16 September 2013

Camping Palomar Mountain

A couple of weekends ago I felt an unrelenting urge to get out of the city. I went to Cycle Gear and bought new side mirrors to replace the ones the bears had damaged in Alaska, grabbed a couple of essentials, and headed home to load up the bike. I didn't need a ton of stuff--tent, bag, camping pad, some cooking gear, a book, toothbrush, a layer of warm clothing, and Dog.

Down to the garage I went to load up the bike and replace the mirrors. After the attack on the bike in Seward, the mirrors have a tendency to collapse inward at highway speeds, or even at lower speeds if the bike has been sitting in the sun. The weakend ball joint gets warm and no longer holds its position, allowing the mirrors to turn in with the force of the wind, giving me a nice view of my own chest--completely useless as I am fairly certain road danger will not come in the form of one of my own boobs sneaking up on me.

I took off the mirror on the left and...fail. The hardware was the wrong fit. I looked at all the pieces I had to see if there was a way I could make it work, but there was no chance. So, lesson learned--BMW parts only on the GS. I guess I should have known better. I put the broken mirror back on, but manage to tweak it into a new position so it doesn't collapse.

I rode out through Ramona and Santa Ysabel, stopping at the little grocery to get a big bottle of beer for the campsite. While in line at the grocery, a couple in riding gear came up to me all smiles and practically buzzing with excitement.

"Tell us where you've been and where you're headed on your trip!"

I explained that this time it was just an overnighter since, at the moment, I was temporarily living in San Diego. Faces fell, and buzzing went away.

"Oh. We saw the bike loaded up and the map in the tank bag (actually just left there from my ride out in east county) and all the stickers on your luggage and we just thought you were on some big trip..."

They looked so sad, I felt like I needed to apologize for only doing an overnight trip. What a disappointment I was! They turned around and walked out of the store--I guess they had only come in looking for me. When I walked out, I saw them getting back on their bike. They were riding two up on a cruiser, and probably just out for a nice Sunday ride.

I stashed my beer and headed off toward Palomar Mountain. There were two campgrounds I had ridden by before, and after doing some online reading, I tout I would check out the Observatory Campground. I pulled in, did a drive through, and though there were a lot of "reserved" signs up, there were a couple open spots. I decided that I would go drive thorough Frye Creek Campground, just to check it out. It was relatively empty, but I liked the other campground better--sites were further from the road, many a small hike up the hill in nice little areas.

I returned to Observatory, drove through and chose a spot. I unloaded the bike and walked down the road to pay my fee. When I got back to the site, I began getting out my tent. A truck drove up and parked, blocking my bike in, and a guy jumped out yelling, "Is that campsite 8?"

I told him it was and he told me he had reserved it for the night. I asked if he was certain. There had been signs up on many sites stating they were reserved, but not on that one. He proceeded to wave a piece of paper at me saying he had reserved it, the rest of the campground was full,and I could go talk to the campground host about it. He was behaving like a complete asshole, and his wife looked appropriately sheepish about it.

I told him I would go talk to the host, get my money back and then return. There had been a mix up due to people helping the campground host since she had broken her foot in three places. Apparently the helpers were nicer than they were good at helping. The host told me the campground was not full, and I could pick any other open spot. When I walked back, the wife asked if everything was ok, and I told her I was going to just take one of the other OPEN spots.

Her husband looked at me as I gathered my stuff and finally put it together that it was my bike in the parking spot. His eyes got big and he actually smiled as he asked, "Hey, is that your bike?"

I have to admit, I turned and kind of stared at him, amazed at the change in his attitude simply because he realized I rode a bike.

"Yup," I said and promptly turned away, shutting him down. What a douche bag.

At that point, I made the decision that I was not interested in being around a ton of people. I didn't need the coming together of happy campers, sitting around telling stories and making friends. Nope, not having it. So I got on the bike and rode back to the other campground, setting myself up in a nice spot, making dinner, and drinking the big Stone beer I picked up. I enjoyed the sounds of nothing but nature and a remote campfire crackling across the canyon.

The next morning, I got up and very leisurely made breakfast and coffee. Riding in the day before, I saw a trailhead and thout I would check it out. I started up the trail thinking, "Holy crap, this is ridiculously steep!" Eventually it leveled out a little and it was more of a steady climb. The trail circumnavigated the campground and was maybe 5 miles in length. I decided not to do the trail all the way around, just doing about two miles out and two miles back. It was all I needed for the morning. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky. It was probably in the low 70s and gorgeous. As I came back, I realized that when I started the trail, I missed part of it, following what was probably a game trail and not the marked trail. The marked trail actually traversed the hillside, didn't go straight up. Doh!

When I left the campground, I rode up to the observatory on the top of the mountain. I've been there once before, and the telescope they have is an engineering marvel. There are a couple of tours daily, or for free you can just walk up, go inside and view the telescope. When i was done there, I had a nice time riding down off the mountain, taking my time and enjoying the scenery. It was a Monday afternoon which meant no weekend traffic to deal with. I love how close the mountain is to San Diego, and yet how far away it seems when I'm there. Definitely a place to check out if you're in the area.



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