18 November 2013

Hiking and Mountain Biking on Mount Laguna

October 2013


Had heard about Laguna Mountain Recreation Area earlier but didn't know what to expect. Less than hour's drive east from San Diego it was pretty close after all. After a short study of map revealed place to be on a mile high with full of trails. What's more, the Pacific Crest Trail went near by, too.

Went there for hiking for the very first time.  Parking on Scenic Highway required a parking permit. Had earlier bought an annual permission, called Adventure Pass. The weather was a bit chilly but sunny. Was pretty sure the sun would warm air during afternoon.

Started hiking from Meadows Information Center. There was a trailhead which headed towards Laguna Meadow.  All trails were single track trails. Left most trail was for hikers only, Sunset Trail. Other trails were used by mountain bikers as well.

The whole region was high in altitude, on about 1600m above sea level. You felt that while keeping up a good pace. The trail went up and down, pretty smooth like hills. Noticed almost immediately that fall foliage had arrived there. It was mostly a forest there. Old pine trees were companied by even older oak trees. Oak trees had bright yellow leaves. Spectacular view.

Soon the Sunset Trail came near a small Water-On-The-Woods pond. From there one saw a meadow for the first time. Continued the Sunset Trail more north to the end of the meadow on the north. Now the trail went near the edge on the west side, giving panorama views towards Pacific. Hazy weather didn't give clear view to the sea. Now there was a little bit more up and downs but in general the trail was conservative.

Landing from the forest to the northern part of the meadow changed terrain to quite flat. There were horse riding groups, mountain bikers, hikers and few trail runners.

Decided to turn back via east side of the meadow. The name of the single track trail changed to Big Laguna Trail. Those massive old oak trees looked awesome.

The trail continued near but off the meadow. Big Laguna Lake had some water on it. Ducks were playing there. Continued then towards Little Laguna Lake, still staying on Big Laguna Trail. That tiny lake was empty of water.

Couple of energy bars filled a short lunch time. Sweared to bring proper food next time.

Crossing the meadow brought back to a mixed pine and oak forest. After about 20km hiking returned back to the car.  Mount Laguna had impressed me. Promised to return ASAP, but with a mountain bike.

Mountain Biking

Had to wait comeback for the next weekend. Weather luckily remained the same, chilly morning but sunny, warming up till the afternoon.  Fall foliage was even better than a week ago. Yellow pigment burst through leaves.

Left the car to the same place and headed to the trailhead. This time the one that was allowed for bikers.  Hard sand single track trails, no major rocks or roots on trails. Just perfect for riding. Followed Big Laguna Trail on the west side of the meadow. After meadow continued more north to Penny Pines trailhead.

From Penny Pines took a sneak test ride on one of the most popular mountain bike trails on earth, Noble Canyon Trail. Lots of small rocks on trail, quite technical. Wasn't too comfortable and soon took another trail back to the meadow.  One day will finish the famous trail for sure, let it rest for a while.

Back on Big Laguna Trail and then circled via several camping sites. Might be a good idea to come camping there, for hiking and maybe for snowshoeing at winter time?

Now a more proper lunch under a massive pine tree; some fresh rye bread from Finland and a pot of French Roast coffee.

After break headed towards pine forest on east side of the meadow. The trail started to ascend. Heavy breathing a while. Circled on few different trails coming down and soon back. Fantastic place for riding, especially Chico Gatos Ravine trail.

After few hours and some 50km of riding headed back to the car. Must return was in mind.


(all photos here)

Laguna Mountain Recreation Area

Fresh acorns ... 

... Escaped ...

... Hided

Red, Yellow, Geeen

A scenery towards west




Action on meadow

Pine forest

Arriving at the Laguna Meadow

A fence

A corner

Lunch eaten

A scene

In a shadow


Fall foliage

Big Laguna Trail

Crossing Laguna Meadow

Future fossile

Single track trail on meadow

Mountain bike trail on pine forest

A ride in action

Old oak trees 

09 November 2013

My favorite outdoor activities: Orienteering

November 2013

Few weeks ago I published the first blog post about (very) short series of my favorite outdoor activities. The first post described about cycling. This time there's another great favorite, namely orienteering.

Using a map (in scale of 1:10 000 or similar) and a compass (optional) one try to navigate from point to point in a predefined route as quickly as possible. GPS devices not allowed.

In Nordic countries, Orienteering Clubs organise daily/weekly events (at least) during spring/summer/autumn months. Anyone can join and walk/run through a route (by usually paying a small amount).

Orienteering as a sport discipline is quite popular on Nordic countries and recent years it has increased its popularity in central Europe a lot. Orienteering is very much the whole family activity, too.

Orienteering is a good alternative for ordinary running. I cannot think any other activity where one has to concentrate fully on the activity itself, i.e. if you think about your work etc. while trying to figure out the fastest route to the point you'll most probably will not survive the route as optimally as possible, but circle here and there and will get angry against organisers about hiding points too much. A bit exaggerated though.

In orienteering it's about reading map and observing nature, observing alternative routes based on variety of terrain, hills vs. flat sections and dry vs. wet sections, and whats more, trying to figure out all the time where you are almost on any given second. Brains work like multicore processors calculating routes in nanoseconds, but humans make mistakes, and that's one of the best thing in orienteering (otherwise it would be too easy and not rewarding).

Perhaps the most important and most fascinating orienteering events are organised every year in Sweden and in Finland. In former, every spring there's a team relay event called Tiomila. In latter, every summer there's a team relay event called Jukolan Viesti. Media follows top athletes on these races closely on live, which is surely interesting, too. However, great thing there is that just ordinary hobbyists can join the very same relay events with their own teams, run the same routes, and feel the same atmosphere as any top athlete.  These events are magnificent to participate and to watch.

The following photos were taken on Jukolan Viesti event, during women's Venlojen Viesti, i.e. women's relay event in Southern Finland.


Anna-Maija Fincke (FIN) on top

Vroni König-Salmi not too far behind

Bäkkelagets (NOR) and Lidingö (SWE) teams are all-time favorites

Waiting time on exchange area can be long

Warming up area before exchange

Thousands of orienteers stay overnight on tents during the event

Top teams in peaceful harmony, I presume

Perfect running style, Heidi Östlid (NOR)

Finland's no 1, Minna Kauppi, one of the best ever in the world

Behind limelight are hundreds of enthusiasts living in their dream

Still smiling after giving everything

Speeding up, only 200 meters to go

I've never managed to raise my knees so high
on finishing line
Today's technology bring live GPS maps for spectators, superb!

TV and Radio commentators at work

When you get tired, getting control signed might take effort ...

... and sometimes it's so easy

Important skill: ability to read map and orienteer while running

Nervous face as a silly mistake behind, Natalia Vinogradova
Joy of winners, Halden SK (NOR)

Joy of runner-up, Paimion Rasti (FIN)

The best of all: Simone Niggli (CH)

Finishing line, giving everything