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The rapidly urbanizing East County community of Alpine once displayed a sign along the main highway boasting "Best Climate in the USA by Government Report." Apparently the town's boosters got what they wanted. Thousands of people have moved here for the relatively affordable housing, and almost all commute into San Diego on Interstate 8. Traffic has increased on the local byways as well, but not so much that cyclists can't enjoy an early-morning spin hereabouts on the weekends.

Along Dehesa Road

For a start try the following seldom-flat, 17-mile loop ride amid the oaks, chaparral, and scattered suburban/rural housing of the Alpine, Harbison Canyon, and Dehesa areas. Often very early on June mornings, the top of the marine layer lies near the 2000-foot elevation of Alpine. You may find yourself either in the clouds themselves or else looking down on them from above.

By exiting I-8 at Tavern Road, you can reach Alpine's town center on Alpine Boulevard, just east of Tavern, and park there. Start riding west on Arnold Way, which crosses Tavern and descends crookedly through an attractive rural residential area. At the bottom of the grade, turn left on Harbison Canyon Road. Subdivisions fill part of the valley ahead.

The road soon pitches downward along the bottom of narrow Harbison Canyon into the town of the same name. Cruising along in a car, you might easily miss many of the unique sights, sounds, and smells of this small community. Balanced on two quietly spinning wheels, you can savor the atmosphere of this cool, wooded canyon to the fullest. Oak-shaded Old Ironsides County Park, on the left, is a good place for a picnic.

Farther down the canyon, turn left on Dehesa Road and shift into a low gear that best suits the long, moderate incline ahead. As you gain altitude, the hillsides become steeper. The normally dry canyon walls, clothed in chaparral, look a bit brighter this year after all the spring rains, and water may still seep across the slabs of igneous rock exposed here and there.

Make a left turn when you reach the Tavern Road intersection. After more climbing, turn right onto South Grade Road. This gently rolling byway takes you past many of Alpine's more spacious properties. When you reach Alpine Boulevard, turn left and coast the final two miles back into Alpine's town center.

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