November 6, 2022

CA: Ranchita Rambler

 During this past Queen's Ransom bikepack, I had a few riders come from out of state. One rider, Emily, drove over from SoCal, sight unseen after learning about the ride on Instagram. It takes some guts to do that, but I could tell right away she'd fit in just fine. Apparently, she liked the format of the ride enough to create her own variety back in SoCal.

Her ride, the Ranchita Rambler, was an overnight outing with a campout at an official campground at Anza-Borrego State Park complete with showers & toilets. Such luxury!! Her brother, Travis, helped with logistics by parking a van at the campground with snacks and cold beverages. Awesome. Emily set up a postcard registration system and I had to go check it out!! It was a lot of driving for a 58 mile overnight ride, but it was for a good cause as Emily reached out to Kemi at the Montezuma Market in Ranchita about staging the ride there. Other routes, like the Stagecoach 400, go nearby, but miss the tiny community. The goal was to bring attention to the Ranchita area, support the local businesses there and have a great time. How would it all unfold?

Emily was kind enough to host me the night before to save me from the long drive to the start from home. Much appreciated!! It was still a two hour drive to the start and we arrived plenty early since I hadn't done a lick of preparing my bike for the ride. I think I packed for the weekend in about 15 minutes after checking the forecast and seeing 0% chance of rain. Hope I didn't forget anything.

We all took turns posing with the Yeti, aka The Rancheti. I think I actually have everything!! Photo by Emily.

Emily gives some final words to the group before rollout.

Impressive showing for the inaugural Rambler!! Photo by Emily.

It's GO time!!

A short stint on pavement to stretch out the group.

Scooter was the coolest cat...errr, doggo around!!

On dirt and a nice climb to get things warmed up.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple familiar faces, here's Meg. She runs the show for the Stagecoach 400 these days.

We completed a small loop here as we get ready to descend to the desert.

This is Greg, he owns The Local Bike Stand in Pomona if you're ever in the area and need something. He said the shop is open on 'select' Saturdays, this would be a 'Closed' Saturday. Good call, Greg.

Susie, Diana & Luis.

Looks like one more hill to climb...

Meg, Troy & Carlos at the top. Photo by Carlos.

Time to descend to the desert, but first, Travis does a nose wheelie that I didn't notice until I saw the photo!! Nicely done.
Meg had some intel on a short bit of CRHT, California Riding & Hiking Trail, that was nearby. It would simply cut a corner of the dirt road, so why not hit some singletrack? The entrance was a little bit obscure, but there was a sign post. As soon as you were on the trail, it was easy to follow.

So far so good!!

I'm already glad we made this decision.

It was stunning. I hoped it would go on and on.
Of course our small group blew past a turn and found ourselves in bushwhacking mode. But we knew which way to go and quickly regained the tread.

Troy digging the downhill hike-a-bike!!

That's better. Luis leading us out.
We rejoined the route after a couple miles of singletrack. The road was typical light chunk often found on AZ dirt/jeep roads, nothing out of the normal. The lower we rode the more the sand increased. Before long we were surfing through the beach and the downhill grade and sand banked turns kept the speed up. Well, it did if you had wide tires. I was running my trusty 2.6 Teravail Honchos and glided through the sand. A few others were on gravel bikes and swerving all over as they slowed through the thick sections. A couple of folks were on bikes more suited for pavement and we figured they weren't exactly enjoying the same flow we were.

Angelina Spring was slightly off route. Travis went to investigate, but didn't seem to find anything.

Nice shaded area for lunch and a re-grouping of sorts.

Back into the sand pit!! We were nearing the end here.

Tarmac time.

Carlos, Meg & Travis kept a quick pace through here, one I couldn't keep up with.
Luis and I were riding together on this section and we missed our turn back to dirt, but my GPS was sort of acting like we were still on route. We rode on a little farther before having enough common sense to turn around. We found a couple other riders waiting at the dirt turnoff. Back on route!!

This was a nice mildly sandy crossing over a mellow dome towards Borrego Springs.

Erick in cruise mode.

Another familiar face!! Brie was coming off a huge year, finishing both the Stagecoach 400 and Tour Divide!! Massive.

Luis posing for an Anza-Borrego postcard.

The Borrego Valley stretches out before us.

Coming into Borrego Springs we overlapped a road time trial course. It was a 24 hour event and a few of the riders were hammering hard near the end.

Tourist photo at one of the many Galleta Meadows sculptures.

They sure make some cool photos.

Only fitting to find a stagecoach here.

Dinner feast and a breakfast burrito for the morning. It was the bikepacking hangout.
Our campsite was only a couple easy miles up the road. Almost all the riders arrived in daylight and set up camp in the group site.

Setting sun over the valley.

Cowboy camping FTW!! Perfect night for it.

Emily and Scooter, who was enjoying his first bikepacking ride.

Not quite a full moon, but plenty bright.

It's almost like this beer was meant for this ride. Cool patch as well. Meg did the design work.

Sharing the day's stories around the campfire. Eveyone was accounted for and the skinny tire riders made it to camp soon after sunset.
It was an absolutely perfect night for cowboy camping. Stars, cool temps, no wind...and a late night car alarm?!? Yep. Not sure what time it went off, but it went on for a while. Thankfully, I quickly fell back asleep.
Early sun rays towards Palm Canyon.

First light over the Borrego Valley.

Mike's freshly minted Binary Bicycles Havok. Cool. He had reached out back at the beginning of his research, nice to meet another Binary rider.

I got an early start with the long drive home ahead.
The first days ride was 43 miles and about 2,000' of gain. Today's ride was only 15 miles back to Ranchita, but we had to climb out of the desert on the main paved road heading east, a 3,300' gain.

All uphill from here, GPS was reading 770' for local elevation.

Any shoulder is a good shoulder. Traffic wasn't too bad, mostly motorcycles on this Sunday morning.

Temps were pleasant as I gained elevation, but glad I wasn't starting much later.

The views begin to unfold.

That grade looks much steeper than it actually was. Whew!!

I kept a comfortable pace, stopping to take in the scenery and snap some pics.

PeakFinder app.

Jafet & Carlos caught me as we made the turn off the pavement for the final pitch.

A few minutes later, Brie joined us.

The sand was getting thick and I was beginning to feel pangs of cramping in my quads, so I hopped off and walked for a bit.

It wasn't a bad decision and felt good to use other muscles.

The landscape is turning more green as we crested 3,000'.

The fellas caught me again and right after this my quads revolted and the cramps began. Ugh.

Erick passing me while I walked. 'Only one more climb!'

Brie passed me as well, but as we crested the summit at 4,200', I was able to pedal again.

A short bit of two-track, a section we rode the day before, led us out to pavement for the final bit. 

Done! Back at the Montezuma Market.

Jafet & Carlos chilling. Photo by Carlos. 
I loaded up the car and made my way back down the hill towards Borrego Springs. I wanted to make a quick detour to one of the metal sculptures we missed during our Stagecoach 400 tour. It's a massive serpent that spans under the roadway.

Found it!! How cool is that?

The detail on all the sculptures is stunning.

The last two humps are across the road.

More info about Galleta Meadows here.

From a distance, I thought it was a T-Rex, nope.

Farther east I drove through the Borrego Badlands, Salton Sea in the distance.

The Salton Sea, approx. 236' below sea level.

What a cool patch!!

The inaugural Ranchita Rambler is in the books, thanks, Emily!! Well done!!
This was such a fun ride with a great group of people. It's a fantastic route for a first-time bikepacker, just be sure to run wider tires in case it's an extra sandy year, as conditions can and do change.

It was really nice to piece another section of SoCal together. I'm slowly getting a good feel for the area around Anza-Borrego.