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Friday, April 8, 2011

Green Valley Campground

Green Valley Campground
Hwy 79

Use Fee: 30.00
Reservation Fee: 8.00
Total Fee: 38.00

Visiting campgrounds close to the city is fun... it's nice... it makes for a great ride.  But for real excitement you have to visit San Diego's east county.

The weather is wildly unpredictable.  And it can be unforgiving.

Green Valley Campground is in the lower Cuyamacas.  It's a little farther to ride but it really is an amazing place.

As an example, on Thursday (April 7, 2011) I rode from Lake Jennings campground to Green Valley campground in the Cuyamacas.  This is a distance of at least 30 miles (Map-My-Ride says 26 miles but I truly believe it is more than that) mostly uphill.  While hauling a lot of camping equipment I guarantee you something: you will get a workout.

Leaving the Old U.S. 80, I found myself riding Alpine length-wise from west to east.  This entire town sits on the side of hill... and it slopes west.  So I struggled.
This guy was sitting on a fence along the Old U.S. 80.  Probably wanted to yak my ear off about how it used to be when the 80 was the only freeway in those parts.  Sorry, Mr. Peacock, have to be moving along.
At some point I rode as far as you can go on Alpine Blvd.  Here you must enter the Interstate 8 and ride east to the Japatul Rd./Descanso turnoff.  This part of the interstate is actually graded fairly gently.  Plus there is the added advantage of riding between hills: especially when big rigs pass this creates a tailwind that almost... almost... will push you forward without your needing to pedal.  It's a great wind tunnel effect but, unfortunately, when the ride side of the freeway gives way to open land that helpful tailwind is gone.

Here is where you enter the Interstate 8 to continue riding due east.  Note how some clever bicyclist pasted a San Diego Raddoneurs sticker over the "BEGIN" sign.

By the time I made the 79 turnoff I was feeling fatigued from the many climbs of that morning.  I think exhaustion is as much mental as it is physical: anticipating yet further uphill riding was making me irritable.  I was anxious to get to the campground... and that is NEVER a good mental place to be in.  It will take time but eventually I'll learn to accept the ride as it is... it won't go any faster or slower than it was ever intended to go.  I won't feel less tired than I'm intended to feel.  For right now, though, I am an impatient, impetuous grasshopper at the feet of Zen bicycle riding.  Or something like that...

The 79 t's off itself north toward the campground.  Following this I stopped at the little market at Viejas Rd. and picked up a sandwich (turkey and cheese on white bread), a couple sodas, and some donuts for dinner (lot's o' calories!!).  That came to a little over $10.00, including a credit card fee!  To my mind, this was a bit unconscionable.  The associated fruit stand is a better deal... but I don't propose to eat nothing but fruit for dinner (you could eat nothing but fruit, but then the campground toilets had better be in good working order).  Another option, fellow bicycle campers, is to continue on to the store at Thousand Trails although I can't guarantee their prices are any better.

At any rate by the time I finally rode into Green Valley campground (maybe half a mile beyond Thousand Trails) I was plenty pooped. After a little confusion I found my camping spot.  Nice little place - in fact, Green Valley has always been one of my favorite campgrounds although this is the first time I bicycle-camped here.

I meant to explore and take some pictures of the Falls but it was getting distinctly nippy out.  Since I was wearing shorts and hadn't brought any long pants I retired to my tent and curled up inside my sleeping bag while listening to the radio.  Soon I had to zip close the tent opening because the air kept getting colder and colder.

There had been some scattered rain during the ride up.  Nothing I considered alarming.  As I lay in my tent, though, the scattered rain became a steadily falling rain.  Not falling hard... just falling steadily.

Then the sun went down and the rain started coming down harder and harder.  Normally the pitter-patter of rainfall lulls me to sleep but this rain, combined with sudden wind gusts that would violently shake the tent and threaten to flatten it, insisted on waking me every time I drifted off.  It became impossible to sleep.  I wanted nothing so badly as that rain to stop falling and that wind to stop blowing.

In time, late late in the night, that's exactly what happened.  It became peaceful and quiet.  Much relieved I fell asleep.

At about 6:00 a.m. I needed to use the restroom.  I unzipped the opening to the tent and met this scene:

This is a testament to my tent, my sleeping bag, my sleeping bag pad, the felt liner, and especially the tarp insulating the tent floor.  They kept me perfectly warm and comfortable... so much so that I had no idea snow had fallen during the night.

I never intended to bicycle-camp in the snow but that's exactly what happened.  Having never ridden in the snow before I wondered if it would be possible to ride home (Green Valley is about 50 miles from my home).  But nothing, as it turns out, is impossible.  I waited until 8:00 a.m. to be sure the roads had been cleared, then I packed and loaded the bicycle.  I rode gingerly out of the park and into a winter wonderland.

A nice dusting of snow over the landscape.  It was just magnificent!

As I rode toward home I kept getting hit with snow flurries. As I coasted downhill - especially down the Viejas Grade - they stung my face.  I used sunglasses to keep the snow out of my eyes.

Fortunately I always keep a pair of wool gloves in my clothing stuff sack so my hands were fine.    I can tell you this about riding while the snow is falling: it would really suck to not have gloves!

My poor, poor, bicycle.  Notice the helmet filled with snow?  Think that was fun?  Actually, I wore a knit cap until I was well into Dehesa Valley.


  1. We met on a corner in Lakeside just before Lake Jennings. I wondered how the rest of your trip went, esp. Green Valley Falls.

    I'm very intrigued by the idea of bicycle camping in the county. How can I contact you.


  2. Hi, Dick:

    Yes, you very kindly recommended a pizza restaurant. I had a wonderful time at Lake Jennings (but I got a quick meal at Jack in the Box to save a few bucks).

    The next day I went to Green Valley campground at Cuyamaca and got snowed on! Read about it here!!

    I googled the San Felipe pass out of the Borrego Desert. Isn't that coming directly out of Borrego Springs? Lots of turns and twists and curves. How are drivers with regard to bicyclists on that particular stretch?


    P.S. To contact me, just post a comment on this forum. Thks.