Pulling into the trailhead parking area, we knew nothing of the ride for the day, other than what we gleaned from the internet. We had paper maps, but little understanding of what kind of trail lay ahead of us. Pine forest up top, oak forest in the middle, and the westernmost stretches of Sonoran Desert at the bottom, was the topography summation.
Noble Canyon and Big Laguna Recreation Area are in east San Diego County and are managed by public service workers of the Cleveland National Forest. Earlier this year, a forest fire nearly wiped out the upper area of Noble Canyon trail and BLT–the Big Laguna Trail network. Firefighters were able to stop the flames from devouring the trail, though they were not able to stop them from burning historic buildings in Big Laguna to the ground.
Against this backdrop, along with the day’s temps that were to reach near 100F, we set out into the unknown with question marks in our heads and exclamation points in our hearts. Up Noble Canyon we went, fighting the rocks but happy to be on single track. It was the “bonus” start, instead of going straight up on Pine Creek Rd.
We were sweating pretty good by the time we worked our way back around to Pine Creek to start the laborious road climb to the top. It was a kick in the ass, at first. I found a comfortable gear and pedaled, and pedaled, and smiled. I was biking, so why not be happy?
We took a quick rest under the massive oak before turning right and going to the top. Photos were taken. We climbed some more. We checked the map. How much farther to where Noble crosses over the hard road? We climbed and descended and climbed.
We found Noble. We jumped on it and rode it to the water source at Penney Pines. We grubbed. We drank.
We headed to the meadows of BLT and when we got there, huge grins covered our faces. The sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and the trail was super fast. Greyhound got his flow trail, finally! It was such sweet riding.
When we came down Los Gatos and regathered at the end, we all had holy shit smiles implanted on the front of our heads. That was a treasure chest stumbled upon just beyond where the rainbow ends.
We clipped back in and went back up through the meadows to the junction to then get over to Noble. We grubbed.
And then we rode from pine forest into oak forest into desert on what has to be one of the most spectacular and least-talked about trails in the United States of America.
Super fast? Yes, it has it. Nasty, scary rocks that are chunks made of mtb-tough-guy-killer kryptonite? Yes, it has it. Jaw-dropping views? Yes, it has it. Flow? Yes, it has it. Riding on the cliff edge? Yes, it has it. Remote feeling? Yes, it has it. Cool to warm to oven hot temps? Yes, it has it. Grueling sections and short, punchy rock climbs? Yes, it has it.
Yep, it has it all. Everything you could want in a mountain bike trail, Noble Canyon has it. Arguably, the best part comes near the end, as you’re dropping back out at the trailhead parking area. It swings and swoops, and feels so huzzah good!
We went back down through those rocks that we started up on in the morning. Bowling balls and Galapagos tortoise shells sat here and there. Slabs of quartered beef and whale vertebrae were “in the way.” Swoopy huzzah was gone. Tech-gnar huzzah was the new joy. Shark, LedPedal, and I were in our mtb-element.
Pure present tense.
Back at the car, exhausted, we slumbered around, slowly getting the bikes racked back up on the cars. It was one of those moments where we knew we experienced something that cannot be recreated. First times can be like that.
We didn’t know how that day would be when the sun was rising.
Looking at each other, we didn’t say a whole lot. We smiled a whole lot though.
*all photos courtesy of LedPedal