May 27, 2001.  Greatest Hits of the Santa Cruz Mountains!

This ride begins at Saratoga High School, and brings you some of the best the Santa Cruz Mountains have to offer, all in a neat 68-mile package.

Originally there were supposed to be maybe 6 or 7 people on this ride, but everyone dropped out except myself and Sal.  Something about too many extended sections of 10%+ grades, stuff like that.  But with the double-metric Sequoia Century coming up next week, Sal and I both needed to get in a ride with some serious climbing (there will be 11,000 feet of climbing in the Sequoia!).

Weather was foggy and cool at the start, and finished at about 65 degrees.  Good climbing weather!

Since riding up Highway 17 is kinda crazy (although technically legal), you need to take the Los Gatos Creek hiking & biking trail.  Not so bad if it weren't for the fact that it's some 2 miles of gravel, with a steep little climb at the end that requires that you hike up it. 
The original plan was to head up to Lexington Reservoir and cross Highway 17 and take Bear Creek to the top of Skyline/Summit.  Unfortunately, there is no way to get across the highway, so instead we had to ride around the lake and head to the summit via the Old Santa Cruz Highway.  At the summit we head north, leading us across Highway 17.  
Heading north on Summit we come to a Christmas Tree farm with something a bit curious...some sort of railroad track circling it!  No evidence of a train though.  We'll top off at 2100 around here. I'd be warned that East Zayante is not a good road to descend.  I should have listened.  It's very similar to Tunitas Creek, but with the addition of many invisible potholes that nail you hard.  Pretty though! 
The bottom part of East Zayante drops you into civilization (in this case, Felton).  While you saw very few cars before, traffic will now become significant. After cruising up Highway 9 from Felton you pass through Ben Lomond and, if you're careful not to blink, you'll find Alba Road.  Many will think they'd have been better off blinking... (300ft elev to 2400ft in just under 4 miles).
Alba is legendary for its steep section, and finally, a photo that shows this off! The famous schoolhouse about halfway up Alba that everyone talks about.  Why?  Because the road really pitches upward, just past it.
Nearing the top of the climb, you see Sal's head just poking up over the grade. Now it's onto Empire Grade for a brief run up the skyline to Jamison Creek.  Max elev about 2600ft.
Now it's down, down, WAY down on Jamison Creek.  Make sure you've got brake shoes with lots of rubber before you start this one. And then, after Jamison ends, it's a short distance on 237 to China Grade and up, up, WAY up.  Again.  But fortunately, not nearly as long as Alba.  Look for a narrow bridge...that's the exact beginning of the grade.
It may seem like it never ends...but finally, it does.  You come out at the top part of Highway 236 (eliminating the part that loops into Big Basin), and get to deal with some pretty choppy pavement and quite a few cars.  After a couple of miles you end up back on Highway 9.
Highway 9 is easy compared to the rest of the stuff we've ridden today!  Smooth road, wide shoulders and not very steep.  Just what the doctor ordered. Approaching the top of Highway 9 & Skyline Blvd.  From here, it's absolutely true to say it's downhill the rest of the way.
Sal stops for a drink and chips at the hot dog stand, while a ticked-off motorcycle CHP officer is writing up a whole lot of motorcyclists for speeding.  It almost seemed arbitrary...he just comes over and starts pointing to a bunch of the motorcyclists parked there, taking their licenses and writing tickets.  
And no, we weren't the only ones out riding today!  This woman on a TREK Y-Foil was riding up Highway 9 while we were heading down.  We saw quite a few other riders out and, curiously, women seemed to outnumber men.

Last updated 09/09/07


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