Tag Archives: Big Basin

Big Basin – China Grade

I decided to do Big Basin today.  It’s my typical route, which went up Hwy 9, south on Hwy 35, then west on Bear Creek, then onto China Grade before making the climb back on Hwy 9 back home.

Was a typical Bay Area September, and wasn’t too hot .. Sunny and in the 80s.  How could you ask for anything more?  Started out partly cloudy, and by the time I started the climb on Hwy 9, the sun came out … Got “Mr. Blue Sky” ringing in my head (yeah, I’m a big ELO fan). 

Only thing annoying about the Hwy 9 climb is the two stop lights along the climb.  Well at least it gives us a break on the climb.  What did annoy me was some cyclists were going even with the light still red.  What’s your hurry?  You still gotta stop anyways.  All I could do was shake my head in disgust.


Just before getting to Bear Creek, I pass through some Christmas tree farms.  I always have to take a pic here.  I must have 5 pictures of the same shoot from previous rides here.

Onto Bear Creek, and a nice decent … Until I get to the section of road that is chipsealed … Oh I forgot all about that.  Oh well, I’ll have to just suffer through it.

Onto China Grade.  It’s been a while since doing this climb.  It first lulls you with the beautiful forest-like scenery, with Redwood tree trunks everywhere … And then the steep grades begin.  I had forgotten how tough this climb is, but at least it’s not as bad as Jameson Creek.


When finally reaching the top, I was so happy, and took a break here, and not in a real hurry to continue.  I still had a 6 mile climb up out of Big Basin up to Skyline.

Totals according to my Garmin is 70.12 miles, while Strava gives me 69.2 miles.  It’s robbing me of 1 mile.  Why is that?  The Garmin is giving me raw data, so why short change my total mileage?  I may just use Garmin Connect, but that’s 3 years of days accumulated.

Check out my 69.2 mi Ride on Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/197236977

Big Basin Loop

It was a great day for a ride … temps in the 60’s-low 70’s, blue skies, so you couldn’t ask for a more perfect day.  But weatherunderground forecasted Boulder Creek would be in the 40’s.  Fudgy (or ygduf, aka Chris) tweeted this, so I had to quickly put on my knee warmers,and bring my jacket.  It was a little nippy, but we’ll see how it goes.

However, when I got to the start, I didn’t see leg warmers, and no longer fingered gloves … once again I’m overdressed.  Oh well.

Right off the bat, the group felt really frisky.  I knew it was going to be a long day, with close to 80 miles, and 7000+ feet of climbing, so I hung in the back, trying to conserve myself.  I didn’t dare look at what pace we were taking our Stevens Canyon, but we were passing people left and right.  I think my HR went up to 170 bpm at that point.  There is no way I could keep this up for the whole ride.

We head up Redwood Gulch, and as always, we are the only ones climbing this hill.  This is only 2 miles, but there are really steep sections of this climb, anywhere from 16% up to 21%.  I have ridden this stretch enough times to get into a rhythm, so that’s ok … it’s just that I’m not that fast.  As I mentioned to Michael, I may be slim, but I am slow.

Fudgy had been complaining about some weird creaking coming from the back wheel.  It got so annoying that we and Ben decided to swap rear wheels, just to see what affect that is.  Little to my knowledge, they decided to do this, right in the middle of the climb up Hwy 9 to Saratoga Gap.  Then, suddenly I hear two voices from behind me, and it was Fudgy and Ben.  How the heck did they get behind me???  But I guess they swapped it out somewhere on the side of the road where I didn’t notice them.  They swapped wheels, and no noise coming out of the back.  They swap it back, and again no noise … silence.  I guess they don’t call him SilentBen for nothing???

Anyhow, back to the route.  We head south on Hwy 35 en route to Boulder Creek.  Most people don’t realize how high up in elevation that goes.  In fact, I think that is the highest point in the South Bay area.  It peaks up at 3,115 feet.  No wonder the Sequoia Century was so tough the last 20 miles or so.

I met up with everyone back at the intersection of Bear Creek and Hwy 35.  Ben had to split off from the group at this point, so he was not going to come with us to Big Basin Park.

When we got to the gas station at Boulder Creek, it donned on me that I didn’t drink too much water.  My water bottle didn’t have to be topped off.  This is not a good sign … I guess I am following Donald’s bad habits.

Once again, I’m in the back as we climb towards Big Basin Park.  This is a gorgeous state park, and just to think we had the redwoods in our back yard … tons of redwoods, and humongously tall trees.  What an awesome sight, but pictures don’t even begin to tell the beauty.

I am so far behind everyone at this point, it didn’t make sense to try to kill myself to bridge the gap (yeah, like I could do that on a whim).  So I just sat back, got into a rhythm, and just enjoyed the scenery.  Gee, what a concept … enjoying the scenery!  Sometimes, I think I’m so focused on trying to get so fit, that I don’t look around and marvel at where I am.

I do meet up with the gang back at the Big Basin State Park Visitor’s Center.  This is a water refill stop, and this time I was consuming water.  In fact, I think I almost finished all of it, so it’s a good thing we had this water stop.

We continued on Hwy 236 out of Big Basin State Park, with more fantastic views.  There weren’t many cars on this stretch of road, so for the most part, we could enjoy the riding and the scenery without being bothered too much.

Hwy 236 turns into Hwy 9, and that’s where I caught up with the rest of the group.  Ramon had to take off, as he had to get back earlier, so it was down to 5 of us.  It is now 6 miles to Skyline, and I am ready for this ride to be over.  Knowing the elevation profile of this ride, we still have a bit more climbing to do.  The only bad part about this stretch is that Hwy 9 is pretty heavily traveled, so we were constantly being buzzed by motorcyclists, trucks, speeding SUV’s … but as long as they leave me enough room, I’m fine.

It was originally thought that the gang was going to go up Montebello (another 2000′ climb), and I was going to bypass that.  But I guess the group was just as fatigued and tired as I was, and they didn’t want to do any more climbing.  So down we went, and much to my surprise, we descended Redwood Gulch.  I normally don’t like descending this, as it is really steep (16-21% in places).  Luckily I got down without incident.  It was fairly quiet on this road today.

On the way back, something odd got into me … since I was always in the back, I needed to change this up a bit.  So after riding 65 miles, and about 7000 feet of climbing, what do I do??? Attack!  Charge up the slight incline as we pass by the reservoir at Stevens Canyon, and then we trade off attacks from that point till we got to the start.  I had just enough in me to pull that off … I’m glad we were done with that at that point.

It was a great end to a great day.  Gorgeous weather, hanging out with my buds of the Wrecking Crew.


79.4 miles, 7073 feet climbing


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Training for Double Century – Big Basin Loop

So a bunch of NorCal’ers have decided to do Solvang Double Century in March … woohoo. With it coming in 4 months, I decided now is the perfect time to start training for it. Get some miles in, and some climbing in, so that the body will be ready for the punishment in March.

I decided to lead a ride, starting from Bicycle Outfitters, in Los Altos, out to Big Basin, and back. It should be a good, healthy ride, about 80 miles.  I was riding with a stiff right shoulder, so who knows what type of leverage I’ll have climbing.

The ride started at 8 am, but the weather forecast this day was cold. It meant we had to really bundle up, as the high wasn’t expected to get anywhere about 55 F. This is evident from the Ninja wear …

The typical wrecking crew came out, myself included, Chris, Ramon, and Michael. Henry also came along, with his friend Armen.

This was also the first ride Ramon took his Allez on an extended ride. This was old school, downtube shifters, and of course, steel, and all in red. Looking really sharp there, Ramon.

The first climb we tackled was Redwood Gulch. With the temp being so cold to start off with, we were a little worried how cold it would be at Redwood Gulch. Even in summer, that climb, being nestled in the canyons, is cold. Would there be ice on the climb? After all, it does have stretches of 20% grades. It turned out okay, and not as cold as we had anticipated.

I was in my accustomed position, in the back. My heart rate was jumping up in the range of 178 bpm. This is pretty typical for this climb. I pretty much stuck with Chris on this short but steep climb. I recall when we regrouped at the top, Henry asked “all pretty much downhill relatively from here” … I had no comment. I knew what was coming up.

We headed south on Skyline, Hwy 35, and once we got past Black Rd, the road would narrow to one lane (approximately 1.5 car widths).  There were a number of christmas tree farms along Hwy 35 in this area, and this road is fairly isolated.  This was also the weekend where everyone is shopping, buying their christmas trees.  They actually go and cut down the trees as they are off the ground, instead of having them displayed on wooden stands.  This is pretty smart, so that if they didn’t sell any trees, no problem … just leave them where they are, rooted in the ground.  Anyhow, what this meant was a series of trucks, pickups, vans, and SUV’s driving up and down this narrow road with a bunch of switchbacks.  It was pretty hairy a few times, where we were descending, then all of a sudden around the corner, getting surprised by a car coming around the corner.  I’m pretty sure it was a surprise for them, seeing a cyclist coming towards them too.  I think next time, I’ll make sure this isn’t done on the first weekend in December.

Finally, a right turn on Bear Creek Road.  After a little climbing, we descend for quite a ways, till we reach Hwy 9 again.

After fueling up on supplies in Boulder Creek, we’re ready again to tackle the climb up Hwy 236 up to Big Basin Regional Park. It’s a very pretty route, and the climb itself wasn’t too bad. The visitor’s center is about 8 miles from Boulder Creek, and about 1000 foot climb. We got water here, and this would be the last stop for water for the rest of the ride. This would be the hard part of the ride, and that’s saying something, especially since we had already done 48 miles, and something around 4800 feet climbing.

I do recall from the last time I did this, the climbing itself was really tough. This didn’t make things any better, as the climbing just seem to continue forever. The only saving grace was seeing the spectacular views overlooking the valley. But there was one good thing to come out of this … at least I wasn’t cold.

After summiting, we descended for a little bit until Hwy 236 merged into Hwy 9. I am really exhausted at this point. It’s only 6 miles to Skyline, but it is still 1300 feet more to climb. I had no energy here, and just barely enough water to reach the top. I am really glad we didn’t do this on a hot day, otherwise I may get dehydrated.

We descended down to Pierce and Mt. Eden from here. We climbed Mt. Eden from the steep side … oh joy, just what I needed, some climbing.

By the time we got back to Foothill/Homestead, all we could think of was Starbucks! That latte really felt good going down. I’m still tired, one day later, and there is no way I’m getting back on the bike today. Having done mostly 60 milers, this 80 miler was a swift kick in the butt. I may have to do more rides out to the coast as a trainer.

I ended up with 81 miles, and about 8111 feet climbing.

I actually have more pictures.  You can find them at http://spingineer.smugmug.com/Cycling/Big-Basin/10549620_TQtr5#732719921_himMz