Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mount Hamilton

In my continuing effort to explore the hills east of the valley while the Santa Cruz mountains are overrun by Christmas tree hunters, today I rode my bike up Mount Hamilton. I rode up Mount Hamilton a couple of months ago, so to change things up a little I started from home. All previous times I've climbed the mountain I've parked on Alum Rock Avenue, so this was a twist for me. But last week's ride was similar, so I was inspired.

View Mount Hamilton in a larger map

The weather so far this winter has been remarkably consistent: no rain, about 35 F in the morning, and a high in the low 60s. It was that way today, too. As has been my habit recently, I dawdled until about 9 AM to avoid the really cold air, then set off.

The ride through town was entirely uneventful. I took the Highway 87 trail up toward downtown, then took various minor roads until I got to Santa Clara, which later turns into Alum Rock. For the first time, my climb up Mount Hamilton started at about 200 feet on Alum Rock, rather than 400 feet at the intersection.

Joseph D. Grant Park.
Compare this to the same view in March.
This is probably the right season to be riding in the Diablo range. It's nice and cool, so the lack of shade is actually welcome. The only problem is that it's awfully brown; there has been no meaningful rain for six months now, and everything is dry, dormant and unrelentingly beige.

More brown landscape
Somewhere on this second climb I managed to get a flat. Not trusting my patching abilities, I always carry a spare tube. In this case the spare had a hole in it, so I patched the original tube. It held air the rest of the ride, so I guess that was a success. As for the bum spare, I'm guessing I damaged it at some point when jamming the tube, some levers and patch kit into the tiny bag under my seat.

Other than that, not much drama on the way up. I was watching my heart rate, so I made steady but slow progress. Actually, it was awfully slow. Even considering the leisurely tire repair, it was much slower than my last trip up, when I was ignoring my heart rate and consequently running 10-15 bpm higher.

Once at the top I filled my bottles, bought some potentially ancient peanut M&Ms, and walked around a while snapping pictures. The views toward the east were good, but the valley was very hazy. As usual, the summit was windy and quite cold, so I put back on all the clothing bits I had removed on the way up.

Looking southwest from Mount Hamilton.
The valley looks foggy, but it's just a haze
I rolled over to Mount Copernicus, to see if I could get any decent shots to the east, but not much luck. So I turned and headed down. Just before I got to the Lick Observatory, an SUV pulled out and headed down. I used that SUV to pace my trip down. I could have passed it, but having it in front of me meant that I could take the lane with confidence, and it wasn't slowing me up too much. I enjoyed the decent more than I usually do.

Poultry on Quimby
When I got to Grant Ranch I decided to take advantage of the fact that I didn't have to get back to my car. I heading back over Quimby, rather retracing my steps. This east side of Quimby climbs about 600 feet at over 8%, so it's a hike but much easier than the cruel west side.

After a long and fast decent down Quimby, I defaulted to the Capitol Expressway for the trip home. If I'm going to be doing this sort of ride with any regularity I need to find better options. Capitol Expressway has a bike lane, but it's busy and crossing highways is nasty.

I got home shortly before sunset. It was nearly 63 miles, with something like 5600 feet of climbing. Not nearly as long as last week, but more climbing. I definitely prefer riding from home, so this was empowering for me, and lots of fun.
Elevation profile. See a note about data for details.

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