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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dixon Lake

This is truly a beautiful location just above Escondido at the same general access point as Daley Ranch.  Warning for cyclists: the last half-mile getting up to this access point is a killer; it's extremely steep!  Loaded as I was with all my camping gear I chose to walk the bike up this hill.  Even at that I was puffing and panting.  YMMV.

Friday morning (Feb. 4, 2011) I set out from National City on my fully loaded bike:
Load for bear and ready to rock 'n roll

I rode through South Park, then North Park, down Texas St., took the bike path past Qualcomm, up Murphy Canyon Rd., up Ruffner, and finally up Kearny Villa Rd.  At Miramar Rd. I crossed the bridge over the 15 and the road became Pomerado.  I followed that up to Lake Hodges and used the pedestrian/bicycle bridge to cross over to Escondido:
Fully loaded bike on the Lake Hodges pedestrian/bicycle bridge
From there I followed Bear Valley Parkway up to Midway St.  At one point as I rode Bear Valley I passed a lovely meadow lined with trees.  There in the tall grass ambled two coyotes, completely unafraid of the passing traffic.  I wish I had the presence of mind to stop and take a picture.

Midway took me up to El Norte, and from there the route to the lake - La Honda - was clearly marked and indicated.  You should have no problem at all finding it.  As I said, the final half mile of La Honda is a killer.  But eventually I got there.  I entered the grounds for Dixon Lake and encountered an absolutely beautiful location:
Dixon Lake is a lovely place
The gal at the ranger station was a bit incredulous that I'd ridden all my gear on my bike.  She asked me, "Where's your car?"  When I told her I rode the bike she responded, "By choice?"  I'm guessing they don't see a whole lot of bicycle campers.

The camping spots are secluded, well maintained, and very very peaceful and quiet.  Initially I went to the wrong spot - a combination of errors; the gal told me it had a panoramic view of Escondido and my dyslexia kicked in when I was reading numbers.  I went to this spot and I couldn't believe this was available for a paltry $18.00:
Note the panoramic view of Escondido from this - as it turns out, fully hooked up - location

Another view of what turned out to be the wrong camping spot

Finally I got it together and relocated to this, the correct spot.  Not a panoramic view of the urban landscape but a lovely view of the lake.

As it turns out, it wasn't.  The cost of a basic no-frills tent site is $18.00.  Those with hookups were more.

I set up camp and then rode down to the showers.  When I returned it occurred to me I was at the wrong spot.  One clue was the electrical box and water spigot... obviously a bit luxurious for a basic tent spot.  I tore down my camp and relocated to the correct - and very basic - campsite.

A note about Dixon Lake campsites... at least the ones I saw.  Each one had steps leading down to the actual site.  This makes for a nice, secluded environment but - for bicyclists - be prepared to have to unload and then carry your bike up and down the steps.  I did this a little too hastily and pulled a muscle in my back.  Ugh.

I had earlier contemplated riding into town and having dinner someplace nice but I just didn't have the energy to renegotiate that hill.  So as evening approached I used my camp stove to prepare a quiet meal of spaghetti & meatballs from a can.  I washed that down with some water.  I ate a granola bar or two.  Then there was nothing left to do but retire to the tent to enjoy the peace and quiet.  I brought my Kindle and a reading light but... after the long ride, and the climb, and setting up camp twice and breaking it down once, and nursing a sore back... I never did get around to reading anything.  I fell asleep.  Outside it was pitch black.

At one point during the night I woke up in a panic.  I heard a voice just outside.  Briefly a flashlight beam illuminated my tent.  Then the voice recited some numbers, and I heard a large truck drive away.  Panic transformed to reassurance... yes, at Dixon Lake the rangers do check to see everything is alright.  In my case because I had clipped my camping info to the post indicating the spot was occupied, but also because no car was visible, the ranger had probably come down below to see if anyone was actually there.  I imagine he was surprised to see the bicycle.

I slept comfortably.  The next morning I broke down camp.  After I carried the bike up the steps I discovered the front tire was flat.  This was particularly upsetting because I was supposed to meet my folks for breakfast nearby within the hour.  I got a text, though, that they were both sick with colds and thus no breakfast and I had plenty of time to fix my tire.  In pumping up the tube it held the air pressure so I don't really understand why it had gone flat.  To be safe I replaced the tube.

I packed everything on the bike and away I went, down into the City of Escondido for a late breakfast.  Incidentally, my bicycle computer showed the mileage from National City to Dixon Lake as 45 miles.

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