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First time to Crystal lake, worth it for the Frito Pie!

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First time to Crystal lake, worth it for the Frito Pie!

Old 10-03-11, 05:38 PM
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First time to Crystal lake, worth it for the Frito Pie!

After my failed attempt at rallying together the forum troops for a sunday on GMR, I went out solo on a route suggested to me by Idoru2005.

I took GMR->EastFork->CrystalLake->EastFork->GMR, and then headed back up GMR a bit just to see the garmin read 10,000ft elevation gain (which, sadly, it didn't...after 9999 it read "____". BOOOOO!).

Ride log:
https://connect.garmin.com/activity/118762063

So I got to the base of GMR around 9:30 and there was some sort of helicopter rescue going on, half a dozen cops, a few fire trucks, and an ambulance were in attendance. Once I got up to that area I saw no wrecked bikes, cars or people, so I'm not sure what the deal was. Anybody know?



Looking back along the riverbed on east fork road:


Up we go:


And looking back from where we came, near the top of 39:


The reward at the top...homemade chili (as far as I could tell) atop a bed of fritos. Fantastic way to reload on salt. I also purchased a slice of banana bread that was fresh out of the oven and still steaming hot.


After eating frito pie at the top of the crystal lake climb I tried heading up further, but the road "Hawkins Lookout" was unridable. Rocks all over the narrow road, and as I headed up dodging the road shrapnel more rocks were falling down. I figured I should turn back.

I headed back and figured I'd ride around a bit, get some extra climbing in, and see the lake but I suppose I missed the turnoff. Never did see crystal lake (I now see on the map where I missed it).

Overall considering the elevation gain it was a relatively easy ride. Low traffic. Fantastic road surface conditions, and the road never gets super steep like it does up towards the ski lifts on Baldy. Smooth sailing all the way up. Every few months we have a post on here suggesting people do this ride, and now I see why.

I think the frito pie (and 2 pepsi's) were magic. I was revived, and ready for more climbing by the time I got back to the base of GMR. Definitely had a few more hours in me if I'd had the chance.
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Old 10-03-11, 05:53 PM
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looks like a sweet ride ! coincidentally , i did my first ride to crystal lake today . I tried it a few months ago , but i had a mechanical issue and had to turn around just past the 3,000 foot sign . Today it was a real beautiful ride though ... The only bummer was that the snack bar is closed on mondays . twas a good thing that I brought some pocket snacks . You didn't miss much at the lake . It was looking pretty gunked up .
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Old 10-03-11, 06:08 PM
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Nice report! You would have loved it last year when the roads were closed. Except that there were no Frito pies.


...and you're ready for Ride Around the Bear.
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Old 10-03-11, 07:17 PM
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Great report. I think the ride is tough. 1 because I am the worst climber and 2 once you see the Crystal lake entrance you think you're there but you still got a ways in. The snack bar people are really nice and that Frito pie looks amazing.
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Old 10-03-11, 09:01 PM
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papawoody, congrats on your ride too. I did notice the "closed on monday" sign and meant to mention it in my post, but forgot. I wonder how late in the season that snack shop will be open?

Beanz, There were barely any cars out there so it's not too big a deal that the road is open. If anything it means I could flag somebody down and hitch a ride if I got injured or broke a spoke, which is nice. I'm hoping to do "Breathless Agony" in 2012, as well as the death valley events I did earlier this year. Ride around the bear looks neat too.

chefxian, I was actually wanting more climbing once I got to Crystal lake! I was feeling great so I was disappointed the road above the cafe was closed off, it goes up to 7000ft. I was having an "on" day. Next time I bet I'll be begging for mercy at the crystal lake entrance.
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Old 10-03-11, 10:42 PM
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I have to try this. I've gotten just 4 miles past east fork. Then again I had only been climbing for about a couple of weeks. I will probably try it this sat. I know it is early on in the week, but anyone want to try with me?
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Old 10-03-11, 10:57 PM
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How did you like that descent? Those big swooping curves are breathtaking!
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Old 10-04-11, 12:12 AM
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Going up to Crystal lake is an awesome ride. Sadly I moved away from Arcadia, and I am not able to do it anymore.
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Old 10-04-11, 11:27 AM
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We did a variation on the ride last Saturday, starting at Encanto Park in Duarte it was up 39, but we went past the Crystal Lake turn-off, all the way to the top of Hwy 39, then a right turn up to Dawson saddle (seemed like about 5 miles on Hwy 2 after we exited 39). Totals, 8,100 feet of climbing, 71 miles.

The one time we did go to the Crystal Lake Snack place there was nowhere to sit since it had been taken over by a group of motorcyclists before we go there!

Rick / OCRR
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Old 10-04-11, 12:17 PM
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idoru2005, the descent was ok. I take descents really slowly, especially the first time I'm on one. Maybe I'll enjoy it more next time.

Rick, the signs had said the road was closed up ahead. Were you on a closed section of 39 to get to Dawsons saddle? The 2 is open up there at least right? Sounds like it would have been a nice way for me to get my extra climbing in without repeating a section of GMR.

The lady at the shack said saturdays are much busier than sundays. I was the only person there at 12:30 on sunday.
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Old 10-04-11, 12:28 PM
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That sounds like a great ride, jmX. I have yet to tackle GMR.

I went up 39 yesterday myself. Started in Sunland, worked my way out to Azusa, then all the way up 39 to Angeles Crest. Even though I do a lot of climbing, I'm not particularly good at it, so that's a tough haul for me. Not much traffic at all. I finally found that natural spring everybody keeps talking about, and it's just as delicious as advertised. In the upper closed section, a couple miles from AC, there was a small rock slide in a road cut, as often happens up there, but when I looked up, there was a freakin' RAM looming at the top of the ridge fifty feet up, staring down at me. Smug bastard. The wind at Islip Saddle was strong and ice cold. I cruised back down AC and Big Tujunga in the dark to test out a new light set up. All in all, an awesome ride and great day.
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Old 10-05-11, 08:29 AM
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HOw many miles is it to the Snack Shack @ Crystal Lake from the base of GMR ?
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Old 10-05-11, 12:41 PM
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Curbendo, I saw water along the side of the road here and there, but didn't know which was "the" spring. Also, like you I'm not a particularly fast climber, but thats why I seek it out. I think you're nuts for descending at night.

Genaro, its 34mi up. The tiny sticky note I had on my garmin says:
stopsign to GMRPeak: 9.4mi / 2400ft gain
GMRPeak to 39: 10mi
Efork/39 to cafe: 14.2 / 4300ft gain

Strava is a good tool for breaking the ride up into chunks. I often will tape a little note to my garmin giving me a list of milestones so that I know I have X.X miles to go to the end of a certain climb.
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Old 10-05-11, 02:25 PM
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RE: the spring - I want to say it is just past the 4000ft sign. Its just after a hairpin bend, and on the left side of the road (while ascending). There's also a cabin not more than 50 feet away on the left side of the road (hidden in the trees). Prior to the spring, you will hear running water nearby, but this spring as far as I know, is the only water source that is immediately accessible from the road itself (without having to climb around in the bushes looking for it).

Here's a pic of what to look for:

DSCN0001_2 by DSantos2008, on Flickr

Spring is in upper left of photo. Sorry, it's kind of hard to see in the pic. Take water from where it is pouring out of the rock, not from the puddle.

Last edited by idoru2005; 10-05-11 at 02:31 PM.
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