Monday, September 17, 2012

Big Basin

On Sunday I took a long bike ride through Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

View Big Basin in a larger map

Like most days around here, the morning was chilly but the afternoon would be quite warm. I didn't want to bring any cold weather gear, so I dawdled a bit, waiting for the sun to assert itself. At about 9:30, I set out.

I've done this route several times, but it's been a while. It's one of my favorite rides, partly because it passes through one of the prettiest parks in the area and partly because the length and climbing are a good challenge for me.

I took the familiar route down the Los Gatos Creek Trail, this time having to walk my bike up the steep section because I spun out in the dust. I think that section becomes dustier and more difficult as the dry season wears on, and we're nearing the end of that cycle. I hope so, anyway, because I'm starting to loath that ramp, going up or down, but it's the only way through.

Old Santa Cruz Highway
Old Santa Cruz Highway took me up to Mountain Charlie Road, which I slowly climbed to Highway 17, and across to Summit. I descended Bear Creek Road nice and fast into Boulder Creek, where I had my customary lunch at Foster's Freeze. The owner surprised me by asking if I knew "Jobst". I don't, but as an older cyclist in the Santa Cruz mountains, it was a fair bet that I would know Jobst Brandt by reputation. Or perhaps by legend. The owner lamented Jobst's absence, both from the Foster's Freeze and as a familiar sight riding through Boulder Creek. Yeah, me too.

After lunch I slowly set off, up Route 236 toward Big Basin. There's a bit of a hill in between Boulder Creek and the park, so when I enter the park I'm normally coasting down the hill. Coasting down a quiet road, on a warm day but in the cool shade of giant redwoods... this is basically why I ride the bike. I'm very lucky to be able to do this.

North Escape Road
At the park HQ I filled up my bottles, then headed up North Escape Road. Initially this road passes through additional parking lots and picnic areas, and folks walk along the road. A little later, I saw a troop of kids on a hike. But after that, I had the whole road to myself.

North Escape Road is largely flat until it crosses a creek, at which point it's pretty steep. In fact, the most difficult kilometer of the ride was in this section, with an average grade of a little over 10%. The lush setting, including a road covered with a soft bed of pine needles, somehow makes that grade much more enjoyable than similar climbs on sun-drenched roads. In fact, North Escape Road ends back at Route 236, which then becomes one of those shadeless roads for a mile or so.

I followed Route 236 to its junction with Highway 9, which I climbed to Saratoga Gap. After a pleasantly fast descent into Saratoga, I took the normal route over Kennedy back home.

Elevation profile
This ride was just short of 72 miles, with 6600 feet of climbing. It's a big ride for me, and I was pretty sore at the end of it. I think part of that is just because it was warm, and consequently dehydrating. Still, it's a great way to spend a day.

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