Archive for the ‘Ride reports’ Category

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.

Mt. Hamilton quiet on Labor Day

September 6, 2016

Nice view of tarweed in San Antonio Valley.

Nice view of tarweed in San Antonio Valley.


I saw only 10 riders on my way up Mt. Hamilton on Labor Day. Heading to The Junction I saw none. On the way to Livermore on Mines Road I saw only two riders (1 tandem).

I’ve ridden Mt. Hamilton in September, and what you always see is yellow tarweed everywhere, otherwise known as Madia elegans.

The Junction store continues its modernization after new owners took over, now with a live band on stage outside.

Calaveras Reservoir construction continues, not due to be completed until the end of 2018. We hope.

As I finished my ride 9:17 later, slower every year, I recalled Jobst Brandt’s proclamation: “I’ll do the same rides, only they’ll take longer as I age.”

I missed the live country music at The Junction bar and grill.

I missed the live country music at The Junction bar and grill.

Brown skies continue in Bay Area

August 29, 2016

Montebello Road summit looking west.

Montebello Road summit looking west.


If you think the forest fires are out, not quite. Check out the skyline from the summit of Montebello Road. Fabulous weather though.

Purisima Creek Road cuts through a heavily logged canyon

August 23, 2016

Purisima Creek Road just below the Grabtown Gulch Trail junction.

Purisima Creek Road just below the Grabtown Gulch Trail junction.


If you were to go back in time to, let’s say 1880, and visit Purisima Canyon, you wouldn’t recognize it. The loggers clear-cut the canyon starting in the 1850s and ending in the 1920s.

There was ongoing logging here into the 1960s, but it was more like tree thinning.

On Monday morning as I rode down the “trail” from Skyline Boulevard, which I’ve been doing since 1980, I was struck by how much more brush and undergrowth I saw compared to the old days. It used to be pristine, redwoods and little undergrowth. I suppose the difference in plant life is mostly from the lack of logging, but it may also be climate change at work.

Water source for the Alvin Hatch Mill. I took a beautiful photo of Jobst Brandt drinking from the creek here in 1981.

Water source for the Alvin Hatch Mill. I took a beautiful photo of Jobst Brandt drinking from the creek here in 1981.

Most of the redwood was turned into shingles back then, mainly because it was hard to remove trees from the steep canyon over the hill to the port of Redwood City. There weren’t any harbors nearby on the Pacific Coast.

The first mill was water-powered, where Harkins Fire Road joins Purisima Creek Road at the canyon entrance. Later sawmills relied on steam engines, or steam donkeys.

Borden & Hatch Mill  in the 1880s, near where I took the first photo, top of page (From Sawmills in the Redwoods).

Borden & Hatch Mill in the 1880s, near where I took the first photo, top of page (From Sawmills in the Redwoods).


Going downhill, the first location where two sawmills existed is located where Purisima Creek runs under the road through a large steel culvert. That’s where the road levels out somewhat and there’s a sharp right turn. Right here is where a cable way was installed to haul logs uphill to Swett Road. Purdy Pharis, Shingle King, sunk a lot of money into the project, but it never was successful. He died about the time the operation was underway in 1884.

Farther down, at the Grabtown Gulch trail intersection, were two more logging camps, Charles Borden Mill and Hartley Shingle Mill, both operating around 1900-02.

Finally another half mile or so below this site was the Borden & Hatch Mill, which ran from 1871-1900.

While most of the wood went to making shingles, some was used to build a flume for Spring Valley Water Company in 1871. The nine-mile long flume, located in what is now the San Francisco Watershed (Frenchman Creek and stone dam) lasted 20 years before being abandoned.

This was the first time I rode in the Santa Cruz Mountains on a Monday. There’s no traffic to speak of on Kings Mountain Road (2 going up, 5 going down) and the same goes for Tunitas Creek Road. However, Santa Clara Valley traffic during rush hour is no picnic. I’ve learned how to get around it mostly car-free though.

Mount Hamilton enjoyable with air conditioning on full

August 7, 2016

Lick Observatory, built around 1875, backside.

Lick Observatory, built around 1875, backside.


Here it is August when it should be stinking hot, but instead I enjoyed the Bay Area’s natural air conditioning, running full blast, on my ride up Mt. Hamilton.

Lick Observatory was as regal looking as ever, a lasting legacy to one of the state’s wealthiest early Californians, James Lick.

As I was climbing, I saw the daredevil longboarders, with follow car, descending at breakneck speed. And I thought cycling was dangerous. Example here: