Rides in San Diego County can get HOT … but last weekend was not bad. The marine layer provided a nice cloud cover for about half the climb up the South Grade. It was fun to watch it from above as we were greeted by another great panorama around each left turn on the way up.
Mother’s is still closed at the summit, and despite websites saying the park would be open there, it was not. So no bathrooms or water yet. The road to the observatory is open, if you want to get a little more elevation and mileage. The observatory is not open though, and the gate is locked. You can get water or use the bathroom off the mountain. The store at Lake Henshaw is open, as well as the gas station and mini mart on 76 on the way back.
The descent down the East Grade is really beautiful. The road is in great condition and there is hardly any traffic. Corners are gentle and wide. The views expansive. There is even a flat part in the middle, with scenic cattle and barns. If you didn’t know this was Southern California, you would be surprised.
Those last couple miles though … well, it will remind you of going down Crystal Lake. That headwind is, shall we say, “brisk”. You are watching Lake Henshaw in the valley, and holding on tight.
At the bottom, you hit a “T” intersection. Left takes you to Lake Henshaw, with a climb up Mesa Grande. Right takes you back to the parking lot. There’s still a bit of climbing to go, but it’s mostly some gentle rollers. Traffic is thicker here, so be careful on the last long descent.
Grab some fruit at Lily’s Farm Stand, past the circle. Get a drink or an ice cream sandwich at the 7-11 where we parked. If you want lunch after, I hear the taco stand at the circle is pretty good.
This new format seems to be working. We chatted before in the parking lot, but kept our distance. We left pretty much together this time, but separated immediately, and rode with buddies or near only a couple other people. We all returned at different times, but got to chat a little. Everyone was able to maintain what felt comfortable to them. No real group photos anymore. Just quick snaps while you hold your breath and try not to get too close.
Keep these routes handy. They offer lots of options for a remote ride on your own.
>> PALOMAR SHORT ROUTE <<
41 Miles = 5,000′
Route: UP South Fork, DOWN East Fork
>> PALOMAR LONG ROUTE <<
65 Miles = 7,000′
Route: UP South Fork, DOWN East Fork, Lake Henshaw, Mesa Grande