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Unlike the approach from the south where you ride along the lushly vegetated Monte Cristo Creek, the approach from Palmdale is a true desert setting.
The turnoff onto Mt Gleason road at Mill Creek Summit, the highest point along Angeles Forest Road (4,920 ft).
It looks like there’s another road climb to the south, but the pavement only continues for another ¼ mile before turning into a respectable gravel climb: https://www.strava.com/segments/15838516
Once you reach the north side of the mountain, the views open up and go from average to absolutely spectacular - wide open views of desert plains and mountains looking towards Las Vegas.
6 miles into Mt Gleason road you stumble upon an old Nike Missile site. Project Nike (named after Nike the winged Greek goddess of victory) was a U.S. Cold War military operation designed to protect major US cities from foreign nuclear missiles. A Nike missile would launch from these sites (scattered about remote places in the US) and destroy the enemy warheads in midair before they reached their target.
(photo source: wikipedia)
These missiles have since been removed and decommissioned, and these launch sites remain as historical attractions.
A giant fuel tank for the missiles.
After the missile site, the steepest part of the climb remains: 2.4 miles at 8.3%, with individual grades reaching the mid-teens. The summit is in clear view!
There’s a brief (~100 yd long) downhill section of dirt after the missile site before the pavement resumes. After the missile site, the pavement gets a bit worse and much more overgrown, but never terrible, considering the last time it was paved (in the 1950s?) - you can still cruise on the descent.
After a 2 mile stretch of agonizingly steep pavement, there’s a right turn up to the last remaining trees on the summit.
Looking back down at the Nike Missile site.
We love these pure summit finishes for the 360 degree views - note the santa monica mountains, Santa Catalina Island poking through the fog, and the late afternoon sunlight reflecting off the Pacific Ocean.
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