And so it came to pass that in the Fall of 1999, I got my own BumbleBeemer, and it finally ran well enough to venture off into the wilderness. Okay, so wilderness is a relative term when you live so close to Los Angeles but still, I was going to be many miles from a phone or a paved road. Living in Palmdale, California does have many advantages. The one which applies here is the close proximity to the Angeles National Forest and the surrounding desert.
I literally grew up riding in the San Gabriel Mountains, bordering Los Angeles. My first trip was to be a VERY local ride. The San Andreas Fault passes within 4 miles of my house, though locally, it's given the more romantic name of Leona Valley. The road running right up the center is Elizabeth Lake road and as the name implies, it passes a number of sink hole ponds we affectionately call lakes.
Don't get me wrong, it is a nice place and it is literally 4 miles from my house. The first trip was going to be along the ridge above Leona Valley, which parallels Elizabeth Lake Road for about 20 miles and eventually ends up at the Old Ridge Route, just north of Lake Castaic. It would be a fun ride, along an area I've always wanted to explore, and the dirt began only 7 miles from home--PERFECT.
It began as a very warm November day. The Winter of 1999/2000 proved
to be VERY warm and VERY dry. It's bad for everything except
one--riding motorcycles. I took Godde Hill Road into Leona Valley. From
Lake road connected to Bouquet Canyon Road. A short jog and I was in
dirt. The road climbs steadily up to the ridge. This is a popular place
for mountain bikers, though personally, the grade would have killed me
if I were pedaling.
As the elevation changes, so does the vegetation. Things got greener as the altitude increased and the panoramas were around every corner. In the first photo at the right, my odometer only showed 45 miles from my house and I had been in the mountains for hours. I was already into smaller pine forests and dense chaparral.
After many years of my friends telling me about "Grass Mountain" --a
favorite mountain biking location, I finally got to see it. This photo
shows the road climbing to the summit. As you ride to the top, the name
becomes obvious. There is a VERY thick covering of LARGE diameter
grass covering much of the area.
Here is a picture from Sawmill Mountain. In the background you can
see Hughes Lake and Elizabeth Lake further in the distance. I live just
beyond the furthest ridge.
The weather may have been warm but November days are short. The sun
was getting low in the sky by the time I clicked off this shot at 3:30.
That's Lake Castaic in the background. It is 38 miles from this spot to
my house. Sadly, this is as close as this bike would ever get to Death
Valley (at least with me riding it). She now sits in my garage waiting
to be put back together after her accident.
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