SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Ride to Pine Mountain

Fuji Cross and a big rock
Originally uploaded by jimgskoop.
62 mile mixed-terrain ride with Carlos and Cyclofiend Jim. Route as follows:

-Meet up with folks in Mill Valley
-Enter RR Grade at end of W. Blithedale Ave.
-(R) Hoo Koo Ee Koo
-(L) Blithedale (~100 yards)
-(L) Indian Fire Road (an incline)
-(R) Eldridge to Lake Lagunitas
-North on Sky Oaks Rd
-(L) Bon Tempe Meadow Trail (unmarked?)
-(L) Fairfax-Bolinas Rd
-(R) Pine Mtn Truck Rd
-Drop down into Woodacre
-Connect w/Sir Francis Drake and ride back home via the usual route thru Fairfax

Date: 8.19.2006
Mileage: 62
Bike: Fuji Cross
Time: 8am - 5:30pm

Ride Report:

Yesterday, intrepid iBOBers Carlos, Cyclofiend, and yours truly met up for another epic mixed-terrain ride across the highways and fire roads near Mount Tamalpais. I left my flat just a few minutes after 8am and sped through the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park aboard my Fuji Cross, turning northwards to meet up with Carlos at the scheduled time of 8:30. Carlos arrived a few minutes after me on his nice Habanero MTB and we continued on in short order, cruising across the majestic bridge in the crisp chilly morning air...reminding me of Mark Twain's famous quote: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco!" Of course, as soon as we crossed the bridge and dropped down into Sausalito it warmed up considerably. Zipping along the Sausalito Bike Path, we soon came upon Cyclofiend waiting for us at the designated spot with his trusty Lemond Poprad. "I was just trying to tweak out the squeal in the front brake" he said as we pulled up...and it must've worked because I don't recall his brake making any sounds on the rest of the ride. Can't say the same for mine!

We continued on, riding northwards on Miller Ave into downtown Mill Valley, passing Mt. Tam Bikes and (if I recall correctly) WTB's headquarters on the way. Jogging around the main square in the center of town, we pick up W. Blithedale Ave, which quickly turns into a pleasant rural road winding through a nice neighborhood where a few folks are out walking their dogs in the morning air. Having grown up in the area, Cyclofiend knows these parts like the back of his hand under a microscope, and abruptly darts from the road onto an unseen little singletrack shortcut that drops us out right near the trail head.

We leave the relative safety of the paved road at this point. Old Railroad Grade is a gently winding fire road that formerly held the tracks for a locomotive that took tourists the easy way up Mount Tamalpais. The rails, ties, and spikes are long gone and what's left is a nice dirt road up the side of the mountain. We don't have it as easy as those tourists -- we have to pedal -- but we still have it pretty good since the road is never too steep in any one spot, and the elevation gained is left as a surprise until you pop out of the trees near the top with some awesome easterly views across the valley towards the Bay. We'd fortunately left the morning fog and chilly air behind us by this point, so it was time to shed some layers and smear on the sunscreen.

We briefly return to the pavement on Summit Road, which is crosscut into the side of the steep foothill and in treeless spots offers up some of those powerful views to the east. Cyclofiend says that Sammy Hagar has a house up here and if I could afford it so would I! As we rolled along Cyclofiend's Lemond suddenly emitted a strange FFFWOOSH from the rear wheel....a flat tire of course. After a quick tube change and a boot, we left the paved world again and came to Hoo Koo E Koo fire road. Now I've heard of the bike called Hoo Koo E Koo but I didn't know it was named after a road! I made my first attempt at some on-the-bike action video of Carlos and Cyclofiend riding near here, and we passed several other off-road cyclists and friendly and not-so-friendly folks hiking with their dogs.

After Hoo Koo we took Eldridge Grade over towards Lake Lagunitas, which is one of my favorite trails to ride -- the path gets fast and roller-y and narrows down almost to single track, letting you zip right around the lake. Plus, it's nearly at the water's edge so you get some nice views onto the quaint lake which feels like it's in the middle of nowhere. We rode around clockwise to the north side of the lake where we came upon an access road, facilities, water, and some picnic tables in the shade -- the perfect makings of a lunch stop! When you're on the bike for 8-10 hours at a time, lunch is a crucial and much-welcomed break in the middle of the day, and I'm usually very hungry by then. There's no place to buy lunch in the woods so brown-bagging (or I should say "Camelbak-ing it") it is the way to go: it's a bagel with hummus and roasted red peppers for me, Carlos has his usual quesadilla, and Cyclofiend packed a wholesome-looking sandwich. Home and the stresses of the daily grind feel a million miles away here as we sat, ate, and talked enjoying the warm sun and camaraderie.

Although I could sit in the relaxing sun for another few hours, it was time to go so we packed up and prepared for the second half of the adventure. We headed out north on the winding Sky Oaks Road, where I got stuck behind a large diesel pickup pulling a small fishing boat -- Carlos and Cyclofiend were off the front quite a ways down the hill. Finally the road straightened out, the truck/boat sped up, and I was able to speed up and catch up to them. They'd stopped at a trailhead off the side of the road, and I saw that Cyclofiend had his pencam out so I started waving. Carlos laughed that I was waving to the truck as I pulled up, and I said "no, I saw that you were taking pictures" and only then did I realize that Cyclofiend was actually shooting some more pencam video!

The trail we took didn't have a name, but it was a great shortcut, looping us around the back part of the upscale country club golf course and letting us out much farther up on Fairfax Bolinas Road than we thought. We continued climbing up into the Mt. Tam Watershed area and the temps climbed the higher we got. Around a curve we saw a group of three other cyclists off in the distance, and Cyclofiend said "Ah, we're gaining on 'em" -- I think we all took that as a subconscious signal to raise the tempo a bit, which we did. Shortly we came upon the gate to Pine Mountain Fire Road, AKA Pine Mountain Truck Road -- depending on whether you go by the name on the map or the name on the sign at the gate! Cyclofiend wisely turned around here to head back down Fairfax-Bolinas Road and on home, claiming an afternoon commitment. We said our goodbyes and Carlos and I pressed onwards, neither of us having ridden this particular trail before. Just inside the entrance gate we passed this gnarly-looking piece of construction equipment: a large yellow caterpillar-tread backhoe with some sort of horizontal chopper blade mounted in place of the shovel. (Visualize a huge weed-wacker capable of smashing rock and you've got it.) This image didn't sink in until we were a good third of the way into this trail, which was steep and rocky and covered with loose shale, making pedalling all but impossible and walking nearly so. Carlos soldiered on but I gave up and started hoofing it.

This aptly-named trail leads up Pine Mountain which is north-west from Mt. Tam. Perhaps the only highlight of the struggle on this trail was that it passes the top of the famous Repack Road where mountain-bike history was born. I was sorely tempted to take Repack back down, which would've led straight into the town of Fairfax, but to do so would deviate from our agreed-upon route. Fortunately the rough trail leveled out and became a nice fast dirt road which we happily pedalled across. Pine Mountain Road leads to the south edge of the small community of Woodacre, home of the Woodacre Deli and their delicious sandwiches. After a few false turns -- the trails near Woodacre apparently don't conform to our map -- we made it down into the town and to the deli. [Ed. note: actually we came out near San Geronimo, which is the next town over, the trails up there really don't jibe with the MVBC map!] But, Carlos was craving espresso which they don't offer, so we passed on by and continued on Sir Francis Drake Blvd., over White's Hill and into the town of Fairfax. There's a friendly little Java Hut where cyclists often stop to refuel and that's just what we did. After some much-needed calories and caffiene we continued on our way back home, through the towns of San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, and Larkspur, where we made a brief final stop to refuel our appetites. We climbed over the Camino Alto hill and into Sausalito, where we had to stop to add some layers since the temps had dropped as we neared the fog of San Francisco. Our climb back to the bridge was punctuated by an unfortunate cyclist going the other way down into Sausalito who'd lost control of her bike and crashed. She was very shaken but seemed ok with hardly any road rash. We offered assistance and stayed with her until her (presumed) husband came back up the road to find her.

Arriving at the bridge, we paused briefly to compare notes about the ride. Then it was onward to home for hot showers and food! I splurged and took my wife out to a nice dinner at a new Turkish place around the corner.

videos and photos


Blogger Unknown said...

Man, I feel like such a bad host for turning around...

cyclofiend photos
- cyclofiend vidoes

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Believe me, Pine Mtn was very hard to ride. I don't know how Jim rode the trail on his Fuji Cross. I had a hard time on my Habanero MTB with lower gears! Fist-sized rocks covered the ground, think of it as riding on a riverbed covered with rocks...just that you are climbing! Good ride.

My photos of this ride are here

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've ridden up that stretch of Pine Mountain, and it's pretty nasty. Has anyone riden down - that seems like it would be worse, but it's part of a loop I'd like to try.

1:41 PM  

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