great western reroute title

Great Western Reroute: Cleveland National Forest

Discovering adventures is a bit part of gravel, but so is sharing them which the Great Western Reroute is all about.

Through Gravelstoke, Dave Malwitz has done a big part of fostering this community sharing stories, hosting rides and finding a number of different ways of bringing people together.

The Great Western Reroute is an extension that’s an event without being an event as the mantra is the opportunity to explore.

With the route differing every year, this edition started out of Alpine that’s smack in the middle of the vast San Diego County.

Right off of 1-8, the ride started out of Alpine that at 1,800′ above sea level doesn’t offer a skiing paradise, but definitely has higher elevations ahead.

Heading east, we hit our first (and later last) gravel sector up Viejas grade that served as one of California’s first stagecoach routes across the country that I’m going to call modernized able to hold cross traffic and likely smoother than one hundred fifty years ago.

Turning north, Boulder Creek was a monumental feature getting a sense of what the Cleveland National Forest has to offer teasing you knowing there are a number of other roads to explore.

The second half of this road featured some robust climbing on dirt, but the bigger foe for me was the biting insects that took advantage of slowing speeds.

Engineers Rd was a great reprieve despite more climbing as this smoothly paved surface was a welcome change for the next five miles.

Climbing up historic Viejas Grade

A pit stop was set up at the halfway point at Lake Cuyamaca with 80% of the climbing already in, but still some efforts ahead.

Merging briefly east on Highway 74 led to my favorite section of the day on Mason Valley Truck Trail not just for its rolling flow, but framed views of the grasslands and Anza Borrego State Park.

Flipping over the Sunshine Highway brought some rocky single track on La Cima followed by the next sector of Upper Green Valley more than making up for it.

The West Side Trail followed up with a more consistent course with the preceeding East Side Trail with more of an effort to start, but a bigger payoff on the swinging downhill.

Merigan Fire Road was our final “new” sector of dirt first bringing our toughest half mile of climbing for the day then reminding us of the area’s expanse exiting through Cuyamaca State Park.

The half mile climb out of Descanso felt slightly laborious due to its placement so deep in the ride, but it was a fast jaunt back descending back down Viejas Grad and quickly back to Alpine Brewing with a feast of a meal waiting.

This edition of the Great Western Reroute got pushed back a little later in the calendar this year causing higher temps, but even under these rigorous conditions it shouldn’t be lost on you what a great area this is to explore.