I have an opportunity to get dropped off at Indian Hills Camp in Jamul and ride home to Poway. The direct route (gmap ~30mi) would go up Santee Lakes and into Sycamore Canyon. I have explored SC a little from the Poway side, but not far past the ranch house, and already it seemed like there was some rocky stuff that wants some suspension.
I have two bikes I can choose from, hardtail or CrossCheck. (And for the CC I could keep my 29x2 marathon supremes on, or switch to Vee Rubber V12 for the day).
I really don't want to suffer on the MTB for the majority of the ride, especially I want to rock the downhill from Jamul. But would I survive the ~8mi on dirt? How much of it is rocky?
Also, since I've never been the whole way through, if I hit the trailhead at the top of Santee Lakes, will it be obvious how to go, or is it easy to get lost? Are there lots of trail branchings? If I keep the sun on my left (i.e. going due north in the afternoon) and try to stay in the middle of the canyon will I be OK? I don't have a GPS but I suppose I could bring a compass.
The trailhead actually starts at Mast Road, but you can go up a bit on the residential street on the west side of the lakes and there are a couple of gates there. I remember no easy access from the campround at the end of the lakes, or the road on the east side--there was a deep water crossing and a fence.
I remember the rockiest parts were along the stretch that was along the lakes, especially gully crossings. Out of the gullies, it's fairly smooth, and past the lakes in the canyon bottom proper, also smooth, not many rocks in the trail at all. I haven't been up past the old house though. I remember side trails going off once in the wider canyon bottom, but I imagine following the main creek will be a good idea.
Thx, I'll have to study the satellite photos closesly, I'll look for those entrances.
There's not much north of the old house, maybe 1 mile max, all smooth, but there's a killer (for me) hill to reach the north trailhead; then it's a blazing fun downhill to Garden Rd, including access to Scripps Poway Parkway.
Looking closer at the google map, it looks like right off Mast I would have a choice to stay on Fanita outside the park, or Sycamore Canyon inside the park; that paid-access park is all fenced off, right?
most of the river rocks areas are closet to the lakes. Staying to the east of the lakes will be smoother than the west side by a ton, but never rode a bike through there, always on the west side. Still doable on a CX but not any fun as it's mostly uphill and slower speed stuff. Once you get to the trees, should be fairly smooth and fast on the CX. Watch for the trail dipping into the creek though, drop off plus river rock isn't skinny tire friendly. When you pop out of the trees, there should be a gate you have to dismount about 30yards up the trail. From there the main trail head goes past the ranch house, there is also a trail on far right side and climber's trail on the far left. The trail head to teh right will be right near the gate you just crossed. Fairly smooth single track, some river rock in places. If you choice this route, you will pop out to a 4 corner interection, going straight will be martha's grove and very nasty climb/hike to the top. Going right is a mile climb to the top of the bowl and there is a gravel road that leads to 67 n south of Scripps Poway light. Going Left there will lead back to the main trail head that routed by the ranch house. Than there is a climb to the parking lot above the valley, short but steep sections. If you exit that on garden, watch for horses up that road, the owners get pissy when you zoom by them. Get water at the 711 on the way out. There is NO water in the canyon that I know of, so plan for this.
Thx for more background; I am familiar with the 4-way intersection, I always come from the north ("straight"), I was aware that "right" (E, right coming from south) goes up to 67, but never rode it. And I have never tried the W branch, but I can see from satellite how it hooks back up to the N branch.
I dont' think I have a skinny tire problem as my two CX options are both 2" wide.
I see from satellite that there are trails on the W border of the lakes, I was looking at the E side, either the asphalt inside the park (but don't know whether I'd have to jump a fence at any point to get out), or Fanita to trail which seems to parallel all the way up the lakes no more than 100yd away.
I think what I'll do is this Sat take a probe ride, see if I can find my way from the N to the top of the lakes, then I'll know better firsthand whether (monster?)cx can handle it.
So I snooped on GMaps and street view as well, it looks like potential access at the ends of Ganley, Birchwood, and Strathmore are all fenced. I couldn't see an obvious hole at Birchwood. Anybody use that trail and know what's the best way to access lately?
Took a ride today, probed from the north. Got to the top of the lakes easily, where the water treatment plant is, looked like maybe an opening in the fence at the top of Strathmore, but a gnarly little slope from the end of the road down to the trail. Ganley is quite secure with chain-link and a locked iron gate keeping in a big truck and an RV. But as advertised, Birchwood had a big hole in the fence with easy access to the trail. There were other cars parked there with mountain bikers either coming or going.
As for the trail, probably 80% is smooth dirt, but the remaining 20% can get pretty chunky, and not just the riverbed. I think I'll be putting on the V12s.