Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Saratoga Gap

Saturday I took a nice ride along Skyline, from Saratoga Gap to the Summit area.

View Saratoga Gap in a larger map

I got started a little late, close to 10 AM, on a now-standard winter day: clear, 30s at dawn warming to the 60s in the afternoon, zero chance of rain. I took Shannon into Los Gatos, passing by (or rather, being passed by) several large groups of riders also taking advantage of another lovely day. I took the Saratoga-Los Gatos Road (aka Route 9) into Saratoga, then turned left on Congress Springs (aka Route 9) and began climbing.

Route 9 is a long slog up the hill, about 5 miles of climbing at a 6.5% grade. On Saturday there didn't seem to be much traffic, which can be a problem on this road.

Skyline Road, looking west
At the top of the hill I ate a snack, then continued southeast on Skyline. Skyline is a two-lane road with skinny shoulders. It climbs from Saratoga Gap, at about 2600 feet, to a peak of about 3150 just after Castle Rock State Park. At that point the traffic lightens considerably, and of course it drops down until it meets Black Road. At that point it changes character entirely, from a two-lane highway to a single-lane paved trail, snaking between ancient trees. This is one of my favorite places, surrounded by woods with occasional glimpses across mountain ranges, very quiet with almost no cars.

After a brief interruption at Bear Creek Road, Summit Road resumes the same nature until it reaches Redwood Estates, where it once again becomes civilized.

The wooden bridge on Old Santa Cruz Highway
After crossing Highway 17 I decided to ride along Old Summit Road, which was new to me. It too is a one-lane road of dubious quality, passing through a little neighborhood. Having done that, I decided I would also revisit the southern portion of Old Santa Cruz Highway (lots of "Old" roads this ride).

On this side of Summit, the original concrete highway is on display, for good and ill. The woods back there are gorgeous, and this would also be one of my favorite roads, except that it's in such poor shape. The concrete is cracked, as one might expect, and in many parts the asphalt patching on top of the concrete has made the situation much worse. Still, I shouldn't complain too much; it's a nice quiet road through deep woods. It's well worth the time, even though it doesn't really go anywhere useful for a bike rider.

I didn't have any other goals in mind, so I just coasted down the northern side of Old Santa Cruz Highway toward the reservoir. When I'm going this way I normally go up Highway 17, so to (very slightly) shake things up I decided to take Aldercroft Heights down to Alma Bridge Road, around the east side of the reservoir. Although I take this road all the time, I can't remember the last time I did so in this direction. I went back home over Kennedy Road.

The ride totaled a little over 53 miles, which is a little shorter than my goal, but with 4600 feet of climbing, which is pretty good for me. Another gorgeous day, albeit aimless, day in the mountains.

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