About an hour east of San Diego lies Barrett Junction, a sparsely populated and desolate California backcountry that reminds one of a long-forgotten human legacy—not a place one naturally associates with skateboarding. The land is an undulating citadel of converging hills, rolling up and down under vast blue skies—chaparral-covered, with the random oak and peppertree dispersed here and there in the low places. Sun- and wind-weathered boulders are ever-present and the area’s main resident. Everything worn by time.
Gullwing’s Andrew Mercado and I arrive at the Barrett Junction Café and Mercantile at about 9am on a warm January Sunday. The café is a hodgepodge of connected shacks & trailers, some of which have been here since 1917 when it was a major stage couch route between Yuma and San Diego. As we eat breakfast and greet a few of the other skaters that have been camping and freeriding since the day before, we are brought up to speed on the road conditions and last night’s bonfire party. The road is related to be as janky at usual, and the night’s party was apparently a thirst quenching good time that included extreme shrub removal, and some nude puking. Good times!
We soon head over to the base of the road/campground a few bacon-and-eggs later and say our “what ups” to the rest of the boys. It isn’t long before truck beds are filled to the brim with skaters and we’re driving to the top of the road. The whole time we’re riding up I’m scrutinizing the surface conditions. The prognosis is that the road is fuckin’ jacked! The pavement is cracked and separated into never-ending, and ever-flowing hollows and groves. Add potholes and little rocks everywhere and ya got yourself some Barrett Junction. Needless to say I’m pretty scared by this time, but I play it off all cool: “Looks pretty chill!”
On my first run I end up at the bottom of the road with only one crash—I wash out on the first right-hander. No injuries though, just a little dusty. I’m ready for more. Strangely, a problem soon arises. Every time the truck is ready to go back up, I am not quite ready yet. I try to rush it, but soon tire of the timing issue and decide to take photos instead. It’s peculiar because, somehow, after putting my skateboard away and grabbing my camera, the truck and I get in synch and I am on my way up the hill again in no time. Go figure.
It’s wild to witness so many good riders out skating in such a desolate expanse and there are noticeably three distinct generations of downhillers here, each having their own style and perspective. You’ve got the older dudes like John Roger’s, Rick Kludy, Jimmy Flint and Mark Golter who’ve been coming here since the late 90′s, drinking beers and haulin’ ass. You also have the Mercado’s and Danny Conners’ who revived this particular road as a race-site four years after it was abandoned by IGSA and other race organizations. And then you have the groms, the new-breed of downhill critters, like Liam Morgan, Tim Del Rosario and a whole heap of Laguna Beach brats—a group that is multiplying in numbers, and speed. All these generations together make for a killer race and strong community event.
I asked Mercado if he would provide a bit of a historical perspective to skateboarding at Barrett Junction. He gladly obliged; here is his response:
“According to legend, the hill was discovered by a street luger named Frank Waterhouse. He lived near the top of the hill and rode it frequently. In the early 2000′s, Frank introduced Biker Sherlock to the hill. From there his racing organization EDI (Extreme Downhill International) started holding races on the hill. After that IGSA jumped into the picture and started holding races there too. The last race IGSA held at Barrett was a world championship race in 2005. Around this time the only events happening at Barrett were small, word of mouth outlaws. In 2008, DT formed the California Outlaw Series and the first stop was Barrett (I must add that we raced in the rain). In 2009 I took over the series and held the second stop at Barrett. By the time 2010 came around the race had a cult following. We always hold the race in January while the rest of America is suffering from harsh winter. Because of this, riders flock to Southern California in search of dry pavement, and Barrett is good enough reason to make the trek.
2011 marks the 4th year we have consecutively held the Barrett Junction outlaw and has by far been the biggest turnout, despite little promotion of the event. Barrett’s reputation alone is its biggest promoter. All the stories you have herd about Barrett are true. The road has horrible pavement, there are out of control campsite parties at the bottom of the hill, and an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet at the local cafe to cure that hangover just in time for race day. Its just one of those events that people know is going to go down every year, and will continue to go on for years to come”
I agree with Mr. Mercado wholeheartedly; Barrett Junction is a badass skateboard event. I am most definitely looking forward to next year.
A great group of skaters, their friends, and families come together year-after-year in order to make this event what it is. I’d like to wrap this up by thanking all of those people who make Barrett Junction possible—for making me feel so welcome, and for giving me pointers on riding such a gnarly road. I’d like to thank all the people who came out and put in their time to drive us up the hill, all the sponsors and organizers for their support, Mercado for driving my ass there and for his contribution to this article, the owner of the red cooler next to the fire pit (whomever you are?) for supplying me with beer, and especially those that helped Dustin after his crash and who promptly got him to the hospital. Get better soon Dustin!
To all you dudes bombing hills: Always wear your helmets, preferably a full-face. Peace.