Sunday, June 24, 2012


Yesterday I took a long ride through Big Basin State Park.

View Felton in a larger map

I left the house at about 8:30, and headed up toward Summit the usual way, up Old Santa Cruz Highway. I rode up Mountain Charlie Road to Summit, Summit to Zayante, and then Zayante down to Felton.

Felton Empire Road
In Felton I had lunch, sitting at the covered bridge park. Then, for the first time, I rode up Felton Empire Road. Felton Empire is a two-lane road running, as the name implies, from Felton to Empire Grade. It starts off with reasonable grades, but as it runs into the woods it gets very steep. Closer to the top, the grade eases a little. On this Saturday, there was also substantial traffic.

The Stanford cycling page lists this road as 3.7 miles at an average grade of 7.8%, which is roughly what I got. The most difficult kilometer of the day was in the middle of this section, with an average grade of 10%.

On Empire I turned toward the north, continuing to climb but at a much reduced grade. The weather was practically perfect, but so cool that I was glad to have brought along my jacket.

At the north end of Empire Grade I decided to explore the last little bit of the road, beyond Jamison Creek Road, where it dead-ends at the Lockheed-Martin facility. There wasn't much to see there. The Stanford page mentions a couple of "diversions" in this section, but if they're still there, I couldn't find them.

Route 236
I went gingerly down Jamison Creek Road to Route 236, where I took a left and headed into Big Basin State Park. At the park headquarters I wanted to fill my water bottles, but couldn't find any fountains or faucets. Surely there must be some? I ended up buying a couple of expensive bottles of water in the very busy snack bar. I wanted to rest a bit, but the headquarters area was so busy that there were no places to sit. Instead I continued on up Route 236 until I found a quiet spot in the warming sun.

Refreshed, I continued the climb out of the park, and particularly enjoyed the sunshine near the intersection with China Grade. After descending to the intersection with Highway 9 I started the climb to Saratoga Gap, still feeling pretty good despite being beyond my normal range. On this cool day I was pretty well hydrated, and I had eaten plenty, which all helps. In any case I got to the top of Saratoga Gap and, for the first time in quite a while, saw the soda vendor there. I would have rewarded myself with a sugary drink, but I had spent all my cash at the park's snack bar, so I once again passed on by.

I descended quickly to Saratoga, then took the usual route through Los Gatos and Kennedy to my house.

Elevation profile
Yesterday's ride was 84 miles, with over 9000 feet of climbing. That's a big day for me.

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