Escape to the Mountains

I’m about 7 weeks out from my departure date. I’d like to think I’m well prepared, but I’m sure my last days in LA will be hectic. The past few weeks I’ve been getting things in order at home, kitting out my bike, planning the specific details of my routes, and trying to wrap up any loose ends before I abandon ship.

I managed to slip away this weekend for some canyon carving and camping off Angeles Crest Highway. Over winter I upgraded a few things on the bike and replaced some of my dated camping gear. I’ve been waiting for the weather to cooperate so I could take everything for a shakedown ride, and the stars aligned this past weekend.

I headed out to Highway 2 and had a great ride up to Newcomb’s Ranch. I’ve been really impressed with my BMW F800GS, even sitting on knobby tires and loaded down with camping gear, she tears up all the twisty tarmac I can throw at her and begs for more.

BMW F800GS Shakedown Ride

After refueling with a pulled pork sandwich, I continued up the 2 through surprising snowy switchbacks, and then hit the end of the road for now.

BMW F800GS on Angeles Crest Highway

It seems it’s not quite spring yet on the backside of the mountains. I was in search of a nice campsite, but everything I had passed so far was closed for season still. I doubled back and checked Chilao one more time but it was only open for day use. I started heading back down towards the lower sites, but noticed a little dirt road that headed up towards Mt Mooney and Stony Ridge Observatory.

Adventure Bike in the Angeles National Forest

I was happy to get off the pavement and lucked out with a perfect campsite about a half mile down the road.

Motorcycle Camping

After setting up camp I grabbed some snacks and hiked up to the top of Mt Mooney to watch the sunset. It looks like this area burned a few years ago. I followed some faint tracks to the top of the mountain, climbing around charred, tangled remains of fallen trees.

Sunset Atop Mt Mooney, Angeles National Forest

The peak of Mt Mooney was eerie but peaceful.

View from Mt Mooney, Angeles National Forest

I relaxed for a bit and snapped some photos, then hurried back down to camp as the temperature dropped.

Sunset Panorama Atop Mt Mooney, Angeles National Forest

Back at camp I boiled water for a dehydrated lasagna courtesy of Mountain House… not necessarily their best work, though it’s hard to mess up pasta and tomato sauce. I’m less enthusiastic about these space meals with each one I have, but they can hit the spot after a challenging day in the saddle (today wasn’t exactly that day). I washed that down with a growler of Monkish IPA, not a bad way to end the night.

While I was tossing and turning, looking for a comfortable position to fall asleep, I noticed that some combination of my Smartwool clothes and new synthetic sleeping bag and tent had worked up crazy static electricity, to the point where I could see visible electrostatic discharges when I brushed the tent. I got a kick out of it, so I tested a bit more and used up all the static energy I had accumulated. It was like a storm of mini lightning bolts conducting between my fingers and the tent wall when I ran my hand over it. Cool for now, but that might get old fast if it doesn’t wear out soon.

BMW Adventure Bike on Mt Mooney Rd

In the morning I packed up and hit the road, continuing down the rest of the dirt loop back to Highway 2, then up to Newcomb’s for a quick breakfast. The place was packed for a Motorsport Exotica event, and the kitchen was temporarily closed due to a gas line issue. I made due with coffee and watched the bikes come and go for a little before the kitchen reopened.

Packed House at Newcomb's Ranch

While waiting I chatted with two guys who had taken their GS1200s up to Alaska. They highly recommended taking an easterly route through Idaho and Montana, which was something I was considering. I’ll probably take that route on my return.

I had my breakfast and headed back down the mountain to get a jump on traffic. Passing through downtown LA on the ride home was surprisingly pleasant, and I verified I can still split lanes easy enough, even though my new Wolfman Rocky Mountain soft bags are a lot wider than my BMW Vario panniers were.

All said and done, it was a smooth shakedown ride. There were no glaring problems in my setup, which is good since a lot of these bits are new replacements for older equipment that was somehow lacking. I’ll post some details about the upgrades to the bike and gear I’m carrying soon.

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