Last week, I read a post on the Jill Outside blog
about her awesome long ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pescadero coastal area, and Jill's description made me realize that numerous possibilities for this style of riding (a mix of trails and backcountry roads on a mountain bike) is what makes cycling here in the Bay Area so great. For reasons explained in more detail here
, I took my 29er hardtail for an outing with a plan of combining rides I have done in the past, with no exact idea on how long or difficult this ride would be.
I started late so I kept my Magicshine light on the handlebars. The first part of the ride was all pavement, although if there were more pro biking officials at San Mateo county offices, it would not have to be:
- Hallmark to Canada Rd. - could be Sheep Camp Trail, at least there is the paved Ralston bike path
- Canada to Olive, Greer to Huddart Park - could be on the dirt path paralleling Canada Rd, horses only path alongside Olive and Greer
- Huddart Park service road to Kings Mountain Rd - plenty of great trails in Huddart leading to the Bay Area Ridge Trail on Skyline, all closed to bikes
- Kings Mountain Rd to Skyline, on Skyline to Purissima Creek OSP parking lot - paralleled by the BART, thought of riding it but the NO BIKES sign just seemed too ominous
Finally on dirt! At Purissima, I descended the Whittmore Gulch trail, with its nice views of the coast:
Down in the cool redwoods the trail has been smoothed and repaired at spots prone to get muddy.
I left the preserve at the Purissima Road and continued onto Lobitos Creek Cutoff and Tunitas Creek Rd. These are small roads with little traffic winding through some farmland, I guess there isn't much chance for trails around here.
I refilled my Camelbak at the Bike Hut, which I think is a fantastic idea, not just because their honor system is really cool, but also because it makes even roadies to stop for a friendly chat, something of a habit among mountain bikers but a rare occurrence with the Lycra clad crowd.
The fog bank was looming along Highway One and sure thing, once I started climbing up along the coastal cliffs towards Stage Rd, temperature dropped to 60F, visibility turned low, but the cars passing at 70 mph did not seem to care. Luckily there is a wide shoulder here.
From here on, it was Stage Rd down to San Gregorio country store, crossing Hwy 84, up over the ridge and a nice downhill to Pescadero. The temperature dropped again here and there were no cars on this road, just a couple of motorcycles and lots of cows around. I did not stop in Pescadero either, knowing there was water in Memorial Park. I got to the group sites at Memorial Park via the Wurr Road and looked for a water source, since my Camelbak was empty and I had a long climb ahead. It took me a while to locate a working water faucet but the water here was ice cold and fresh.
The next six miles or so on Old Haul Road were fast and totally enjoyable on the big wheel bike, with fast rollers and a little of an incline. I decided against taking the Camp Pomponio trail since it was getting late, and continued to Portola Redwoods State Park, where there is a new bridge in place of the old stream crossing. The park was deserted on late Sunday afternoon as I started the steep climb on the Park road towards Alpine Road. This climb is a grinder but I felt good and alternated between spinning a granny and pedaling standing at the middle chain ring. I reached the upper parts of Alpine Road around the golden hour.
From Alpine road, I took my favorite Ancient Oaks trail at the Russian Ridge preserve to Ridge Trail and after a sweet fast singletrack crossed the Skyline onto Clouds Rest. The dirt trail riding then continued on Alpine trail and ended at the pavement of Alpine Rd. At the bottom of Alpine Road, there was a chance to cross into Windy Hill preserve on some more dirt doubletrack, which I did. Having ridden about 65 miles at this point, I dreaded the flat section through Woodside and Canada Road, but for some reason (could be the tailwind), I spun the pedals almost effortlessly at comfortable 17-18 mph. The sun went down behind the western ridge and I turned my lights on on Canada Rd. Reaching the gate to the Sheep Camp trail, I quickly pulled over, shut the lights off, gulped a gel and rode up the dirt trail towards 280 and the Belmont cross-country course. I did not feel too good about poaching a trail closed to bikes, but this is a gravel service road used by pickup trucks and the only reason why it is closed to bikes is due to the fact that this is a sensitive water management area. No damage done and after the home stretch climb, I felt a little dizzy getting off the bike after 8 hours, 80 miles and 8100 feet of vertical. GPS track here