We departed the Idyllwild Bake & Brew at 9am Friday March 11th.
Exactly one hour delay from schedule, which ain’t too shabby for this bunch. The rental trackers were delayed- as is the expected norm- coming from a sled dog race in Alaska.
We enjoyed a hero’s departure as the elementary school children lined up to cheer us on as we left town. Approximately 69 riders started the ride.
-But that delay might’ve been a good thing. Weather moved in Friday afternoon, presenting rain, high wind, and a significant temperature drop sometime around sunset. Lead pack riders charged up out of the greater Lake Henshaw area into Black Canyon, where conditions rapidly deteriorated into a cold, wet, unaccommodating mess. The soil turned to the consistency of a smooth peanut butter. Riders who’d made this push suffered greatly, unable to sufficiently protect against the elements, and some experienced mild hypothermic symptoms. The midpack gathered at Lake Henshaw Resort and piled into a limited supply of small rooms. It was cozy, warm, and fun. Some riders did not make it to Lake Henshaw and instead “sheltered in place” in various parts of Lost Valley. Excellent pit toilet accommodations were reported by a handful of riders.
Many of us elected to have breakfast at the Lake Henshaw restaurant, which opened at 6:30am. This allowed a fully recharged belly and improving conditions in the mountains. As we progressed through Black Canyon and Pamo Valley we found evidence of a very hard night by the riders ahead in the form of deep tire scars in the trail. Areas where riders ahead had to hike-a-bike were rideable by the morning.
Progress in San Diego came relatively easily, with “free miles” for most riders arriving to the general Chula Vista area. The lead pack pressed on hard toward Alpine, and beyond. The chase group arrived later in the day and fought hard.
Lagunas- the door closes again.
Thousand Trails- Oakzanita Campground.
Lead riders were just finishing in Idyllwild. Chase group was in the desert.
Just past sunset, weather built up in the high country above the Lagunas. Riders ahead found deteriorating conditions and quickly dropped to lower elevation into the desert via Oriflamme Canyon, and were able to progress all the way to the Anza Borrego Desert. Midpack riders found themselves in a strong, damp windstorm, but pushed forward and ultimately found redemption in the desert floor below. Chase riders once again had the figurative door closed and some sheltered in place on the mountain for a restless night.
Agua Caliente- Mark, a perennial favorite stop, was not available for many riders this year. Riders improvised and found other sources for food and water in the pre-desert area. The Butterfield RV Park was especially helpful for many riders.
Lead pack riders pressed across the desert before dawn, while mid pack riders hit the sand early to mid morning. Temps were not especially high this year, though the sun was hitting as hard as ever. Sand conditions were exceptionally good, with the push through Vallecito, Tapiado, Diablo, and Fish Creek Washes all being 100% rideable.
The mid pack had a bunch of fun at the Iron Door Saloon.
Wind past the Iron Door Saloon proved to be quite the formidable adversary. Informal pacelines and much flailing ensued.
Burritos in Borrego Springs. Beer, sorta. Smelling the barn. Strong winds persisted well into the night. Daylight conditions in Coyote Canyon presented moderate sand, deep water in the willows. A lot of riders were still bunched up in the canyon for the long slog back up to Idyllwild. Riders trickled in as the day went on, and gathered for hugs & high fives at the bike shop.
It was a good time on the bike.