June 2010

When I explained the Paleo diet to a colleague of mine once, she said “sounds boring to eat that way all the time.” I guess you do have to get a bit creative when so many traditional recipes rely on grains for filler, but honestly, how could I ever get sick of eating like this?


Omelet with mushrooms and Tabasco cooked in ghee, swiss chard in olive oil, and two slices of bacon.

Located in the San Bernadino mountains east of LA, the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) offers some of the best singletrack in all of Southern California. This isn’t the place to come if you get bored when there’s nothing to huck and no chunk to ride. But if you like miles and miles of flowing, swoopy, singletrack goodness, this is your place.

Cut into a steep cliffside, SART also gives you a chance to come to terms with your feelings about exposure. That is, riding a narrow trial with a mountain on one side and a cliff or steep slope on the other. While the pucker factor isn’t nearly that of sections of the Palm Canyon Epic or Carrizo Gorge, the exposed nature of the trail nearly took out several of my buddies when we hit the trail in late June.

Nice backdrop as the group prepares to drop in. The first 4 miles or so of the trail are some of the best. You do have to pay the piper at the end of the ride for all of this elevation loss at the beginning:





We were all feeling the flow, and getting acclimated to the altitude and exposure when a pile of logs came loose from up the mountain and came crashing over the trail right in between the two lead riders. It’s hard to convey how dramatic this was. Imagine a crafty beaver pulling the pin on his dam and a river of logs cascading over the trail right in front of you:

IMG_1504(Photo by Barcy)

I guess if something like that takes you out, you have to figure it was just your time to go. A bit like getting struck by lightning. Thanks to Jose/Baja’s leadership, we all cleared the trail to make sure it wouldn’t trip up any bikers after us:

IMG_1505(Photo by Barcy)

After the initial miles of flowing descent, we came to a fire road and were presented with an option. Either ride up one of the steeper and more exposed sections of trail, or take the fire road to skip this 1-2 mile section. I had an uneasy feeling about it, and decided to skip it, as did most of the crew. Christian and Jose decided to ride it. As we waited and waited on the other side for them, wondering what could be taking so long, two riders came though and told us that one of our friends had fallen down the side of the trail.

We later learned that Jose’s bars hit a root on one of the narrower sections of trail, knocking him over a 15 foot cliff where he then rolled and tumbled 200 feet or do down and extremely steep slope. He had scratches and blood just about everywhere, but luckily that was about it. This had to be one of the more dramatic crashes since the famous Miles Todd crash at Carrizo Gorge.  The “funny” thing is, one year ago, Jose took a less dramatic spill down SART’s steep slope. When he came to, he looked down to see a scorpion on his body! No scorpion this time, but the crash was a lot scarier.


Since Jose had at least 7 of his 9 lives left, we decided to soldier on, crossing streams here and there.



This allowed Jose to dive in and wash off all the blood!



At a campground at mile 17, we had lunch and prepared for our return trip on this out-and-back trail. Something about the cliff being on your right hand side for the return makes the trail seem totally different, almost like it’s not an out-and-back at all. We made a lot better time, and luckily had no accidents!


About this time, my camera battery died, so that’s the end of the riding pictures.  We finished up with a post-ride meal at a Mexican/Yucatan restaurant in Mentone. Postiively non-Paleo, but it was delicious:

IMG_1525(photo by Barcy)

I’ll definitely be back again. With views like this, how could I resist:

102_3684_edited(photo by Baja/Jose)

In case you are wondering whether it is really possible to do long-distance riding or touring while following the Paleo diet, I thought you might enjoy looking at the blog Cavegirl, End to End. This woman rode from one tip of Britain to the other, putting in over 12 hours per day. Here is her report on what she ate:

My daily eating was as follows; breakfast – scrambled eggs, some fresh fruit (strawberries/blueberries) and where they had provided it, natural full fat Greek yoghurt. For the designated Pitstops they provided me with cans of tuna, meat and cheese, sometimes some natural yoghurt and apples if I wanted them. During my cycling I consumed between 4 and 6 Nakd bars – these provide around 14 g of carbs per bar from raw compressed dried fruit and nuts. At the evening meal I ate the meat/fish dish with vegetables (no potatoes) and salad drenched with olive oil. On arriving back after each day I snacked on some nuts and very dark (85%) chocolate. When I weighed myself on Monday morning I was exactly the same weight as when I set off although I’ve dropped a kg since so I’m busy eating as my body repairs itself. I’ve also developed some impressive abs, must be leaner and all that climbing helps too!

I gotta hand it to her–I’m not sure I could be that disciplined on a long trip like that!

mmmmm, boy, this one is good! Sliced up lamb sirloin served with sautéed zucchini & tomatoes, then topped with feta and pine nuts. I added some potato to my side salad since I want to do some MTB riding tomorrow.


Thanks to my lovely wife for making it! This almost makes up for the TV dinner thing.

The forecast could not have been better when a small group of us hit the trail at a little after 7:30: perfectly clear skies, temps in the high 70s, and over 36 miles and 5500 feet of climbing ahead of us. The ride began with a brisk climb up East Mesa Fire Road, but soon leveled out and narrowed to to a small ribbon of singletrack cutting through the grasslands of Cuyamaca Ranchero State Park.





It didn’t take long for the work to begin as we hit the Indian Creek single track:


Indian Creek would be steep enough even if it were buff as a baby’s bottom, but it’s the loose rocks that really give your heart a good workout:


Who put those there?


You can get a sense of the rapid ascent from this pic:


The climbing isn’t for nothing though, as you are rewarded with some nice views:



(That’s Anza-Borrego desert back there).

After some fantastic stretches of singletrack and a little paved road, we refilled our water tanks at Penny Pines and hit the Noble Canyon trailhead:


If sections of Hurkey Creek were made when God came down out of the clouds and laid down a ribbon of singletrack, sections of this trail must have been excreted out of one of the Devil’s orifices. With sections named “widow maker,” “stairway to hell,” and “whore” this isn’t usually the kind of stuff this buff single track lovin’ boy would be riding. But the really chunky sections can easily be walked by wimps like me, and the rest of the trail is just an all-out blast to ride.

The trail starts out smooth and fast. There were even a couple of guys riding it on unicycles!



But if riding chunk is your thing, Noble does not disappoint:


That’s Barcy givin’ the stairway to hell some hell.

Sometimes I feel like a wuss for walking the chunkier sections, but riding chunk does come with a few risks. At one point, Rob was balanced in a trackstand over a challenging uphill section. When he stuck out his left foot to catch himself, there was no ground there to catch him since the trail is exposed and he fell down the cliff about 15 feet, ass over teakettle, onto some rocks. Amazingly, he only had a minor scrape and a jammed finger. I think he lost one of his nine lives though! Here’s the crew helping to get his bike back to the trail:


Unfortunately, what goes down then needs to climb back up. After finishing Noble, we needed to climb the dreaded Pine Creek Road, which is 6 miles of 10-20% grades. I was actually not feeling too bad on this climb today, but before I pat myself on the back, consider that Barcy, pictured in the distance here, is climbing the entire thing on a single speed! He made good use of the traverse climbing technique.


It helps when in pain to contemplate the little details:



All in all, it took over 7 hrs to do the whole loop, though we had plenty of stop time and we were definitely in no hurry. Thankfully, Phil had the foresight to have some beer waiting in a cooler when we got back to the cars. It’s a terrific recovery beverage, which I drink solely to replenish depleted glycogen sores, mind you.


See the full photo set here.

Maps and stats for the day:

Picture 1

Picture 3

If you haven’t played around with Wordle yet, you should give it a shot. Here’s some word art based on language used on this blog:


One of the cool things about biking in Southern California is that, like our caveman ancestors, you are always vaguely aware of the possibility of being eaten alive by a mountain lion when you are out in nature. Never mind that only a handful of people have actually been attacked in California in the last 100 years, it’s the thought that you just might get eaten than occasionally enlivens the experience.

But have you ever thought of things from the mountain lion’s perspective? This bit from The Onion is great:

Brave Mountain Lion Fends Off Group Of Hikers

EUREKA, CA—A local mountain lion came face-to-face with a group of hikers and made it out alive, sources reported Monday. Wildlife officials are crediting the courageous cougar’s quick thinking, catlike reflexes, and 150 pounds of coiled muscle with successfully fending off the human foot travelers.

The mountain lion was reportedly enjoying a quiet afternoon walk around Redwood National Park, on the same path it had taken almost every single day for the past three years, when it heard a rustling sound emanating from the underbrush. Upon investigation, the large feline noticed that a pack of hikers—one adult male, two young children, and an adult female that it instantly recognized as the mother—had crossed into territory that the cat had clearly marked as its own via tree scrapings and urine.

Outnumbered four to one, the cougar, fearing for its life, somehow managed to stay calm. It remained perfectly still in a crouched position and stared directly at the hikers, in the hopes that they would simply pass by. The hikers, however, were undeterred. They began shrieking loudly, clapping their hands, and throwing sticks and rocks at the animal in an apparent attempt to injure it.

“Nothing can prepare a mountain lion for an encounter with four hikers,” said park ranger Kenneth Meiggs, noting that it is unusual to find hikers in that particular area of the woods. “In order to defend itself, the cougar had to rely on pure instinct alone.”

Armed with nothing more than four-inch claws, razor-sharp teeth, and a 5.4-meter vertical leap, the mountain lion lunged at the adult male hiker. In a defensive measure, it pinned the hiker to the ground, thus disabling the man’s primary means of attack. After a brief struggle, the animal was eventually able to lock onto the hiker’s skull with its jaw.

“Repeated biting of the skull and face is the textbook way to fend off a human attack,” said Mike Kasperski, biologist and author of the book Hikers: Shadows In The Forest.

The mother, however, became increasingly aggressive due to the presence of her young. She reportedly ran toward the mountain lion with a four-inch-wide log and began striking it upon the head. Not knowing what else to do, the feline tore a foot-wide hole in the hiker’s stomach, but the enraged female continued to fight, poking the feline in the eye with her finger. The cougar, in a last-ditch effort for survival, whipped its claws across the woman’s throat, killing her instantly.

Remarkably, this brave mountain lion is only 4 and a half years old.

“It’s amazing what some mountain lions are capable of when faced with the most dire of circumstances,” Meiggs said. “To think that those hikers were a mere 20 yards away, and the lion walked away unscathed…. Wow.”

The two younger hikers received small lacerations on their legs and chest, while the adult male is being treated for massive head trauma and internal bleeding. The mother, identified as Cyndi Thalls, 38, of Pacoima, CA, was pronounced dead at the scene.

“I think it’s safe to say those hikers will think twice before getting into another tussle with this feisty little fellow,” Meiggs added with a chuckle.

Following the incident, the mountain lion retreated into the woods, escaping with nothing more than a few minor scratches and a blood-covered snout. At press time, it is resting comfortably on a large rock.

lion attack


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