Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Side Trip: Honey Springs Rd & Mother Grundy Truck Trail

For a while now I've heard rumors about a private castle up in the mountains near Jamul, the rural town on the wild side of San Miguel Mountain. Some internet sleuthing narrowed the location of the castle down to being somewhere off Mother Grundy Truck Trail, the graded dirt road that connects Honey Springs Rd and Deerhorn Valley Rd by way of the Madre Grande Mountain.
Hwy 94 (Campo Rd) at Honey Springs Rd south of Jamul.
Well, Honey Springs Rd is one of my favorite local long hills (it is 7 miles long and averages 5% gradient with a couple of ramps at around 12%), so when I had a day off a couple of weeks ago that coincided with cool and cloudy weather (that part of town is like a convection oven when it gets hotter than 85F or so) I packed 3 spare inner tubes and caught the trolley south to Chula Vista to investigate.

Fellow two-wheeled travellers on Honey Springs Rd.
I took my time riding in on Otay Lakes Rd. The lower lake was catching all sorts of charming light that morning and traffic was so nice and light. By the time I turned onto Honey Springs Rd I was caught by a trio of riders out for their own morning exercise. They weren't sprinting up the hill like many who ride in the area tend to do, though, so I decided to up the pace a bit and try to tag along... and ended up getting nicely towed all the way up to the Mother Grundy Truck Trail turn off.
Mother Grundy TT branching off from Honey Springs Rd just before the S-curves section.
It's always a bit of a rush turning onto a lesser known rural side road that you had a hard time finding information about after hours of internet search! With Mother Grundy (supposedly a corruption of the Spanish name for a prominent local mountain, the Madre Grande), the rush was amplified by the beauty of the road's surrounding. As Mother Grundy TT curves its way up the southwest side of Eagle's Nest (the prominent rocky spiky peak on the south side of Honey Springs Rd) an awesome view opens up on the right side and I could see all the way to Otay Lake even on such a cloudy day.
Looking west toward Otay Lakes from Mother Grundy Truck Trail
Ruts on Mother Grundy TT passing through Climbing Rocks area.
After a few curves the well graded (though featuring ruts of many varieties... some wide and shallow while the others jolty and deep) dirt road passes through a cluster of really nice houses guarded by many leash-less dogs. A few of them spotted me coming and started barking up storm. When four of them came bounding leashlessly onto the road I dismounted and stood behind my bike as I greeted them (the best thing you can do, really, when there's no chance of out-running the dogs going up a 6% grade dirt path on a road bike). They were barking, but their tails were up and wagging and they looked more excited than mad. All very good signs! After some polite sniffing they turned out a posse of really friendly dogs. I remounted the bike and headed on up the road, now gripping the handlebar with really furry cycling gloves as the dogs went running up ahead of me.
My canine escorts on Mother Grundy TT
A rough rocky section of Mother Grundy. Eagle's Nest in background.
I figured they'd accompany me for a hundred yard or so before peeling off to go back home, but it turned out they had a different idea entirely and meant to really go off adventuring with me. From Honey Springs Rd to Via Pamela, Mother Grundy TT is a mostly gentle climb at around 6%. There are two short but steep (14%-ish) ramps, though. The first one luckily on a short stretch of firm but bumpy tarmac, the second on icky loose dirt (rear-wheel skip fest). Most of the road is firm and smooth enough, though there are a few rough and pebbly patches that were pretty hard on my road tires (I'm running on a pair of 700x25mm Continental Gatorskins).
The western terminus of Via Pamela at Mother Grundy TT
Puddles on Mother Grundy TT passing through Winetka Ranch.
After the second steep ramp a dirt trail branched off to the left. There is no street sign for it, but one wooden one for Mother Grundy. I figured that's the west terminus of the Via Pamela. Mother Grundy levels off there and goes past a long fenced in property that seems to be a private animal sanctuary (the locals call it the Winetka Ranch, I think). It last rained in this area 3 days before my ride, but there were still big puddles on the road.
It was so cool I had to put the wind jacket back on, but the dogs couldn't sweat and were overheating. They took to cooling off in the puddles along the way.
This dog went after a rabbit on the other side of the fence, then couldn't find his way out. I had to retrace back to the hole that he went in originally to lead him to it.
By now the oldest of my four canine escorts was getting quite tired and starting to lag behind the group. We were 3 or so miles up the mountain from their home and they still showed no sign of wanting to turn back. I was getting concerned that they would follow me so far up the mountain (I had meant to go on to Deerhorn Valley Rd and all the way to Barrett Lake) that they won't have the strength left to make it home when I finally speed away once I hit the next patch of paved road.
The Laminack Castle overlooking Deerhorn Valley.
Luckily we soon got to the turn off where the castle (my main objective of the day) was. I ventured a little way onto it and snapped a photo of the castle from afar. After all, it's a private house! The next door property is even more interesting, though. It's the Beacon Hill Llama Farm!

Beacon Hill Llama Farm.
The friendly llamas were well guarded by M. MacDuff, the huge white dog that somehow managed to smile even as he barked. I'm afraid my entourage insisted on protecting me from the long-necked furry llamas, so I couldn't say hello to them properly. By now the oldest dog was limping and looking rather miserable, however, so I decided to scratch the rest of my ride objectives and head back down Mother Grundy so that the dogs would follow me back to their homes.
Heading back down Mother Grundy TT. Lyons Peak on right.
Looking down on Honey Springs Rd just NE of Deerhorn Valley Rd junction from Mother Grundy TT. See Jacob's red barn and the Deerhorn Valley fire station (the only water stop on Honey Springs Rd).
It wasn't exactly a happy decision for me, though. Mother Grundy was rough enough going up, and I was a bit concerned about going down the rough bits of it on my road bike. Luckily I only caught one rear pinched flat on my way down and all the dogs made it home. We were a very slow moving caravan as the oldest dog had the hardest time trying to stay within sight of the rest of us (I was afraid he would have a stroke or something trying to keep pace, so we stopped and waited after every bend).

Perhaps you can spot Otay Lake in the distance?
The view was awesome, though! Anyhow, we got back to their houses, but the dogs kept following me as I head down the s-curves section toward Honey Springs Rd. Luckily I encountered a local lady around a curve and she thought that the dogs were harassing me, so she threw rocks and chased them off as I escaped around a sharp right corner and back to Honey Springs Rd. Whoever you are, thank you! But those dogs were really very friendly!


  1. Llamas, castle and a pack of bodyguard dogs in the mountains of San Diego! Who would have thought!


  2. I think I would freak out if four strange dogs follow me for miles up an unfamiliar road! You must be a dog whisperer or something!


  3. Hej Soren!
    Sorry I didn't see your comment earlier. Yes, indeed! You never know what you'll ride into when cycling in the backcountry here. :o) We even have a giant yeti and a bunch of metal monsters in a different corner of San Diego County. ;o)

    Hi Moogie,
    Oh, most dogs are all bark and no bite, I think. They are afraid of the bike, so if you dismount and face them (with the bike in between) then you look more human-like and they become much more reasonable. :o) Mind, these four were more than reasonable... I really didn't think they were going to go with me all the way like they did!

  4. Dude, are you on Strava?


  5. Thanks for the update on this road and those dogs probably dream of people like you!

    I was out there yesterday showing a client some properties for sale we found that the elevation, slope and granite make it a wonderful area to reside and ride! It was 59 degrees in San Diego and 45 degrees there at 9:30 AM. I suspect the fluctuations between scorching and freezing temps would make it a phenomenal vineyard location or at least a place to experience different seasons in San Diego. We also found some wild walnuts and curly dock. Excellent eating.

    Any Idea what the giant boulder strewn mtn. that resembles Woodson is? any way to access on foot?



  6. Hi RC: Sorry I didn't reply sooner! (some problem with comment notification thingy). I am on Strava indeed, tho I don't have a GPS unit... a good excuse for not uploading my rides except for occasional expeditious ones, and those are manual uploads, so no route (tho I tend to include link to mapmyride routing of the ride in the comment session). :oP I just mainly use it to keep up with some friends.

    Hi Paul: Nice! I hope your client liked it there (good going finding the walnuts and curly dock, too!). It's a really nice area. Every neighbor knows each other, I think. They have a cool community facebook page ( ) that I drop in on often to check for accident and fire before I head out to ride in Jamul.

    Hey, there are vineyards up there. I think the biggest one is off Bratton Valley Rd (the steep thing veering off Honey Springs Rd a bit after the fire station). I've never been that way, though. So many cool roads to explore, so little time. :o)

    The boulder strewn mtn... is that the tallest one with fire lookout towers on top? That would be Lyons Peak. There is a paved access road to the top of it from Lyons Valley Rd a bit west of the Trading Post, but it's fenced off. Apparently the road goes through some private lands and a landowner in particular is quite adamant at not letting anyone through. Even the local sheriffs can't go thru now. The towers and the cameras ( ) are maintained via helicopter. You might try dropping in at the Lyons Valley Trading Post and see if the landowner is around and in good enough a mood to let you go through the gate (it's locked all the time). Otherwise... might have to bushwack cross-country to hook up with the road beyond his land. I've read blog posts of some who do that. :o) It's a shame, really. I'd love to ride up that peak, too... After all, the peak belongs to Cleveland National Forest... it's a weird business now that it can't be publicly accessed by land. :oP

    Thanks very much for stopping by!


Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!