September temperatures remain warm on Mount Laguna, and both of the large national-forest campgrounds -- Laguna and Burnt Rancheria -- atop the 6000-foot mountain are winding down their busy summer season. During much of the day, when temperatures reach the 80s or even 90s, there's not much more to do than lift a beer or an iced drink to the lips and shoot the breeze. In the cool of evening or early morning, though, it isn't hard to summon up a little energy for a laid-back hike or bike ride.
If you're camping at Laguna, or simply visiting for the day, try the following easy-going bike ride, a seven-mile loop partly on dirt and partly on pavement. You can begin at the hilltop village of Mount Laguna (Burnt Rancheria Campground is nearby), or start from the south end of Laguna Campground. A fat-tired mountain bike isn't necessary. Even skinny-tired road bikes can negotiate the unpaved section, which is graded fairly smooth. Low gears help, though.
Assuming you head south out of Laguna Campground, you'll wend your way south on the lightly traveled, unpaved Los Huecos Road, which serves only a smattering of vacation cabins. Grind uphill on a series of moderate grades through a serene forest of Jeffrey pines and black oaks. Both tree types look a little ill, largely due to the series of dry years we've been subjected to lately. Around sunset, bats appear like stealth fighters, and crazed flying beetles -- perhaps pursued by the bats -- blindly and noisily buzz your head.
Turn left when you reach Sunrise Highway, right next to the visitors' information office. Turn the cranks a few more times until you reach the Vista Point turnoff, then relax and enjoy a breezy and effortless glide down the long straightaway of Sunrise Highway. Watch for traffic, as the road is a bit narrow through here. When the road starts twisting a bit, watch for the left turn that will take you back to your starting point at Laguna Campground.