Chino Hills Overnighter / Bikepacking / Sub-48 Trip Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous blog entry about this ride, located here, as you might guess by the title. If you are scrolling down the blog you probably want to skip down and read in order. This picks up in the middle of day 1 of a two day ride. This was my route, or at least, without giving away too much of a spoiler, what I planned for my route to be:

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Clickable if you want more detail or to download a GPX file.

The climb up Black Star Canyon Road would be the big challenge in the whole route. I had considered skirting around it and going into Santiago Regional Park, but decided to take on the big climb instead. I wanted to go to Sierra Peak and down Coal Canyon Road, which is a section I had not ridden before.

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The long and winding dirt road

Black Star Canyon Road is popular among mountain bike racers as a training route. You can identify them by their sponsor jerseys, super thin and fit physiques and high end, light weight bikes. I am not in that category of rider, just to set the record straight. I did not want to overdo it and get too exhausted or overheat on the climb. There seemed to be some disagreement about what the temps were that day. My Strava download and my Garmin computer differed by quite a bit. I would place the temps in the lower 90 degree F range. I drank generously from my 3 liter Camelbak and took breaks in the few shady breezy spots.

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Looking down on the previous picture from higher on the road

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A view from a ridge

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Making Main Divide

The last section of Black Star Canyon Road before it ends at Main Divide gets much steeper than the rest of the road, the opposite of how I would design it, but I am not in charge of these things. The views from there were worth it.

Next came Sierra Peak, which I had never been to before. The elevation profile for the section of the ride from Main Divide to Sierra Peak showed some climbing but a lot of ups and downs rather than a steady climb. GPX tracks do not count that kind of climbing very accurately and sure enough the ride to Sierra Peak added up to more total climbing than my GPX route said it would. So I ended up doing a little bike pushing. Not so much as to make a significant delay in my schedule, and the descent afterwards was very much worth it.

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A view of the 91 / 241 freeway interchange.

The route down from Sierra Peak to the 91 freeway wilderness undercrossing and the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) was a fast fire road. Those seeking technical riding will be disappointed, but there is very little singletrack that leads down from Main Divide. Partway down the descent a sign welcomed me to Chino Hills State Park. It is a section of the park that is disjoint from the rest of the park. It is part of a wildlife corridor through the area.

At the bottom I took a left onto SART, doubling back to take the safe way across the river. There were at least two alternate routes. One was to cross at the nearby golf course, all on pavement. The golf course does not permit this. But a lot of bikers do it anyway. So much so that Strava’s Global Heat Map reveals that to be the most popular way to cross the river. Another is to take a right turn off of SART onto an unmarked dirt path. That leads across another disjoint piece of Chino Hills State Park. That option is a bit of a mystery, I think you have to ford the river, climb up to the tracks and cross the tracks with no crossing. There are at least four tracks in deep gravel beds there. I opted instead for the sure thing, which was to take SART back to Gypsum Canyon Road. That would provide paved, sure, legal crossings of the river and the tracks at the expense of a few extra miles of riding along easy level paved roads.

That had dumped me alongside the railway, which was a bit sketchy. The gravel was deep and it was not clear whether you are allowed to be there or not. My 29 plus tires made easy work of the loose gravel. There were lots of bike tracks, but no established tail. I veered onto a dirt road that skirted the golf course along a meadow and continued into Chino Hills State Park. Again.

Lower Aliso Canyon Trail is interesting. The canyon can get windy in the evening and I faced a moderate headwind and uphill grade. The road surface had the characteristic look of a dirt road that had been polished by windblown dirt. I got close to a few large dust devils but I never rode through one.

I arrived at the campground with plenty of daylight left, which was unusual for me in my last few overnighters. The campground only had 2 other groups there. One set up camp and left. The other did not set up camp at all and left first thing the next morning. The ranger stopped at the other sites, I presume looking for registration. I had registered but the ranger never approached me. The campground has hike/bike sites, but none are designated as such. I think the policy is that if you bike in the site is free. The campground is relatively new and not used much so it looks pretty informal for now anyway. A group of mountain bikers drove through just looking and we talked about about my bikepacking set up.

The campground was nice. It had flush toilets, sinks and free showers. Being Chino Hill State Park there was not a lot of tree cover, but if you pick the right site you can have a little shade.

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Not the most glamorous pic of a campsite, but it was home, and the only pic I took, so there you go.

Gear Info Section This was my first bikecamp using Provent CPAP devices. They are small valves that you tape over your nostrils to regulate your breathing. They don’t work as well as a full CPAP machine, but a CPAP machine plus battery and hoses is a huge thing to bikepack with, I have done it several times. The Provents are a game changer for me, I can travel in a whole new way now, like everyone else does, basically. I will do a review of them in the future.

I got a headlamp for this ride. I recommend them. I will be leaving my flashlight and mini lantern home next time. The headlamp and cell phone light are enough to cover all of my lighting needs, including a little night riding. I also left behind some cooking items and did not miss them even though I made my own dinner and breakfast. I washed my bike clothes and hung them to dry rather than bringing a second outfit. They did not dry all the way, but they were acceptable.

My Garmin had run out of battery power part way down Coal Canyon Road. I had my solar panel with me, ready to test it out in a real world scenario like this. But sadly I had forgotten the mini USB my Garmin requires. Fortunately my phone can navigate as well, and I had remembered the cable for it. So I pressed it into duty as my backup GPS system.

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4 Corners at Chino Hills State Park, a busy place on a Saturday morning

Day 2 started with a series of short steep climbs called 3 or 4 bitches, I lost count. I lived in Yorba Linda 20+ years ago as the park was just opening so I am familiar with the general layout, but it has been a long time since I have ridden there. My route was simple. I finished that short but nasty series of climbs, then flew downhill out of the park along Telegraph Canyon, which was great fun.

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At the bottom of Telegraph Canyon, the entrance to Chino Hills State Park, holding up great

Winding my way out of the the park via through the Redwood grove was very scenic if not the fastest route. I stopped at an AM/PM convenience store as my first encounter with any retail supply point since the previous morning. Remember, this was the endless suburban sprawl I was riding through. To be miles away from any kind of store for that long was an accomplishment.

This is where my day 2 delays began. I got distracted by trying to buy a USB mini cable to charge my Garmin. They are just not available at convenience stores any more. The world has moved on to micro USB. Mini USB’s have to be ordered online or at Radio Shack or something. I stopped at a few places to buy one, but no luck.

I spent time exploring El Cajon Trail, a paved dedicated bike trail in the area. This was new since I lived there and I wanted to have a look. It was a wide, well marked, fun trail. Then it was back on the road. Small problem: the rode I needed to take was under construction. And it was not the kind of construction I could just skirt around on my bike. The road was being replaced with a bridge, and the bridge was not complete. I took the marked detour around it.

At that point it was late morning and I was hungry. My meal plan for day 2 was to do what I did for day 1: live on Power Bars, gelatin blocks and gels and spend much of my eating time in the saddle. On my detour I passed this lovely establishment and I could not take it anymore. I had to stop and get some actual food. Well, actual fast food.

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I gave in to temptation at got the fish taco combo

At this point I knew my delays were adding up, but I decided not to worry and just take the day as it came. It turned out to be a good attitude to have. I got back on the bike and made my way to the dirt trail option of SART, that I will refer to as dirty SART. But there was no way to get from the road to the trail at the point I had planned on, it was completely fenced off. I went back to the last cross street to see if there was a way in there, but the fencing had no gaps in it. I detoured again all the way back to Imperial Highway where I knew there was access.

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No the most flattering picture of dirty SART

Dirty SART, unlike its paved brother on the other side of the river, does not have many entrances or exits. Once you are out there you are there for a long time. I had never taken dirty SART a long distance, I looked forward to seeing what it was like. Like paved SART, there are dedicated underpasses so you don’t have to stop at cross roads. But dirty SART underpasses are in the middle of the river. You also get to see more and different views of the man made wetlands maintained in the river bed in many places. Dirty SART and paved SART come together in a few places as a single paved trail.

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My first encounter with the many homeless camps along the trail

My last delay happened as I rode through Anaheim. I was amazed and saddened by a huge increase in the number of homeless people living along the trail. The population had increased from a handful to thousands. I stopped to take a lot of pictures. I thought it was worth it to trade a little riding time for a little photojournalism. I have a separate blog entry dedicated to what I saw as I passed through that area.

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ARTIC station, Anaheim

After passing through Anaheim I evaluated my schedule. I may have been able to complete my route that day, but due to the many delays I would be finishing after dark and I would be super tired due the extra riding and stopping and starting. It takes its toll. I consulted the train schedule and sure enough there was a train on a good schedule from the Anaheim station back to Irvine where I was parked. As luck would have it the train was delayed about an hour, but I hung around and caught the train.

Was I disappointed? Not really. Part of being adventurous and exploring is being willing to deal with unexpected change. Some changes are out of your control and some changes you make yourself. I felt compelled to take a closer look at the homeless situation which cost me time and I had to adapt.

In the end I did not ride the route I posted at the top of this blog. But I updated that route based on my experience with this ride and I look forward to doing it again in the future.

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