Mon, Mar 18, 2013
|Story||Photos / Slideshow||Maps: 1 2||GPX||Profile|
previously attempted Thu, Dec 8, 2011|
I mostly had the park to myself, though I did cross paths with two parties, one just as I was starting out and another about 10 minutes later. There was no one back in the further reaches of the park to the north. The route follows along the top of a long, 13-mile ridgeline that divides the Arroyo Hondo on the east side (flowing into Calaveras Reservoir) from numerous small drainages that flow out to the west. The area is typical Diablo oak woodlands that have been grazed for more than a century. This means there is little chaparral and much grass, making for picturesque views. On the left, across the deep Arroyo Hondo drainage, is Mt. Hamilton and further north is Oak Ridge with Mt. Day and Black Mountain the two highest points on the ridge. On the right is Grant Ranch Park initially, then private ranches dropping down to the urbanized Santa Clara Valley with the Santa Cruz Mountains in the background. There are several view spots with nice benches for taking in the views along the way through the park which makes up the first five miles of the route.
It took about 40 minutes to reach the Pala Seca Cabin, an old hunting cabin whose most famous visitor was President Herbert Hoover, a school chum of Joseph Grant, the prosperous owner of the Grant Ranch until 1942. The cabin went into rapid decay when the property was acquired by the county in 1974 due to neglect. A restoration effort was begun in 2002, but seems to have stalled (it looks much the same as when I last saw it some 7-8 years ago - it was referred to as the Line Shack back then). Just north of the cabin is the park boundary. Oddly, there were no Private Property or No Trespassing signs to be found, just a property boundary. I picked up my bike and set it down on the other side of a gate, climbed over myself, and continued on my way.
I was only marginally worried about running into a landowner. The ridge I followed was about as far away as one could get from the ranch homes much lower to the west. There were four different properties to be crossed between Grant Ranch and the Poverty Ridge highpoint, but none of the roads showed much use. If I had to guess, I'd say the busiest is traveled maybe once a week, at most. At each boundary I would have to repeat the bike-lifting exercise to get it across to the other side. Cattle are free to roam the grassy hillsides and there are small manmade lakes here and there to keep them from getting thirsty. A pretty idyllic life, actually, until they get loaded onto a truck for the cattle yard. Cherry Flat Reservoir to the west was the largest of these lakes, the smallest not much bigger than a swimming pool. One even had a name - Wood Duck Pond. I passed by an old hunting cabin in a hollow to the east below the ridge, but it didn't look to have been used in years. Or at least not maintained, anyway.
It was 1:40p when I reached the summit. The last part was particularly steep and I had to push my bike up it - no points for riding all the way. There is a huge oak commanding the summit, but it does little to block the views. There is a fine view of Black Mtn and Mt. Day to the east across the Arroyo Hondo. Haze filled the Santa Clara Valley to the west, but the rolling oak woodlands in the foreground are very pleasant-looking. To be sure, I took a GPS reading and then rode over to the north summit where I had stopped on my first outing when we approached from that direction. As indicated on the topo, it was indeed lower, by some 20ft or more. I found the benchmark hidden in the grass, took a picture of it, and started back. No reason to wait around and try my luck further.
It took just under an hour and a half to make the return, making the whole outing just over 3hrs. I covered nearly 20 miles and almost 3,000ft of gain in that time, making for a very enjoyable workout. I had such a good time I had to wonder why I mostly gave up mountain biking 20 years ago. I used to do it quite regularly in the Santa Cruz Mtns and Henry Coe State Park. Perhaps I shall find more uses for it in the future...
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