Tag Archives: Crystal Lake

Time to Revisit Crystal Lake

It’s time to visit Southern California again, but this weekend, most of my buddies are out doing Solvang Autumn Double. I’m not in double shape at all, so that is out of the question for me. My friend Rick was doing Crystal Lake, and I haven’t done that in a long time, and conditions look great for this.

We met up at Encanto Park, and there was a big group of riders there (thinking that’s the group Rick was riding with, but no, it was just a solo ride). There were a large number of Filipino riders, but not what you would expect. There were only a few Adobo Velo jerseys there. I think they were going to Baldy, because we didn’t see any of them pass us up on they way up to Crystal Lake.

It was a bit chill to start off with, but was comfortable for vest and arm warmer weather. I think a full jacket would have been way too warm, and too much to carry. While on the climb, we saw a lot of runners running down the mountain. We even saw runners coming down even above East Fork Road. It’s kinda weird … I’ve never seen a large group running down a mountain. Rick tells me he saw a group of runners doing a marathon, all downhill.

We kept going in and out of the shade, and that kept the ride interesting.

On the way up, we heard a loud rumble, and it was the sheriff or some surveillance, hovering over the mountains. I’m not sure if they are looking for someone lost, but it’s strange how this would be done this early in the morning.

The grades were not intense, but this was a long climb. It’s not like Mt. Hamilton climb, although it is long … it’s just different. It’s about 25 miles from the park up to Crystal Lake. As you can imagine, with the length of the climb, it would wear on your legs eventually. Lucky I brought my triple.

Oh yes, 5000 ft elevation … This is an indication that I am close to the final destination, but also a sense of accomplishment. I’m 5000 feet up! We don’t have hills that go to this elevation. In order to get up this high, we’d have to go to the eastern sierras. I looked at my Garmin at this point, and notice my elevation was only at 4850 feet. Hmm … I wonder which one is calibrated wrong?

And the road to Crystal Lake is around the corner. I could feel the fatigue creep into my right leg, but I didn’t shift into my absolute lowest gear, which tells me I wasn’t completely spent, and still had some energy left in reserve.

As with any remote coffee shop, you see all types here, including motorcyclists, bicyclists, hikers, and of course, firefighters. I know the grilled cheese sandwiches are great here, but I’m not sure that would be the best thing for my stomach, after climbing 5000+ feet (although the rest of the ride is a long descent).

The descent allows you to pick up some very high speed, in a short time. Without trying, you could get to 40 mph. This was fun … up until I see a bunch of cyclists slowing down, and the horrifying look of fire trucks and sheriff trucks stopped along the roadway.

Approaching the scene closer, unfortunately it is a downed cyclist. Damn, that sure puts a downer for the group of cyclists, and this was probably still about 3500 feet up, so still a bunch of descending to go.

On the way back on the bike path, we see a formation of National Guards, and they were on the bike path. At least they were formed on either side of the bike path, so we had a lane to ride through. When’s the last time you’ve seen that!

Time to Visit So Cal – must Mean Crystal Lake Again #30daysofbiking


Time for my monthly visit to see dad but I couldn’t get Friday off, so I had to fly down instead. That means riding my heavy, ~25 lb Pink Diamond Back, 53-39, 12-26. Karen is leading another Crystal Lake ride, so I gotta do that, but on this heavy bike? Well, I am training for DMD, so I figure it would be good training … Weight training.


As with my previous hard rides, I came with a little nap sack on my back. Karen couldn’t find a way to carry her jacket (needed for the cold descent), so I offered to carry it in my bag. That just means that she’ll have to wait for me to grind it up the hill, and most likely have to wait for me.

The lead group was fast.  There was no way I can keep up with them, even if I did have my Volagi with me.  I was able to hang in with Karen up to the first re-group, which was a little past East Fork Road.  We re-grouped, with just enough time to take my dork shot:


… and a photo bomb!


After a short rest, we’re back to continue the climb. However, as in past rides, this is usually where I get dropped. It was even more amplified with the fact that I’m on a heavier bike, and without mountain gearing. And yes, I do get dropped here. I continue grinding it up along, and catch up to Rick, who started out about 5 minutes before we did. We rode up together for the rest of the climb to Crystal Lake.


Chatting with Rick while slogging up this long climb definitely helped pass the time away.  Since I’ve done this climb a couple times before, just remembering all the points of interest also helped me gauge how far up along the climb I am.  I do remember the Crystal Lake turnoff was a little past the 5000 foot elevation level, and that helped too.  However, I noticed the 4000 foot elevation level sign was missing.  What happened there?


Descending back down Hwy 39, we turned off on East Fork Road, on the way to Camp Williams, and onto climb Little GMR.  I was Rick all the way to Camp Williams, but after we left there, I was dropped again.  I think I just had a little too much climbing, and too much distance in my legs, on this heavy bike, so I just went ahead and limped along back down front side of GMR, then back to the park.  Meanwhile, the rest of the group continued onto Baldy Village, and back.  My legs were just not into it.

Great day, great ride, great group.  I had a lot of fun, and great to re-unite with old friends.

Total Stats, 65 miles, 7871 feet climbing.  It was a hard day, but excellent day.


Cold Crystal Lake Ride

It’s funny how word spreads on some rides in So Cal.  This ride, for example, had traction through another Facebook post from Steve Meichtry, who want even on the ride.  I made a comment asking what the ride planned for this weekend, then Victor Copper posts that a group is doing a ride up to Dawson Saddle, and from this thread, more people latched on.  I never get that on any posts I make on Bay Area rides.  Maybe I don’t have the right friends?


This ride had a big turnout, despite the fact that it would be really cold up there.  Actually, it was determined that Dawson Saddle would be too cold, and instead the ride would go to Crystal Lake.

Starting out, the pace was a little slower than what I normally do on a climb, but I figured I should stay at a low pace, considering how long the climb is.  I paced myself behind Ken, who had a comfortable pace for a hill climb.  Thanks Ken, for keeping me within myself, and not blowing my legs out too soon.

With such a large group, it did split up into about 3 or 4 groups.  I pretty much stayed around with Victor, Debbie, and Sharona.  Hanging out with a group made the long climb a little more bearable.

It started getting a bit cold and windy, as soon as we made it above the 3000 foot level.  We made a much deserved stop about a couple miles below the Crystal Lake turnoff, to marvel and the road that we had just climbed.  It also gave us a chance to regroup with a few people.

When we got to the Crystal Lake Cafe, we needed to bundle up for the descent … the long fast descent. With the temps in the 40s, the wind chill would make things a bit nippy. It shocked me Sharona ride up with no gloves, and luckily the cafe had gloves to sell. However, we did meet a couple of riders who had no jacket, no leg warmers, no arm warmers. I saw them trying to wrap a newspaper around his leg. We jokingly mention they should wait until summer before the decent down. I wonder if they made it down okay.


Made it down the hill with less than 50 miles. Well, we can’t let this go, we need to get over the 50 mile hump, so up and down the road a few times, and get our 50 miler in. Ah, now that’s a ride.


Stats: 52.5 miles, 6375 feet climbing.

Climbfest, Heatfest, Sufferfest … all just to get to Crystal Lake

We all know about the climbfest (Baldy, Crystal Lake, Dawson Saddle come to mind), but I just heard a newly coined term, heatfest.  I guess this all comes under the category of sufferfest.  I might as well add my 20 year old, Diamond Back, which weighs about 25-30 pounds, with harder gears (53-39, 11-26) … and this is a recipe for pain.  Maybe we should call this painfest?

1002899_694615203886966_870337405_nKaren sent an invite for another epic ride, up Hwy 39, to Crystal Lake, with various options to go along with it.  Since I am carrying an older, heavier bike, I let it all be known I will be doing the minimum … Crystal Lake only.  Last time I tried, we did Baldy Village, then attempted the climb … only to succumb to heat.  But we also had a lot of climbing and miles in our legs … this time, figuring that we’re heading straight for Crystal Lake first, my chances of success may be greater.

IMG_36319211811943Everything was fine up to East Fork Rd.  After we all re-grouped (water re-fill, bathroom), that was probably the last time I was actually riding with the group.  This is where the combination of climbing distance, climbing elevation gain, and heat got the best of me.  This road was very open … by that, I mean there is no break for coverage at all.  What little trees there were was few and far between.

G0060704As I started getting higher in elevation, fatigue really set in.  Cadence was slowing down, but since I didn’t have my Garmin on my bike mount, I couldn’t tell how slow my cadence was, nor did I know how slow I was going.  Additionally, I had no idea how hot it was … but the heat was intense, so I had some idea it was bad.  Each time I saw a tree, I wanted to stop, but I didn’t want to concede, as I kept remembering my motto “I’m in it to finish it”.

G0040450Finally, I succumbed to the heat, and stopped under not one, but two trees.  It did feel good, with a little faint breeze.  This was just enough to help me recover, and continue on.  Each time, a part of me was all ready to turn around, but being in a group trumped that, and made me continue on.  Water was not an issue, and I wasn’t dehydrated … It was just the heatfest!

20130817_123035I got a pleasant surprise, seeing my old friend John, who I used to ride with all the time back in my old Foothill Cycle Club days.  Been a really long time.  Seeing him come up behind me after making the right turn towards Crystal Lake was enough to get me going all the way to the Crystal Lake Cafe.  I finally made it … and low and behold, I see my friend Ken sitting there having a Fritos Pie.  Mmmmm.

While chowing down there, I saw some other strong riders, who had gone up further on Hwy 39, to Mt. Islip, then made their way down. Now they were on their way to go to East Fork, then over to Camp Williams, then onto little GMR.  Me, I’m just going straight down Hwy 39.  It was hot enough as it is … then, when I went back to the cars, it was showing 103 F.  What???  Later, I heard it was 114 F at Camp Williams.  Just thinking of it makes me hot.

I was trying to get a video of my descent going down, but I spend too much battery taking still shots and some video earlier on.  What was left is the video below:

Stats?  I ended up with 51.1 miles, 6791 feet climbing … nice clip, eh?  http://www.strava.com/activities/75446129