Late August 2002, Part 1
Conquest of the Sierra Madres

I decided to do an overnight bicycle trip before the end of summer. My goal was to do something a little different from the typical (albeit enjoyable) up-the-coast-and-back overnighter. I looked at my AAA map of the Greater Los Angeles Area and wondered whether an out-and-back two-day trip to Wrightwood via Angeles Crest Highway was feasible. Obviously, this ride over the San Gabriel Mountains (once known as the Sierra madres) would mean a lot of climbing. And the remoteness of the area would require taking more water and food than usual on the bike. But the distance--about 70 miles between home and Wrightwood--was doable. Besides, people pay good money to cycle in the Sierras or Rockies or other mountain ranges. A two-day version of this, done on the cheap, sounded good to me. I rode out on a Friday and returned on Saturday.
I'll spare you the photos of the first 11 miles of the ride from my home to Angeles Crest Highway. Instead, I'll start here. This sign is just past Foothill Boulevard and the freeway on Angeles Crest. Wrightwood is about  four miles past Big Pines. So, distance-wise the trip looks like a piece of cake. But the elevation gain involved will make this a tough little trip (for me, at least).
I reach the beginning of the Angeles National Forest, and all seems to be in my favor.

Am I the only one who looks at these forest signs and thinks of Gumby?

By the way, the milage posts along the road (like the one at the bottom of this photo) are great for giving information on how far I've travelled and how far I have to go to the next landmark. This is especially welcome today since my bicycle computer went dead shortly after I left home.

This sign appears a little over two miles up the road. I should be seeing the 2000' elevation sign soon.

Good. We're open to everyplace but Azusa (and that route, Highway 39, has been closed to traffic from Angeles Crest for years.).

The road to Wrightwood can, of course, close due to snow in the winter. During the summer, it can close due to forest fires.


I appreciate the elevation signs. They represent a tangible sign of progress. I reach the 3000' level about six miles up the road from Foothill.
Here is the view from Clear Creek, about 3300' elevation in the chaparral country of the front range.

The ride to Clear Creek is steadily uphill except for a couple of level spots. This place is a little over nine miles up the road, near milage post 33.76.

Here is a digital movie of the view from Clear Creek. The noise you hear is the wind.

Red Box is about 14 miles up the road, milage post 38.38. I top off my water bottles and take in the view of the front range. Elevation is about 4500'.

In the winter, Red Box sometimes has snow.

Red Box is at the intersection of Angeles Crest Highway and Mt. Wilson Road. I ride to Mt. Wilson frequently, but not today. However, I can see the broadcast towers at the peak as I continue on Angeles Crest a couple of miles past Red Box. 

I get to go downhill a couple of miles, but that's just elevation that I'll have to regain later.

[PART 2: Deeper into the San Gabriels]