Santa Cruz Mountains CA

Skip to first unread message

Jobst Brandt

Jul 31, 2010, 4:18:43 PM7/31/10
As has been my wont for many years, riding to Santa Cruz and back from
Palo Alto has been a lovely scenic tour along the bluffs above the
Pacific and over the Santa Cruz Mountains of redwoods that grow
exclusively in the fogbound coast of California.

Recently the fog has stayed densely most of what was formerly summer.
But this is an old problem as Mark Twain was claimed to have said:
"The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San

Ride report:
Bonny Doon and Empire Grade

Like so many other days this "summer" our area was overcast, but with
a fairly high fog instead of a cold wet one. Having ridden down the
coast a few time in drizzly fog, I began turning inland at Bonny Doon
which in several rides got out of the fog on the two mile climb to
Smith Grade.

On the last ride up that hill I was dismayed to not get out of the
fog, even over Martin Rd., Ice Cream Grade or Felton Empire grade.
The fog lasted to a mile inland of Felton. So I watched on the
weather and winds until I noticed northwest winds and less fog
predicted for July 29 on the usual web sites.

I started off at shortly before 7:00 riding west on Sandhill Rd. and
Portola Rd. to HWY84 on which I sensed a clearing at Skylonda... that
was only thin fog as I rolled over Skyline Blvd and down to HWY1. As
I rode down the coast, a northwest wind gradually increased and I
rolled easily with a clear view under high fog out to sea where there
was almost no surf and a low tide.

The coast was beautiful and at Pebble Beach the exposed rock
formations had many harbor seals that had been there long enough for
most of them to be white with dried fur while newcomers still had wet
fur that made their black skin visible. As I approached Pigeon Point,
the light house was flashing its 10 second interval light for ships at
sea while in the foreground a large field of Brussels Sprouts was
nearly ready for harvest.

The run from there was without wind, but bits of blue sky were visible
inland and south where the road dips almost to sea level at Gazos
Creek. After Gazos Creek the wind returned and in-line with the road.
At Waddell Creek (Big Basin) two lone surfers were waiting for Godot.

From here its a short climb to Big Creek lumber Co. and past Greyhound
Rock and Pelican Rock two beautiful formations more than 100 feet
below. The coast highway climbs gradually before descending to Scott
Creek (Swanton Valley) where the RR ROW of the San Vincente Lumber
Co. is still visible from the days of RR logging when Big Creek Lumber
Co. was in the Swanton Vally at the confluence of Big Creek and Scott
Creek with a narrow gauge logging RR along Big Creek to Empire Grade
and the Locatelli Ranch below Eagle Rock the source of Big Creek.

In Davenport, the Cemex cement plant was still idle and the tracks
rusty without the former thrice weekly 30 car UP cement train from
Watsonville. I noticed that the many stored Propane tank cars were no
longer on the tracks just before Bonny Doon beach. I turned inland up
Bonny Doon Rd that begins a steep climb after a mile. Meanwhile the
fog had taken over south of here.

I noticed that although not the steepest part, the section from the
cement plant conveyor and haul road is the longer and consistently
steady section of this climb. Today I decided to relive the section
of Pine Flat Rd. that I hadn't seen in many years and rode on this
gradual climb past the upper end of Ice Cream Grade and the Bonny Doon
School. Bonny Doon Rd. joins Pine Flat Rd. here as well.

Many well kept single family residences are all over these hills. I
had not remembered how continuous the climb to Empire grade was and
how much farther Empire grade would climb, reaching 2531ft before
descending to Alba Rd. that goes back down to HWY9 just below
Brookdale. The Empire Grade summit (Ben Lomond Mtn.) is at 2630ft at
Camp Ben Lomond (youth authority) after which it descends to Jamison
Creek Rd. just before the saddle of the Locatelli Ranch, the source of
Big Creek.

Once again I was impressed with the length and steepness of the roads
I formerly rode up. Even Big Basin HWY236 seemed none too flat. At
boulder Creek I turned north and stopped at the Mountain Grocery where
I filled up on a large Pepsi Cola and some candy for the hill 8 mile
grade ahead. Although sunny, the air was cool enough to make it a
pleasant climb. I met a pickup truck with mountain biker going down
the road below Waterman Gap. He was looking for Saratoga Gap even
though he had just come from there, so I gave him directions and he
was on his way.

On the ride along Skyline I saw that fog persisted for the whole day
at Pescadero and was glad to have had better luck where i rode. After
descending Page Mill road I noticed my Altimeter had collected a bit
more than 8000 feet of climbing for the 110 mile ride. I felt it in
my legs, not having ridden the ten days before.
Jobst Brandt


Aug 1, 2010, 3:38:25 PM8/1/10
What was your heart rate while riding up Bonny Doon ?
Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages