Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Favorite Routes V: Marshall Canyon / CHWP Loop...

The My Favorite Routes series provides a glimpse of some of the more notable rides in my repertoire. They may be either road or mountain, and may be notable for a variety of reasons which include, but are not limited to, scenery, fun-factor, or challenge. This installment describes two of the most popular park areas along the San Gabriel front range, east of San Gabriel Canyon - Marshall Canyon in the city of La Verne, and the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. The route as ridden is a true loop and can be done in either direction; each direction has its own attractions, and you may want to try each way to determine which you like best. My Favorite Routes will always reflect my most recent riding of the given route so descriptions are as accurate as possible for current conditions, which in this case would be yesterday morning.

 an inauspicious beginning

 streamside rambling

 a rocky crossing

and one smooth as silk

This is one of those rides that starts from the door. As such it does require some mountain bike road riding, of which I am no fan. However, by riding the loop in a clockwise direction, almost all of those miles are downhill; a big plus as far as I am concerned. Every ride needs a starting point, for me that is home, but for anyone else lets just call it the Vons parking lot at Mills and Baseline; if you time it right you have a few choices for a post-ride lunch. Heading west along Baseline, up and over the Baseline hump, in a little under 5 miles you will come to the Marshall Creek channel. It is nondescript, and if you are not paying attention you can ride right past it. If you notice an elementary school on the left you have gone a little too far. In either case you are going to follow the access road along the channel, so ride between the motor vehicle barrier and head up. You will want to cross the little bridge that shortly presents itself, and navigate a couple street crossings, but before you have gone six miles from the start point you will reach the water detention and debris basin. This is where the Marshall Canyon singletrack, and the fun, begin. When I rode through this morning there was a work crew with heavy equipment dredging the basin - dump trucks were using the access road, so be aware.

 was i riding fast! was i? (there is a 3 Stooges gag in there somewhere)

 looking down into Owen's Plunge

 up to the tunnel

 revenge of the trees

 granted, not a good photo but, does anyone else have the impression
that this area is begging for a night-time Halloween ride

eeewww, poo... pretty much everywhere

From this point the Marshall Canyon section of the route consists of a mostly gently rolling trail inclined gradually upward alongside, and crossing Marshall Creek. The steepest pitches you will find are those where the trail plunges down to the creek bottom and then back up the other side. Usually these are short and you simply give a quick punch to the pedals to climb out. Less experience riders may want to walk some, but there is nothing wrong with that. This lower portion of canyon is deeply forested, majestic old oaks entwining overhead keep it cool and shady on the hottest summer day. Pockets of wildflowers can quilt the hillsides most times of the year; if you want to get up close though, watch what you touch, as poison oak is especially prevalent. It is easy to see why a small deer herd makes the canyon its home.

After rolling through a few stream crossings, spraying the legs with mud and sand, you will come to a crossing known as Owen's Plunge. There is a concrete basin and some pipes on either side of the crossing. I can't imagine them serving any current purpose, but there they are. How did Owen's Plunge get its name you ask? Well, there was this kid named Owen, who on one of this first mountain bike rides, and based on poor advice from his father, misjudged his speed and the turn before the stream crossing, and plunged head first into the mud and muck beside the water. Live and learn I guess, I know for a fact that the same kid is a singletrack daemon these days. Anyway, after the Plunge, you will come to, and ride onto, the Marshall Canyon golf course. Follow the concrete path, or the muddy track alongside it until it reenters the woods at yet another stream crossing. For some reason I especially like taking this one at speed. In a short distance you will come upon some old wooden structure in the midst of the oaks, which I always assumed was some sort of clandestine equestrian meeting place, but who knows. Because there is a relatively large open area here, group rides will often regroup at this spot. And since I bring up the point of equestrians, keep in mind that Marshall Canyon is in the middle of horse country, there are also a lot of trail runners from local schools, and day hikers. Keep your eyes and ears open.

 choose right or left, it's up to you

 top o' the right route looking back down

the plateau, where the trails come together

You have come upon a few trail junctions by now, but have bypassed them all in favor of staying on the main, creekside trail. When you ride away from the old wooden structure, you have two options: First, you can veer right, cross the stream and head up hill out of the canyon, or second, you can continue following the stream to the left. The two paths will meet up further along. The left route packs in many stream crossings in a short distance, before a minor technical climb out of the canyon. The route right, takes you on a more evenly gradual climb out. I usually go right, but only because I like to make a mini-loop by riding back down the other way (quite fun splashing through all those stream crossings at speed you know), and then back up to continue on. The two trails come back together at an open plateau area, and outside the gates of a large equestrian event area. You will continue rolling along the undulating trail up above the canyon, briefly plunge back down into its wooded depths, before the trail t-bones a dirt fire road. You could actually go either way here, and if you like exploring try both, they go different places, but ultimately both enter the CHWP. For simplicities sake, we are going left today. Climb out of the sandy canyon bottom by either the fire road, or the sometimes faint trail which starts out by following the normally dry, sandy creek bed.

 not the only one on the trail today, but nearly so

 blue dicks, go ahead and laugh, but that is the common name

 with apologies to Scotland, those things suck when they dry out,
thorns in your hands and legs if you stray too close

 all the moss would suggest that it is a bit shady down here

 trail junction / rest area

go right, definitely go right

Depending on which way you have chosen to go you will, sooner or later, merge onto another dirt road. This is the Palmer-Evey, another portion of which I highlighted in an earlier My Favorites posting. Keep pressing ever upward, moving in and out of shady woodland and sunny, exposed mountainside. Eventually you will come to another major trail junction, with a picnic table, in the shade of the oaks, and beside the stream. This is the perfect spot for a moment of rest. Whether you follow the single track to the right and across the steam, or stay with the dirt road, your route is now going to become steep and, in the summer, hot. Now, I know you are tempted by that word single track, and want to go right but, as much as I favor climbing to descending, that way is much preferable coming down than going up. Therefore, I am sticking to the road. That said, in another 50-100 yards, definitely do take the s.t. off to the right - both routes will meet further along. I don't know if the trail is slightly longer and thus somewhat more gradual, or if being single track just makes it more fun to ride, but I loath that short section of road, and... I took it today anyway. Continue following the road upward, above the canyon, in the sun, dripping sweat. Hey, it may have been cooler today, but it was also humid as heck, the mountains wreathed in mist. The remainder of the route up to the CHWP is mostly unremarkable. I think the local apiarist has his bee hives out on the plateau (if you know what and where I mean) since the little buggers were steaming back and forth across the road, and all around me, or so it seemed. We mostly were able to avoid colliding with one another. At the gate you will crest, then enter the CHWP, where a map will greet you if you are not familiar. Go left, tackle a short uphill stretch, and then it is all downhill back to Mills and the start point. Take the two stream crossings, and that perpetually muddy seep area, at full speed, as long as they are clear of pedestrians, your last chance to leave with that fine muddy, sandy spray all over your legs, back and face; marks of a truly great day of riding.

we were at that reservoir a few minutes ago 

looking out over Claremont from Coyote Howl Plateau 

for all the stream crossings and mud i rode through,
i must say the bike and i arrived home surprisingly clean

Just a note to finish up about tackling this loop in a counterclockwise direction: Much more uphill road riding, including the finish miles along Baseline, but more singletrack descending. Pick your medicine. About 16.5 miles round trip (why do mountain bike rides seem so much longer than they actually are?), and a paltry 1700 feet of climbing.

My Favorite Routes I: the Palmer-Evey
My Favorite Routes II: Mountain Junction Loop
My Favorite Routes III: Highway 39, and here, and here, and here
My Favorite Routes IV: Guardians of the Canyon

1 comment:

  1. These routes look absolutely amazing. In fact you are blessed to be riding on such places.


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