Cherry Creek Epic!

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So many disciplines in cycling…

You got your Cross Country, Downhill, Cyclo-Cross, Bike Packing, Park, Freestyle, etc…

I don’t know if there is a name for something between Cross Country and Bike Packing, so today I’m going to call it Adventure Cycling.

I’m not one to be able to go ride the same trails over, and over, and over again. As well, I’m certainly not one to have a radius that I’m willing to get stuck riding within…

I live in the Greater Frazier Park Area that is on the threshold of the Los Padres National Forest. Unfortunately, Frazier Park is not inundated with mountain bike singletrack. Oh sure there are the rumors of secret trails, and I actually know of and have been on some of those secret trails. But what Frazier Park does have, and in particular the Los Padres National Forest, is fire and four wheel drive roads. Hundreds of miles of these roads. Much of Los Padres is wilderness. So, since I ride mountain bikes, I live in the mountains, I ride those roads to “wherever” they take me, and take me through…

This is not your typical “canned” ride. Not your climb to the top and coast down an awesome singletrack then go have a beer and grub with your buddies ride. I’m not here to insult anyone with what I say next, but, this is a real mountain bike ride… :o :shock: ;)

“This is a wilderness and you can literally die  kind of ride.”

…Mountain Lion, bobcat, bears, deer, wild boar, you name it. Little known trails with surprises that could end in a broken leg, twisted ankle, over the bars and break a collar bone, and there is no one to help you. Have a serious mechanical and you will be walking for 20 miles to get out. No cell reception. No passers-by. No way for someone to drive in and get you.
Before you start thinking I’m talking tough, I get scared alone out there. I rarely get anyone to ride with me and the last time I did this shuttle, I did do it by myself and there were many times I was very scared and felt very alone. Why do it? Because of the thrill of doing it.

I finally got someone to do this ride with me. In fact, two people . . . UPSed (UPS Ed) and his awesome fiancee Jennifer. Ed said he was ready for an adventure. I hope he was cuzz this is a crazy adventure…

I posted an Adventure Ride over in Trailhead and was getting no bites, so I text UPSed who bit a couple weeks ago that he was ready for a tour. He jumped on it and we set it up for Saturday to meet at my house at 8:30am, where my incredible better half Cathy would shuttle us up to Cuddy Valley to drop us off at the Tecuya Four Wheel Drive Road. From there UPSed, Jennifer, and I would ride up and over the San Emigdio Mountain Range and drop to the San Joaquin Valley floor, head East to Tecuya Creek Canyon, and ride an abandoned fire road up to the end, a box canyon, and hike-a-bike up a 38+% access road to the top of Digier Canyon, drop down to Interstate 5 and ride a access road back to my house for Subs and Brew. A 30 mile plus trek that clac’ed on Google Earth at around 5,130 feet of climbing with over 6,000 feet of descent.

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All happy and spry for the day. If they only knew what really was in store…

 

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The most awesome woman on the Planet! Cathy rocks in so many ways!!!

 

Cherry Creek to Tecuya Creek = EPIC!

For lack of a better name for this ride I will call it the Cherry Creek Epic, because it starts out on a Fire Road, turns into a four wheel drive road that ends at Cherry Creek Campground. At the campground starts a motorcycle trail that drops you down into the Southern most end of the San Joaquin Valley. The trail is rough around the edges, I still consider it a singletrack, its soft and rocky and requires a tremendous amount of breaking balance and body English to get through it. Super steep in some places and under a dark dark canopy of trees where you really need clear lens eye wear to see. I love all types of trail so this fits in with me well.

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But let me back up…

UPSed and Jennifer show up at the house right at 8:30 and we load up in my Dodge and Cathy drives us to Tecuya Four Wheel Drive Access Road also known as 9N22 in Cuddy Valley. Drops us off and we start a mild climb up and to the east to a pass where we drop down a Four Wheel Road known as 10N02. It plunges and I mean plunges steeply down a ravine which I can assume is Cherry Creek for a couple of miles. At Cherry Creek Campground we stop a bit hydrate…dehydrate and then hit the singletrack that continues to plunge down to meet another four wheel drive/singletrack called Salt Creek. Now Cherry Creek Singletrack is like being on a back east singletrack. Some places wet and slippery as moisture rises to the trail surface, roots, and all sizes of sharp rocks, dust, and leaves. This trail flows back and forth across a mostly dry stream bead. Starting out steep and as we descend the mountain slowly leveling to a steady descent to meet Salt Creek Trail.

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Let’s go already . . .

 

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Getting a shot of Cuddy Valley…

 

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Jennifer pulling into the end of the four wheel trail to Cherry Creek Campground…

 

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The start of the Cherry Creek Singletrack. Steep, loose, twisty, sharp rocks of fun!

 

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Cherry Creek Campground is nothing more than a relatively flat area with a fire pit and a picnic bench…

 

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Descending Cherry Creek Singletrack winds through the trees, and crosses back and forth along the dry stream bed…

 

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Fire has been everywhere, yup! Even here at one time…

 

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Like I had mentioned in the Wrightwood Report, this Kenda Happy Medium just continues to surprise me. It did most excellent today…

 

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Jennifer and I waiting for UPSed (UPS ED), to catch up from taking pics…

 

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There are some fast flowy sections, but mostly jagged rocks a twisty technical…

 

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Looking back at UPSed, there were even some sections with boggy mud. It was nice to see some moisture!!!

 

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Jennifer and UPSed…

 

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Mother Nature does it perfect every time…

 

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Beginning to catch just a glimpse of the lower canyon…

Making a right on Salt Creek Trail we continue to descend into the San Joaquin.The trees fade from Pine and Oak and turn to large scrub oak. In some places it already seems like fall. Hopping a formidable fence we hop onto a duo track that does have some old tire prints. Now we are in humongous rolling yellow rolling hills as we drop in to the lower elevations where moisture is less and the heat is more often. Winding through a large valley as it snakes out to the wide open plains of the San Joaquin Valley. When we finally come around a corner to see the Valley floor and no mountains ahead of us it is awe inspiring and shows just how tiny we really are in the big picture.

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Behind the back shot…

 

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The long descent easily puts everyone in good spirits…

 

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UPSed with the jaws of the canyon opening unto the mighty San Joaquin Valley…

Continuing North until we hit a cattle fence line we turn east to head towards the small town of grapevine also where Interstate 5 spits out onto the valley floor. At an elevation of 1700 feet it was now warm and slightly humid and the smiles that had been on both UPSed’s and Jennifer’s face were not as shiny. I knew it was coming but also knew we would be heading up and out of the heat back into the mountains.The town of Grapevine is only a distant mirage as we plan to turn up Tecuya Creek Canyon to start the long ascent to the very back that ends in a box canyon. Last time I rode this it was early spring and the ground had frozen and thawed so many times that my tires on my Proflex were sinking into the ground a good inch and a half. Luckily, this time it was at the end of summer and it was very solid making for a lot less roll resistance.

This end of the San Joaquin is very dry and can get very hot. Several of my buds and I tried this during the summer and it was 115 degrees in this area. This is the first time I did NOT see a pair of coyotes out on the plains. It’s very stark, very open, and very away from everything. I looks as if it can go for hundreds of miles and sometimes even look like a foreign country…

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As we climbed the fire road I noticed it had recently been graded, which worried me a little. Graded roads meant people and I didn’t want to have to explain why we were there. But we came to a closed gate that was not closed last time and I felt a little better.

Coming up on the abandoned farm house, I breathed a little easier because it was still broken down, and still abandoned. And, just like last time, just past the farm house the road became extremely less traveled. We were in the good for the next section of this adventure…
As we climbed, the trees began to come back, and the shrubs, and the color, and the breeze. The canyon narrowed just like last time and got narrow enough that just the width of the road was the canyon floor. But opening back up the jagged rocks were still to the right and the flowy trees on the left.

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The now graded road . . . uh oh…

 

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It’s not hot, but it’s getting close UPSed is trucking along…

 

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…so is Miss Jenifer…lot’s to see keeps you occupied…

 

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The canyon we need to climb up and out of…

 

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A locked gate makes me more comfortable. Means no people…

 

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The abandoned Farm House. With a propane tank and solar panels, hmmm. Jennifer said it was housing for the zombie apocalypse..

 

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The road less traveled . . . I like them…

 

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Back under a canopy of trees in some places, I kept noticing huge piles of Bear dumpage and it seemed really really fresh. But I never put two and two together…..yet. There began to be small stream crossing which was really refreshing since we have been in such a drought for so long. A couple more miles, and a couple more turns, under yet another canopy of trees I come face to face with….a desert tortoise?
Seemed like quite the critter out of place up in the mountains. It made sense though, lots more water, plants, and shade, who could blame the fellah. So we decided to stop and eat lunch there and watch the tortoise ramble in circles around and under the bikes.

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Awesome rock formations along the west side of Tecuya Creek Canyon…

 

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Starting as just little stream-lets of water crossings it got a little more as we continued up the canyon…oh yeah, this IS the trail…

 

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We continued up the canyon as there became more trees and more cloud cover…

 

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Hey Mr. Tortoise! Are you a long way from home? …or, are you smarter than the average turtle?

 

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Mr. Tortoise…

 

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The Mikie Watson Wildlife Preserve petting Zoo. Uh, the tortoise . . . not UPSed. Hey! A picture with me in the background, wow!

We regained momentum and continued the non stop climb up the canyon floor in and out of the trees, and again, I’m out front cruisin’ when up ahead I see movement. I stop to see a black bear running down the road toward us about 100 yards up the road. He runs right up to a tree and slams it with his front paws. He/She is playing! Playing or not, it’s still a bear. He stops in the road and stands up sniffing the air. It’s then I noticed we had a breeze to our backs. Ed pulls up, then Jennifer. To tell you the truth. I’m not sure what to do. Bear ahead, the direction we are going. I snap a few pics but they are too far away to get a good shot. The bear starts ambling down the road toward us. Do we turn around? I yell, “HEY!” and then “Hey” again. The bear stops and sniffs the air some more. UPSed is trying to get his camera out and I’m thinking, “What now?”

“I yell again and the bear finally decides to tear off the way it came. Great! Now we have to ride that way…”

So I’m riding and talking real loud hoping it will continue to run away. I’m ahead of UPSed and Jennifer by a little distance and I hear Ed and Jennifer yell something. I hear behind me the shaking of a tree and the scraping of bark. I turn just in time to see a large brown bear hit the ground and start running away from a tree I just passed under. Just passed under?

No stopping now, we continue and just around the corner I see yet another brown bear running along a trail on the opposite side of a creek bed to my left. I’m thinking I’m going to see it around this big bush I am passing and I’ll get a picture of it. It was gone! But then I hear way up in the trees branches breaking. I look up and I see a black bear scrambling down the tree like a Edison Line Pole Worker. This bear is flying downward and all I can see are it’s paws and huge claws grasping and clawing at the tree as it is nearly falling yet climbing down the huge trunk! Bark is flying and the sound of cracking branches and leaves flying and floating down is intimidating.

Am I dead?

It hits the ground and as well, takes off in the other direction. I had taken one picture and then froze in disbelief watching this much bigger black bear drop from the top branches. I just stood there waiting for UPSed and Jennifer to hopefully come around the corner. When they got to me, they too had seen another huge brown bear after it had been crashing through the brush breaking branches as it plowed through whatever was in it’s path…

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Onward and upward…

 

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At the end of the road in the last sunlit area, that black dot is a black bear. The one disadvantage to camera phones…

 

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But up this tree is a black bear that scrambles down before me. I actually thought I might be dead… He was more afraid of me than I of him. Hard to imagine…I was pretty scared for a couple of seconds…

Time to go…

We headed out at a new improved pace and never heard or saw a bear from that time on. Jennifer was getting tired. She even said at one point how much further? I was nervous as we had not hit the end of this box canyon and it had a horrible hike-a-bike to get out and up to the ridge. But from there it was mostly descent to the highway and then a gradual climb to my road and then just a paved climb for about 1.2 miles to my house. Not much when you are fresh, but after 15 miles of climbing….?

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Well, we did hit that box canyon end, and I did start up the hike-a-bike riding it, but I succumbed to it’s steepness and hiked the half a mile to the ridge. I did wait a while. I could almost guess what was going through Jennifer’s mind…”Kill Mikie.”

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Jennifer even exhausted has a sense of humor and just hangs on the last gate crossing. UPSed blows all hope of this staying “G” rated…

 

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Yet, they both made it. Beat but happy, for the descent we saw a few floppy eared deer as we dropped in to Digier Canyon a steep choppy fire road all the way down to Interstate 5 and the Fort Tejon exit. Crossing Interstate 5 we cruised on the street through the offices of Tejon Ranch, past Tejon Elementary school and up and over the bridge back onto the west side of I-5. All that was left was Lebec Oaks Road a 1.2 mile climb to Subs and 805 Brew! They now knew the way so I blasted what I had left to get to the house. Cathy, my biggest (and only fan) cheered as I hit the driveway. I suggested she go down and pick up UPSed and Jennifer. Cathy jumped in the truck and went down to them but they said no way, we are going to finish this. Awesome…

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Those hills in the distance are on the other side of Interstate 5. It’s all down hill to there, and then a 5 mile gradual climb…

 

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At the bottom of Digier (pronounced Dishay) Canyon, Interstate 5 keeps moving the public…

 

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Yeah, even my road rides are beautiful!

 

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Jennifer climbing the last climb of the day. Yeah, up my drive way!

 

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I think I even see a smile…

 

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UPSed silhouetted on my front porch cruisin’ on a 805…

 

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Exhausted but happy, Jennifer too is cruisin good brew as Wheeler (my dog) approves of the petting…

 

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I would show you mine or Ed’s dirty legs, but who would look at ’em?

Pulling into the driveway, the smiles returned. Literally dropping the bikes and climbing onto my front porch, a recovery brew was at hand. Shot the breeze for a while, had another brew. We all took turns taking a shower and then sat down to some Subway (Eat Fresh!). Had a few more brews…ha ha! …and then went down and pet all our crazy rescue animals…Draft Horse, Donkeys, etc…

Could that have all gone sideways? Absolutely. Who’s to say. We may have never been heard from again. The choppers could have rolled. The news reports could have flashed…but they didn’t.

Yeah . . . . I’ll do it again, and I have others just like it. Adventure Cycling at it’s best.

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