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First S24O or Being Scared is a Lot Funner with Others

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First S24O or Being Scared is a Lot Funner with Others

Old 05-13-11, 02:54 PM
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SurlyLaika
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First S24O or Being Scared is a Lot Funner with Others

I rode up to Chantry Flats, Los Angeles National Forest last night, up Santa Anita in Arcadia all the way if anyone's familiar with the San Gabriel Valley. Anyways, this was my experience and a few things I learned.

9 miles across moderately flat land is a lot easier than 3 miles flat and 6 uphill. I should have known the elevation gain from the topography map, but I didn't so this oversight screwed up my schedule. I ended up getting there half an hour before darkness. Next time I'll leave a lot earlier so I'm not setting up camp in a panic. I actually didn't even get to the official campground.

A loaded bike is a burdensome thing to cart around, up hills and down hills, over rocks and creeks etc. Aside from the dusk setting in quickly, this was another reason I didn't make it to the official campground. I would have had to climb a mile and half up and across a creek...in the dark. It just wasn't feasible with a loaded bike with skinny tires. In fact, I had to walk my bike up the hill at intervals. I'm okay with that but dismounting and mounting got a little tricky depending on the incline. Haha! sometimes it was even hard to get a kick start once I was on it. BTW, I was running a 48-36-26t with a 11-32 rear casette. Low end of 21.4 gear inches. I'm pretty happy with this set up.The middle chain ring can now go as low as my 12-25 rear cassette on the 26t granny gear. Then on the granny gear, I gained almost 10 gear inches. Without that, I would have been doing a lot more walking!

Cell phones lose reception in the mountains pretty quickly and my completely charged phone died, probably because it was searching for signal the whole night. That was a problem because I expected to be able to call my loved ones and let them know I got there safely. Also, I should have left a map of where I was going. No one knew where I was. I kind of left on a whim because I'd been meaning to go since Tuesday. My mistake. I made people worry about me. There was an emergency call box, but I didn't have an emergency on my hands, so I just figured I'd leave at sunrise.

I slept on hard-packed dirt with a couple jutting rocks. My thermarest sleeping pad helped somewhat. I mean, I knew when my legs were off it, but overall the ground was more or uncomfortable. Not having a real pillow didn't help much in the comfort department. I used a wool sweater as a pillow. I hope my Sea to Summit travel pillow(still waiting for UPS) will make my sleeping a lot more comfy. My wool beanie was invaluable; it kept my little head warm throughout the night. I also picked up these laces for my eyeglasses to keep them from sliding forward. It's supposed to help with neck crane and it did. I love 'em. A hankie also came in handy to wipe my off my fat-man-in-Texas ride up the mountain sweat. Anyways...

My strongest impression was that of being petrified almost the whole night. In fact, I barely slept because of my persistent anxiety. I was scared of mountain lions and bears, both of which there were beware signs for, thugs and thieves, spiders, park rangers, etc. As soon as my tent was pitched I got in with everything but my locked up bike and didn't look out again until dawn. Being alone in complete darkness really got to me. Every little noise and shadow played with my mind. I woke up around 11 and looked up through a bit of moonlight and saw three ugly spiders. I freaked out cos it looked like they were on the inside through the mesh screen, but they were on the outside. I made sure all the zippers were shut tightly and tried to sleep. I thought I heard the crinkling of plastic twice and a flashlight once, but I woke up okay at dawn and scrammed before I was found camping where I shouldn't have been.

At dawn, the campground didn't look so bad. I was right next to a water fall. The sunshine was hazy and warm. I still packed up camp in a rush, but the ride down the mountain was absolutely beautiful. I wish I'd had more time to take in the sights and explore a bit but next time I'll have to find the campground.

I don't know if I conquered my fear of camping alone in the dark. I think I just didn't have any options as badly as I just wanted to be in my nice warm home, watching Netflix. I did what I had to, hunkered down and did what I could to sleep.

Thank you for reading this far. Thoughts, advice?
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Old 05-13-11, 03:31 PM
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I'm planning to go back out there Monday, but I'll set out in the morning and spend until Tuesday morning there.
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Old 05-13-11, 04:12 PM
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Welcome to the Seven P's Club!.

FWIW, you'll likely sleep much better if you camp in a legal location and have the proper amount of time to setup your campsite.
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Old 05-13-11, 04:24 PM
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If there are trees or something to hang it on, the Hennessy Hammock is way better than sleeping on the hard ground with jutting rocks.
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Old 05-13-11, 04:45 PM
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Nope, you don't need to buy a hammock, you just need to learn to select & prepare your tent site - which includes bringing it back to original condition the next morning.

Do NOT BRING YOUR FOOD IN YOUR TENT with you, in bear country. This includes other scented items such as sunscreen, lip balm, soap, toothpaste. Google around for instructions on how to hang your food or bring a bearproof container. Bears want your food, not you, so if you and your tent are food-free they won't mess with you. Never cook or eat in your tent. Ever.

Mountain lions... well, I'd be scared too.

Keep at it, you'll get yourself sorted out and it'll soon be all fun, less stress.
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Old 05-13-11, 04:48 PM
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how wide are your tires? We rain 38mm to 42mm tires...deflated them a bit when things got sandy/gravelly.

also, we really liked the shimano 12-36t cog! Amazing. Could ride in the middle chainring for about 98% of the riding we did.
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Old 05-13-11, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
Nope, you don't need to buy a hammock, you just need to learn to select & prepare your tent site - which includes bringing it back to original condition the next morning.

Do NOT BRING YOUR FOOD IN YOUR TENT with you, in bear country. This includes other scented items such as sunscreen, lip balm, soap, toothpaste. Google around for instructions on how to hang your food or bring a bearproof container. Bears want your food, not you, so if you and your tent are food-free they won't mess with you. Never cook or eat in your tent. Ever.

Mountain lions... well, I'd be scared too.

Keep at it, you'll get yourself sorted out and it'll soon be all fun, less stress.
hahaha, whoever said welcome to the 7 P's club. Yea, I thought about that once I saw the signs. I had packed 2 peanut butter sandwiches, one as an evening snack and one for the morning. I ate them both and threw the ziplocs in their proper place. But I didn't think about my scented chapstick and toothpaste. Next time, I'll bring a bag and rig up on a high tree branch with some twine.
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Old 05-13-11, 05:01 PM
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See, it all worked out. And will be even better next time.

I find that my nylon stuff sack full of clothes makes a fine pillow, just in case the Sea to Summit doesn't.
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Old 05-13-11, 05:01 PM
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(My strongest impression was that of being petrified almost the whole night. In fact, I barely slept because of my persistent anxiety. I was scared of mountain lions and bears, both of which there were beware signs for, thugs and thieves, spiders, park rangers, etc. As soon as my tent was pitched I got in with everything but my locked up bike and didn't look out again until dawn.) Sorry but I had to laugh at this.It,s just to funny not to.ut I am with you all the way my wife is so scard she want camp with me for anything..
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Old 05-13-11, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by pathlesspedaled View Post
how wide are your tires? We rain 38mm to 42mm tires...deflated them a bit when things got sandy/gravelly.

also, we really liked the shimano 12-36t cog! Amazing. Could ride in the middle chainring for about 98% of the riding we did.
The tires I'm using at the moment are Armadillo 700x25's, but I'm waiting for my Schwalbe Marathon Plus's in 700x32. Cool tip on the deflating a bit when things the dirt gets loose. Where did you ride that you needed such an incredible set-up? I love my new cassette, going low enough on the middle chain ring is just nice; also the derailleur I had to get with it is a...major upgrade from the Tiagra stock. It's a Deore XT...with rapid action rise or something, I forget what the LBS called it but the shifters work in reverse, for smoother gear shifts and it works. Oh yea, and walking the bike every now and then wasn't so bad. It gave my legs and butt a rest while my arms did the heavy lifting.
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Old 05-13-11, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
See, it all worked out. And will be even better next time.

I find that my nylon stuff sack full of clothes makes a fine pillow, just in case the Sea to Summit doesn't.
yea, I'm excited to do it again...and I won't repeat the same mistakes. I'll choose a more suitable campsite and I'll be a little less scared and actually have time to explore the forest. Also, more food! but I'll have to rig it up high away from big, scary critters. Monday, doing it again!
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Old 05-13-11, 06:07 PM
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I doubt that this will help, but here goes anyway: Relax.
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Old 05-13-11, 06:42 PM
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I'm a noob tourer and casual camper before that. To avoid similar anxiety at night I only camp at public campgrounds located at state and national parks for now. A little step at a time.

My smallest chainring is 22 and largest cog is 36. So far I only encountered one hill I was unable to ride up. Even cars were struggling on it.

Prepare well and start with something easier to avoid discouragement.

I made my own pillow by cutting a regular pillow up. It's about 1/3 of a regular pillow. I have it stuffed with my sleeping bag in a compressions sack. It barely ads to the bulk and it's great to have a regular pillow.

And yeah +1 for a warm, soft hat, it helps

When mounting a bike on an uphill position it across the road (perpendicular to the hill) and zig-zag up slowly.

Yeah, don't count on cellphones. Don't promise people you'll ping them regularly since you may not be able to most of the time.

I focused a lot on comfortable sleeping gear since sleep is important, very, very important: my own pillow, down sleeping bag with soft, cozy interior, inflatable Therm A Rest NeoAir pad (it also isolates you from cold ground), an extra thermal liner for the bag, soft merino clothing for sleeping and a soft fleece skiing hat that I can pull far down over my ears and face if it gets really cold.

I did a couple of overnighters to a close by state park first to test the gear. I was still anxious and didn't sleep very well first two nights on my first real tour. But my anxiety was more related to what's going to happen, did I prepare well, do I have everything I need, rather than being attacked by animals or bandits. Being alone in the dark doesn't bother me that much.

Just don't keep any food and scented items in your tent, including soap, toothpaste, etc. And wear clean clothes inside the tent. Do not eat inside the tent. Anything that touched food stays outside the tent.
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Old 05-13-11, 07:00 PM
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Jeez. are you all city people? Take normal precautions and chill the heck out... mountain lions, really...
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Old 05-13-11, 07:42 PM
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^^^ no, you're wrong about that. Mountain lions. Really. Ever seen one? I have. It's a *lion*
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Old 05-13-11, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Aquakitty View Post
Jeez. are you all city people? Take normal precautions and chill the heck out... mountain lions, really...
mm, I'm more of a suburbanite...between the countryside and the city. And my cat is a cat, not a lion. Why's everyone assume Californians and New Yorkers have never left the big city?
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Old 05-13-11, 08:24 PM
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Albert,

Glad you were able to get out. If you went down the paved road once you got to Chantry and headed towards Sturtevant Falls I'm surprised you were able to find anywhere to camp. Don't take this the wrong way but I would not recommend doing that again. Chantry is an amazing place to hike, backpack, and mountain bike, which I have been doing there for the better part of the past 30 years (wow can't believe I just typed that!). That said there are not may options for doing what you want to do on the bike you are riding. If you were on a full blown mountain bike Chantry could work (I mountain bike there regularly). The route I sent you around the West Fork of the San Gabriel River will be much better suited for what you want to do as you will be on fireroads with several good places to camp and availability of water.

Don't worry too much about the animals. You should take basic precautions with your food due to the bears but you will be far more likely to loose your food to raccoons than the bears. I have been all over the San Gabs and just saw my first bear this fall; actually I saw it's eye reflecting from my headlight while night riding around Chantry. We actually saw 6 foxes that same night. I actually almost hit one doing 20+MPH descending the paved road!

Yes there are most certainly mountain lions in the San Gabs; however I have never seen one and there are not that many reports of mountain lions in the San Gabs. There are more sightings in the Santa Monica Mountains and mountains in OC. The San Gabs have much more undisturbed habit for mountain lions; therefore they are less likely to see you as food.

Depending on how far you want to bike I can recommend a whole bunch of places to camp off Highway 2 - the Chilao and Charlton areas have lots of nice camping areas that see almost no one these days. The only problem is it's quite a ride to get back to these places. The beauty of the San Gabs is that you can be in total wilderness (and I mean honest to god wilderness) in as little as 3 miles as the crow flies from LA, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.

Last edited by MTBMaven; 05-13-11 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 05-13-11, 08:53 PM
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Great report. I enjoyed reading it and envied you the entire time I was doing so. There's a lot to be said for finding your own way. BTW, "fat-man-in-Texas ride up the mountain sweat"--great image.
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Old 05-14-11, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
Ever seen one? I have. It's a *lion*
I've seen real lions in person in Africa. A cougar is a poor imitation at best... They're also relatively rare and, for the most part, reclusive. I'd worry more about being struck by lightening or dying in a forest fire started by my own camp stove than being attacked by a mountain lion in the Los Angeles National Forest...
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Old 05-14-11, 11:00 AM
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Not sure where you live sstorkel but we have had numerous people attacked by mountain lions in the mountain ranges surrounding LA. Don't think just because it's LA there is no wilderness. I said it earlier, there is honest to god rugged wilderness surrounding LA. I have traveled to 6 of the 7 continents and backpacked extensively in the Sierra Nevada range. LA has real wilderness with real animals. One lion killed a mountain biker and grabbed another by the head a few days latter before her riding partner beat the animal away. There are reports all the time of sightings around LA.

All that said yes they are reclusive and in the mountain range Albert is visiting sightings are more rare. I too have seen lions in the wild while traveling in Africa (large male lion less than 10' from the vehicle), and the North American Mountain Lion is a far cry from the size of that amazing beast. Lion or not I wouldn't want to get in a tangle with a Mountain Lion.
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Old 05-14-11, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
^^^ no, you're wrong about that. Mountain lions. Really. Ever seen one? I have. It's a *lion*

Oh yes, I have. They are stalkers... and they won't be busting into your tent at night to rip your face off. I live in bc where I cycle with literally hundereds of animals all the time. Bears galore, ML are very rare to see and you most likely wouldn't see it coming if it was gonna get you. Or you'd see it following you. I think it's funny to be sitting in the tent at night worrying about a ML ripping face while you sleep. Bears are a problem but they want your food, not you. Bears only attack humans defensively. If you take precautions there is little to worry about. I am far more nervous about cars tbh.

ML kill less than 1 person a year
Bears kill less than 1 person a year, only defensive

There is a better chance of being killed by a dog than a ML.

Just remember the reality vs your imagination when alone at night, in the dark and there are noises outside your tent, hehe.

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Old 05-15-11, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by MTBMaven View Post
Not sure where you live sstorkel but we have had numerous people attacked by mountain lions in the mountain ranges surrounding LA.
The statistics I found suggest that since 1890 there have been 16 verified attacks, including 7 fatalities, for the entire state of California. In 117 years, there have been four attacks in Orange County and one in Los Angeles County. I'd hardly call that "numerous". Honestly, I'd be more worried about being attacked by Charlie Sheen than a mountain lion if I were hiking near L.A...
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Old 05-15-11, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
Honestly, I'd be more worried about being attacked by Charlie Sheen than a mountain lion if I were hiking near L.A...
Now that is most certainly true.

You and Aquakitty are totally correct that attacks are the exceptions and not the rule. I guess I was trying to point out that sightings are not all that uncommon and in certain areas are becoming more common, but as you point out attacks are rare. As for Albert's situation lions are of little concerns while camping solo.
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