Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fun Time In Valley Center: Part 1: Lake Wohlford, Paradise Mountain & Lilac to Old Castle

Team Fun, my favorite Saturday group ride, scheduled an inland North County ride a couple of Saturdays ago with a lovely ccw loop from the Lawrence Welk Resort on Champagne Blvd down to Escondido, swinging northeast through Lake Wohlford to Bates' Nut Farm before a completing the loop back west on Lilac and Old Castle Rd.

I don't get to go riding that way often and had been looking to explore a few unfamiliar roads in Valley Center, so instead of starting with the group I opted to go off on my own before trying to catch up at or near the top of Lake Wohlford instead. This naturally involved ungodly wake-up time to ride from my pad in Uptown to America Plaza in Downtown to be sure of securing a space on the 2-bike bike rack on the 5:08 a.m. MTS Rapid Bus 235 up to Escondido (when you are traveling with a bicycle it is always best to get on as close to the bus terminus as possible or you might end up like the cyclist that tried to get on the bus at Boulevard Transit Station that morning. The rack at the front of the bus was full by then, and he had to wait for the next bus (and hoped that that bus' bike rack wasn't full, too).

The fountain in front of Valley View Casino.
I had meant to take the bus all the way up to Escondido Transit Center, but pre-dawn hours interfered with my thinking and I got off the bus at Del Lago Station (by North County Fair) instead. It was a ride-lengthening mistake! I now had 7 extra (and mostly uphill) miles to cover and had to now choose between exploring a bit of Daley Ranch or a bit of Paradise Mountain/Hellhole Canyon before rendezvous-ing with Team Fun rather than being able to do both. I opted for the latter. It was an easy decision to make.. on the Saturday before Halloween, the earlier in the day you cycle up Lake Wohlford Rd the better! (La Honda Dr climb to Daley Ranch is south of the Lake Wohlford Rd turn off while Hellhole Canyon is further north).

It was still quite dark and cold when I set off up Bear Valley Blvd, and the sun was still behind the mountain tops when I made the turn onto wonderfully traffic-free ('cause most motorists are sensible and were still in bed at 7:20 a.m. on a Saturday) Lake Wohlford Rd. That made that two mile grind of a climb quite more bearable. Alas, my camera doesn't do well in low-light setting, but it was just as well since I had ridden through there many times before and needed to save memory card space for the 'unexplored' bits of the day's ride.
Up the perilous Paradise Mountain Rd.
Paradise Mountain Lane turn off.
By the time I got to the Woods Valley/Paradise Mountain Rd turn off I was in need of a restroom break and a water bottle refill, so I continued north for a bit to pit stop at Valley View Casino. By the time I came back out the sun had finally started to shed its mountainous blanket and my camera could work its magic again. I was in business!
Take the right fork on Paradise Mountain Lane.
Paradise Mountain Lane, turning pretty around the bend.
"Old Tom in summertime walked about the meadows
gathering the buttercups, running after shadows,
tickling the bumblebees that buzzed among the flowers,
sitting by the waterside for hours upon hours." - JRR Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
Going east - uphill - on Paradise Mountain Rd on a fat-burning two-wheeled vehicle is a perilous business even in the early morning. The road is very narrow and mostly shoulder-free (and when what little shoulder turns up, it is full of broken glass and other debris). It is also quite curvy and undulated, which is a bad combination in a bike-hiding sort of way. Also, it heads ENE... into the rising sun, and made me very attached to my rear-view mirror. I think I was only passed three times by fast traveling cars and trucks, and thanks to the mirror I spotted them far off and managed to find a place to turn off the road so they could pass me without giving the drivers the 'oh shit, where did that bike come from' moment.

Mind you, I had had enough of anxious riding by the time I got to (private) Paradise Mountain Lane turn off, so I took the much less traveled paved lane detour instead of staying on the main road... and was in for quite a lovely surprise! After a couple of blind curves, the lane dips into a treed-in stretch that is something of a paradise for Tolkien-loving bikers like me.
Looking back west on Paradise Mtn Ln. Coming down that steep & loose dirt ramp on a pair of 25 mm road tires was a tad shy of fun!
More tree-covered goodness on the dirt section of Paradise Mtn Ln.
Soon after the sweeping right curve the pavement turned to gravel and I rode quietly past a group of houses. I almost made it past the last one before one of the many guard dogs figured out that my bike wasn't a car and wasn't going by as speedily as he would like. A barking storm ensued and I was only happy to round the next turn and got out of their view (I like saying hi to country dogs, but not when they're waking their masters up too early on a Sunday morning!). Well, the turn also pitchs rather steeply uphill as the firm dirt road turns considerably looser and ruttier, making things technical to cycle up since I was running a pair of 25 mm road tires! I'm afraid I left a bit of a trail...

It is only a short hill, however, and the drop on the other side is even a bit steeper and looser, so it was something of a fluke that I managed to glide down it on a one-foot bike-glissade (it really didn't help that the loose dirt surface turned into gravel toward the bottom) without ending up rubber-side-up, so to speak. Luckily for me, the road pretty much levels out after that and turns into a firm dirt lane until it joins the well paved Cll de Encinas, which I took back up the hill back to Paradise Mountain Rd and Los Hermanos Ranch Rd and then Kiavo Dr north toward Hellhole Canyon Preserve. It was now 9 a.m. and I couldn't linger much if I were to successfully ambush Team Fun just as they crest the Lake Wohlford Rd climb.

Turning onto Kiavo Dr on the way to Hell(hole).
A steep drop down into Hell(hole).
Hellhole Canyon park ranger during Halloween season...
The preserve's entrance is on the top of Santee Dr from Kiavo and there was nobody around except for the nice man leaf-blowing the dirt parking lot who informed me that bicycles aren't allowed on the preserve's trails. I stopped just long enough to look around a little and used the nice and quite wide (and clean) port-a-toilet and refill my water bottle from the water faucet before saying good bye to eight-legged preserve guard and headed off down the mountain.
Hellhole Canyon Preserve staging area with nice port-a-toilets and a water faucet.
Rodriguez Mtn from Hellhole Canyon Preserve.
One of these days I shall return to properly hike this beautiful bit of mountainous San Diego, but I had an appointment to keep and was very happy to find that the downhill lane on the upper part of Paradise Mountain Rd is quite wider than its uphill partner. A few more cars were around now to give me a good excuse for fairly bombing down the curvy drop back to N Lake Wohlford Rd at great speed (I had taken the precaution to note the condition of the downhill lane when I climbed up the road earlier, see, so I knew where the few spots of 'debris on road' were. It's a good habit to develop when riding an out-n-back route).

Lake Wohlford Rd heading south toward the town.
Frankly, I find it ridiculous that the speed limit is that high on this narrow and curvy a road...
The fun stopped upon turning back uphill on N Lake Wohlford Rd, of course. It is completely ludicrous and ridiculous that this narrow, curvy, well shaded and mostly shoulder-less rural highway has a speed limit as high as 50 mph... Why do we keep using the 85 percentile speed as the speed limit when most people are keen on driving far too fast already???

Anyhow, I made it back to the Lake Wohlford cafe bend (where Smokey's Cafe is, just north of the road's crest). There was no sign of Team Fun, though I had past couple of cycling groups going the opposite way on the road, so they were liable to show up soon. There is a clearing on the hill overlooking the cafe and the lake that I had espied on Google Earth overhead view while browsing through the area looking for places to explore, so I headed up and hoped that the gals wouldn't go whizzing by down on the main road before I could get to the place. It isn't really hidden. There is a rough trail/steps leading up to it from N Lake Wohlford Rd that even has a blue trash bin at the bottom... and you can even get to it from the mostly paved road. The view on top is quite awesome...
The road to the Lookout.
Lake Wohlford from the lookout.
 I didn't get to the wonderful ruin/perch a minute too early, as it turned out. Team Fun gals came zooming around the cafe bend just as I got my camera out to document the scene!

The 'could have been' castle overlooking Lake Wohlford.
Part 2 coming up in a bit...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!