Monday, April 18, 2011

Kennedy and Limekiln

A short note this time, because I've literally covered this ground before. I went for a short ride up the Kennedy Trail on my mountain bike on Sunday. For me, this was the first ride this year when it's been actually hot. The first ride on which I've been wiping sweat from my eyes. And it was probably 70 degrees. It's going to be a long summer.

I can't quite remember why I thought it might be a good idea to climb Kennedy again. It's probably just the fact that I'm always looking at that Sombroso ridge whenever I'm driving to my house. It's subliminal.

A fixer-upper on Kennedy Road
Kennedy Trail begins with a climb up Kennedy Road, during part of which I followed a deer. The early part of the climb was uneventful, except that at every turn I was sure I wasn't going to make it, and would have to turn around.

By the time I got to the tree at about the mid-point of the climb, I was done with one water bottle and had only one left. I drink a lot of water, probably more than I really need to, and I have no idea what I was thinking leaving the house with just two.

Cherry Springs Reservoir,
from the Kennedy Trail
After that tree, the trail climbs a bit more and then levels out for quite a stretch at about 2000 feet. This part of the trail is directly north/south and has great views of the valley. I hadn't noticed before that you get an especially good view of the top of Pheasant Road and the Cherry Springs Reservoir from here. In this shot, you can see the reservoir and the green (soon to be brown) fields next to it where they wanted to build houses 20 years ago. Along the bottom of the frame, you can see the scary disused trail that I described last year. On the next ridge over you can see Reynolds Road climbing up, first pavement and then dirt. And behind that, you can make out the trails in Quicksilver Park running along Mine Hill. One more thing, in between: in the upper right-hand quarter of the shot you can see a huge rock formation (it looks like Reynolds Road heads right for it, but it doesn't). That's on top of the hill next to the Guadalupe Reservoir, but I've never noticed it before. Apart from the little lake, I didn't notice any of that as I was actually standing on the mountain. My camera has better vision than I do, I guess.

After this section is a grind in which you climb about 500 feet in a little over half a mile. Then you actually descend a little, climb a couple of steep but short hills, and (if you're me) get off your bike and start walking about a quarter of the way up the final ramp. Ugh.

The Kennedy Trail toward El Sombroso
It's steeper than it looks.
After the intersection with the Priest Rock trail, I continued toward El Sombroso. I think I counted three more hills that I had to walk up. I hate that. By this time I was completely out of water, and was stopping not only to calm my heart but also to bring my temperature down.

Either the energy I expend trying to climb these hills or the fact that I am defeated several times in a row leaves me with the certainty, on this section of the ride, that I can't climb anything at all. The trail climbs the in the last few hundred yards toward El Sombroso, and I was almost surprised to be able to get up there.

I made the obligatory trip up to the power line towers, which I think is the high point of this ride. But I had something a little way down the trail I wanted to check out....

Umunhum, from El Sombroso
The trail from El Sombroso to
Mount Thayer
The last time I rode this way, I half-heartedly looked for a trail that reportedly crosses from El Sombroso to Mount Thayer. At that time I didn't see it, but after reading some hiking reports I decided to take a closer look.

The entrance to the trail isn't obvious, but there's only one place it could logically be. It's basically the southern-most part of trail before it heads down the mountain. I pushed between two bushes, and it seemed like there was something vaguely linear about the spaces between plants, so I guess that's a trail. I would have explored a little further on this ridge, but it dips down quite a bit between the peaks and my bike shoes aren't really suited for hiking. The trail is overgrown; I'd definitely suggest head-to-toe clothing (and a winter's day) if you're going to try it.

The last time through here, I continued down the trail to Woods Road. This time I turned around and headed the other way, back the way I came, to the Limekiln Trail. I've ridden this trail once before, and I remembered the great views of the canyon. Having a little more experience in the area, I now know that on the other side of that canyon is Soda Springs Road, and I was hoping to get a picture of a road I've ridden up before.

Limekiln drops quickly from about 2800 feet to 1500 feet, then climbs back up to 1650 to the junction with the Priest Rock trail. Somewhere near the bottom of that section, after having run out of water before I even reached El Sombroso, I rode by a briskly-flowing stream. Thirstiness being the mother of invention, I filled a water bottle. I fully expecting the water to be beige, but it was clear as... well, water, I guess. It smelled good, which is to say not at all. Having thus run my full suite of chemical tests on the sample, I drank a bit, and did not die. More than 24 hours later, I remain not dead. Look at me, I'm Survivorman!

Limekiln Trail and Soda Springs Canyon

A not-tricky part of Limekiln Trail
This eastern section of Limekiln Trail exists to service the power line towers, and is thus big enough for a truck to navigate. The western section, from the junction down to Alma Bridge Road, is completely different. It's rocky, and large parts are basically single-track. The first time I came down it I thought it was pretty tricky, and I suppose it is, although it's got nothing on Rocky Ridge or Stiles in Santa Teresa Park. On the other hand, it's largely shaded, where the other two are merciless.

The Limekiln Trail passes near the quarry, which I think I must have completely missed the first time I took this trail. It then descends down the canyon and parallels a creek until it empties onto Alma Bridge Road.

The Lexington Quarry
The Lexington Dam Spillway, still flowing
At one point I had thoughts of crossing back into Los Gatos over the Jones Trail, but after too much climbing I just went down the dam to the Los Gatos Creek trail instead. Along the way I noticed the spillway was still flowing, which I had read about in another local rider's blog. I took this picture in tribute; I'm following his tracks, figuratively and as it turns out quite literally.

From there, a straightforward ride home. The Garmin tells me it was 25 miles and almost 3800 feet of climbing, which sounds about right. Insanely low average speed, I must admit.

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