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!

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Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!