Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New roads to follow...

One of the many myriad reasons I ride is for the adventure. Adventure is something you do not have to circle the globe to find, sometimes it can be found a handful of miles away. If we but take the opportunity, and the time, to look we might discover all kinds of things we never noticed before, restaurants, parks, public sculpture, and any number of interesting sites (and sights) hidden in the nooks and crannies of our cities and towns, or even outside of the populated areas. We might even discover new roads to follow. Such was the case this morning. I set out intending to do a couple circuits of the Mountain Junction Loop, nothing unusual, fairly standard and well known route. Before moving on, let me first explain that today was a gorgeous day to ride. I know, the word gorgeous is likely on many lists of words that manly-men should never use, but the Claremont Cyclist realized long ago that such lists are rubbish, good only for a laugh. If the day was in fact gorgeous, just say so. Sunny, spotless blue sky, low 70's temperatures, only a slight hint of a breeze. Gorgeous. Perfect cycling conditions. Anyway, on the first circuit I decided to tack on a little extra distance and head further up Mt. Baldy Road past Mountain Avenue junction. At some point before the tunnels I glanced down into the canyon and noticed a section of the old road, which was clearly paved and appeared to be fairly intact and lengthy, disappearing into stands of trees both up and down canyon. Very appealing, in my imagination I was already comparing it to the West Fork Road.

I knew that if the road was accessible it would eventually come out, at its lower end, on Mountain Avenue near the forestry fire station, so I turned around and headed back to that point. Upon arrival at the assumed junction I did indeed find insignificant evidence of the location of the old road. This area will always have innumerable cars parked along the new road on the weekends, but I have never given it much notice, always assuming they belonged to fisherfolk since San Antonio Creek is always fully flowing here. What I found was a sign identifying the Joatngna Trail. My many years of anthropological work convinced me that this was likely an indigenous Tongva word by the "gna" at the end of it and, after a few attempts, gave up trying to pronounce it. The trailhead was literally that, and not a roadhead, but hoping that a segment of paved road was just beyond sight I hitched my bike up onto my shoulders and hobbled (road shoes with speedplay cleats are worse than useless in these conditions) along a path of loose river rock, up a little riser, and voila, there it was - asphalt. Woohoo!

Beginning of the "old road"

first section of asphalt on the "old road"

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was as short-lived as the pavement was long. That is pretty short. There are three distinct sections of roadway linked by smooth dirt path, all very rideable, even on my road bike. But, ultimately I came to an old bridge with a five foot drop-off on its far side and no roadway anywhere in sight beyond. Maybe I was blinded by the thicket of berries growing at the bottom of the drop that had me salivating, or maybe I wanted to believe that the asphalt picked up again just beyond my field of vision. I let myself down the ledge (not convinced I would be able to pull myself back up since road cleats don't provide much climbing traction) hauled my bike down behind me, and continued to follow a faint trail through a nice stand of alder. Did a little log crossing, and rock hopping, using my bike for balance. Before long, though I convinced myself that no good could come of pressing my luck, that sooner rather than later, I would slip and break an ankle or worse, and turned around. Disappointed.
berry patch

you have got to jump off this bridge, but no, not into the water

When I arrived back home a lap and a half later, my interest was still up so I broke out my topo map collection, found the Mount Baldy quadrangle, which showed absolutely no evidence of the old road. Still curious, I next went to Google Earth, where the aerial imaging did indeed show portions of road separated by even lengthier portions of riverbed. Definitely not road-bikable, but I should like to try it sometime with cx bike, maybe even mountain bike, though that would eventually get to be a bit heavy - I envision a lot of portaging. If nothing else, it will be an adventure. I am sure this old road will take you as close to the old gold mine, as you can get. Wait, you didn't know about the old mine of San Antonio Canyon? Well, that is a story for another time.
beautiful, yes. if not for the spray paint.
honestly, why do people feel the need to desecrate the forest

beautiful and fragile at the end of its life.
it could not lift up more than a couple inches off the ground

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