Bulldog holds a very special place in my heart.
This is where I started my love affair with the mountains.
Years ago, I was exclusively a runner who wanted to move past marathons and onto ultras.
The Bulldog 25k seemed like a manageable distance for me to do my first trail run seeing that it was about 60% the length of a marathon.
What I wasn’t prepared for was all the climbing.
Most of the marathons I ran were 200-300 feet of vertical which is pretty unnoticeable over 26 miles, but this run had over 10 times the amount at 15 miles.
I got blasted, but I was determined to overcome this failure (like I do now with cycling) and learned to love climbing so much that I won a couple of races here and there.
Now that I’ve permanently convalesced to a bike, I’m looking for as many off road opportunities as possible, especially putting my trail running knowledge to use.
I’ve always yearned for a homecoming to Bulldog, but details on how tough the climb was are sketchy after ten years.
I remember passing a runner who got to start the Boston Marathon in the elite group on the way up.
Would it be just as easy on a bike?
I started out of Malibu State Creek Park which is a popular summertime destination for people to jump into a creek.
After riding past the parking attendant, it took about a minute to make my way onto the dirt road which is pretty flat and well maintained…for now.
The start is flat and wide open.
To your right are layers of grassland covered hills while the left offers spread out openings between the heavy crags.
You get fooled that the ride will be pleasant because of the number of people smiling on their way to jump in the water, but they are only a temporary fixture.
There’s soon a small climb and some tree cover, but the ride flattens out soon before you start reaching your first hurdle.
The road abruptly hits a concrete element serving as a crossing above the creek.
Even if I was riding a mountain bike, I would be extremely wary of the steep drop off on the opposite side.
At this point, your path is extremely altered as you make your way up a rocky single track for about a mile.
It wasn’t super difficult navigating my way through and there was only one point where I came close to dismounting.
If there’s any upside, it’s a verdant stretch that will keep you cool on a hot summer day.
The only stretch of single track during the ride.
Right after the trail returns to road width, you come across the landmark portion of the ride as you reach the famed site where MASH was filmed.
I only watched the show in reruns and despite its acclaim, I never really got into the humor, but even with my vague recollection of the series, it was easily recognizable.
Those hills look familiar from TV.
From that opening helicopter shot, you feel like you’ve already been there before, but your orientation feels slightly off seeing it with human eyes instead of throw a television lens.
It’s the same feeling of strange familiarity I had wandering onto Daley Plaza for the first time.
I wish there were directions for water.
There are a number of signs with great details notating the set’s layout.
If you’re smart, you take a few glamour shots and turn around.
My memory no longer provided this insight and I continued on.
The start is welcomingly flat but you’re soon exposed to more challenging terrain.
There’s is an early opportunity to bail out staying on Crags Road to your right, but you want to know how stupid this article gets, right?
Full volume cragginess
As the road becomes the Bulldog Motorway, you’re impolitely greeted with steep intervals as the road ribbons upward in front of you giving you temporary relief in between efforts.
No longer is foliage your friend as the mountains open up and you have a sense there is something grander, if not troubling ahead of you.
After a mile of serious efforting, you have one last chance to exit the climb to your right, but seeing how there’s only two miles left of the strenuous portion, how tough can it be?
The climb now ramps up to double digit grades and while I’ve already been out of gears for minutes, cycling is more of a grinding than spinning motion.
Movement is directed in a general southern direction as views of the earthquake developed mountains by Stunt road are accented by its sharpness.
Getting a broader view of the Santa Monica Mountains
Making your way along the outside portion of the climb stifles your ability to guess where you’re headed and ultimately your hopelessness.
Following the electric wires and towers suggests that the top is near, but increasing your effort is a big mistake here.
Already, the climb consistently increases its grade ever so slightly that you ask yourself is it you or me?
Just as you near the apex of Bulldog, that’s when things get to their worst.
I would like to blame riding for the second time of the day for getting off my bike, but even full forced I might have done the same.
Climbing 15% and above on 37s with gravel gearing is probably above my limits for an extended period of time.
Time was no longer a measurement of pain.
I was just going to get to the top and just say never again.
You hit at point when you hit the “T” of Castro Motorway, although your only option is to go left since the other direction is closed off.
I didn’t take that long moment to appreciate the view because I was ready to get out of there.
A marker that you’re done…
The descent to the Corral Canyon Trailhead felt bumpier than it probably was since the ride had worn out my softening mechanisms. (BTW – the overall 4% climb of this 6.7 segment is mitigated by the flat start and the last mile of downhill.)
There are dirt options once you hit the parking lot, but I continued down Castro Peak Motorway and made my way back up PCH and the heavily traveled Malibu Canyon.
Bulldog isn’t a ride for mortals, or at least those on gravel bikes.
I’m sure my desire to climb this will return someday, but most likely it’ll be on a mountain bike.