The morning started in our sleeping bags. There was no spectacular sunrise that we were hoping for due to a heavy marine layer, but there was some Jetboil french press Peet’s pick of the month coffee. We discussed our route options for leaving Henry Coe. Going back the way we came would have been boring so we decided to head towards the south entrance. We had a slow, lazy morning, and were finally packed up by 9am. Relaxing. It’s a nice change of pace from ultra races where you’re in a rush the entire time.
We set out along the dirt road lined by oak trees and tall dead grass and passed a number of families out car camping, giving us strange looks. Near the top of the ridge there was a potable water source left by the park service where we filled out our water. We looked at the map just to be sure and set out along some tight singletrack. We were glad to be on CX bikes due to all the poison oak lining the trail and all of the low branches. My balding rear tire made for some exciting switchbacks and off camber turns. There may or may not have been a lot of sliding going on. We neared the bottom of the trail and crossed what used to be a river. There were a few remaining pools filled with green algae but it was mostly just a bare, rocky valley. We found the trail on the other side and had a little bit of hike a bike to do up the first little part. We were careful to avoid the poison oak branches sticking out into the trail, or at least I was. I don’t know what Jacob was doing behind me. The trail up to the top of the ridge seemed to be more often used by the local wildlife than human travelers, but it was nice. It gave the feeling of being far away from people even though we had full cell phone reception, and we were really only a few miles away from civilization as the crow flies.
We popped out onto a recently graded dirt ridge road that unabashedly followed the ridge. It didn’t mess around trying to even the grade, or make smooth transitions. It merely followed the ridge as it was no matter how steep, sandy, or loose the road became. It was well maintained so it wasn’t too bad but there were a few kickers. We flew down to a saddle where a road split off down the mountain and we stopped to consult the map. As we ate our last bit of food a ranger drove up said road and stopped to talk to us, commenting on how light we were traveling. He thought what we were doing was just so cool when we told him that we had camped with only what we carried. I suppose if you’re reading this you also think this is pretty cool or you would have stopped by now.
The ranger left us and we started our descent. The road was in pretty good condition but there were a few deep ruts hidden by soft dirt from a recent grading. Few things are scarier than hitting loose dirt in a corner at speed with your front wheel so I took it easy and let Jacob bomb down the hill. The road flattened out once we approached the nonexistent river that we had crossed upstream. There was a gate where the dirt ended and the pavement began and a dead end old bridge off to the side. We were ready for a good breakfast and were looking forward to getting into town. The riding down the pavement was oh so gradually downhill so it made for some comfortable riding. We met a tarantula crossing the road and stopped to say “Hello”. When we tried to get a picture, the tarantula got all confrontational and started making those “Are we going to have to take this outside, bro?!” arms. It even tried to steal Jacobs bike but he fought the spider off. In short we left the tarantula in peace and continued on our way.
Not too much further down the road we met some other riders that were out for a morning ride. A few of them were Randonneurs and we talked about mutual friends and some big rides. Our stomachs grumbling, we continued downstream, until one little rise, and then a final descent into the flatlands of the valley. We made our way into Gilroy right as the bonking commenced. The first place we stopped at had a line down the block. The second place was closed for the holiday, and the third place we went to was finally open and had no wait… or so we thought. I went in and was told to sit anywhere we liked. I told them that we would be outside and walked out to the table with two menus. Twenty minutes later Jacob went in asking for service and they had thought we left. We both ordered a country skillet and a burrito to go, and then proceeded to wait. After much more waiting and contemplating all the places we could have gone that would have been faster, our food finally came. I finished my skillet just about the same time Jacob got done putting salt, pepper, and hot sauce on his. I was a little hungry. He looked up in shock and I dove into the burrito that they had put in large cardboard food boxes. I’m not exactly sure how they were expecting us to carry said boxes, but that didn’t really matter because I ate my to-go burrito as well. Jacob had half of his burrito and we paid and left as quickly as possible. We weren’t exactly in a rush, but we had 70 miles to go and it was past noon. We had spend 90 minutes there at the restaurant and 10 of them were spent eating.
We rolled out of town on 152 and I was a little concerned about how much traffic there was going to be on this narrow mountain road we were about to climb. We didn’t get too far up the hill until we saw a line of traffic stopped. We took the side of the road past the traffic and arrived at a stoplight for construction. We got to the front and waited for the green light. Eventually all the other oncoming cars had passed, our light turned green, and we hammered! …Or at least as fast as we could without yakking. It wasn’t working. We were holding up traffic so I made the executive decision to ride off the side of the road and let the car pass safer than they were trying to. We took the dirt up to the oncoming light, waited for our line of cars to finish, and then had the road to ourselves. That part was glorious. For a few blissful minutes, we were able to climb a beautiful, forested, green road at a comfortable grade, until we rolled up to the next construction zone. The next line of cars met us at the light and we waited once more. This time, after the oncoming cars had all passed we made our move off to the side of the road once again as the line of cars passed us. Once again, we had the road all to ourselves. It really wasn’t terrible. You could hear cars coming from a long way off, and we were making pretty good time while we were riding. We heard the next line of cars coming so we pulled off to let them pass safely. The road had no shoulder and low visibility around corners so we decided not to risk it. The exceptionally long line of cars finished passing us and we rounded the corner just to see the top of the hill not 50 yards away.
Hecker Pass has to be one of the silliest “Pass” pictures I’ve ever taken. Towering a mere 1,309 feet above sea level, it is sort of laughable. Our pit stop at the top was just long enough to let the next line of cars pass us so we waited just a little longer knowing that we’d catch them. We set off and one car from the parking lot at the top made a desperate attempt to pass us, flooring it into the oncoming lane, and diving back into our lane right before hitting the brakes for the first corner. It was annoying but I couldn’t help but laugh about it. As we just about rode our brakes down the hill behind the guy, he soon caught the line of cars ahead of him and was stuck. Hilarious. The descent was fun, but I’d want to try and really enjoy it with no traffic, but I’m not sure the climb up would be worth it with all the traffic under regular conditions.
Jacob and I stopped at the gas station before Casserly Road to fill water and do battle against our afternoon drowsiness. One Starbucks Double Shot each later, we were back on the road. A few miles of nearly flat road later, we were rolling through Corralitos. We saw some cyclists stopped at at park there so we stopped to say Hello. Mostly because our coffee hadn’t kicked in yet and we were still feeling sleepy and lazy. We chatted with the four riders that were there while they took our pictures and were impressed with our ride. A pair of them had ridden down to Monterey for the night and were riding back north. We were going to set off with them but as we turned around to leave, Jacob discovered a puncture in his front tire. The other riders went on their way while Jacob fixed our first and only flat of the trip. I gave him plenty of shit for not having a tubeless setup. A few minutes later, all was well and we were off, up the hill.
Eureka Canyon Road is beautiful. It was a pleasant climb up the hill and into the forest with real trees, dense foliage, and therefore good shade. I would ride that road all the time if I lived in the area. The traffic was super low, and we enjoyed our climb, deep into the Santa Cruz mountains once more. The caffeine finally hit me for round 3 that day and I was feeling good. Jacob, not so much. He commented about how he kicked my butt for the first 80 miles but I had the advantage on the next 100. It made me laugh because I really think that speaks to my riding style. I may not be fast, but on the second day of riding, I’m just about as fast as the first day. I was riding up, grabbing pictures while Jacob caught up and passed, then catching him again. Finally after a few miles of climbing, we came upon a familiar site. It was the turn off for riding the road up to the top of the Soquel Demonstration Forest. I was pretty excited. I wanted to hit up the flow trail on our CX bikes but I didn’t really want to climb all the way back out again, and we didn’t want our shadows to grow too long that far from Stanford. We bombed down past the parking for Demo, made a quick stop and continued. The climb out of Demo wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated but that might have been because I was feeling pretty juiced on caffeine and Jacob was suffering from a headache, thus, making me feel fast. We met up with Summit road and proceeded to fly down towards the Summit Center on a section of road that I honestly don’t remember climbing. He had a car behind us but we put some time on them on the way down and back up to our stop. A Cal Poly rider and his friend had just finished riding Demo and were sitting outside. I ordered another Loaded Tri-tip sandwich and even more coffee, but no sushi this time. I threw a few bananas in my jersey and I was feeling pretty good after eating. Jacob was still suffering from a bit of a headache. Fearing dehydration, he drank up and filled his bottles.
We left the Summit Center a reasonable time later and headed down Summit Road. We had looked at a map and decided we wouldn’t have enough daylight to ride the Ridge Trail on Russian Ridge, west of Stanford, so we took Old Santa Cruz Road. A small silver car passed us, and decided late that they wanted to take Old Santa Cruz as well and turned hard and crossed the white line while cutting off Jacob and almost running him off the road. We let the car go as we took it easy, gliding down the hill at first. I had never been on this road before and it was pretty fantastic. Jacob and I were carving corners like the Thanksgiving Turkey. Naturally we caught the car as you do on tight windy roads on a bike. The driver was terrible. Taking terrible lines, running over the yellow lines in straight sections, overcorrecting and heading over the white line, and slowing down at the most nonsensical times. Jacob and I tried to pass because they were driving exceedingly slow, but I guess they noticed and began driving more erratically. There is one stop sign on the descent where they came to a stop and Jacob and I tried to get around. They waited for us to get just ahead of them and then floored it around us and continued to drive erratically. We gave them even more room when they almost ran right into a massive redwood. I’m not sure if they were just a terrible driver, or they were intentionally trying to mess with us, but it was frustrating either way. We probably didn’t help the situation by trying to pass them, but we also had a line of cars growing behind us.
We popped out of the foliage near Highway 17 and rolled past Lexington Reservoir on the little dirt trails off the side of 17. We cruised down past the dam and all the way into Los Gatos. That section was much smoother on the Boone than it was last time I was there on my Domane. Having slightly more traction helped a bit. We took the main roads back to Saratoga, Cupertino, and finally back onto Foothill where Jacob got his second wind for the day. The sun had fallen down and left us in the shadow of the mountains so I took the rear with my good tail light, and Jacob took the lead with his good headlight. He pulled us in the last few miles along Foothill and matched the pace I had set on spring break. Jacob was digging deep, expending his reserves, as he pulled us in at 25-27 mph. It was twilight by the time we got back to campus and his place, but it had been a good day. We passed out early that night. 97 miles and 6.3k feet wrapped out our little weekend bikepacking trip.
Up next, we’ve got a little more exploring to do in the Sierras for a bikepacking race I’m putting together.