71.67 Miles; Lake Henshaw Resort to Encinitas, CA
I slept hard and woke up to a massive tom turkey gobbling loudly outside my shelter. I arose into the very cold air and walked to the front of the resort for a warm breakfast at the restaurant. Well fed and feeling warm, I pushed out and up and immediate gigantic paved hill. I spent the next hour of so along the shoulder of the highway climbing up and up until a sudden right on unpaved gravel took me through a spell of live oak and green-grass fields. This was Black Canyon Road - an absolutely stunning ride through the heart of the Black Mountain.
Black Canyon Road descended through chaparral and oak through the heart of its namesake Canyon on smooth gravel that passed through riparian corridors rich with plant life. I kept pulling over to look at Black Mountain, take in the quickly changing vegetation-type, and then let loose and fly down the dirt road. Near the bottom, the route veered onto some 4WD red dirt that climbed up and down the contours of adjoining hills before spilling me onto the Coast to Crest Trail. I was completely unfamiliar with the Coast to Crest Trail, but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the Stagecoach 400 for me. It's mostly smooth singletrack and multi-use path that stretches from the inland dry mountains to the Pacific Coast. The section in the San Dieguito River Park I started on was a tan ribbon stretching through flower-studded green hills I had just descended.
The heat of the day was really increasing. I joined a paved road up a crazy steep ascent, wove through the outskirt neighborhoods of Ramona, descended an edgy/busy highway with no shoulder near Tims Canyon, and finally got off the pavement again and onto the Coast to Crest Trail near San Pasqual Valley. The Stagecoach 400 skirted neighborhoods keeping to this awesome ribbon of singletrack that stuck to the narrow corridor of the San Dieguito River Park. Flowers, riparian habitat, and reservoirs passed by. I eventually found myself coming into Escondido's urban area but still flanked on either side by the corridor of park. The Coast to Crest Trail went along the shores of Lake Hodges before opening up into a multi-use dirt path that descended Del Dios Gorge. Neighborhoods stood on adjoining hills as I rode up some endless singletrack switchbacks and then descended to a fairly deep crossing of Lusardi Creek where I had to carry my bike through the water.
The tendrils of evening were coming on so I made haste along the San Dieguito River before I spilled out on the cusp of sunset at the Pacific Ocean near Del Mar. The clouds had that hazy, but diffuse beauty, that doused harsh light and softened all appearance in rich color. I jumped on the bike lane adjoining Highway 101 and rode north towards Carlsbad State Beach Campground and my spot for the night.