Friday, June 1, 2012

China Grade

On Tuesday I enjoyed a bike ride to Big Basin, this time taking the "short cut" on China Grade.

View China Grade in a larger map

When I'm looking for a nice long ride, lately I've turned to Big Basin. For me it's near my limits in terms of length and climb, and it's a really beautiful area, to boot. As I ride through there, I see several other roads I've heard of, but never visited, including Jamison Creek Road and China Grade. Today's goal was to visit China Grade, even though that meant missing some of the prettiest areas of the park.

I got started shortly after 10, and headed out the usual way over Kennedy to Los Gatos, then up to the dam. For no particular reason I took Bear Creek Road to the summit. It didn't seem especially busy on this weekday. Bear Creek Road is quite steep -- in fact the most difficult kilometer of the ride was in this section, with an average grade of over 12%.

I got to the top in good order but a little drained, and descended into Boulder Creek. I had my (now usual) burger at Foster's Freeze, then headed up Big Basin Highway.

China Grade
China Grade peels off from Big Basin Highway at about 800 feet of elevation, then climbs very gradually through a residential area. The houses grow more sparse and eventually disappear, and at about 1000 feet of elevation you enter Big Basin State Park.

At that point, the road turns upward. In the next 1.5 miles you gain 800 feet, with an average grade of over 10%. It looks and feels even steeper.

Near the top a crew was laying down asphalt patches, which added a pungent accent to this otherwise quiet, isolated and fresh-smelling area.

Once China Grade meets back up with Big Basin Highway at about 1800 feet, there's just a little more climbing to the peak of Big Basin Highway, then the drop to Highway 9. The climb up Highway 9 was long but, on this cool day, not at all unpleasant.

I returned home the usual way, down Highway 9 (on which I caught both of the temporary lights) to Los Gatos, then across Kennedy and home.
Elevation profile
This ride was just a little short of 59 miles, with almost 5900 feet of climbing. That's about 10 miles shorter than other trips through Big Basin, since both Bear Creek Road is shorter than climbing Old Santa Cruz Highway to Summit, and China Grade cuts out much of Big Basin Highway. Still, those short-cuts are much steeper, and I think the longer route is both easier and much more satisfying.

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