Saturday, November 28, 2015


Yesterday I took advantage of the long weekend to sneak out for a non-commute ride up Mount Umunhum.

Normally I try to fit in a long ride on these long weekends, but the day after Thanksgiving I woke up pretty late and was lazy, so I only had a few hours. Meanwhile, there's been a lot of work on the mountain since the last time I saw it, so I wanted to see what was up.

As far as I can tell, the last time I did this ride was April 2014. Since then they've constructed a little parking lot at the gate on Mount Umunhum Road, the highest point cars are currently allowed.

Plenty of parking
Basic facilities
There's a nice little parking lot and bathrooms, but no water that I could see.

No change in the road surface
If I understand it correctly there are plans to re-pave the road when they open access to the top, so it's no surprise that it hasn't been worked on yet. It's not a problem when climbing, but when descending the 10%+ grades it can be tricky.

I'm sure the quality of the road hasn't changed much, but this time I found myself unable to dodge several large potholes. It's nerve racking, but then again a smooth road surface might encourage reckless descending.

Even more emphatic signs
The next change one notices is that MROSD has put up new signage blocking the road that's even larger, 100% redder, and generally more emphatic. Before too long we'll be able to ride (and even drive) to the top; why they still can't allow bike and pedestrian traffic even one foot further than this is a mystery to me.

New facilities at Quicksilver
After a long cold descent I rolled through New Almaden, and saw new construction at the Hacienda entrance of Quicksilver park. There too they've erected a little bathroom and they appear to be in the process of building a bell tower for some reason.

What I learned from this is that, in building a bell tower, one apparently installs the bell before even finishing the exterior. Who knew?

I had a few extra minutes of sunshine and no interest in riding along Almaden Expressway, so I took Harry Road past the entrace to the IBM Almaden facility, where it winds through a hilly little residential area on the way back to Camden.

Elevation Profile
All in all a really enjoyable ride -- perfect weather, I felt good on the steep climbs, and it fit neatly into the afternoon. It was just under 25 miles, with a little over 3000 feet of climbing. The most difficult kilometer was the lower part of the climb up Hicks, which averages well over 14%.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Big Basin and Zayante

During an unusually complicated weekend, I had a rare chance to go out for a nice long ride.

I've been doing my evening 25-30 mile commute very regularly, but I've only put together a couple of longer rides this whole year. Once I realized I was going to have a free day, my thoughts drifted to the top of Black Road. I haven't been there in... forever. Then thinking a little more, I remembered that I've never climbed Gist Road, so that got in the plan, even though it meant cutting out the prettiest part of Black Road -- the part that had inspired the route in the first place.
Gist Road, with a fabric-covered hill

The morning was heavily overcast but not terribly cool, and I got on the road at 8:30. I headed up to the Lexington Reservoir, negotiated the little dirt track next to Highway 17, and started up Black Road. There is no shoulder on any of these roads (Black, Bear Creek or Montevina), so while there's not much traffic it's all inconvenient.

Gist road was very quiet, mostly a winding single lane. Very pretty.

A Really Big Tree
I had forgotten to eat any breakfast, so the rest of my planning revolved around lunch. I decided to stop at the Foster's Freeze in Boulder Creek, so at the top of Gist I took a right and headed toward Route 9. As I was decending 9 I was a little early for lunch, so at Route 236 I headed toward Big Basin, to extend the ride and mostly to enjoy the woods.

Upper Zayante Road
With lunch managed I wanted to find a way to climb up Mountain Charlie Road, again just because I hadn't been there in a long time. I headed down Route 9 and took a left on Glen Arbor Road to avoid some of the traffic. Along that route, you see signs for Quail Hollow Road heading to E. Zayante. That would be a new route for me, and riding on Route 9 and Mount Hermon Road to Scotts Valley would be unpleasant, so: Zayante it is.

At the top I headed right, descending to Los Gatos on Old Santa Cruz Highway. All day I had felt pretty great, up for any options, but by now I was feeling the unusual (for me) distance and climb, and just headed back home over Kennedy.

Elevation Profile
This little outing was 77 miles, with 7300 feet of climbing. The hardest kilometer was Gist Road, at nearly 11%. I'm happy that I managed to see my old haunts again, and indeed that I still have that range. But I hope to have a few more open days during the upcoming holidays.