Saturday, January 21, 2012

Big Basin Redwoods

Well, the rainy season has finally arrived. I know I said that before, but this time... well, it has rained a couple of days, anyway. For all I know that might be it.

This morning, near my house, it rained steadily, and then briefly stopped. That was enough for me; I got dressed and was on my bike at about 10 AM. Somehow I had decided that I would ride through Boulder Creek and up to Saratoga Gap, which I've done before, but this time go through Big Basin Redwoods State park.

View Big Basin in a larger map

I went over Kennedy to Los Gatos and up the Los Gatos Creek trail. The last couple of days of rain left puddles, but the trail remains firm free of mud despite the rain. I made my way up to the Leniham Dam, and then made a mistake. I wanted to ride up Bear Creek Road, and rather than ride all the way around the reservoir, I decided to take the dirt path that parallels Highway 17. The Los Gatos Creek trail had been pretty good, so why not? Well, that dirt path was deep with mud. My tires and shoes were caked with mud, and I ended up walking half of it. So, a lesson for myself: avoid that dirt path after rains.

As I rode up Bear Creek Road the rain was intermittent, and never heavy enough to soak me. I think I got pretty lucky. Nonetheless that dampness froze me on the other side of the hill, coasting into Boulder Creek. I stopped at the grocery store for a coffee, which helped a lot.

Having finished the coffee, I started up Route 236, the Big Basin Highway. This was a new road for me; I had never even driven on it. The road winds up through a rural neighborhood, then through woods. Although it gains 1000 feet, it is always a gentle grade. The woods back here are so tall, thick and covered with moss that one can't imagine a shaft of sunlight hitting the ground. It must be permanently damp.

On this stretch of road I passed by Jamison Creek Road and China Grade, notorious climbs that I have yet to try. But they will have to wait.

A huge hollow tree in Big Basin
After that first hill the road descends into the park itself, and right down to a cluster of buildings that apparently includes the ranger station. Today there were lots of cars and a fair number of people, although very few bike riders.

Immediately after the ranger station the road becomes single-lane, and winds up through giant trees like a garden path.

By this time I hadn't been rained on for quite a while, and in fact I was seeing patches of blue sky. I'm very glad that I got out today; one never knows what tomorrow holds.

This part of the road climbs up to about 2000 feet, again very gradually, before descending to about 1300 feet at the intersection with Highway 9. After that, it's just a six-mile slog up the road to Saratoga Gap, where I zipped up and headed down into Saratoga. I don't particularly enjoy descents, and on cold damp days I like them even less. Route 9 is a great descent, as they go, but today it was very long and very cold. When I got near the bottom I felt like I had to re-learn how to pedal.

After that it was over to Los Gatos, then across Shannon and back home.
Elevation profile
Overall it was just over 62 miles, so pretty close to my 100km goal. I think it was about 6000 feet of climbing, which might be a record for me. And perhaps more importantly I got to see a new road, which doesn't happen every day. A good day out in the rain.

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