Loma Prieta Road defines open space

Since so few people have traveled the length of Loma Prieta Road, and probably never will the way things are going, I’ll give you a tour.

I’ve been riding on the road since 1981 and in that time it hasn’t changed much. When Jobst rode it in the early 1960s it wasn’t much different either, except for the gates.

Iron gates
Two iron gates were added where Loma Prieta Road joins Summit Road. One or more were added where Loma Prieta Road joins Soda Springs Road and one at Mt. Umunhum Road.

Loma Prieta Road starting at Summit Road.

Loma Prieta Road starting at Summit Road. Dirty bump just ahead.


This is speculation because not even Jobst mentioned when they went in, but it was probably in the late 1960s at the height of the dirt motorbike boom.

The gates are still there, but the ones at Summit Road are open all the time for residents from Loma Chiquita Road. That’s right. They can drive their vehicles on the road, but bicycles are banned. At numerous locations MROSD recently added big red “keep out” signs.

Over the decades we would see on average one vehicle. In the 1980s, especially after the Lexington fire, we were verbally harassed. “This is a private road,” was the mantra. In the 1990s we saw vehicles only occasionally and they usually didn’t stop.

Approach from south
We almost always approached from the southwest on Summit Road. Loma Prieta Road is well maintained as dirt roads go. It starts out with a fairly stiff climb that gets steep, around 16 percent. In the late 1990s that short, steep section was paved, thus eliminating its affectionate name — dirty bump.

Once over the dirty bump the road levels and heads through thin chaparral and brush. There’s a road junction at the base of Loma Prieta, which has radio antennas on the summit. Off to the right is Loma Chiquita Road, which is gated, paved and private. Workers occasionally drive to Loma Prieta summit to maintain the radio towers. One time they asked me the way to Loma Prieta as I was riding up Mt. Bache Road.

Loma Prieta junction with Loma Chiquita Road.

Loma Prieta junction with Loma Chiquita Road.


Spring watering hole
Staying left on Loma Prieta Road, passing a MROSD keep out sign, the vistas open up looking north toward Mt. Umunhum. It’s spectacular countryside broken by drainage basins. In a quarter mile there’s a spring and a small stone basin, used by early cars that needed to fill their radiators.

A modern water tank, which supplies the spring, can be found a short distance up the hill. The spring is always running.

Drinkable water at the spring.

Drinkable water at the spring.


The road follows a ridgeline so there’s not much climbing or descending. There’s one junction at a sweeping left turn you need to avoid. Heading straight and downhill would not be a good idea because it descends steeply to Alamitos Road.

Jobst Brandt stops for a drink on a flat section at an old chestnut orchard.

Jobst Brandt stops for a drink on a flat section at an old chestnut orchard.

A couple miles farther on, the road smooths out and there’s a former chestnut orchard. Up until around 2005 the only residence next to the road was a trailer here. I never saw the owner but I did see his black dogs. They were none too friendly, but they kept their distance. Shortly after that there’s an MROSD gate with its usual access signage, including the “bikes OK” symbol.

After a long descent, the road levels and there’s the Cathermola Road junction on the left. Keeping right, the road climbs and gets steeper until it’s about a 10 percent grade for a half-mile or so. The only residence near the road is just before Mt. Umunhum Road on the right up a short hill. I know the owner, but he shall remain nameless.

Final climb to Mt. Umunhum Road.

Final climb to Mt. Umunhum Road.


MROSD does not own the entire road, but it’s close. As I’ve noted before, all roads cross private property, but we have easements so people can get around. Public roads are roads that have been in use by the public for long stretches of time. Determining what makes a road public is where attorneys make their living.

Once at paved Mt. Umunhum Road, a left turn takes you to the former radar base. There’s a camera mounted above a high gate. I haven’t been there in eons. Presently the District is removing all the toxic waste from the base. They planned to do that work in 1986, but a lawsuit and a host of other obstacles stood in the way.

Flat repair on Mt. Umunhum Road.

Flat repair on Mt. Umunhum Road.


Turn right and it’s all downhill on the aging road with some deep fissures hidden in the shade of pine trees. A gate about two miles down is the official “keep out” location where nobody is allowed to pass. The road is steep in many locations, although not as steep as Hicks Road.

I’ve ridden this route about 16 times and only once saw other cyclists, riding mountain bikes.

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