Angeles Crest Route Instructions
Big Bear Route Instructions
We took a calculated gamble by scheduling this ride in mid-October. Last year, the weather was great. This year, we rode Angeles Crest Highway on Saturday but rode home in the rain on Sunday. We knew this rain would be snow at higher altitudes. We learned to schedule this trip no later than the first week of October in the future.
We rode up to the Cajon Pass Best Western (Rt. 138 and I-15) individually on Friday afternoon and evening. Our group included: Russ Proudman, Burt Sherriff, George Helton, John and Janet Peterson, Dave Fiscus, Jack and Melanie Rodgers, Tom and Heather Shannon, Bill Bashor, Mike Buys, Michael Brogan, Dell DeFabry, Justin Pease, Tim and Karen Gabriel, along with Doris and Steve Malott for a total of 15 bikes and a car. This was our largest turnout, to date, in the four years our club has presented this ride.
We got up early on Saturday morning. Many of our group went to the Mountain Top Cafe for breakfast while a few of us waited to see if anyone rode up for the day. This worked out well as we were joined by Jack and Melanie. We rode Northwest on Rt. 138 and I pointed out the Mormon Rocks as we passed them.
Breakfast at the Mountain Top Cafe
The Mormon Rocks
We turned on Rt. 2 (Angeles Crest Highway) and headed West thru the town of Wrightwood. Doris and I had previously checked out several motels in Wrightwood but found the Best Western to be nicer (in our opinion). By this point, we had climbed to an altitude of 6,000 feet and were continuing to climb. We continued West from Wrightwood and passed the Mountain High Ski Resort.
I paused for a moment to point out the yellow warning sign indicating curves for the next 53 miles.
We continued to climb up the mountain and the road became an endless sequence of huge sweeping turns. This is my favorite part of Angeles Crest Highway as we climb to a height of almost 8,000 feet. We had to watch the pavement for rocks and pine cones as we also looked out at the great view.
We stopped at the Pacific Crest Trail Head - Blue Ridge (7,381 feet) for our first viewpoint with pictures. The sky was very clear and we took some great pictures looking South.
We resumed riding but soon paused at the Dawson Saddle at altitude 7901 feet. This time we had a somewhat hazy view to the North. The sky was completely clear and the temperature had to be in the 50's. We resumed riding again and were about 30 miles into the route when we stopped at the Jarvi Memorial Viewpoint. We could see another road that goes from Angeles Crest Highway straight South all the way to Los Angeles but there is a huge barricade. Too bad because it looks like a fun road. This stop also featured a really fragrant outhouse which several of our riders used only as a last resort.
Once again, we resumed riding West and we passed thru a huge tunnel. I sent Doris ahead to take a picture of the group as we passed thru the tunnel. Of course, everyone took this opportunity to rev their engines. Our Gold Wing riders had to resort to honking their horns. As usual, my fillings rattled from the noise.
We continued past the Snowcrest and Mt. Waterman ski areas which are rather small compared to the earlier ones that we had seen. We were now gradually descending and no longer stopping to take pictures. At the 45 mile mark, we stopped at the Newcomb Ranch Restaurant. This is a very popular biker bar, especially since it is the only restaurant along Angeles Crest. We took the opportunity to use the facilities and to get bottles of water.
We took to the road again and had fun with another 15 miles of sweepers before we stopped at a huge parking lot at the base of Mount Wilson. We took more pictures and I gave the group the option of waiting there or taking a challenging ride for 5 miles up the mountain. Most of the group chose to race up the mountain. Mount Wilson features a huge collection of antennas that serve the greater Los Angeles area. We roared up the mountain, navigating tight twisty turns, and dodging small rocks on the road. We reached the top but L.A. was covered with a thick cloud cover. We individually departed to race down the mountain. By the time we rejoined the rest of the group, everyone was smiling. We had taken care of our need for speed.
I recommended that everyone shed a layer of clothing since it should be getting warmer. Instead, we encountered a wall of fog as a cold front was just approaching. I had revised the course since last year by planning to take I-210 West for 7 miles. We discovered that the ramp was closed and were forced to take Foothill road. We fought our way thru a long series of traffic lights. We had picked Burger King for our lunch stop since it had a parking lot large enough to accomodate our group. It was time to get back on the road and we resumed riding West on Foothill. We filled up with gas and turned on Oro Vista and started riding into the mountains again.
Oro Vista turns into Big Tijunga Canyon road and is on the desert side of the mountains. This gave us a sunny ride with clouds just peeking over the mountains. We speculated what a Tijunga was but will leave that to your imagination. Big Tijunga Canyon road is much wider than Angeles Crest and has even gentler turns. It was a favorite for everyone. We stopped at the viewpoint just above the Big Tijunga Dam and took more pictures.
It was still chilly at this point with a temperature in the 50's. We kept our stay short and rode briskly to where we Teed into Angeles Forest Highway. We turned left and went thru another tunnel, again with engines revved. A right turn on Upper Big Tijunga Road took us on the newest road in this area. The pavement was perfect and we cruised at almost 60 mph.
We Teed into Angeles Crest Highway, turned left, and stopped. I then told the group that it was 34 miles to the Grassy Hollow Visitor Center and that everyone was on their own. They could ride fast or slow, take pictures, or simply enjoy the ride. There were no exits and everyone had seen the road once so there would be no surprises. This turned out to be very popular with the group as most of the bikes peeled out. Doris and I trailed the group but kept up a fast pace. Doris was especially pleased with the ride.
By the time we reached Grassy Hollow, Doris continued by herself towards our hotel while I rejoined the group. I found our group inside the visitor center checking out the exhibits. There were a number of stuffed black bears and cougers. There was one exhibit with holes that you would reach into and guess what you were touching -- a raccoon tail, a ram's horn, etc. We regrouped again and resumed riding East.
We took Big Pines Highway heading Northwest and went down a long sequence of tight turns and switchbacks. The speed limit was 30 but we chose to go a tad faster. We eventually leveled out and were at desert level. The desert was noticeably warmer than the mountain but still in the 60's. We took Pallet Creek Road to Longview road to a dead end road that led to the Park. They have a red tailed hawk and two different types of owls in cages and they are nursing them back to health. The visitor center features a collection of snakes, tarantulas, lizards, and fossils. We talked the ranger into bringing out Ruth the Barn Owl. They have a total of three Owls that were injured and no longer able to survive in the wild.
Meeting Ruth the Barn Owl
We headed North to get gas and then individually rode Rt. 138 back to our Hotel. What a day! We rode together to the Mountain Top Cafe for a group dinner. Good food, reasonable prices, and a lot of stories from the day. We got back to the hotel and hear that rain was coming in overnight. The following morning, it was raining heavy so we cancelled our Big Bear Ride.
I'm missing a lot of the description for our Angeles Crest Highway trip of 2003 but have the following notes on our visit to the Devil's Punch Bowl. I also have a complete report from our Big Bear ride. Our group included Mike Buys, Carol Dugger, Michael Brogan, Jeff David, Dick and Kathy, Dale, Stu Weist, Dennis and Karen Peji, Ron McLemore, along with Doris and Steve Malott.
The visitor center is open from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. This was the first time for us in the visitor center and we were in for a real surprise when the 19 year old ranger asked us if we wanted to be scared. There was a metal trashcan in the middle of the room. It was about 3 foot high and 2 foot in diameter. It had a least 5 rattlesnakes in it and you could hear them rattle when he took off the lid.
Devil's Punchbowl: What's in the trash can??
The Answer: Rattlesnakes!!!
Riding Big Bear was a lot of fun but Saturday on Angeles Crest Highway was a hard act to follow. We had decided to get breakfast individually and we gathered at 9 A.M. to hit the road. We rode East on Rt. 138 and the first 20 miles features a lot of tight turns with some steep switchbacks. A definite wakeup call for everyone. We rode past Silverwood Lake and thru the small town of Crestline.
Rt. 138 ended and we picked up Rt. 18 which is much wider and is known as the Rim of the World Drive. We certainly felt like we were on the edge of the world as we looked South towards San Bernadino and neighboring communities. We stopped for a break at 25 miles into the ride. Since the entire ride would be 100 miles, we were not nearly as pressed for time. Overall, the sky was completely clear although it was rather hazy looking South.
Taking a break on Rt. 18
We rode thru Running Springs and encountered a lot more traffic. I had picked the early start time in the hopes of getting thru this area before everyone hit the road. I have seen worse traffic so I think we missed a lot of it. We were now heading towards Big Bear and the terrain became very rocky again. We stopped at another viewpoint for some more pictures, a break, and to talk about what lies ahead. We had the option of stopping for lunch in Big Bear but no one voiced an interest. We resumed riding and picked up our pace as we rode thru a series of very wide sweeping turns with great scenery. We then came up to the end of Big Bear Lake.
I led the group along Rt. 38 on the Northern, less populated side of the lake and we followed the shoreline most of the way. There were already a number of boats out on the lake. The temperature was again in the 60's and gorgeous. We turned right and then left to follow Rt. 38 and stopped to get gas. Mike, Carol, Dick, and Kathy chose to split off from the group at this point. Mike and Carol wanted to visit friends in Bear Bear City. I asked the group one last time if they wanted to have lunch since it was 11:30 A.M. However, I could tell that everyone was interested in heading home. We started riding the Rt. 38 loop which was our last 40 miles of the ride. This stretch of Rt. 38 featured mountain forests climbing up to a summit of 8440 feet at one point. The entire area is essentially wilderness.
One last view
Our group was now down to 7 bikes so we once again rode 55 and 60 mph. The ride was a lot of fun with more sweeping turns. We stopped just short of Bryant street and said our goodbyes. Michael, Ron, and I were continuing West while Dale, Dennis and Karen, Jeff, and Stu were heading for Hemet. Michael split off to head up I-215 to get his Jeep and trailer while Ron and I headed for home. It was a great weekend.