Pilarcitos Ridge
Sandstone Ridge
Perry Ridge
Lookout Ridge

Mon, May 23, 2016
Sandstone Ridge
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

It was only two days since I had last been to Ft. Ord. I'd enjoyed it so much I decided to come back for a second day, this time to explore the eastern part of the national monument that I had not visited on previous occasions. I used the Creekside Terrace TH off Reservation Rd at the edge of the Salinas Valley, north of SR68. The monument is laced with paved, gravel and dirt roads, along with a healthy selection of single track trails, almost all of them open to mountain bikes. The weather continued to be unseasonably cool for late May which in large part prompted my return - normally the low elevation hills here can get quite warm by late spring. A folded map of the trail system I carried in my pocket proved quite useful as my GPSr does not show the single tracks at all and most of the roads are unlabeled.

Starting from the TH around 10:30a, I made my way up Sandy Ridge Rd, climbing about 300ft above the rich farmlands of the Salinas Valley, heading southwest across the top of the ridge and down to Jacks Road. I rode Jacks Rd up one ridge, down Pilarcitos Valley and up the other side to Pilarcitos Ridge. The ridge highpoint is found about half a mile off a spur road to the northeast, the exact point a bit of conjecture as there isn't any obvious point along the higher part of the ridgeline. I backtracked a short distance to find a single track #82 heading north down to the next valley where there is a small manmade lake. The trail is narrow enough as it winds its way down the mixed chaparral/forest slope, brush encroaching on both sides. There was a good deal of poison oak as well, and it took all my concentration to (attempt to) identify and avoid it as I rode by. I then took another single track, #60 (there are signs on the trail to match these numbers to the trail map), up to Sandstone Ridge, this being a perfectly awful trail. It started off well enough with a fine display of poppies and a firm trail, but it quickly became sandy and unrideable, often steep as well, and I ended up pushing the bike up most of it. At the crest I picked up Sandstone Ridge Rd, a much better surface for the bike. I found a Fort Ord survey marker from 1994 at the highpoint where one can look over much of the national monument.

From Sandstone Ridge I dropped southwest down paved Barloy Canyon Rd into the canyon, then left on Eucaplytus Rd for a short distance. I spotted a sign for single track #49 and followed this up to Lookout Ridge to the south (the first part of this trail is labeled as #71 on the park map, but it's #49 on Google maps). More poison oak growing along the trail made this one a bit sketchy as well. I was soon at the highpoint of Perry Ridge, found at its junction with Lookout Ridge, very close to a gated part of the road with a Road Closed sign. The highpoint appears to be found just beyond the gate on the left side of the road in the weeds somewhere. Someone riding by would have thought I was nuts, or high, or something along those lines.

Back to the bike I dropped left down an exceedingly steep and rocky section of road that I had to walk the bike down - I haven't the youthful disregard that I once had for what happens if I go over the handlebars. Sigh. When the gradient eased I got back on the bike and continued along Lookout Ridge heading south, up and over a number of intermediate bumps, slowly climbing higher. Ten minutes later I pulled to the top of the highest bump, free of trees and chaparral, the only one of the four ridges to have what felt like a real highpoint. Having reached the last of the day's objectives, I reversed course and headed back north along Lookout Ridge, returned to the top of Perry Ridge (pushing the bike up the steep, rocky section - ugh, ugh) and back to where I had topped out on Trail 49. Another cyclist was taking in the views at this point where I waved before heading south down the continuing #49 into Pilarcitos Canyon. This trail had several good switchbacks to keep the gradient reasonable. There was more poison oak to watch for, but not as bad as the earlier single tracks. I crossed Pilarcitos Canyon Rd to pick up Skyline Rd, paralleling the former as it makes its way northeast down the canyon. Once back on Jacks Rd, I followed this up and over the last ridge before descending towards Toro Creek along SR68. Before reaching the creek, at a junction next to a pretty lake, I found a perimeter road/trail contouring along the hillsides, eventually dumping me back at the Creekside Terrace TH. All told, I spent just shy of three hours covering about 16mi, not a bad workout.

Via email:
Ah, yes. Basic training. October to December 1963. When JFK was killed, I was mopping the mess hall at Company C-4-1. The infiltration course, muddy slogs along back roads in the rain, target ranges out on the sand dunes, vintage 1940 barracks, the long night when I stood guard duty looking at Monterey's lights twinkling across the bay, and it was 30 degrees and raining. Most of us who "graduated" from there were ready and willing to say [bleep] that place! Now it's a National Monument??? I thought Fort Ord had been made into Cal State Monterey Bay. In 2000, I visited there and actually located my old barracks (dilapidated with weeds everywhere). Nostalgia? Hardly. Geographic and historical interest? Considerable. I remember standing in the line for the mess hall at 6:00 in the morning, looking south at the big hills between the Salinas-Monterey highway and Carmel Valley, and listening to mariachi music coming out of the mess hall squawk box. And why did I keep thinking of John Steinbeck? But I never imagined that Fort Ord had any heights and summits worth exploring.
Kind regards,
Herb Childs, Ashland, Oregon

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