Monday, December 3, 2012

A ride out to El Capitan Reservoir

Winter is just about here. I'm sure the weather is less cycling-friendly elsewhere than here on the Southern California coast, though even we blessed San Diegans must check weather forecast before riding east toward the mountains this time of year.
Fashion Valley Transit Center on a foggy morning.
It was foggy out as I waited for the green line trolley to whisk me out to Santee from my Uptown abode for my leisurely ride to El Capitan Reservoir east of El Cajon. I had checked the live webcams of all the areas along my route before I left the house, though. They, along with the weather report, looked promising for clearer sky an hour or two down the road.

Mimi's Cafe front room.
If anyone wants to organize a group ride out of Santee area, Mimi's Cafe at Santee Towne Centre is an excellent venue to meet up. There's lots of parking. The facility is easy to find and has really nice and cozy waiting area. And positively the best restroom for miles!

After indulging in a huge muffin and excellent hot cocoa at Mimi's I rolled out and headed east toward Lakeside. Traffic was nice and light on El Nopal, so a lone cyclist was something worth goggling at, even for a pair of bored ostriches...

 It was a morning of many curious animal encounters. I was rolling through placid Lido Lake when I spotted this modern day dogs-drawn chariot out on a morning exercise along the lake path... 

An even more pleasant sight (for perpetually hungry cyclists like me). Persimmons are in season, and many houses around the area are running a surplus, so they leave out baskets of the fruits on their front porch along with price and a little jar for purchasers to put their money in. Good old fashion honor system. I lose a dollar bill and added four plump Hachiya persimmons into my backpack. These Hachiya persimmons aren't as ready for eating like the wonderful Fuyu persimmons are, unfortunately. I wish someone had told me that before I bit into the thing, bitter skin and all. Smiley

El Monte Rd with El Cajon (El Capitan) Mtn in the background.
But, I was out for a scenic ride rather than for sweet street-side fruits! There was plenty of the former to see along El Monte Rd east of Lake Jennings. The imposing mountain with the big rocky face is actually El Cajon Mountain, though the locals call it 'El Capitan' due to its resemblance to that famous wall of granite in Yosemite Park many many miles to the north of the state. The only road in and out of it, El Monte Rd, runs along the San Diego River gorge, and so is much gentler than one would expect, riding east into the mountain range. As it winds its way toward the park, El Monte never climb enough to make you suspect that you are actually riding uphill... that is until you pass the park gate and start the 1/2 mile climb toward the dam.

The pitch to the dam is spiky at around 6-8% grade, but it is too short to create much discomfort. Once past the dam, it becomes level again and exceedingly twisty and narrow with really lamentable pavement quality (I suspect the park leaves it that way to discourage boat-towing trucks from speeding. Come to think of it, boat-towing trucks are things you should be on the look out for when you cycle on El Monte Rd. Expect the car that is passing you to be a lot longer than the usual cars on the street!). The El Capitan Reservoir entry fee for cars is pretty steep ($8), but bikes go in for free, thank you very much! Smiley  And the view?

Oh yes... Well worth the miles and even the bitter bite of the Hachiya persimmon... 

By the way, if you want to visit, El Capitan Reservoir is currently on winter schedule and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!