Winter Solstice in San Diego's Laguna Mountains

No Dabs, 29 December 2020

It was winter solstice in San Diego’s Laguna Mountains, all sunshine and blue skies. After not seeing another rider while going down Chico, and on over and around Red Tail, and up to and then down Los Gatos, I worked my way along the east side of the meadows where I expected to see busier trails. I did. The weather had everyone, hikers and bikers, in positive moods. Or, maybe it was the holiday season. Smiley-faced greetings and holiday cheer were in the air, for sure.

When I saw a little girl, about 5-6 years old, pumping her legs to turn the pedals and propel her small bike through a few rocks in the trail, I quickly moved aside and cheered her on. She dabbed. Dad, Mom, and I all said in our own words/ways: you did great…keep pedaling…have fun.

I get a kick out of seeing kids mountain biking on trails.

Passing by Penny Pines, I popped up onto the Sunrise Highway and cruised on the hard road to Pioneer Mail. Pine Mountain Trail to Champagne Pass is one of my favorite stretches of trail in east county San Diego. I had it all to myself. Greedy, eh?! Down off the pass, I dropped and then climbed back up to Noble Canyon Trail, turning left on it and then taking the connector/shortcut back to the meadows.

Carefree. Wandering. Taking in winter’s waning light.

Down the west side of the meadows, I rolled until I squeezed the brakes and moved aside a second time. A small boy, aged 5-6 years, came slowly pedaling up the trail. He wore a long face.

“You look like you’re not having a good time.”

He put his feet down in the dirt and looked up at me. In three matter-of-fact bursts, he said:

Dad turned off my motor.

He said I was going too fast.

Well, Merry Christmas.

“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, to you,” I offered.

He shrugged, put his feet back on the pedals, and pedaled away. I laughed.

As I climbed back up to the car, I took some time to see the light. Shadows and lines stood still in the forest. Woodpeckers searched for food in the trees. I breathed deep.

Three-and-a-half hours passed on a bike in the mountains. I know; it’s only mountain biking.

I see no point in psycho-analyzing it.


I considered stopping at the new Alpine Beer Company pizzeria on the way home, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Very reliable word on the street is that the very people who founded what was Alpine Beer Company have zero stake in the company. It’s all Green Flash now and the breakup was not a smooth one.

Good news, though, is that the “old” Alpine Beer Company location—where the original pub and brewery was—is now going to be McIlhenny Brewing. It is expected to open sometime in Spring 2021. In the meantime, watch for McIlhenny Brewing’s beers around town. I had a collaboration IPA of theirs with Pizza Port-Ocean Beach about a month ago, and I saw they did a collaboration with Burning Beard. No doubt, Pat and Shawn are going to have quite a re-entry into San Diego’s beer scene when McIlhenny Brewing opens up in Alpine town.

Cheers to 2021!

No Dabs is a monthly column by James Murren celebrating mountain biking and independent beer cultures and lifestyles.

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