Ocotillo are one of the few local residents.

Champagne trail carves a path along the upper ridgeline.

The trails rode very well, great routing too.

Party spot on a Friday night.

I didn't find any Gold or Silver, but struck it rich in singletrack.

One final up & over on the way down to the trailhead.

The Azul hues of the Gila Main Gravity Canal seemed so foreign to this land.
I finished up right on schedule, then realized I forgot about the 1 hour timezone change on the drive over. I had promised I'd be home around dinner, ok maybe a late dinner now. 

All in all, I had a great time on the Sugarloaf trails and would love to come back and ride the rest of them. I'm guessing you could easily link together a 30, maybe 40 mile ride to hit everything without a ton of overlapping. I also really lucked out with the weather as it was in the high 60's with a light breeze. This is NOT a summer ride!!

If you have time and a bike the next trip through Yuma, give the singletrack a look. It's worth it.

CA: Santee - Fanita Ranch

I was looking to ride something local to the San Diego area and fairly short. Evan offered up the Santee area trails at Fanita Ranch. It's an area that seems to constantly be under fire for future development, but Conservationists keep winning out. Hooray!

We hit the road and met up with another one of Evan's buddy's, Brian. The climbing ensued quickly and the cool morning temperatures were soon forgotten.
Evan & Brian grinding out the first climb of the day.

Now high above Santee.

The trails were routed with good climbing grades.

Down in the dark shadow (below center/right) is a white spec of a wrecked SUV. Apparently, some kids rolled it down the mountainside a while back and somehow survived the crash.

That is one smart looking boulder.

Here, the trail climbs, bends, twists up, through and around all the rock outcroppings. Super fun section.

There were a few tight squeezes for my 780mm handlebars!! Photo by Evan.

The Chuparosa soaking up the rock hits. Photo by Brian.

Brian shows me a better option up this rock face.

We kept crossing paths with this guy, might as well grab a pic!!

More trail contouring into a side canyon.

The fellas leading the charge back towards the trailhead.

It was nice to rip a long downhill on real dirt, no rocks and skinny trail.

Cruising back to the trailhead...on time!!
I thoroughly enjoyed my short tour of the Santee area and would love to ride here again. Thanks for the tour guys. I had a bit more riding to do on my way home and got on the road shortly after 10a...

February 24, 2018

CA: Palm Canyon Epic

Our camp location dipped a bit colder than the night before to somewhere in the upper 20's. Evan's buddy, Basil, would be joining us on the Palm Canyon Epic, PCE, route. We rode together a few months ago up in southern Utah during my Gooseberry Mesa roadtrip. Basil arrived and it had warmed up a few degrees by the time we were ready to roll out. Evan & Basil had done this ride many times before and had the logistics all worked out as we left Evan's truck down in the valley the night before. We'd be riding over to the official start of the PCE from camp and it's a long way down to the valley floor from there.
Still a few patches of snow in the shadows.

The End for some, the beginning for us.

The pines didn't last too long, but they were there.

The first couple of miles were choked with berms, jumps and speed. I didn't bother to stop.

Nearing our first short HAB on the side of the upcoming hill.

Singletrack narrows as the views widen.

Evan & Basil take off down Death Slide Hill or something like that. There was plenty of exposure, penalty for failure was kinda high, but the trail was solid.

A short 5 minute break to celebrate a clean run down the hill!!
The trail began to level out a bit and we gradually continued our downward trend.

We followed the bottom of washes and popped out on some gorgeous singletrack.

The chunky stuff was few & far between.

Meandering trail was everywhere!!

Some sections opened up and begged for speed...

While others stopped you in your tracks. Water can create some amazing landscapes.

We had been cruising downhill for hours and still no signs of the city below us. Photo by Evan.

Finally!! Some palm trees in Palm Canyon.

I had been warned about this section. A 3+ mile, 1200' gain up a sand trap.

That trail looks much better than the upcoming sandy grind.

Looking back from where we came.

Much to our delight, the sand was packed down and easy to ride.

The pitch was deceptive, until you looked back!! We were down in the far valley only minutes ago it seemed.

A familiar sight to me, Mike's Desert Oasis. This is the end/beginning of the Art Smith and Hahn trails. Today we rode Hahn trail down.
A short fun climb started things off.

They love their giant metal signs around here...and so do I.

Looks just as cool in shadow form.

Basil surveying his domain.

This bike sure does pose well.

Evan switchbacks through the boulder field.

In spite of the amount of rocks, the trail was fairly tame.

You can't see it here, but I'm grinning ear-to-ear. Photo by Evan.

It really was this ridiculous.

The Hahn downhill seemed to stretch out for miles on end. No complaints here other than tired hands.

Wild Horse trail was up next.

It was a trail of two halves: gentle uphill rollers followed by sweeping downhill after a short wash spin.

Some of the region trail maps don't align the names correctly, but I think this one was spot on.

See that sun drenched small peak to the right of center? We'd follow the knife's edge on the ridgeline out to its point.

It reminded me of the Ripsey ridgeline on the Arizona Trail.

Fantastic trail routing.

Stopped to soak it all in and see where the trail dove off the edge.

Somewhere around the 30 mile mark of our ride and we still had a bunch of descending to do.

Evan diving into the vegetation free zone.

I watched those two practically zoom out of sight.

All that remained were the Goat trails. A series of chunkier lines, some jumps and dirt road mixed in.

Into Palm Springs.

Stray BMX bike, I wonder what the story here is?

One last chunky chute to flat bottom. Pines to Palms complete.
I have to say, this one exceeded all expectations and more than lived up to the 'Epic' designation. It's definitely a cool weather ride as summer temps easily reach the triple digits. It was a great day sharing the trail with the local gang and we only saw a handful of people the entire day.

With the colder temperatures in the high country we opted to head back to Evan's place in San Diego for a local spin the following day...