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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego

    TR - Putting the epic back in the Palm Canyon Epic

    I first read about the Palm Canyon Epic a few months after I moved to SoCal and started exploring. Descriptions included hard to navigate, all-day beatdown, rugged, remote, and were followed with all sorts of warnings about the spare parts and provisions to bring along. Most riders had heard of it back then but not very many had ridden it. Fast forward 12 years and there is a shuttle service that'll take any e-biker or endur-bro with a fanny pack to the top. Strava tards brag about shredding it in 3 hours. Maybe that is possible now that the cactus gets trimmed back, rocky sections have been sanitized and turns straight-lined. It used to be a raw backcountry trail but has been smoothed top to bottom by thousands of tires over the years. It's still one of my favorite rides but I don't consider it to be an "epic" ride anymore. I've ridden every combination of trails in the area, including riding PCE starting 3,000ft higher atop Santa Rosa Mtn. Some of these rides are very tough but it's pretty hard to get over 40 miles. The one permutation I've never tried is to start in Palm Springs and climb up to Hwy 74, then ride the full PCE route. I know people who've done it, and this weekend I decided to give it a go before temps get too high.

    My original plan was to do the ride Saturday, but I wasn't able to get away Friday night so I moved it back to Sunday. Temps would be a few degrees warmer with high of 87* so I decided to start even earlier. I got in a hike and some sightseeing on the way out on Saturday, and then grabbed a campsite Saturday night. I crawled out of my sleeping bag at 4am to get down to the start for 5. Finally rolled away from the truck at 5:15 in darkness, perfect temps, and total silence.

    First sign of dawn came as I climbed my way up the Goat trails

    Had a snack and put lights away at the top of Wildhorse ridge. Watched the sun come up, surprised there were no hikers up here for sunrise.

    Instead it was just me and the flowers. Lots of flowers.

    My options were to climb up Dunn Rd, climb up Hahn Buena Vista trail, or traverse further and climb 3 miles of sand wash. I chose the trail.

    I met the only rider I'd see all day at the bottom of Hahn. Hahn is a bit loose but pretty much all ridable and is not a bad climb at all.

    Looking over at upper Dunn Road, which I will be climbing next

    Top of Hahn, and still no one else around. Thought I might run into some shuttlers by now.

    First big pear blossom cactus bloom of the season

    The old tractor at Mike's desert oasis. Stopped here and ate half my breakfast burrito

    I've climbed Dunn Road below the oasis but never above it. As expected, it was little used, washed out in spots, steep in places, and generally a slog.

    Views were great though. Looking down on the sand wash that riders climb doing the standard PCE route. It seems flat but climbs 1100ft in about 3.5 miles

    What really made this ride awesome was the flowers. There weren't any massive, thick blooms like some places have seen. It was just flowers of all kinds peppered everywhere.

    Collected a couple mylar balloons as well.

    After what seemed like forever I got to the first high point on Dunn Rd. Unfortunately from here I would drop down hundreds of feet only to climb back up hundreds more.

    The road got very rough here. It was all ridable going down, but climbing it in either direction will be hike a bike.

    Hmm... end of the road? I pushed past the rockfall and found a singletrack on the other side, which was a nice change even if it required hiking.

    The singletrack was only 1/3mi long before it dumped me on a maintained section of Dunn Rd. below some houses.

    Looking back from where I came.

    I found another singletrack that looked like it might bypass the whole neighborhood, but that was too optimistic as the trail meandered around and eventually petered out. I never did see what happened to the fresh bike tracks on it, all of a sudden they were gone. I ended up going cross-country to the nearest road. This was easy enough and pretty soon I was ordering a mexi-coke at the re-opened Sugarloaf Cafe on Hwy 74. I headed over to the campground I'd stayed at the night before to eat the rest of my burrito. I ran into a friend of mine there and it turns out I had camped next to him the night before without realizing, since it was dark when I'd arrived. Oh well, would have been too late to hang out anyways.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego
    Spent too much time visiting and it was now 4pm, time to get going.

    Passed a couple of selfie-taking hikers just below the start of the trail. Then I had the canyon to myself the rest of the afternoon. Well, except for all those flowers again.

    Dropping in to the canyon

    Flood damage from the last months' rains was substantial. It had been a few years since I'd seen any water flowing this high in the canyon, never mind massive sand deposits from flash floods.

    Stream channel is about 150ft wider than normal

    Singletrack would randomly disappear and reappear in places due to washouts. Bypasses are already forming.

    Loved the blue flowers especially

    Rock roll on the right has been re-opened. I removed the cheater rocks from the exit ramp.

    Came around a corner and this tiny rattler was stretched out across the trail. I grabbed a stick to prod him off the trail, but he gave chase for 10 ft instead, hissing

    It is wild how high the water got through here

    A sea of yellow flowers carpeted the lower canyon

    With purple ones sprinkled in if you looked closer

    More pink flowers, such brilliant color

    These tiny yellow and purple ones were everywhere on the desert floor

    Sun's just gone down, trying to get to the saddle left side/middle by dark. Have a bit of fun singletrack yet to go

    Back on Wildhorse ridgeline. Turned my light on at the top, same place I turned it off this morning. Ran into half a dozen backpackers just before the saddle, doing a gear check over-nighter for a Catalina Island trip.

    My ride from there back to the bottom didn't take long and I was soon enjoying a refreshing beverage back at the truck, 8pm. Temps had been a bit warm but there was a nice cool breeze all day so it wasn't bad. With the flowers and the lack of people, it was probably one of the best days on the bike I've ever had. I'll definitely be doing this again at some point. If I really get brave I want to include the climb up Santa Rosa as well.

    52mi, +/- 8,050 ft.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego
    Bonus TR:

    Getting a late start Saturday meant I didn't have a lot of time to do much, but I figured I could do a hike near Palm Springs I've been wanting to check out.

    It was faster to go through El Centro and past the Salton Sea, which also took me past Slab City. I'd never been there either so I decided on a quick stop to check out Salvation Mountain.

    Looks like it had a recent paint job, seemed a lot brighter than the photos I've seen

    Had to get some summit points and climb the mountain, of course

    Some other relics nearby

    Driving 45min further to Mecca and then 15 min more on a dirt road brought me into a canyon with rising walls. Painted Canyon is a perfect name considering the varying rock colors

    Despite it being 5:30 there were still plenty of people around at the trailhead and the first part of the hike. Half mile up a deep canyon brought me to this, which is apparently the turnoff for Ladder Canyon. I would have walked right past it without the massive arrow

    Right away I was on the ladders. Some weren't really needed for going up, others definitely were

    Looking back down at where I came from

    Some of them had broken or cracked rungs which seemed a little sketchy

    That was the last ladder for awhile, and I followed the canyon as it got shallower and narrower, eventually climbing onto a ridge top with a view of the Salton Sea

    After maybe 1/2 mile along the ridge the trail dropped down into the next canyon. It was wider and had many different layers and intrusions in the rock

    Not quite done with the ladders yet, down a narrow outlet

    The canyon bottom was very sandy so it wasn't fast going, but I made it around the ~4.5mi loop before last light. It was definitely a cool hike. I'd do it again, maybe try to hit it at a different time of day to see some different lighting.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Bearsden, UK
    Sick! You doing AZT this year?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Woah! Thanks for posting. I always enjoy your trip reports!
    It sucks to suck.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    well done, thanks for sharing!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Paper St. Soap Co.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    52 miles with 8000+ vert and you still managed to stop and take all those pictures. That's what I call a good day on the bike.

    Great writeup. The shot towards the end of your ride with the singletrack flowing through the yellow flowers is awesome.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    An epic ride in my book. Nice.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    You've put a lot of good miles on that Mojo.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Ross Thompson's land
    Very nice

    Sent from my iPhone using TGR Forums

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Access to Granlibakken
    I’m riding palm canyon in a week, thx for the pics. It’s been 6+ yrs since I’ve ridden it...I recall a lot of sections that were too overgrown for wide bars.
    194 Praxis Carbon Ullrs for sale, $290:

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
    san diego
    Thanks guys!

    frorider, it has changed a lot in six years. Shuttle company and heavier traffic keeps the beaten back but also keeps the trail more blown out. It isn't a remote backcountry ride anymore.

    Hope you get good temps. The pear blosson cactus should be going off. Those are always my favorites.

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