On my ride with Jim Sullivan, the patron saint of multi-use trails in the nearby San Mateo County open space, we were drenched in sunshine and warm temperatures.
Jim has been maintaining trails here for more than eight years and in that time he and friends have accomplished a lot, all through volunteer efforts.
I hadn’t ridden in this area for more than 30 years and had only a hazy recollection of how I managed to make it to the Portola site on Sweeney Ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. In November 1769 Captain Gaspar de Portola and his expedition discovered the bay from the hilltop. Earlier naval excursions missed the Golden Gate, which is usually shrouded in fog.
But today our route took us in the opposite direction to the now famous Hwy 1 Devils Slide where a 4,200-foot-long vehicle tunnel opened in 2013 after eight years of digging. The notorious old stretch of road recently opened as a recreation path.
After winding through Pacifica and taking a dirt road uphill, we made our way to the north parking area of the Devils Slide road/trail, then through an open gate onto the original coast highway, called Colma-Half Moon Bay, built in 1879. Bring your mountain bike.
We didn’t stay on the old road for long, opting instead to climb higher onto Pedro Mountain and follow the ridge east before descending the old Highway 57, otherwise known as Old Pedro Mountain Road to today’s trail users. This paved road opened in 1931 and it’s still in pretty good shape, considering its age.
Jim showed me the old Colma alignment from a vantage point near the 1,000-foot summit. “We brushed back the existing trail making sure we stayed on the 100-plus-year-old alignment,” Jim said as he pointed to a barely noticeable cut in the hillside. “It’s a fun ride.” Fun that is if you’re an intermediate to advanced mountain bike rider who enjoys rocky spoors. (It’s not clear to me the exact route of the old Colma Road. It could be the dashed line below our route shown on the map.)
Once on Old Pedro Mountain Road, things became more civilized as we coasted slowly downhill on pavement. Jim pointed to places where his friends cleared out pampas grass, planted native pine trees and removed mudslides. “You’ve go to move it off right after it rains, otherwise it turns to concrete,” he said.
We came across hikers, equestrians and people walking their dogs, but none of it fazed Jim, who looks forward to trail encounters. “When people know what to expect, they learn how to adapt to other trail users. Equestrians who have trained their horses to be around people have no difficulty.” Jim firmly believes multi-use trails are usually the best way to go on the expanse of publicly owned trails above Pacifica. He also likes using a handlebar bell on high-use trails.
It’s Jim’s mantra at the many public agency trail meetings he has attended over the years. “Pacifica has a lot to offer for trail users,” Jim offers. “Every time cyclists come here and ride they’re blown away by the beautiful views and trails.” I couldn’t agree more.
If you want to get involved: