Chariot Fire

Jason and I headed down to the San Diego area at the beginning of July for a bit of a holiday and training vacation.  We needed to get lots of miles on the bike in, as we were facing the Seattle to Portland shortly after.  I had planned a bunch of rides to do, one of them being the Sunrise Loop - I knew he'd love the climb, and I really loved the fun descent off the back side.

As the start of that ride is about an hour's drive from where we were staying in Carlsbad, we woke up early and headed southeast.  Here's the ride we planned to do:
Doesn't that descent look super fun!?
We started along just fine, and split up when we started the official climb on the Sunrise highway up Mt. Laguna.  About halfway up, near the mountain bike staging area, I could see a thin whiff of smoke coming from the other side of the mountain.  Jason tagged the summit then came back to find me, confirming there was a lot of activity at the fire station in the town.  

Jason self-portrait climbing up.

He always tags the summit then comes back for me.

When we got to the summit together, we stopped at the fire station to ask about the status of the fire.  They said they thought the road down the other side may be closed, and to check at the store as they'd know for sure.  Weird that the fire station is telling us to check at the store about a fire?! The store thought that was funny as well.  

We headed off down the other side, figuring we'd see how far we could make it.  We stopped at the scenic viewpoint which overlooks Anza-Borrego State Park, and there was a lot of smoke in the air.  We ran into a roadblock, turning us back around because of the fire.  A bit of a bummer as it turned our loop into an out-and-back, but also that meant we'd miss the fun, twisty descent from Cuyamaca State Park.  Next time I guess.

The view from the overlook, with smoke creeping around.

The fire service vehicles blocking the road.

You think?

We rode back up to the summit, and as an indication of how quickly the fire was moving: as we rode they started evacuating the campgrounds around us.  We bombed down the highway we rode up earlier that morning, and by the time we got the the bottom there was a State Trooper blocking access up.  Good thing we'd started early or we wouldn't have gotten much of a ride in at all!

The ride we actually got to do.

Back at the car, looking over to the smoke.

Later that evening we looked up the details on the fire.  The Chariot Fire started small, just southeast of Julian the day before.  Because of the dry, hot conditions it spread really quickly, and by the next day it had traveled up Mt. Laguna and burned over 4,700 acres.  It burned right over the places we had stopped, and even destroyed a historic lodge at one of the campgrounds we saw being evacuated.  A few days later, Jason and I were riding around the Ramona/Santa Ysabel area and could still see smoke from the still-burning fire, and were continually passed by firefighter vehicles and helicopters working the fire.

Last week, our friends Heidi & Matt went to ride the Sunrise Loop, and sent some pictures of what it looks like today:

Overlook we'd stopped at.

Next to the road.

Crazy that we were right there in the middle of it all...  Adventure is never far away!


  1. The destruction wildfires leave is always so sad. Good thing you guys made it up and back safely, despite not being able to do your original ride!
    Training vacations are so fun! I bet you got in some other great rides!

  2. Talk about living dangerously sister...and all in the name of training.

  3. Yikes! That is way too close for comfort.

    And I agree that it's funny (but also a little scary) that the fire station told you to check at the store. What the ???