Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mount Hamilton, both sides

Yesterday I got back on the bike for a long ride over Mount Hamilton to The Junction for lunch, then back again.

View Mount Hamilton, both sides in a larger map

In June I tried this same ride, but stupidly did it on a Monday, when the damned restaurant's closed (except tomorrow, a holiday). I must say it's a much more enjoyable ride with a nice meal in the middle of it.

I got a late start, setting off from Alum Rock Road at 10 AM. Although the parking lot was full, I didn't see many riders on the road. Not much to report on the way up, except that they're repaving the road around Grant Park, so there's a lot of loose gravel. Nearer the top, there has apparently been a small recent fire, which is certainly awful and to be avoided, but which has left a really pleasant scent.

San Antonio Valley Road, climbing
back toward Mount Hamilton
After a little rest and fruit juice at the observatory, I headed down the east side of Mount Hamilton into the isolated valleys beyond. This late in the season, the valley is bone dry. Even the cattle, numerous in my previous trips through here, were scarce.

I found my way to the bar, just about the only speck of civilization between Mount Hamilton and Livermore, at a little after 2 PM. I had a BLT (the B was great, the L was fine, but the T were underripe) and various drinks, then headed back the way I came. It was only at this point that I saw any other riders on this road, when the passed headed toward The Junction.

The rolling hills on the way to Mount Hamilton are steeper in this direction, and since by now it was the hottest part of the day, it seemed even harder. As I got nearer the mountain, however, the shade grew deeper, and I could watch the thermometer on my computer drop from about 95 down to 85 as I began the long climb back up toward the observatory.

The Mount Hamilton trickle
Almost exactly halfway up the climb is a spring, one that was especially welcome on my last trip. This spring is very similar to the fountains in the middle of all the french villages, with water flowing into a small pool, presumably for animals. This late in the dry season, the flow was down to a trickle, but I stocked up nonetheless.

By the time I got to the top I was exhausted. My legs were sore and shaky, and my back was troubled by the relatively steep sections. Partly due to that, and partly because the day was getting a little chilly (the computer was reading 70 degrees), I passed by the observatory and just headed straight down.

This late in the day there were very few cars on the road, so I made good time. The new gravel makes for flat roads, but I don't really trust them, so I took my time on those. When I finally got back to smooth roads after Grant Park, I gratefully let loose again.

Elevation profile
Since I've been riding less often lately, this was a big ride for me. It ended up just short of 75 miles, with 8200 feet of climbing. The hardest kilometer was right in the middle of the backside of Hamilton, with an average grade of 9.6%.

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