A somewhat shorter trip to Southern California

25.12. - 30.12. 2002

In an effort to find a warmer climate, I decided to go to southern California for Christmas and New Year, where the temperatures reach promising 15-20C. The plan was to mostly mountain bike, first few days in Orange County south of Los Angeles, later around San Diego. In the end, only the first half of the plan worked out, as I caught a cold and had to come home earlier.

The Christmas day was spent driving from Salt Lake to Santa Ana, Ca., where I had a motel for first 2 nights. It took a bit under 10 hours, which was not too bad.

On Thursday I rode in two parks in Orange County, Moro Canyon and Aliso & Woods Canyons. Although they are both in or near cities, they were not too crowded. Most of the people were probably shopping. Only nonmotorized recreation is allowed and there are numerous fire roads and some singletrack. I rode most of the trails in both parks, total of about 50 km and 1200 m vertical (the coastal hills are quite steep).
Maps and pictures from Moro Canyon are here and from Aliso & Wood Canyon are here.

On Friday I rode San Juan Trail in the Santa Ana Mountains in southeastern Orange County. The trail climbs from a valley at 250m to about 1000m with occasional short ups and downs. The trail is supposed to be one of the best in the county, and the views were indeed quite nice. The trail itself looked like overused singletrack, width varying from 0.5m to 3m, depending on ruts,... But the ride was very nice, I rode the trail up, then made a small loop on the top and back down, 35 km and 1100 m vertical.
Here is map and fotos from the ride.
Then I drove to San Diego and camped at Lake Jennings county park, a quite nice campground in the hills east of SD. I was surprised that it was quite warm at night.

On Saturday I packed early and took I-8 east for about an hour, where starts a trail on the railroad through Carrizo Gorge. It starts at ca. 900 m. so the morning was a bit chilly, but, it warmed up. The railroad is not operational since 1973, when some of the tunnels were blocked. However, the rest is in a good shape, and the trail that leads next to the tracks has a singletrack quality. It goes for about 20 km to about 650 m on the eastern slopes of the gorge, through many bridges and tunnels. Then it finally turns east to a flatter desert of Imperial Valley. There I turned around and rode back. The whole thing took me about 4.5 hours with many stops for pictures,..., length 44 km and ca. 450 m. vertical.
Clickable map and fotos are here.
Update Dec 2004: Apparently the railroad line is operational so this ride is now off limits.
Then I moved northeast to lower elevation of Anza-Borrego Desert Park, in particular in Mountain Palms Springs area, where I did a small hike to several palm groves and camped.

I felt kind of weird on Sat evening already, and on Sunday I was coughing a lot and had a sore throat. It initially felt more like because of the dry air (my asthma and nose problems are kinda sensitive to that), so, I drove back to the Pacific, where I settled in a motel in Carlsbad, Ca. Went to the beach for a bit and stuff like that, but, things did not improve, so I decided to drive home on Monday, 6 days short of the original plan. So, the expedition has to be continued later, maybe next winter as I now have a proof that Southern California can be quite pleasant when it's freezing in Salt Lake, and the drive there is bearable (especially when one stops in Trader Joe's and Caspian Market in Vegas on the way back).

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