Friday, March 30, 2018

The gorgeously gory side of San Marcos' little Mt Whitney

The Cerro de las Posas is a prominent chain of low hills in between San Marcos and Escondido. You can see its distinctive trio of pointy prominences from miles away.

Frank's Peak, Mt Whitney and its Siamese twin.
The best known of the peaks is Double Peak (1644ft), the lone round dome on the west side of San Elijo/Twin Oaks Valley Rd. Double Peak is accessibility itself and welcomes a lot of visitors each days via its many trails and the beautifully paved access road. My objective for the day, however, was the less social high point on the east side of San Elijo/Twin Oaks Valley Rd; Mt Whitney (1736ft), the range's tallest peak, seen in the picture above with the distinctive double crescents of mostly paved road curving up its southeast flank. Intimidating looking road, that is, and it took me long enough to work up the courage to finally have a go.

The opening salvo on Wilgen Dr.
A few of the family of California quails roaming the Wilgen dip.

After the dip, the climbing just got steeper and steeper. I was in solid double digit gradient country.
I was grateful for the gentle warm up stretch on Harmony Groves Rd, since once I veered into the new development at Country Club Dr to pick up the bottom of the double crescents climb, it was gory from start to finish. That new development may feature a bunch of nice looking houses, but those houses are hiding quite a horde of steepie monsters...

Every turn brings fresh new pain. I wasn't even halfway up yet and my legs already hated me.
This is not a city-maintained area, of course, so there is no counting on signage. I was very glad that I had Google Earth-ed the heck out of the route before setting off, and avoided adding more psychological pain of taking a wrong turn to the inescapable physical pain of pedaling road bike gearing up ungodly steep (and often bumpy) road.
After the saddle between the houses, pavement gave way to rough dirt.
There wasn't much wind on Crestwind Dr that morning, which was just as well since I was kicking up a lot of dirt all by myself hike-a-bike-ing my roadie up the steep and pebbly section. This is the lower curve just below the two visible paved curves that marks the mountain from the distance.

Gory, gory, what a heck of a way to climb...
You'd think that it'd all get better once the pavement returns... and you'd be wrong.
After much grumbling and huffing and puffing I rounded the far corner ready to rejoice at the return of the paved tarmac... and was reminded of the sinking feeling I got when I first laid eye on the main climb of San Bernardino Ave on Dictionary Hill after having gotten up that tiny little steep block immediately up from the top of already chain-stretchy Apple St. There aren't many things in cycling life as demoralizing as the view of three solid blocks of 21% grade pavement, but the view up from the bottom of the paved double crescents on Crestwind Dr gives quite a similar sucker punch.

A backward shot back toward Country Club Dr development from the 2nd crescent.

Really, what do folks here do if their car ever breaks down???

Even though I knew there's another icky double digit ramp to the Mt Whitney saddle overlook, it was still a mighty relief to finally crested Crestwind Dr and turning onto Washingtonia. Actually, I was so elated at having survived such a gnarly series of steepie monsters that I went on past the overlook and up the curvy ramp to the Mt Whitney tower. It still hurt, but not as bad as it usually does when I'd tackle it after coming up the standard Coronado Hills/Washingtonia route. I guess I had overwhelmed my pain signal receptors and turned into a two-wheeled zombie. The pain would come later, but at the top the air was cool and the view surreal... and it was all downhill from here. Not such a bad trade off for a little bit of madness on the bike, ay?

Oh, of course, the downhill bit was the best.


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Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!