Epic ride around Gibraltar reservoir today. 43 miles. 5 hours. ~3000ft vertical. A good steady day in the saddle with some failed explorations and hiking excursions thrown in.
Took off early this morning (but not without stopping at Goleta Coffee first of course) and made it out to the Los Padres Natl Forest. After begrudgingly paying the $5 day use fee (WTF these are our National Forests and we have to PAY to use them? Grrrrr….), I parked at Falling Rock campground and started off down Paradise Road.
The fire road to Gibraltar starts at the Red Rocks parking lot. Its a good warmup, after about an hour of up-and-down I was at the Gibraltar mines (an abandoned old silver mine at the eastern end of the reservoir). I’d never ventured much further past this point so I gave it a shot today. The trail was getting narrow and overgrown but was, for the most part, rideable. There were a few used-to-be-a-trail-but-is-now-a-rockslide sections that I had to hike. The trail could use some work but was certainly in better shape than the Matais trail.
After hitting the intersection for the Forbush trail, I decided to explore the “hidden” trail that lead north across the river and to Mono camp. Or so the guidebooks would have you believe. I couldn’t find such a trail but did find my way to the dry river bed which was partially rideable, partially hikeable and fully a pain in the ass. But I was stubborn and would not backtrack.
Instead of shooting NW to Mono, I went upstream to P-Bar Flats which required about 45 minutes of river bed navigation and following phantom trails. Eventually I found the main forest service road after following the river bed plus portions of what they called the Blue Canyon “trail” . Took the main road (Camuesa) to the east for a while and went up to Pendola, checked out some campsites and turned around before I got all the way to Juncal.
Turning 180 degrees, I took Camuesa back up to Mono camp. From there I made several vain attempts at heading south and seeing if I could find the elusive connector to the Gibraltar trail. No such luck. I thought my GPS might reveal how close I was but, alas, I just managed to find the same dry river bed as before but a mile or more away. God knows if this trail from gibraltar to Mono even exists!
Giving up on that, the best way home was up Cameusa road. Right after the turn off to explore Mono basin and Little Caliente, there was a gate in the road which meant no vehicles and less dust. I climbed that for a while, passing the cutoff to Indian trail (another one I gotta do some day) and over to the Middle Camuesa campground.
By this point, I’d passed another gate so we were now in OHV territory. I met 2 great guys sitting around after a dirt bike ride, shooting their guns and drinking beer. Turns out one of the guys was a mountain biker as well and we traded some knowledge of the trail system. “Keep the sunny side up and the rubber side down”, he told me. Classic.
Camuesa road climbs to 1400 feet up to Buckhorn road. If you go right you commit to another 1000+ feet of climbing up to Little Pine. At this point I was almost 4.5 hours into the ride… so I turned left Descended down the fireroad a bit then took the Camuesa Connector trail to the left. What a fine piece of single track!! Not too technical but has some tricky spots. Very flowing. Lots of steep little ups and fantastic twisting descents. (I did not miss my rear suspension one bit, btw). From there, spun back to the car, drank my recovery shake and drove home.
Now I’m sitting like a lump on the sofa wishing I had a six pack of beer and trying to keep my quads from cramping.
Check out the map. Epic ride.. there will be more to come using this loop as a “base”.. I just wish I could find a decent way to link up the Gibraltar trail with Camuesa road without the crazy river hiking.