Wednesday, June 3, 2015

San Diego's Steepest Road Climbs: Magnificent Sub-Milers

Steepest Short Walls
Steepest 1-5 Milers

Long overdue, I'm afraid because it took a while to get out and personally check all the candidate sub-miler badass climbs around town. Anyhow, so far, here are the toughest just-less-than-a-mile-long paved road climbs I've encountered in San Diego County. This shouldn't be read as an exhaustive list, tho. There are loads of amazing climbs out there and I'm sure I haven't explored them all yet. The climbs with * on them take some finessing to get onto, I'm afraid, as they are gated access-controlled roads.

10. Alpine Trail [0.7 mile, avg 7%, max 43%]
Just the top ramp on Alpine Trail.
A back way to Alpine from Harbison Canyon, this extreme rollercoaster takes you through a new housing development between Galloway Valley and Alpine Heights. From west to east, the climb comes in two major ramps with a nice dip in between them that allows for a bit of sling-shotting. It's a bit of a dilemma placing this climb lower than Via Capri and Country Club... I suppose, if you aren't already strong enough to survive > 23% graders for about a city block, then Alpine Trail would be quite harder to climb than Via Capri and Country Club Drs on Mt Soledad. If you can cope with short stretches of extreme gradients, tho, I feel this climb a bit easier simply because it allows you good enough rest to catch your breath and shake some lactate off the legs before the gnarliness resumes.

9. Via Capri Dr (Mt Soledad) [0.8 mile, avg 10%, max ]:
When the locals talk about climbing up the steep side of Mt Soledad, they usually mean Via Capri Dr from Hidden Valley to La Jolla Scenic Dr. It is indeed a very stern test of legs and lungs of the relentlessly uncomfortably steep variety. The worst thing about climbing Via Capri, to me, however, is the traffic. I'm afraid most cars don't struggle up the steep slope as much as we cyclists do, and the fact that there are often cars parallel-parked on the steep ramp between Vie Sienna and Hillside Dr, forcing you onto the only uphill traffic lane sure doesn't help things much.

8. Country Club-Romero-Brodicaea-Encelia Drs (Mt Soledad) [0.8 mile, avg 11%]
But, really, the hardest climb on Mt Soledad is actually the lesser known and traveled Country Club route. At about the same length, this route is a full percent grade steeper than Via Capri Dr. It is lesser known, I think, because it dead ends for cars at the private gate to Upper Hillside Dr from Encelia Dr. This makes for much sparser traffic... and sort of makes climbing it feels a bit easier than Via Capri since you can actually paperboy (zigzag) up the ramps in next to no-traffic condition. The steepest bit of this climb actually comes in the middle of the first block of Country Club Dr at about 18%, then there is a short break after the left turn along the golf course before the gradient kicks up again to Romero Dr and doesn't drop again until the top of Encelia Dr, 1/2 mile later.

View from La Jolla Reservoir off Encelia Dr.
If you aren't fixated on getting to the top without ever stopping, though, I'd suggest veering left at the corner of Brodicaea and Encelia Drs and going down the little drop to the car gate with a magnificent view of La Jolla Shores. If you don't mind a bit of firm dirt riding or hike-a-biking, the little dirt trail leading left over the knoll from the car gate is worth some exploration, too. It is only about 40 yds long and takes you to perhaps the best panoramic view point in La Jolla.

7. Coronado Hills Dr (San Marcos) [.6 mile, avg 12%, max grade 25%]:

It is almost inhumane how steadily steep this main route up Mt Whitney in San Marcos is! It's a well paved thing with two wide lanes and hardly any traffic at all after all the Mt Whitney residents had gone to work during the week. Once the road kicks up it doesn't drop below 10% again until 'the top'.

Looking north down Coronado Hills Dr.
Of course, by the time you get there, you might as well turn right onto Washingtonia and climb a bit more (2 or 3 short steep ramps with level off or dips in between) to the radio tower at the top. The steep ramp from the 5-way intersection is quite holey, though (unless it has very recently been repaved), and might be even gnarlier to descent than to climb.

6. Black Gold Rd (La Jolla Farms) [.4 mile, avg 14%, max grade 23%]:

The paved access road to Black's Beach from La Jolla Farms is perhaps the best kept secret local climbs in the city! It is car-gated at the top, though sometimes service vehicles and some key-holding local residents would drive down to the beach there. For us cyclists, most of the time getting on this beautiful beast involves tossing the bike over the gate and walking through the tight peds access way through the gate.

After the road starts to drop the view starts to open up and this climb can look very intimidating, with the switchbacks mid-section looking quite steeper than it actually is. Have no fear, the worst of the climb is actually at the very bottom where the narrow lane branches around a triangular island and the tarmac becomes well dusted with sand. From that spot down to the benches overlooking the beach the grade average is around 18% with maximum of 23% (yes, you'll have to mount the bike and start climbing on a 17% grade slope... Oh, the price we pay for a glimpse of the city's only nude beach!).

From the bottom of Black Gold Rd.
You may notice a lot of skid marks on the road surface as you muscle your way back up. Because this road is mostly car-free, steep, well paved and curvy, it is a favorite road-surfing spot for the local skatboarders. So... keep a look out for those when you hear strange rumbling approaching from above!

6. *Montana Serena Rd (Crest) [0.9 mile, avg 12%, max grade 43%]:

Getting on Montana Serena Rd may be a bit of a problem as it is in a private housing complex off from Rios Canyon Rd from Mountain View Dr between Crest proper and Harbison Canyon. Once you get on it, though, it is a conquest worth all the sufferings it inflicts!

The mellow tarmac bottom of Montana Serena through the relatively new housing development turns into a bumpy white concrete monster as soon as the road turns right around the row of palm trees. From then on it is put-your-head-down-and-don't-look-far-ahead do or die sort of climbing until the concrete surface turns into tarmac again about .7 mile later.

Gnarly climb for spectacular view = good trade off?
There is a lot of view to see from this road, but chances are that you won't notice any of it on the way up. It is that nastily unrelentless and steep. And to make it worse, there is no bombing on the descent either. The concrete is rutted and so bumpy that if you hit a bump wrong at >10 mph you will be in for quite a lot of hurt. Besides... why would you go fast down this thing when there is so much view to see?

5. *Buds Ln - Double R Rd (off Old Coach Rd in Poway [0.7 mile, avg 14%, max 27%].
I'm afraid I can't tell you much about this one since I haven't managed to get on it yet. :) It hides behind a heavy duty gate off from Deer Valley Estates just below Ramona Reservoir.

Buds Ln - Double R Rd as espied from Old Coach Tr
It sure looks super gnarly from a distance, though. I think you'd have to know someone who lives on Buds Ln to get inside the gate... Either that or wait until one of the new houses in the complex is doing an open house.

4. Lake San Marcos Towers Trail N [0.5 mile, avg 15%, max 30%]:
Known to the local steepie-hunters as the Lake San Marcos 21% (dunno why that percentage, but there it is), this is the paved narrow access road from the north side to the radio towers overlooking Lake San Marcos on the western spire of Cerro de los Posas Mountain, and it is a feat of suffering with a very disappointing view at the top!

I'm afraid the trail head at the bottom is unmarked and looks just like a private drive way. It's basically the narrow lane next to #1520 La Plaza Rd, and it leads you through some nice fenced in avocado orchards before being nearly completely blocked with a giant car gate with about a million padlocks on it where you will have to toss the bike over and somehow squeeze through the narrow opening on the left side... and find yourself restarting on about a 14% grade slope. I know, I know, San Diego steepies are such pills sometimes!
Final ramp to the Lake San Marcos radio tower.
The pavement is quite good and just wide enough for some paperboy-ing, and if you can, you must take in as much view as possible on the way up since the top of the road only has enough flat space for the radio tower complex and nothing else... and the complex lies between the top of the road and the drop to the lake. So... there is no view whatsoever at the very top, unless you want to roll back halfway down the steepest ramp of the climb for it, which may be okay if you just want to out-n-back this thing. But if you want to traverse from the tower along the Ridgeline Trail to Double Peak, then this would be quite a lot of aggravation!

3. Camino del Aguilar (Starvation Mountain near Escondido) [.7 mile, avg grade 15%, max grade 24.2%]:

While most sensible cyclists ride up to Ramona from Escondido via
the splendid curvy climb of Highland Valley Road (HVR), the steepie-addicted ones are partial to the (not very) short cut over Starvation Mountain that branches off from it just east of Bandy Canyon Rd instead. Camino del Aguila is a paved private road that technically ends at the dirt connection to Eagle Crest Rd just a wedge shot from the top of the mountain, though on bicycle there are a few ways you could take downhill from the top.

Anyhow, the first part of the Aguila involves going over a steep ridge by the winery and avocado farms. Road surface is quite pothole infested and there are a few sharp speed bumps to be mindful off as you descend to the ravine. From the bottom of the ravine, though, the road kicks straight up and becomes distinctly hostile to normal legs and lungs functions. I'm afraid the next turn on the road won't bring you any relief no matter how much you wish it would, not until you get to the lone level-off with a low stone wall by a ranch house nearly a mile later!

Of course, the only traffic on this road are local residents, and there aren't many of them, so you probably won't run into any car at all (though if you do, tread carefully because the driver is probably having as much trouble staying on the road as you do... the thing wasn't quite engineered right and doesn't bank quite the right way at its many steep switchbacks).

At the top, you could either take the dirt road onto Eagle Crest Rd that'd drop you off on HVR just west of Sky Valley Dr (this involves going around a couple of gates and quite a bit of trespassing), or you could hike-the-bike up the steep dirt ramp leading off to the left to pick up the top bit of Starvation Mountain Rd. I'm afraid we can't get to the very top of the mountain since the big house on the top had gated it, but turning left will take you down Starvation Mountain Rd back to HVR about a mile further up than when you turned off it to climb the Aguila.

2. The Crow's Nest Lane (Harbison Canyon) [.4 mile, avg grade 18%, max grade 33.3%]:

The shortest on this list, and it's sitting at #2! No kidding! I'm sure many have glimpsed at this monster as they descend Mountain View/Frances Rd into Harbison Canyon, though not many have gone up it since the base of it isn't quite on the main road. As you can see from the gradient profile pic above... it is a mad road!

As there are only 2 occupied houses on The Crow's Nest, the likelihood of sharing the gnarly climb/descent with a car is quite slim. The road is pretty well paved, though it does have liberal amount of sandy debris on the surface (probably doesn't get swept often... or at all!), and there are a couple of really ill-placed sharp speed bumps right on the steepest bit of the climb that gave me quite a fright when I spontaneously wheelied upon hitting them (the 2nd one even came with a rear wheel skid due to a loose layer of sand). So... please make sure your brakes are in excellent order before attempting this thing because you will have to come down it. And, as much as I enjoy going downhill, descending the Crow's Nest Lane was like a pleasure cruise that caught the flu virus 500 miles off-shore with no other ship in sight. I was happy to be alive when I got to the bottom... after having snailed my way down at less than 8 mph!

1. **Rocky Lane (Muth Valley) [.7 mile, avg 17%, max grade 44.8%]:
Talk about a barricaded road... It takes quite a bit of acrobatic just to get onto Rocky Ln at all! And once you are on it, you sort of wonder what madness had come upon you and how in the world are you going to get back out! Have an equally crazy buddy with you or tell someone where you'll be before attempting ('cause if you run into a mountain lion while dragging your bike up this thing, you're toasted and probably won't be found within a month). Also, as hideous as cycling down Wildcat Canyon Rd is, considering its traffic, it still is probably safer than descending Rocky Lane. I don't think I would even attempt it if I have disc brakes... So there you go.

Honorable mentions: Rainbow Glen from the west (Fallbrook), Rice Rd (Rattlesnake Mtn in Santee), Gomez Creek Rd (Rainbow - Pala).

Thursday, May 7, 2015

San Diego Local Road Cycling Speak: What Roads Are They Talking About?

A few local cycling favorites/locales are referred to more by their nicknames than the real/full ones, so, here are a few in alphabetical order.

- A to Z (or Z to A) = The obscure back roads connection between Rancho Santa Fe's Stud Loop and Camino del Sur by way of Artesian and Zumaque Roads. It's a gated passage with creek crossing that is usually dry (except for within a week of the last substantial rain in the area, of course), and involves steep climbing in either direction. A gorgeous short cut, tho!
- Boulevard = Boulevard Road Race, the big annual road race in Boulevard, CA (Imperial County).
- Cameron Junction = SR 94 at Buckman Springs Rd near Campo.

- ECR = El Camino Real, the main surface road running mostly north-south along the coast just east of I-5. South terminus in Del Mar.
- Four Corners = This one depends on which part of town you are talking about. There is an official 'Four Corners' neighborhood up in San Diego Country Estates SE of Ramona. Unofficially the junction of Lyons Valley Rd and Skyline Truck Trail/Honey Springs Rd is known to the Jamul locals as 'Four Corners'. Also, it could mean the junction of Morena - Stokes Valley Rd (previously known as Corral Canyon Rd) and Los Pinos Rd way way out SE of the Laguna Mountains, tho that is mostly known by the local off-road four-whelers.

Highway 76 east of I-15 is part of 'Gamblers' Loop'.

- Gamblers' Loop = (Hwy 76 - Valley Center Rd - Pala-Temecula Rd): Because of all the casinos on this network of narrow two-lane highways in NE San Diego, of course. On the north end is Pechanga Casino on Pala-Temecula Rd, then there are Pala Casino right by Mission San Antonio de Pala off Hwy 76, then a few miles further east on the 76 is the Pauma Casino. Continuing south onto Valley Center Rd there are Harrah's Casino in Rincon Indian Reservation, and then up the steep grade off from N Lake Wohlford Rd is Valley View Casino. What this means for cycling is, of course, nasty riding condition. All these highways are very narrow and curvy with little or no shoulder. And the casino traffic involves people operating their vehicles while under the influence... and quite a lot of huge Casino buses.

- Glass Elevator = County Highway S22/Montezuma Valley Rd, also known as Montezuma Grade, the deliciously twisty climb/descent between Borrego Springs and Ranchita. A category 1 climb and a marvelously scenic technical descent that drops 3400 ft down to the desert floor in just 11 miles. It may not be as technical or twisty-a-delic as Palomar South Grade Rd, but it arguably is the most beautiful descent around!

- GWL = Great Western Loop: a favorite 40 mile cycling loop comprised of Willow Glen Rd - Dehesa Rd - Japatul Rd - Lyons Valley Rd - Jamul Dr - Steele Canyon Rd. The classic GWL loop runs clockwise starting from the Rancho San Diego Starbuck. There are some variations possible (using Skyline Truck Trail instead of Lyons Valley Rd, or using Hwy 94 instead of Jamul Dr - Steele Canyon Rd, etc).

- HVR = Highland Valley Rd, a very curvy two-laner connecting Rancho Bernardo with Ramona around north side of Starvation Mountain. As good a climb as it is, it is an even better descent (albeit quite a technical one in two stretches).

Scripps Poway Pkwy climb (Purple Monster) to Hwy 67.

- Purple Monster = Scripps Poway Pkwy climb east from Community Rd to the crest just short of Hwy 67. It's the big climb on the San Diego Century's purple course, and its lower slope is lined with purple flowering jacaranda trees.

- RSF = Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood. It's full of curvy and well shaded lanes lined with spectacular ranchos and villas without much flat stretch to speak of. In short, a cycling (and horseback riding) heaven!

- Scissors Crossing = SR 78 at San Felipe Rd (S2)

- Smugglers' Run = Hwy 94 between Rancho San Diego and Tecate border crossing... for obvious reason! This is a beautiful stretch of rural two-laner, though what little shoulder it has comes and goes and drivers tend to add too much mph to the speed limit. Also, it's a main trucking route... so I'm afraid even tested local riders avoid riding the Smugglers' Run. A lot of time it is like playing Russian roulette... and the prospect of a new casino opening at Jamul Indians Village sure doesn't help things.

- Stud Loop = La Valle Plateada, El Vuelo, and Las Colinas series of side-road detour on the south side of Del Dios Hwy/Paseo Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe. Del Dios Hwy is part of a local favorite cycling route (see next entry), and most riding groups will stretch out so much that the studs end of the group can duck onto the Stud Loop detour and pop out back on Paseo Delicias at Via de la Valle right in time for the slower elements to arrive and regroup. It's only about a mile of added distance and some minor climbing, but the view is absolutely gorgeous and there is hardly any car traffic to speak of.

- Swami Loop = The usual Swami A ride loop involving Del Dios Hwy & Elfin Forest Rd. I think the ride usually goes clockwise, but it's still a nice ride either ways.

Torrey Pines 'Inside'.

- Three Witches = San Dieguito Rd (series of 3 climbs from El Apajo to Camino del Sur)
- Tidepool Hill = Cabrillo Rd, the paved service road in Cabrillo National Park that goes down to the tide pools. This is a popular hill-repeat site for local cyclist. The climb is 0.8 mile long at near constant 7.5% grade.

- Torrey Pines = N Torrey Pines Rd between Torrey Pines State Beach and the golf course. There are two different climbs; Torrey Pines 'Inside' refers to the park service road (accessed from State Park entrance at the beach), is a shorter but steeper climb within Torrey Pines Preserve. Torrey Pines 'Outside' is N Torrey Pines Rd, a wide main thoroughfare with a wide bike lane and gentler incline. As of summer of 2014, though, bicycles are banned from descending Torrey 'Inside' for safety reason.

- In Valley Center, 'The Grade' means Valley Center Rd between Lake Wohlford and Woods Valley Rds.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, May 1, 2015

May is National Bike Month

Did you know that May is National Bike Month? If you ever wondered what it would be like to try to bike around town running errands or sight-seeing or commuting to work, there isn't a friendlier time of year to give it a go!
Look how many bikes you can fit into a single car parking spot!
I know, riding the bike on the roads within the San Diego city limit can be an intimidating experience. Even with all the new bike infrastructures (sharrows, new bike lanes, 'Bike May Use Full Lane' signs, etc), there is still much work to do for our town to become truly friendly to non-car mode of transportation. One important factor in making that happen that you can contribute to, though, is to increase the number of bikes on the roads.

Have you ridden on the new buffered bike lanes on 4th & 5th Ave in Uptown, yet?
The more drivers see bicycles, the more aware they are of bicycles... Sounds like a no-brainer? It is! Often time, no matter how narrow or curvy a road is, the biggest determinant of how safe that road is for everyone (driving, cycling, walking, or just standing there chatting with the neighbors rather than all cooped up in a room fighting with strangers on facebook or other social media page) is the mindset of the drivers on that road. The more you are reminded of slower road users on the same streets, the more habitually you look out for them... and that benefits everyone! (Because... unlike in the movies, real life accidents have real consequences for everyone involved).
I've had my years of 30000 miles/year behind the wheel of a car, but I think I've seen a lot more of the neighborhoods and countrysides here since I switched to almost exclusively traveling by bike. You see cool and curious things in your own neck of the woods that you wouldn't notice speeding by in a car (or even when you aren't speeding, but just sitting there stuck in traffic... but not looking out the window. Cars do that to you, cutting you off from your surroundings and often making other people outside of your little steel-encaged environment seem a lot less people/real).

All taxpayers pay for the non-freeway roads regardless of their mode of transportation. We ALL own the roads and have the right to them whether we are driving a car or not.
You can stop and hop off the road just about anywhere to check out that cool looking bookshop or cafe that you have been meaning to stop by forever... but never did, or to walk the bike through a local farmers market, or even to just lean against a rock to enjoy a fleeting spectacular view. Getting a parking spot at Torrey Pines State Beach so you can watch the sunset into the ocean is a lot easier on bike than in a car, for instance.
Did you know that you can get free refreshments and other swags at pit stops around town during Bike To Work Day? Click here for San Diego region Bike To Work Day 2015 pit stop map.
Think your commute route is too hilly? This guy has to climb Honey Springs Rd on his bike commute between Jamul and Chula Vista!
Think cycling is too physically taxing for you? This young dude here is paralyzed on his right side...
Biking to work and to run errands or even for exercise isn't as hard as you think! Try it for a day (Friday May 15th 29th (original date postponed due to rain) is Bike to Work Day) or even for a week (May 11-15 is Bike to Work Week)... or maybe even for a month! You'll save a load of $$$ (gasoline isn't exactly cheap these days, and so are car maintenance fees), get a bit less chubby while getting to eat more goodies than you used to, pollute the air we all breathe in a lot less, and get to know your own neighborhood and neighbors a lot better!

If you have never cycled much in traffic before, there are a few cycling safety videos you might like to watch before heading out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Another visit to Bandy Canyon and Camino del Aguila

Also quite a while back... because a smorg is only ever a few letters different from a sloth, Team Fun was planning on a ride east to Bandy Canyon and the lower bit of Highland Valley Road (HVR) and team captains were conspiring to go pre-ride the route. Since HVR is one of the many cool cycling roads that I had been neglecting of late, I figured I'd ride out to hang with Jill and the Heathers for a bit. It was a cool and foggy Wednesday morning when I got to South Escondido and started east on San Pasqual Rd.

San Pasqual Rd, shedding what little shoulder it has at Orfila Winery.
The 'milky' bit of Old Milky Way.
Looking SE down on Ysabel Creek Rd from San Pasqual Batterfield.
I really would not recommend cycling on San Pasqual Rd east of Orfila Winery, no matter how experienced a cyclist you are. Drivers are pretty crazy on that road... if you ride by the right edge of the pavement, they'll squeeze pass you at 40+ mph in the fog, and if you control the middle of the lane they'll still try to pass you at speed approaching blind corners (and honk bloody murder while they're at it, too). It's pretty insane how much many drivers will risk for just a few seconds of travel time. 
Memorial plaque on a boulder at San Pasqual Battlefield.
The pavement comes and goes on Ysabel Creek Rd.
Bandy Canyon Rd toward HVR, just before it really climbs.
It was quite a relief to finally get to turn off onto the much more mellow Old Milky Way/Old Pasqual Rd where the local cows thrive, and then onto mostly paved Ysabel Creek Rd to pick up the last flat bit of Bandy Canyon Rd before it turns uphill toward Highland Valley.

A male kestrel in the field.
Llamas in the ranch near the top of Bandy Canyon Rd.

Bandy Canyon Rd is a mostly gentle climb with much sparser traffic compared to the lower climb on Highland Valley Rd. The only sounds I heard spinning up the short steep-ish pitch were the humming of farm machinery in the valley below and a whole lot of bird chirping in the bushes. A few roadrunners scooted across the pavement as I approached, the last one stopping for a good look - probably trying to decide if I was really a harmless cyclist or a sneaky wily coyote.

Camino del Aguila winding its way up the west face of Starvation Mountain.
I topped out with so much time to spare before Team Fun captains were scheduled to arrive, of course, and standing around waiting after having sweated a bit on the climb would just make me cold... What to do but to sneak up to visit my most favorite climb in the San Diego North County?

Camino del Aguila AKA the Eagle, is a queen of a country road. The primary climb from the dip just beyond the little pond to the west col is only about 0.8 mile at a gnarly average gradient of 14.5% grade (maximum grade around 24%), but the view is worth every bit of suffering it inflicts! Besides, if the climbing proves too painful, you can always stop by at Altipiano Winery at the bottom for some recovery wine-tasting!

The west col with dirt connections to The Heritage complex off Old Coach Rd in Poway.
I hung around the col for a while, checking out the dirt roads connecting to the Stage Coach complex and Starvation Mountain Rd closer to the top before it was time to roll back down to the top of Bandy Canyon Rd to rendezvous with the gals. Descending the Eagle is quite a technical thing... I wouldn't recommend it to anyone new to mountain riding, especially in warmer weather. You have to know the road really well and know where to let the wheels run a bit to dissipate braking heat while always tightly control the speed to make all the sharp switchback turns whose gradients vary from 15-30%, depending on the line you take. Half way down I stopped to chat with a local lady who was out for her morning walk up the mountain. She thought it a marvelous exercise for me riding up and down the Eagle... I thought it even better exercise for her doing it on foot!

Lying in ambush on top of Bandy Canyon Rd.
Team Fun crew arriveth!.
HVR descending fun...
The Heathers and Jill arrived not long after, along with turbo George of REV in San Elijo Hills. I'm afraid they didn't see the llamas on their way up, but were properly greeted by a few roadrunners nonetheless. I rolled down the hill on Highland Valley Rd with the group before splitting to do some roadside housekeeping (pox on people who keep throwing drink cans and bottles and other trash out of their car!) and indulging in a really productive bird-watching session on the Kreitzer footbridge across the water-free eastern portion of Lake Hodges.

Kreitzer Bridge over Lake Hodges.

Kingbirds battle!
A boy kestrel and his lunch.
It was a load of fun, of course. We ended up modifying the Team Fun route a bit to avoid San Pasqual Rd, and the actual ride turned out quite a blast. Hopefully I'll head out that way again before it gets too warm. There won't be any kestrel around now (those cute buggers were just migrating through during the winter months), but I've heard rumors of bald eagles out in the hills... How fitting it would be to encounter one while climbing the Aguila!