Sunday, February 26, 2012

Big Basin, Counter-clockwise

A few weeks ago I rode my bike through Big Basin Redwoods State Park. It was very pretty, so I decided to do it again. To give the ride some minimal novelty, I decided to ride the opposite direction.

View Big Basin, Counter-clockwise in a larger map

I left the house just after 9 AM, and headed over Shannon to Los Gatos and then to Saratoga. Despite the perfect weather, I was seeing relatively few riders until a huge group ride passed by on Los Gatos Boulevard, going the other direction. In Saratoga there was another large group of riders, this one on motorcycles, hanging out at the coffee shop. Must be a good day for group rides, of all sorts.

I ambled up Route 9, feeling pretty good about my condition despite being passed by several other riders (and of course I passed no one). Route 9 always has a lot of traffic, but it seemed especially busy today.

At Saratoga Gap there was another gathering of motorcyclists, or quite likely the same gathering I saw in Saratoga, group rides being a particularly movable feast. I must say that the gear worn by motorcyclists is, on average, no less ludicrous than that worn by bicyclists. And that's saying something.

I was considering buying some food from the hot dog vendor, but he wasn't there today. So I just continued down the west side of Route 9. As it turns out, I've never descended this road on a bike. It's a great ride, straight and smooth enough to comfortably carry a lot of speed.

Big Basin Redwoods
As soon as you reach the intersection with 236 you start heading back up, through one of the prettiest areas around. Route 9 is lovely, but 236 has virtually no traffic as it winds through woods. It's quite possibly the prettiest road I know. Near the intersection with China Grade a half a dozen pheasants crossed the road just in front of me.

A hollow tree in
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
The park itself was busy, with lots of cars in the lot and at least one more big group, this one composed of hikers. They were crossing the road like pheasants.

I rode toward Boulder Creek with increasing traffic. I had a truly great hamburger at Foster's Freeze, then headed down Route 9 toward Felton, where I started up Zayante Road. There were lots of Sheriff's cars out, with lights flashing and one deputy carrying around an assault rifle. I moved along. (Update: it looks like they were apprehending a fugitive. I rode through perhaps 20 minutes later).

Zayante has some terribly steep pitches, and I was happy to be able to endure them so late in the ride. I slowly made my way to Summit, and then very quickly descended Bear Creek Road to Los Gatos. I took Kennedy across the hill and home.

Elevation profile. See a note about data for details.

In total it was over 72 miles, with some 6400 feet of climbing. I was out over 8 hours again, with 7 hours moving. That's one of my longer rides, both in distance and time, which I suspect is partly due to improving condition but mostly due to lengthening daylight.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Inspired largely by Ray Hosler's Photo of the Week from a few weeks ago, I decided to revisit a ride from nearly a year ago, visiting Corralitos on the way up Eureka Canyon Road. As it turns out, this exposed a little selective amnesia on my part.

View Corralitos in a larger map

The ride started in the normal way: I got out at about 9:30, and headed into Los Gatos via Kennedy Road. I was feeling especially sluggish, to the extent that I was wondering whether my rear tire had enough pressure. It was fine; the engine was lacking. I headed down the Los Gatos Creek Trail and up the two preposterously steep bits at the end to the Lexington Reservoir. Then it was around the reservoir on Alma Bridge Road, and up the Old Santa Cruz Highway to Summit.

It was nearing lunchtime as I approached the Summit Store, but I rode on past because I had a sausage sandwich in Corralitos in mind instead. I zipped down the Soquel-San Jose Road into Capitola, then took Park Ave to my obligatory view of the ocean.

New Brighton State Beach, from Park Ave
From here I took a route new to me. First I took McGregor Drive, which parallels Route 1, over to State Park Drive, and then continued east on Center Avenue. This runs through a quirky little area that includes the Mad Molecule Science Store, which looked like fun. This leads under Route 1 and then meets up with Soquel Drive. A few hundred feet later I took a left on Trout Gulch Road, and after a short run through a little retail area I took a right on Valencia Road, which heads into familiar rural terrain.

Valencia runs through a pretty, wooded area along Valencia Creek. There are lots of roads back there, and no cell phone coverage. It turns out that my brief glance at the map a little earlier didn't stick in the mind, and as a result I took a brief trip up Cox Road before I found my bearings and my target, Day Valley Road.

Day Valley Road meets up with Freedom Boulevard just short of the intersection with Hames, which after two steep ramps led to Corralitos, and lunch. At 2 PM it seemed a little late for lunch, yet the meat market was busy, both inside the store and out at the picnic tables. I enjoyed my sandwich at the foot of a tree.

Corralitos Creek
Man, that was a lot of sandwich. When I started north on Eureka Canyon Road, it was pretty heavy in the belly. No matter, though, I trudged up the hill through lush woods. As usual there was almost no one else on this part of the road, so I enjoyed the peaceful ride. Eureka Canyon Road climbs through shady woods next to Corralitos Creek, until it finally emerges into the sunlight near the intersection Ormsby Trail, where it turns into Highland Way.

Highland Way goes by an entrance to the Soquel Demonstration Forest popular with mountain bikers, which was quite busy on Saturday. As I passed SUV after SUV, all I could think was that all these guys were going to pass me on this tiny road a little later on.

I stopped at the Summit Store to replenish my water bottles, then headed back down Old Santa Cruz Highway. I retraced my steps, except I headed around the west side of the reservoir on Highway 17, then crossed back home on Shannon rather than Kennedy.

Elevation profile
I got in just before Sunset, having been out a little over 8 hours (7 hours moving). It looks like it's just about 77 miles, with almost 5600 feet of climbing. And that, it turns out, was my little bit of amnesia. I thought I had done this ride before, but since I've never done anything like a 77 mile ride in this direction before, I must have conflated last year's two attempts. That's a good long ride for me, and a great day out.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mount Hamilton via Quimby

Some rides are just snake-bit. I've tried to climb Quimby Road before, the long steep western side, but due to various hardware and software failures, never quite managed it. Saturday was the latest false start. It was raining pretty hard, and it was looking like a long, cold day. When I got a flat just a mile or so from home, then made a mess of myself fixing it, I decided to bag it. But Sunday was dry and clear, so I tried again. Fifth time's a charm.

View Hamilton via Quimby in a larger map

I set off on Sunday a little before 10 AM, and took Blossom Hill toward the eastern hills. After warming up the legs on the surprisingly steep hill at the end of Blossom Hill Road, I arrived at the foot of Quimby in good order.

The Santa Clara Valley, from Quimby Road
Quimby starts off steep, and then gets steeper. The bottom portion has something like a 10% grade. When that eases to merely 6%, you feel like you're on flat ground. But then the last few hundred meters run at something over 12%.

The Stanford cycling page says that Quimby Road is 5.1 miles at 7.7%, for a total of 2100 feet of climbing. I don't know where they start measuring. I started at the intersection of Murillo and Quimby, and recorded 3.2 miles at 10.1%, for a total of 1700 feet.

On Sunday it was nice and cool, but much of the climb (including the entire final portion) is in the sun, and must be murder on hot days.

Not that I'm checking climbs off a list or anything, but climbing up Quimby means that I've tackled all the really intimidating climbs in the eastern hills this winter -- Metcalf, Sierra, and now Quimby. Those are the ones I know about, anyway. I know that's not a big deal for most riders, but I'm pretty happy about it.

Deer and the Lick Observatory
The rest of the ride up Hamilton was uneventful. I felt pretty good the whole way up, possibly just because it wasn't as steep.

When you're climbing Mount Hamilton Road, you're working hard and it's nice and warm. As you get near the top you leave the shelter of the hills, and start feeling the wind. But you're still working hard, so it's fine. Finally, you get to the top, stop riding, and start freezing. It's hard to want to start the long, cold ride down. As you may imagine, I hadn't brought warm enough clothes. Plenty for the climb, not enough for the descent.

Cloud gathering over Lick Observatory
Looking southwest from Mount Hamilton
 After a long cold ride down to Halls Valley, I thought about how to return home. I could take Quimby, but I thought it would be nice to get a little variety, so I stayed on Mount Hamilton Road. That's what I told myself, anyway. The truth was that I was pretty zonked, largely because I was feeling so cold, and couldn't face the steep Quimby climb.

When I got to Alum Rock Road I didn't really have a plan, so I just stayed on the road and pedaled through San Jose, enjoying a little city riding. I zigged around toward Lincoln, which led to the Almaden Expressway and home.

On Monday it rained here in the valley, but snowed on Mount Hamilton. I just missed it. There hasn't been much moisture this year, but maybe I'll get another chance this season to see some snow up there.

In all it was just short of 65 miles, with about 5900 feet of climbing. I'm pretty happy that I broke the curse of Quimby, although I'm not sure I'll rush to climb it again.
Elevation profile

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Montebello and Skyline

I've been on a pretty regular schedule of riding every Saturday, but was out of town last weekend and unable to ride. So this weekend I was glad to get back on the bike, and decided to ride up Montebello Road. I've done that once before, but last time was in July on the hottest day of the year, so I was hoping to enjoy this ride a little more.

View Montebello and Skyline in a larger map

I got out a little after 9 AM, and took Kennedy over to Los Gatos, and then the Los Gatos-Saratoga road into Saratoga. I took Congress Springs up to Pierce, then Mt. Eden toward the Stevens Creek Reservoir. Mt. Eden has a short (half mile) but steep (9%) climb, with little ramps of 12% or more. Wakes up the legs, to say the least.

Like all the local reservoirs, the water level at Stevens Creek is very low. That's partly just the time of year, but it's been a very dry winter, so the reservoirs aren't refilling. Last year we had good rains, so the reservoirs were full. Hard to imagine what it'll look like a year from now.

Stevens Creek Reservoir in July 2011
Same area, February 2012
The bottom part of Montebello is pretty steep, with lots of short stretches of 10% or more. These are a lot easier to take in 60 F weather than they were at 95 F. At the Montebello School, the road becomes single-lane and flattens out for a while. But then it resumes its climb up to the vineyards at the top of the road, at about 2600 feet. The climb as a whole is about 5.5 miles and 7%.

At that 2600 foot level the road turns to dirt and enters the Montebello Open Space Preserve. It climbs up to the antenna farm on top of Black Mountain, culminating with one last steep, rocky ramp.

Montebello Trail, near Black Mountain, looking northwest
After that the trail drops to Page Mill Road. I wasn't really sure how I wanted to get back home, but I figured that I'd rather ride through the hills rather than the flats, so I took a left toward Skyline. At Skyline I took a left, heading generally south.

When I got to Saratoga Gap I rested a bit, thinking about where to go next. I could have headed south toward Boulder Creek, but in retrospect that would have increased the length and climb of the ride beyond my abilities. I could have headed down to Saratoga, but I wasn't really ready to head home just yet. So I continued on Skyline.

I had the same thought process as I passed Black and Bear Creek roads. That section of Skyline/Summit is much more enjoyable to ride in any case, so I continued down to Old Santa Cruz Highway, then on home.

Elevation profile
When I got home, I was wiped out. The ride didn't seem all that difficult, so I thought it was due to my week off. As it turns out, I may have been underestimating the ride; it turned out to be over 5700 feet of climbing over 64 miles, which isn't peanuts. So maybe my form doesn't disappear in a week after all.