Things get interesting this time of year as the XC season comes to a close. There are still a few events on our calendar - like the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow. But for some of us, our attention turns to cyclocross or the chance to do some unstructured rides to areas and trails we normally skip or haven't noticed. Add in a 'cross bike that can make short work of trail segments that would normally be too far apart and we've got one loop and whole new ride. Pack up some emergency tools, a bit of cash, and plenty of snacks. These are the Alt Routes.



This ride essentially starts behind Mission Hills High School (also near Cismontane Brewery, which is an added bonus). We entered the paved Tierjas Creek Trail heading south and followed it as it turned to dirt. It's a good trail, bumpy on a 'cross bike, but it twists and turns its way through bamboo trees and over a few small creek crossings. 

We exited the trail on O'Neil road, and made our way to Antonio. From there, it's a paved descent towards the Ortega Highway. Hang a left at Cow Camp road and make your way to Canyon Coffee. This is a tucked away coffee spot in a new development called Citron Esencia. A shot of espresso will help for the climbing ahead.

After a short bit of single track and bike paths that loop around the shopping area, we made our way back out to Antonio and crossed the Ortega to La Pata Ave to climb up and over the Prima Deshecha Landfill. Settle in to a good climbing gear, this one will take a while.

This brought us to our turn around point in San Clemente. Our goal was to head back to Camino De Los Mares where the road ends and the dirt road points up and back into the foothills. This climb is another grinder, but the surface is smooth. At the intersection at the top, turn right and go up. Again. We followed the ridge line north. It's a rolling dirt path that goes on for a quite a while, and there's much more there than we rode. Explore it. 

Ultimately, this path will spit you out at San Juan Hills High School, and you'll descend the same paved road you climbed up on La Pata Ave. We followed Antonio back north and stopped for a Red Bull, water, and snacks at the AmPm store. By this point, we had already broken a chain and opted to follow Antonio back to our start. 

Within 5 minutes of making that decision, Michelle flatted. Lesson: make sure your tubes have valve lengths appropriate for your rim depth. Ours were not, and we were forced to call for SAG support. 

Tim VanGilder

mission viejo