Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

Winter storm floods creek path

January 9, 2017

That's a lot of debris. You'll want to ride on Great America Parkway a short distance and then take a left.

That’s a lot of debris. You’ll want to ride on Great America Parkway a short distance and then take a left.

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail made it through the weekend rainstorm everywhere but here at the Great America Parkway underpass.

Use extra caution at the underpasses where there’s a slurry of slippery mud.

I also rode on the Sunnyvale Baylands trail over to Mountain View and the Google road improvement made it rideable even with all the rain.

Coyote Creek Trail adds paved segment

December 27, 2016

Newly paved section of Coyote Creek Trail looking north from Tasman Drive in San Jose.

Newly paved section of Coyote Creek Trail looking north from Tasman Drive in San Jose.

Slowly but surely, Coyote Creek Trail is being paved from bay to Morgan Hill, including the latest segment between Hwy 237 and Tasman Drive in San Jose.

That’s about a mile. The heavy lifting will occur between Kelley Park and Montague Expressway where there are many obstacles in the way. Of course, that section isn’t even open. The newly paved section was open and gravel.

I’m seeing a lot more homeless people in places I never saw them before, like along the paved trail on the north side of Hwy 237. Yes they cleaned out the Coyote Creek camps, but those same people had to go somewhere, so now they’re along Guadalupe River and other parts of Coyote Creek.

One of those “eventful” days I’d just as soon forget

December 17, 2016

It wasn't all bad news. Mushrooms a plenty.

It wasn’t all bad news. Mushrooms a plenty.

My favorite bike rides these days are “uneventful.” Nothing at all happens beyond a quiet bike ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Not so today.

It was in the high 30s when I left and it didn’t warm up until late afternoon. That made things unpleasant most of the ride, so it was already edging toward “eventful” territory.

As I rode north on Skyline on the long straight after Grizzly Flat Trail two cars approached one another going opposite directions at their usual high speed, but the car behind me had to slow abruptly (slight tire screech) when he realized there would be a three-way passing situation, all of us lined up side by side.

The driver didn’t take kindly to having to slow down and he made sure to let me know it was my fault. He drove up to my side and matched my speed. I stopped. He said, “Why do you ride your bike on this road?” I responded in kind. “Why do you drive your car on this road?”

What followed is familiar dialogue. “It’s dangerous riding a bike up here,” he said. “I just want you to know.” I realized this was not a situation where anyone was going to win an argument, so I did my best to diffuse any tension, speaking with genuine sincerity. “You’re right. Riding a bike is extremely dangerous. I tell that to everyone I know.” It worked. He didn’t get upset and drove off in his punked out BMW.

But my close encounters were not yet over. As I was riding up Hwy 84 two or three miles outside La Honda I stopped at a driveway to check my bike when out of nowhere this young man shows up on Hwy 84 wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants. He told me he was walking to Skyline Boulevard and needed to know how far it was. After I told him, he asked me to call his mother and have her pick him up. He gave me a number and I punched it in to my smartphone, but first I moved close to the highway because this guy looked like he was sketchy, although he didn’t sound threatening. No service. I told him I’d ride up to Skyline, but I was none too happy about it. The guy did not give off a good vibe — more like a scared deer.

I got to Skyline soon enough and tried my phone. Still no service at Sky Londa. Oddly, there was a Sheriff standing a few feet away in the parking lot. I told him my story and he immediately used his walkie talkie to talk to dispatch. Turns out the guy “escaped” from Camp Glenwood, a probation facility in La Honda off Pescadero Road and they were searching for him. He had been wandering around since 3 a.m.

I have no idea what became of their escapee, but if he’s smart he accepted a ride from the Sheriff when he drove by.

This camp is not to be confused with the Honor Camp located in Pescadero Creek County Park, which closed in 2003. It was supposed to be turned into a campground, but I haven’t heard any news on that front. Ken Kesey stayed at that one back in the 1960s and got some material for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest while there.

Too much of a good thing

December 11, 2016

Seven pounds of chanterelles. My neck ached after the ride.

Seven pounds of chanterelles. My neck ached after the ride.

It’s not anywhere near as impressive as 2006, but 2016 is shaping up to be a good one for chanterelles after the long drought.

I can only carry about seven pounds in my bike bag, so I had to leave behind about five pounds, and that was what I saw where I looked. I quit looking once I filled my bag.

I found a new location, although in reality it’s an extension of another spot I know about.

I’d give some away, but with the exception of my neighbor, who has “European sensibilities,” people freak out when offered.

Chanterelles sell for about $25 a pound (and up) in the few markets that sell them. You need a permit to sell to stores.

It was a cool, cloudy day, perfect for riding in the Santa Cruz Mountains and finding edible fungi.

San Felipe Road wanderings

December 4, 2016

A horse-drawn grader on San Felipe Road.

A horse-drawn grader on San Felipe Road.

South San Jose, with all its traffic, has some nice roads for cycling, including San Felipe, which heads south to Metcalf Road (steep descent) and downhill to the Coyote Creek Trail.

Another neat road for descending is Clayton off Mt. Hamilton Road. It’s one of my favorites. For some reason it seems to descend forever.

But I digress. San Felipe Road is home to a couple of old road graders. From what I can find out online, they were horse-drawn, built in the late 1800s, maybe in the Midwest (it looks like a J.D. Adams, made in Indianapolis, IN). The driver sat up front while the person raising and lowering the blade sat in the back.

It’s sad to see all the ancient equipment rusting away. People collect them but they have no use and just turn to rust when left outdoors. These graders go for about $500 on Ebay.

I’d like to know the grader’s history. The stories it could tell.

Coyote Creek Trail near the Coyote Creek Golf Club.

Coyote Creek Trail near the Coyote Creek Golf Club.

Mushroom weather in Portola Valley

November 28, 2016

Sunday was ideal weather for mushrooms. This is what 1.5 pounds looks like.

Sunday was ideal weather for mushrooms. This is what 1.5 pounds looks like.

After a “dry spell” of two years, I finally found some chanterelles, in Portola Valley. During our ride in December 2010, Jobst revealed his secret spot a week before his fateful accident.

Unfortunately, the reclusive mushroom is found in remote locations or on private property.

My two favorite locations haven’t had any chanterelles in more than two years. Sometimes they just disappear. They don’t like seeing their environment disturbed. They also can’t be cultivated.

Chestnuts roasting on an… open space district land

November 2, 2016

This is the best time to stop and buy some chestnuts on Skyline Boulevard.

This is the best time to stop and buy some chestnuts on Skyline Boulevard.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve known about the chestnut orchard on Skyline Boulevard, but it has been a while. I finally found time and picked the right day to buy some during my bike ride.

I had a brief conversation with proprietor Hans Josens about the history of the orchard. He looks like he stepped right out of the mid-1800s, when the orchard was planted. He has taken loving care of the orchard the past 15 years.

Josens is no stranger to the Santa Cruz Mountains. His family has been farming here for three generations and managed the nearby cut-your-own-Christmas-tree farm.

You’re encouraged to pick your own chestnuts — the ones that have fallen to the ground actually — but I still had some miles to ride so I opted for the chestnuts already gathered up, $6 a pound paid in cash.

While we didn’t get into talking about the trees themselves, his website says they’re a combination of European, American, and Asian varieties. The American variety got wiped out by a fungus, mostly back East, but a few orchards like the one here, escaped the illness.

When I mentioned I was headed off to look for Chanterelles, Josens related how he found a whole bunch or Morels near Yosemite National Park after the big fire. We bemoaned the lack of Chanterelles in recent years and, sure enough, I didn’t find any. It’s still too early, but I have a bad feeling about this fungi. I think climate change is going to make them a lot harder to find in the years to come.

The orchard is located midway between Highway 9 and Page Mill Road on Skyline Boulevard. Be sure to check it out before Thanksgiving day when they’ll close up until next season. Here’s a nice interview recording with Josens on public radio.

Aptos Creek Fire Road weathers the storm

October 23, 2016

Aptos Creek Bridge marks the end/beginning of the steep grade on the fire road.

Aptos Creek Bridge marks the end/beginning of the steep grade on the fire road.

While San Jose got barely a quarter-inch of rain last weekend, the Santa Cruz Mountains did much better, including the Forest of Nisene Marks near Aptos.

I decided to check it out, figuring the rain washed away all the dust that accumulates during the dry season.

I noticed rain even soaked Los Gatos Creek Trail as I climbed the 20 percent grade that maybe, just maybe they’ll pave someday.

As I climbed Old Santa Cruz Highway I couldn’t help but notice that Holy City Art Glass is closed. Even more sad, owner Tom Stanton died last year from cancer. The land is for sale for $11 million, although Stanton didn’t own the land. That’s another story.

I found one location on Highland Way where an excavator is parked after making repairs. Whenever it rains a lot the road starts to crumble.

All of this made me feel old as I rode past dozens of parked cars at the Demonstration Forest. Ninety percent of car traffic on Highland Way is from mountain bikers dragging their bikes up here.

Their youthful owners headed up Highland Way to Buzzard Lagoon Road, with the aim of riding back down through the Demonstration Forest and then driving back home.

I had much bigger plans, heading down Aptos Creek Fire Road. The rain, as heavy as it must have been, didn’t do any damage beyond knocking over a half-dozen trees, which blocked the road.

I looked down on the bridge over Aptos Creek and recalled years gone by when the bridge was washed out and we rode through the creek.

I rode home under cloudy skies and managed to equal my time from last year over the same distance, one of the rare occasions when age did not catch up to me.

Hwy 236 repave makes for a ludicrous ride

October 1, 2016

The length of Hwy 236 from Hwy 9 into Big Basin park has been repaved.

The length of Hwy 236 from Hwy 9 into Big Basin park has been repaved.

If riding Hwy 236 between Hwy 9 and Big Basin State Park wasn’t fun enough, since the recent repaving it’s ludicrously enjoyable.

The state highway is narrow and has light traffic (except on some weekends) with so many twists and turns that you might feel like you’re on a roller coaster.

It has always been a blast to ride, but the new pavement turns it into a sublime experience, like enjoying a fine bottle of champagne.

They still have the last half-mile into the park and striping to do. I wonder if they’ll oil and gravel as well? I hope not.

This is the first time in my 40 years living here that Hwy 236 has been repaved all at one time.

Attack of the milk snails

September 11, 2016

Snails by the thousands at Sunnyvale baylands.

Snails by the thousands at Sunnyvale baylands.

While “snail” aptly describes my pace these days, I was surprised to see hundreds of the gastropod mollusks attached to the husks of plant stems at the Sunnyvale baylands.

They look dead, but maybe not since milk snails can be white. Is this where snails go to die?

Then I saw a ground squirrel perched atop a fence post near the snails. Maybe he wanted to die: Death by raptor.

I stopped at Hwy 84 to take in the view at the toll plaza and imagined what life would be like if this highway had been made into a freeway all the way to the Pacific Coast. That was the plan.

Highway 84 toll plaza. Imagining a freeway to the coast.

Highway 84 toll plaza. Imagining a freeway to the coast.