Yes, I called today's ride EPIC for several reasons: it was mine and Dan's first ever ride in the Gabes; it was hosted by some amazing riders (Rut, Hugh and friends); it took us on some ridiculously sick trails; it was pretty long with some good climbs.
Andy asked Dan and I to join Hugh and their buddies for the ride, and I felt pretty honored. I mean, I know these guys are fast...really fast. (This by no means says that I am fast, but rather that they were willing to have me tag along ). Andy graciously let Dan borrow his Nomad since the shock and fork on the Yeti are heading back to Fox tomorrow.
The trusty steeds
Inspecting Hugh's precision-clean Moots
We met up in Tustin this morning at 8 to carpool. Hugh, I must say, has an impressively large.......truck I couldn't get in by myself
We drove up and parked by JPL, then rode up to the trailhead. Stopped to use the facilities along the way and caught a couple minutes of the local futbol game.
My view for pretty much the whole day (and not a bad one, might I add)
Wow...I felt kinda worked going up Lake! (I did a 40 mile road ride yesterday). Got past the gate, and it was time to strip off the arm warmers, vests, etc. because the temps were already climbing.
The climbing quickly commenced as we made our way up Sam Merrill (I think). Lots o hikers out today and most were super friendly. One lady even exclaimed "Finally...a girl!!!" I made most of the climb but a couple switchbacks got the best of me.
Dan making the first switchback
Andy making it look easy on the SS
Took a rest at the hotel ruins and then it was up Echo Mt. connector toward the fireroad climb.
Taking a break
Hugh heads up the Echo Mt. connector
It didn't take me long to find a groove going up the road. Kept it in middle the whole way up. Hugh and company were far ahead, while Andy, Dan-o, and I took up the caboose. At one point, I went on ahead of Andy and Dan, and boy-oh-boy did I hit a nice rhythm. I was cruising along up the hill feeling pretty good.
Rut n' Me, climbing, climbing, and climbing
Stopped where a hiking trail split off to the left to wait for the duo, but after about 2 minutes nobody showed, so I pushed onward. I was starting to feel hungry and by the time we got up to below Middle Merrill (?) I was so excited to see my pb & j!
Discussed the options for riding from here and the group (though some suggested going up to Wilson then doing a loop that would end with another 6 mile climb) opted to head through the tunnel, out to 2, then down the pavement to Red Box.
We stopped for a group shot, then began the descent. I was having a hard time finding my groove on the Niner on this part of the trail, but eventually I figured it out! The scenery was beautiful and the temps were perfect. All I remember is this:
sweet rocky singletrack, exposed dry trails, shady canyon, water crossing (rinse & repeat about 50 times!)
Me cruising down Red Box
I swear, I felt like we were in some crazy Indiana Jones movie...biking through some secluded canyons, fording raging rivers (okay, exaggeration ), snakes and a dead duck on the trail. Luckily there were no monkey brains involved, though I swear Rut mentioned something about sacrificing San Gabes virgins!!
Like I said...lots of water
The Niner served me well...had to give it props
Rut rolls a ridiculous rock
Only one slithery friend sighting today
We descended for what seemed like infinity...I started to get pretty worn down though I was happy. Lots and lots of poison oak though (that was the only down-side)! Once my foot got wet, I gave in and just traipsed through all the water-crossings. The guys thought it was pretty funny but by the end, they were doing the same.
The end of our day was a stop to Big Mama's BBQ on Lake. It was awesome food and the conversation and laughs were the best part!
Big Mama does good BBQ
Mmmm...corn bread n' honey and all the rest
The ending stats were approximately 28 miles and over 5200 feet of climbing. Not too shabby for a San Gabes first-time ride!
One thing is for sure...we'll be back! I really envy those of you who can ride these trails on a regular basis...you are very lucky!!
Major props to Andy, Hugh, and the rest of the gang...not only are you all studs when it comes to riding (four of them were riding SS), you get an A+ when it comes to kindness and being a blast to ride with.