Once Upon a Ride…Stevens Canyon

Keith Vierra, center, waits for a rider to fix a flat on the single-track section of Stevens Canyon Trail, January 1982.

Stevens Canyon Stymies Vierra

November 23, 1980
Riders: Jobst Brandt, Keith Vierra, Rick Humphreys, Ray Hosler, Bill Robertson, Bob ?, Matt ?
Weather: Cool, cloudy, rain
Route: Up Old La Honda Road, south on Skyline, down Page Mill Road, down Stevens Canyon, Foothill Expressway, home to Palo Alto.
Tire/Mechanical Failure: Bill – flat; Keith – slow leak; Jobst – chain clunk

After a heavy rain on Saturday, Jobst wisely tailored this ride so we could avoid muddy bikes, just dirty. When he saw a dirt path alongside Sand Hill Road he decided it wasn’t too muddy, so we could find a dirt road somewhere in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

We headed up Old La Honda Road at a rapid pace. On Skyline we rode through a chilling fog as clouds obscured the Coast, riding past Tom Ritchey’s new house, still under construction.

Predictably Jobst pushed big gears going up 1.2-mile hill on Skyline, which passes the overlook parking area.

About a mile down Page Mill Road we turned right onto Stevens Canyon Road (now called Trail), passing the sag pond on our left and open fields before the plunge into the canyon. At the Indian Creek Trail junction Keith commented, “It’s the steepest road I’ve ever been up.”

Meanwhile, Jobst wheeled up to an impassible ditch. We had to walk our bikes around a narrow, steep hiking trail with a 100-foot drop on one side.

Once at the bottom of the canyon we took a narrow trail to our left and then descended to a tributary that feeds into Stevens Creek. It was here the Keith thought he could ford the creek. Jobst dismounted and walked, but Keith would have nothing of walking. “Out of my way Jobst! I’m riding through.” Keith didn’t have much speed when he hit the water. He bounced among the rocks before his front wheel wedged into a rock and he went flying!

[Keith was an elite cyclist, competing in the Coors Classic stage race. In 1973 he won the Nevada City Bicycle Classic as a junior racer.]

After another short distance riding on the narrow road we came to a huge landslide. Jobst dismounted and walked, while we followed, gingerly picking our way across the steep slope.

Before we knew it we hit pavement on Stevens Canyon Road, but the rain started before we could exit the canyon and Bill flatted. With the flat fixed, we headed home on Foothill Expressway in the rain.

Riders negotiate the massive slide in lower Stevens Canyon, 1982.

Stevens Canyon 32 years later
That was then, what about now? I rarely ride in Stevens Canyon. I rode up from the bottom to check out the memorable creek crossing. It’s still there but there isn’t much water right now. The slide has been repaired and it’s now rideable — has been for years. Aging wooden bridges in Stevens Canyon are being replaced with splendiferous concrete spans.

Long ago cars drove the length of Stevens Canyon Road up to Page Mill Road. I don’t know if the road was paved all the way. I doubt it. At some point the road slid out and that was the end of it. It’s ground zero for the San Andreas Fault. When the earth moves here again the landscape will change. Enjoy it while you can.

Keith’s creek crossing. Not as easy as it looks, especially when there’s a lot of water.

Slide area. It’s rideable on a narrow single-track to the left.

Out with the old. Better capture this in a photo, because it won’t be here much longer.

In with the new. Wide bridges replace the old, narrow bridges. This section of the road is mostly used by cyclists.

One Response to “Once Upon a Ride…Stevens Canyon”

  1. fknochenhauer Says:

    Fun read.  Best uphill challenge in the area for me.  I love the Canyon ride, but always pass when someone wants to ride Montebello.   Let’s keep in touch,

    Fritz Knochenhauer

    (530) 400-7513

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/fritzknochenhauer Facebook me here


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