Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter Solstice Hike a Bike S240

The notion was to get one last S240 ride in the San Gabriel Mountains close to home before the end of the year. I’d been in communication with RBW lister Mike Shiller about the logistics and the ideal date seemed to be December 13th & 14th emphasis on seemed, Mother Nature had other plans and the Los Padres above Ventura hailed to be explored…but we’ll get to that in due time.

As I said December timing seemed to be thwarting the plan with a cold blast from the North in early December which was uncharacteristic SoCal weather. Up at elevation If I recall the low temperature was in the mid to low twenties making the idea of camping at 6000’ less than appealing, and for those from colder climes this is Los Angeles so that’s damn cold to us…okay there was also the fact that I caught a cold in early December. By Wednesday the 11th I was feeling better so if there had been an up swell of interest for the proposed date I’d have been obliged to slough it out but It so happened that Coconut Bill AKA Evan Spacht had a mishap on his nightly commute something to do with a condo development company not completing the bike path he was riding on resulting in his taking a spill and bruising a rib, let me assure you that the Coconut is Cat like on falls I have witnessed them first hand and what would most assuredly ruin me he typically lands unharmed. Anyways the Coco, Curtis McKenzie and I were out! So Mike and I figured we’d try the Solstice weekend. Frankly I was relieved I could rest up and get healthy.

What’s up with the Los Padres? Back around Thanksgiving Curtis was going to do a overnight in the Ventura area and asked the group for some suggestions and it got me thinking how much I like that area and it didn’t hurt that Mike brought a lot of information to the table namely Rob Perks of Ocean Air Cycles foray into the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Mitilija wilderness. I gotta say I was intrigued and now the San Gabriel’s would have to wait.

It was mid-week December 18th we lost Mike to that darn cold. The weather forecast called for one day of rain on the 19th so I contacted Evan and he was game.

The idea was to ride the 19.8 miles from Ventura up the Ventura River/ Ojai Valley Bike trail to to Ojai then ride 6.5 miles on the Maricopa Hwy 33 to the Matilija Canyon Road then another 5 miles to the Trailhead and bike a couple miles more to Murietta Camp at least that was the plan I had made with Mike.
When Mike couldn’t go I called the Ojai Ranger District for some info and was lead to believe that it was totally doable to ride 30 miles from the trailhead to Agua Caliente Spring a total of 45 miles from Ventura. Hey the fella on the phone said “Hot Springs” and soaking after a long bike ride well damn that’s the ride I wanted to do! That was the plan and well things don’t always go accordingly.

Flash to Friday morning I was up at 6:30 am bright and early okay maybe it was 7:30am any who I had a cup of tea the wife made a good breakfast and I rushed out around 9:20 am yep you read that right 9:20 am! So for those of you that don’t know I work a swing shift from 2 pm to 10 pm so it goes to say this was early for me. Swung by Canyon Country to pick up Evan and we headed out Hwy 126 (always a beautiful ride) through Santa Paula and made it to Ventura around 11ish… Evan was hungry so we stopped by Cajun Kitchen the coconut ordered an omelet with corn bread and I had a short stack of Blueberry pancakes. Yeah at this point I already knew we ain’t riding from Ventura…so the backup plan was to drive the 29 miles to the Matilija trail Head and ride the 30 miles over mostly fire road to those Hot Springs and have a good soak! By the way the USGS map I bought was…1:126,720 scale so no mileage nor any real useable elevation info to speak of, one needs a smaller scale (or is that larger? I get that mixed up) for such useful information yeah I know I should have realized that but I was pumped to get out into the wilderness. By the time we off loaded the bikes and loaded our gear it was probably 1:30pm that’s cause I missed the Matilija Canyon Road and had to double back…it was a scenic detour gotta make lemonade outta lemons kind of stuff.

So we head out 5N13 Mitilija Canyon happy as can be on our bikes we made a left up Murietta Canyon and it gets sort of steep. Oh wow I gotta dismount and hike a bike for a bit…ah ha that’s right it’ll level off and we’ll be pedaling to our hearts content, have to dismount and that’s right hike the bike for a while then pedal some turn the corner and the road just jacks up! Again dismount and hike a bike…so at about this time the idea of riding 30 miles has evaporated and Evan is muttering something behind me…I look back and ask if he’s okay? He says something uplifting and then say’s he’d like to get a hold of the so n so at the ranger district that led us on this fool’s errand! The point is there is no Hot Spring in our near future. I’m bound and determined to salvage this expedition so I hauled out our map and realized we passed Murietta Camp and never saw it…rode right past it… err probably hiked past it. You know I’d like to say at this point I was marveling at the amazing scenery and yadda, yadda, but the truth is I saw huge peaks lots of chaparral and a dirt road with a grade I’d never in my life encountered before with a bicycle. I just lowered my head dug my hands into the hoods and did like Sisyphus.  So I focused on the Upper Santa Ynez Camp which based on my crude measuring of map distance was a half mile on the other side of “Divide Peak” this is also the Ventura and Santa Barbara county line. I also figured we had another mile or two of hike a bike to the saddle then the half mile down to camp. At this point I was in commando grind it out gear and was determined to make it to camp with some daylight. I explained to Evan the mileage and what we were looking to accomplish and Evan was a really great sport, remember I sold him on soaking and luxuriating at a hot spring after a nice bike ride so he was giving me that cocked sideways glance of are you for real dude! But he said it would be a shame to turn around after pushing one’s bike so damn far up hill.

After many hard pushes and catch ur breath moments we made the saddle

and mounted our bikes for a exhilarating wind in your face smooth road downhill romp.

I was keeping my eye out for a suitable camp location (Evan brought his hammock and needed trees) as I also recognized that the camps had no clear demarcation and the terrain was for the most chaparral, we passed over a small creek most likely fed from Old Man Mountain when I glanced to my right and saw a meadow with tall grasses and large oak trees…humm level, trees, water this looked ideal I walked in to survey the area and saw a picnic bench and a fire ring and knew this was Upper Santa Ynez Camp. It was 3:30pm and we hastily made camp changed into warm clothes and made a fire.

It was time to relax and enjoy the four cans of Guinness stout we hauled in. We made dinner, brown rice and Indian curry kept the fire roaring and talked long past sunset and retired to sleep knowing tomorrow meant climbing back out a half mile to the divide.

The following morning we woke and compared notes regarding the temperature and such...Evan reported that he loved the hammock though early in the am felt the temperature dip so he crawled into his VBL (vapor barrier liner) for added warmth. I used my VBL and sleeping bag all night and only felt a few cold moments but only had to cinch up the VBL to retain my body heat.
The morning was leisurely and we relaxed on rocks in pools of sun, ground and brewed coffee n tea ate sliced oranges and oatmeal and conversed.

We broke camp and made a lot of trips to that little creek to douse the fire pit from the night’s fire I’ll be damned if I’d be the cause of a forest fire plus I was a boy scout so yeah I’m wired that a way. With the bike’s packed we headed up and away from our sanctuary. I climbed and looked back and Evan was nowhere in sight? I laid Homer down and walked back down and saw Evan inspecting his bike. What’s up Evan? Rear tire flat! So we hunkered down to make the repair…intended to use a new tube I brought along, so I pumped maybe 40 lbs of air in and removed the pump and the air flew out! What the hell! The valve stem just flew out and was gone, gone, gone. What to do? Use the old tubes valve stem right! Wrong! Different size!! Next up Einstein patch kit and licky split were back to hike a bike.

I found that the views looking back down to the lower Santa Ynez valley were spectacular and we paused many times to catch our breath and marvel at the beauty of waves of varying hues of green chaparral blanketing the slopes of small canyons sweeping down to the lower Santa Ynez. Once back at the saddle we mounted our bikes and it was moments of breathtaking sweeping down hills on loamy smooth fire road with photo op moments that weren't possible the day before.

As we dropped down Murietta Canyon  to re-enter Mitilija Canyon we encountered a pair of hikers, Gordon and Anjelae who reside in Santa Barbara and do trail clearing with an emphasis on the Ocean View Trail (disclaimer I may have some of this information wrong) which I believe runs from Escondido Canyon in the North and travels up and over White Ledge Peak in the South…they said the trail is  currently un passable but they were working with another fellow from their El CaminoCielo Trail Facebook group who is based in Ventura and working from the South, so I imagine they will one day have it open. They were a lovely couple to meet and knew where it was bikable in these parts. Thanks to Gordon I feel I have a better understanding of the region and future explorations. And Anjelae has a Blog of her own http://tonicnature.wordpress.com/.

Once we made it back to the trail head we met other hikers all very nice folk and a bit amazed to see our Rivendell’s out on what I’m sure they consider a hiking only area. Ha! We showed them.

I had made a shout out to Rob Perks of Ocean Air Cycles before we departed on Friday and wanted to see if we could hook up with him and pick his brain on all things bikes. 

Once in cell reception I turned on my phone and reached Rob. We met Rob at his home in Ventura

where we were given the full tour of Ocean Air Cycles Head Quarters and I think I can speak for both the Coconut and I  we were impressed. Rob definitely has that engineers mind working to find the solutions to frame and fork geometry as well as thoughtful small things, for instance the dynamo light wiring he has done is really inspired routing especially around the BB shell. And Rob can sew! Evan and I both picked up new Ocean Air Cycles kerchiefs which are really sweet. Rob just knows so much about bicycles and is super enthusiastic I could hang with him indefinitely though we had to tear ourselves away (we hadn't eaten since breakfast) the three of  us  rode our bikes over to the Anacapa Brewing Company for brews, dinner and lots more bike and adventure talk.

I have to say meeting up with Rob was a great way to cap off our adventure! And yeah it was more like an S480 if you consider all the driving and visiting. For me it just whets my appetite for more…

The total distance traveled by Bike & Hike was approximately 12 miles.

So what did I take away from this adventure?

  1.  Get the proper map so I’ll be more realistic about elevation and distances
  2.  An extra pound is no big deal…bring a hatchet! Less trips to find fuel.
  3.  Invest in a simple light weight water purification system
  4.  Do more S240, 480 and 720’s if the wife approves. Is this the S240 a month club?
  5.  Stay open to more adventure.

Here are my Flickr photo's if you care to see more from the trip and if that's not enough here are the Coconut's images.

Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down. 


  1. Great write up, Hugh! If I may give my own experience with your take aways:
    1) A larger scale map like you had requires and helps build #5.
    2) Yes!
    3) I use and love my Steripen Adventurer. http://www.steripen.com
    4) Any way to entice her to join you for a trip or two? That always seems to help, if your Beloved has any interest at all. We'll often car camp as a family and adventure ride from there.
    5) Yes!

    Have a blessed Christmas Tide!

    1. Deacon, Thanks for the recommendations, and have a blessed holiday too.

  2. Great accounting of the trip, however since my birthday was the twelfth, I can say with some surety that it was a Thursday, and not a Wednesday this year. Hope to run into you on a trail sometime.

  3. Thanks Dave, where are you located? If your on RBW owners bunch then you'll see our SoCal rides...this one is coming up in March http://redlands-strada-rossa.blogspot.com/ Per the date duly noted and updated.~ Hugh