Get Out of Town!
Mountain Biking Lopez Lake
March, 2009 - Issue #53
The back country behind Lopez Lake in Arroyo Grande is great for exploring by bike or by truck.
The back country behind Lopez Lake in Arroyo Grande is great for exploring by bike or by truck.
My brother-in-law Javier had been talking for years about putting together a weekend mountain biking trip to the Central Coast to ride his favorite trail.

But like a lot of "guys-trip" ideas us 30-something husbands and fathers discuss, it got lost in the shuffle of our more mundane weekend duties. That is until my other brother-in-law, Tim, got his report date for Marine Corps Basic Training.

A proper sendoff seemed like the thing to do - especially since we hadn't done it last time. Yes, this would be Tim's second departure for the Marines. He'd gone in a year earlier. But a week into the fun, he picked up a nasty cold with a hacking cough. After weeks in sick bay, countless visits to various medical corpsmen, and enough pills to open his own pharmacy, Tim was sent home.

His recruiter told him to take a year off and re-enlist again. So that's what he did. And that's how we found ourselves loaded in Javier's truck with my tent trailer in tow headed for Lopez Lake, near Arroyo Grande, on a Friday night. Our last stop on the way out of Santa Clarita was at Sport Chalet. We needed spare tubes for the bikes, but more on that later.

We left late Friday afternoon and decided to take the back way (north on I-5, then west on 166) and avoid the Santa Barbara traffic. After dinner at the Burger Barn in New Cuyama, we rolled into the campground long after dark.

We awoke to find ourselves in a gem of a campsite. With nothing more to go by than an online photo, I had picked well when making our reservation. We sat atop a small rise that offered views down the green, oak-shaded canyon, and our nearest neighbors were 50 yards away. A flock of wild turkeys meandered on a nearby hillside while we had breakfast.

After a lazy morning, we loaded the bikes into the truck and headed into the back country. From the lake, we drove east on Hi Mountain Road, then north on the steep and winding Upper Lopez Canyon Road until the pavement ended.

It was around noon when we finally mounted up. We continued along the dirt road for about 50 yards until what sounded like a gunshot stopped us in our tracks. The horses in the nearby paddock galloped in panicked circles and churned up a cloud of dust. One look at Tim's tire solved the mystery.

The tube had popped in spectacular fashion. It was then that we discovered a serious mental mistake. We forgot to buy tubes at Sport Chalet.

Fast forward almost two hours after driving into Arroyo Grande for a new tube and then back to where we started, and we were under way. Again.

We rode beneath a canopy of oaks and sycamores in the narrow canyon. The road wasn't steep, but it crisscrossed Lopez Creek, which feeds into the lake. So we learned fast how to manage creek crossings - pedal frenetically through the water, and then dismount when an unseen rock halted forward progress.

The water and the terrain eventually took their toll, so we headed back to the truck when the sun was no longer visible above the canyon rim.

Tired, wet, and hungry after our ride, we drove into San Luis Obispo for tri-tip sandwiches at Firestone Grill. Since there was a lot more physical activity in Tim's future, Javier and I thought it would be a good idea to fatten him up.

Along the way, we had another good idea - besides compiling a shopping list before entering Sport Chalet. Why not make these trips an annual event?

Sure, Tim's new occupation might add some challenges. But I hear Baghdad is nice this time of year.

Discover Lopez Lake

Lopez Lake Recreation Area
6800 Lopez Drive, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

354 primitive, electrical and full hook-up sites.; $19 to $30. Reservations recommended.

Getting There
From northbound US 101, exit Grand Avenue and turn right. Right again on Huasna Road, which becomes Lopez Drive. Follow signs to the lake.
- What is the sum of 1 + 7?
This is a required value
to protect against spam
community events