Saturday, October 20, 2012

Summit Sideroads

On Sunday I spent some time exploring an area I normally buzz right through.

View Sideroads off Summit in a larger map

In what appears to be a developing bad habit, I didn't manage to get out on Saturday, and my time was constrained on Sunday. I've been meaning to take a real bruiser of a ride, but I wouldn't have time on Sunday, either for the ride itself or the inevitable recovery. I don't remember how I came up with the idea of exploring around Summit Road, but I was immediately excited about it. I used to ride around that area a bit, but once I got enough range to ride to Santa Cruz, the Summit area became just a place to pass through. Sunday, I decided, I would turn that on its head, and just poke around until I was beat.

The day started off deep in fog, but I got going in the late afternoon when it was just clearing. I took the usual route. On the steep ramp near the dam I had to walk up almost the whole thing, annoyingly.

The bridge at Wrights Station
When I got up to Summit I headed east, then took a left on Morrill Road, heading for Wrights Station. I've been down this way before, but it was a long time ago, and I had forgotten how beautiful it this road is. Morrill runs into the deep woods, then when you head down Wrights Station Road it gets deeper into the woods and even more isolated and quiet.

At the bottom of the road you find the Los Gatos Creek. The bridge across the creek is the only reminder that there used to be a little town here. The buildings are all gone without a trace.

Wright’s Station, Santa Cruz Mountains, c.1902
Wrights Station in 1902
As you can see from the old photo, the current bridge (which corresponds to the bridge on the left, in the photo) basically points at the tunnel entrance. These days there's a fence along the bend in the road, and once beyond that you can climb down to the tunnel entrance.

The path runs along a ridge, because the area next to the hill, on the right side of the old photo, has long since collapsed and washed down the creek.

The Wrights Station tunnel entrance
Looking out from the Wrights Station tunnel

After poking around the tunnel for a bit, it was time to climb back to Summit. This climb turns out to be about 1.5 miles long, and averages a stout 7.9%. Not too bad, and worth the visit.

Morrell Cut-off
Morrill Road takes you to Summit Road, at which point you can cross the street to Morrell Road. I'm reasonably sure they're both named after the same family, who spelled their name Morrell. The sign says Morrell Road, but most places call this Morrell Cut-off, apparently built by Hiram Morrell to route dusty Santa Cruz Turnpike traffic away from his vineyards.

The cut-off involves a few hundred feet of climbing, so in the past I've always avoided it. It's a skinny little road, not exactly smooth, but just as pretty as you might expect. And the climb's nothing to worry about; again, I should take this road more often in the future.

The remains of Laurel
Morell Cut-off climbs to the Soquel Road. I took that south to Redwood Lodge Road, and then took that down to Laurel, another ghost town on this ride. Laurel was briefly a town, but now it's just a couple of houses at the intersection of Redwood Lodge and Schulties Roads.

Somewhere around here are two more tunnel entrances, but they're inconvenient. One is pretty obvious, but it's inconveniently behind a house. The other one, actually the southern end of the Wrights Station tunnel, is supposedly approachable but I've never managed to find it. It's down here somewhere, but I didn't see it from the road. According to this runner's account, you can find it by descending into the area on Summit Canyon Road, from Summit Road. I might try that next.

The only other time I've been here was just over a year ago, and Schulties Road was undergoing major construction. Looks like that's done now.

Schulties Road, October 2012
Same area of Schulties Road, September 2011
Excellent work. Schulties climbs gently up to Old Santa Cruz Highway, which I took southward toward Highway 17, once again enjoying the 80 year-old concrete highway in virtual solitude. After that it was back home the same old way.

Elevation profile
Sunday's ride was 50 miles, with 4700 feet of climbing. The Summit area has lots of odd little historical sights, still within reach. Lots of fun to explore; I'm glad I got the chance to do that again.

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