Angeles Crest

It was a surprisingly quiet night at the Lost Lake day use area. A local had warned me this was a popular party spot. I was prepared to drive out of here at any time. But that wasn’t necessary. I decided it was good enough to plan on a second night here, and to go exploring on the bike.

There are many interwoven desert trails in the area, along with power line trails that aren’t gated, blocked, or even posted “no trespassing.” I started by exploring some of these. The riding was moderately hard but not difficult, and vindicated some earlier decisions not to take the van down some side roads. I got some great views of the valley, including my home.

After that I took the three miles of washboarded dirt road back to pavement. The KLR soaked it up easily. Then I began a long, slow, deceptively steep climb toward the Angeles National Forest. It turns out I wasn’t already in it after all, even though the Google map said I was. I wished I’d brought the liner for my jacket, as Angeles Crest Highway was back above 6,000 feet elevation, and it was a bit cooler there. I should’ve taken the word “crest” a bit more seriously. It wasn’t bad, though, and I began the ride.

This has to be one of my favorite roads ever. The scenery is stunning. The road is posted at 55 mph, yet it’s so twisty I often couldn’t maintain that speed. People traveling this road are so courteous, they actually pull over soon after you catch up to them to let you go play. I may have been on a KLR650, and even more underpowered than normal because of the altitude, but I still put this to the test a few times.

I could see the desert I came from off to the east. With a peak altitude of 7,901 feet, I can see why rain from the west never gets past these mountains, causing the desert beyond. This was higher than any point on Route 66, even in Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s a new altitude record for me.

It seems that during the summer, practically all of California being on fire is the new normal, and this was no exception. There were clear signs of the fire passing through, with scorched trees in many areas. Most of them were still standing, and many were still alive, so the fires must have only lightly touched this area, while others passing through weren’t so lucky. More on that later.

I saw a bunch of sportbikes and sports cars pulled over, so I did, too. (My slow dual sport did NOT fit in, but nobody cared.) The stop was Newcomb’s Ranch, a popular pit stop along Angeles Crest. It’s currently closed and for sale, but signs on the door encourage enthusiasts to continue meeting respectfully there. It’s clear that they take this to heart.

I hadn’t finished the road, but I had a cat 50 miles away, in a van, parked in the high desert. I’d left the windows cracked open and the Maxxair fan on automatic mode, so it wouldn’t overheat in the van. But I still don’t want to leave him alone for too long, especially in a public place as opposed to a private campground or park. Normally I don’t like backtracking, but I gladly made an exception for a road that was this fun to ride. It’s also a different experience in the opposite direction.

This is Route 39, heading south from Angeles Crest. It’s the route Carolyn recommended to head down her way to avoid the city. Unfortunately, the top six miles of it are closed due to massive erosion making it unsafe. The sign on the gate prohibits even pedestrians and bicyclists. The wildfires hit this area harder, destroying the trees, and killing their roots that hold the soil together. Without the roots, landslides happen, cover the road, and make its own footing unstable. Much of it is still open, but I’d have to come in from the south, then turn around.

After I returned I met a family who had parked next to me with a couple of dual sport motorcycles of their own. They petted Lister and we talked bikes a bit. Then I settled in for another night. While the hills blocked the actual sunset, I had this beautiful view out my window.

It was another quiet night, with more people pulling in and out than Friday, but not many. At one point I noticed a car parked next to me — a police car. But, there was no knock on the door, and it drove away, so no trouble at all. I wasn’t knowingly breaking any laws. There aren’t any “no overnight parking” or “no trespassing after dark” signs here. If there were, I wouldn’t have stayed. But it’s always good to not get into trouble, since van life is an “alternative” lifestyle that some places really don’t like. Even if I was completely legal, a cop with a chip on his shoulder could’ve still made my life difficult. But that didn’t happen.

And so my final night on the road for my Route 66 journey was a quiet one. I head to Carolyn’s in the morning.

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