(contributed by Team Fun member, Heather Krauss)
In Heather K’s ongoing search for mountains to climb in preparation for an upcoming cycling trip to a far off land, and for nearby adventures in the weeks to come, Heather recruited Jill on her day off to go for a spin up Palomar Mountain’s East Grade road. Neither one had yet laid eyes on this uphill piece of pavement, but it is said to be a great climb. So with route in hand and a few suggestions from the experts, they drove to Santa Ysabel (unlike some hard core peeps who would rather die than drive to the start of a ride). It was supposed to be good weather this day, meaning not too hot for heat wimp Heather, and not too windy. The start site in Santa Ysabel is most excellent since it boasts a Julian Pie factory for the post ride refueling and celebration.
Shortly after 8am the two adventurers started north on highway 79 with cool comfortable temperatures and scenic pasturelands with the occasional herd of cows grazing on delectable green fare. After a short ascent with some headwinds that didn’t get the memo about there being a southerly wind that morning, the highway turned downward towards Lake Henshaw. Wild turkeys watched right by the road as the cyclists flew by nearing the start of East Grade road, and at mile twelve-ish they began their 11 mile ascent. The start was a tad steeper than what was expected, but the vistas were spectacular and seemed as if they could be in another land, not in San Diego’s backyard.
With mile markers posted every two-tenths, it was satisfying to see the climb tick down. This would not be a -go as fast as you can climb-, it was far too scenic to play that game, and instead many photos would be snapped and Instagrammed for the world to see, especially with the artistic skills of Strava’s most excellent photographer, J T. It looked almost like alpine meadows or European hilly grazing lands, grasses and wild flowers blowing in the wind, horses and cattle, birds of prey and birds of song. The time flew by with so much scenery at hand, and before they knew it the top was reached and the country store was in sight. Being a bit early for a country store to be open, the two decided once again to make the 10 mile round trip out to the Palomar Observatory and back, but having visited the giant telescope two weeks prior, this time it was just to add some more scenic hilly miles through forests of oak, pine and red wood. The famous Jim Knight was said to be on the mountain that day, but he was missed while their eyes were occupied at absorbing the beauty. After a stop at the now open store for refreshing beverages, the descent was at hand. Eleven miles of easy descending was enjoyed and more photos were shot. The temperature began to increase but at the same time the cloud cover did too, keeping our riders from overheating as now the promise of a slice of Julian apple pie approached.
This was a most excellent 55 mile, 5900 feet of elevation gain ride. But only to be done in cooler times like this, and preferably when calves are jumping in the fields, and flowers are coloring the landscape. Next time a friendlier, but longer and hillier detour will be taken through the Mesa Grande Reservation, that avoids a good chunk of highway 79.
Great ride, Jill & Heather K! 😀 Good choice doing Palomar during the week indeed. Palomar East & South Grades are best enjoyed without having to dodge speedy motorcycles every few minutes. 😛
Since you’ve gone to the Observatory twice, the next time you go up there you’ve gotta head west instead, on State Park Rd, and go to Boucher Fire lookout. There’s a bit of a steepie at the end, but the view is totally worth it (and the ranger there likes to invite people up to visit the lookout tower). 😉 It’s only another 3 miles or so from Mother’s Kitchen (down a bit, then up to the Nate Harrison/Boucher turn off, that’s where the steepie is).
If you don’t mind firm dirt road and want a longer ride, you might even want to start in Ramona and take Black Canyon Rd to Mesa Grande. Black Canyon is dirt all the way, but very firm and well graded. Super scenic and hardly any car. 😉 And there’s always Sutherland Dam & reservoir for a little side excursion on the way back.
Thanks for the great suggestions operasmorg!