Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Years Eve ....a day to discover San Francisquito Canyon December 31

44 miles in 3:45.....I decided I had better get out for a ride, before my legs turn to total flab. There was nothing planned for the day with the Escapees until a dinner at 6 o'clock, and the weather was beautiful. I think I have made that comment about the weather before, but it is true.... Everyday. The Santa Anna winds, which blow off of the mountains to our east, finally died down, which made it a great day to head east, into the Angeles National Forest  and check out San Francisquito Canyon. Michael Jarocki, (my cousin in law, if there is such a thing), Marina's husband, recommended the ride, so I decided to go for it. I started out on the bike trails I'm familiar with, but decided to take a trail across an old train bridge over the Santa Clara River, ( which is totally dry). I thought it would just take me up the other side of the river to where I wanted to go, but it didn't. Well, it did for a while, but at some point, it branched off and followed another wash, ( dry river) until I didn't have a clue where I was when the trail ended. I found a map on the trail, and found out what happened, and realized I had to back track and get back across the river. I did that, and had about 17 miles of trail riding before I headed out the San Francisquito Canyon Road.
The Canyon is famous for the second largest natural disaster in California history, after the San Francisco earthquake in the early 1900's. The California Aqueduct, which supplies water to LA, runs through there, (even though I didn't see anything but huge pipes) and there used to be a dam five or six miles out the canyon. In 1925, the dam broke, and some remains of the walls are still there. I didn't know what to look for, so even though the remains were all around me, I didn't identify them until I came home and looked it up on google maps. Anyhow, a 140 foot tall wall of water blew down the canyon and killed 500-600 people. The last remains were found in 1994, 69 years after the disaster. The wall of water flowed all the way to the Pacific Ocean, 59 miles in five and a half hours, and wiped out a few towns, even though people were warned further downstream so the loss of life wasn't as great as it might have been. The area where our RV is sitting was hit by a 55 foot wall of water. The dam was never rebuilt, but another one was built in another canyon. 
The first few miles out the canyon were mostly horse ranches, with a few homes that seemed to be built right in the wash. I then came to the boundary of the Angeles National Forest. Mountains were all around me, but the road followed the canyon, and I did about 1700 feet of climbing for the day, but there was only one significant hill. The rest was gradual upstream ascending. Inside the forest boundary,there was a hydro electric plant that somehow made electricity from the huge pipelines of water as it came down the side of the mountain ( see pictures). I never did see any water. There was also a fire station there. I stopped to ask them about the dam, and see what else was out the canyon. The firehouse office was wide open, but no one was around. They must have been out on a call, because I saw three trucks coming back as I was leaving the canyon. A few nights ago, there was a fire near the entrance to the canyon that made the LA news. It is so dry out here, and it was very obvious by the dry terrain. Even though I was in the Angeles Forest, there were few trees, it was mostly scrub brush, and it was DRY. LA set a record in the year that ends this day, New Year's Eve, for the least amount of rain in a year since they've been keeping records. Just over three inches for the year.
At some point, near a shooting range, I decided that it was time to turn around and head back. The trip back was quicker because it was downhill, even though I had a headwind. When I was riding out the canyon, I had noticed a road a few miles long running parallel to my road. It was blocked off, but I could look over into the wash and see most of it, so I decided on the way back, I was going to do a little off roading. I came to the roadblock on top of a hill, and lifted my bike over it and I was off. I found out later that it was the original road that had been washed out in 2005. There was broken glass and the road was in real bad shape. There were rock slides and the road was only a few feet wide in places. There were fallen branches and it was overgrown. I definitely wasn't the first biker ever to go down there, as I could tell by tracks. As it turned out, the road went right by a lot of dam debris that had washed downstream, but I thought it was dumped construction debris. After a few miles, I popped back out on the new road, and headed back out of the canyon. I saw an interesting place on the way out, with a water fountain for bikers and runners, and a few interesting signs (see pictures). 
I made it back to the RV park in time for BBQ chicken and ribs with cowboy beans at six, and the lamest New Year's Eve bash I've ever attended. We celebrated New Years in the eastern time zone, which was 9PM our time, because we had to get up at 4:00AM to leave for the Rose Parade the next day. No one, including us, really felt like getting too crazy with that impending alarm clock setting.


Riding down the canyon

There are fire weather watches because it is so dry

Water getting pumped up over the mountain


The road that was wiped out in 2005

Of course Mike had to ride down this road!




This was the drinking fountain that was with the above sign

Yeah, I'm not riding here!  Just Mike will ride with the snakes!


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