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Last Chance Road



 
 
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  #1  
Old April 27th 04, 05:47 AM
external usenet poster
 
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Default Last Chance Road

Last Chance Road 25 APR 04

I haven't discovered how Last Chance Road got its name but I can
imagine that in the days when it was a motor vehicle road, the cliffs
in the narrows of West Waddell Creek looked as impassable as they do
today. However, since my first encounter with the road, the Park
Service has destroyed it so that only a single track between
back-filled rock and debris remains of this once drivable ridable
road. I can't imagine what the motivation for this expensive and
destructive project was but it has been successful in dissuading
people from seeing this beautiful scenic area because they don't want
to climb over steep rocky slopes and debris or make a river crossing
over boulders where once a vehicle ford offered a convenient route.

In any event, this has been one of my favorite rides since the days of
hippies who lived there in VW Buses and tended illegal agriculture.
They are gone now but at the end of the road a large cemetery on Mud
Gully Road, old VW's stand waiting for Godot to give them their 50,000
mile checkup. They've stood there for years, some with tattered
tarpaulins and others just covered with leaves since the 1970's.

Brian and I started from Palo Alto, riding up Alpine Road past the
closure gate 4.2 miles from the top at Page Mill Road (2200ft). Where
part of the road was lost to a never repaired land slide a few years
ago, a steep trail that makes a shortcut around the cliff makes
bicycling possible. Traction is still good now after winter mud has
hardened so it is a good ride but it requires effort.

The woods were rich and green with new foliage and roadside was
decorated with paintbrush, wild iris and pretty but intrusive broom:

http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_...3301+3807+0064

This is an area especially rich with song birds among which we heard
black headed grosbeaks whose song contains the classic wolf whistle,
and the Olive sided flycatcher that whistles McMinnville from the top
of a high perch. We chose to go west today because summer seems to
have arrived a few days ago with a bang and temperatures above 80F.
The coast side of the Santa Cruz Mountains is generally cooled by
on-shore breezes from the chilly waters that give this area fog and
and with it the coast redwood forests.

Heading south on SR5, Skyline Blvd, we climbed to Saratoga Gap
(2603ft) where SR9 crosses from Saratoga to Santa Cruz 28 miles to the
southwest. From here it was all downhill to the junction with Big
Basin HWY SR236 (1267ft). Big Basin Way climbs through a dense
redwood forest to China Grade (1824ft). The lush forest along this
road is not accidental, the right-of-way plus 100ft to either side of
the road being part of the park.

At aptly named China Grade, that dives down toward Boulder Creek so
steeply that is seems to want to penetrate the earth to China, we came
out of the woods to descend to the Rear Escape Road, the old road into
the park. With a bit of skill one can ride around the high side of
the gate and blast down this paved but driveway width road into the
dense redwood forest and along Opal Creek. Here the road is bounded
by light blue forget-me-nots and Arelia Californica with its huge
green leaves and pale yellow blossoms.

http://tinyurl.com/36su2
http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_...0000+0304+0896
http://www.clunet.edu/wf/nca/flowers/fwr-709.htm

After a snack at the park store, we rode toward Boulder Creek and
turned off on Hinn Hammond Road that has a sign indicating Blooms
Creek Campground. This paved road meanders along west Waddell creek
to the park sewage treatment plant where, above the turnoff, it turns
to gravel and gets steep. At the next junction, Last Chance Road, or
what's left of it, dives down steeply back down to Waddell Creek. It
was here that we heard the distinctive call of, but didn't see, a
pileated woodpecker, our version of the ivory billed woodpecker.

http://www.borealforest.org/birds/pi...woodpecker.htm

http://tinyurl.com/oxab
http://tinyurl.com/oxae

After about a half mile, the trail crosses the creek with enough
boulders that it can be done without getting feet. Here Waddell Creek
flows over broad slabs of stone above and below the crossing before
cascading over smooth bedrock where it has carved large swimming holes
on a series of stone plateaus as it descends through the narrows.
Meanwhile the trail hugs the south wall and reaches a broader part of
the canyon, lush with vegetation and in the shade.

As the creek curves northward and into another series of rapids, the
trail climbs out of the canyon, partly ridable before connecting with
the end of the vehicle road, most of which is in private property as
it continues climbing gradually from 800ft to a little over 1000ft
crossing Last Chance Creek. Although unpaved, the road is well
maintained, albeit bumpier that one might like by the embedded rock.
The road runs near the top of a ridge between Waddell and Scott
Creeks that both seem amazingly far below whenever a view opens.

At the more civilized part of the road, as it starts its descent to
Swanton Road, pavement begins at a cattle guard but it is no bed of
roses either. Although contiguous, this pavement is almost as rough
as the dirt road as it descends through green expansive cow pastures
as it passes a swamp, Laguna de Las Trancos, before its junction with
Swanton Road. The Swanton road is smooth and well paved, levelling
off as it crosses Scott Creek that flows out of Little Basin.

Most of the Swanton Valley was owned by Al Smith, the originator of
Orchard Supply hardware stores. He called it the Swanton Pacific
Ranch that is today under th custody of Cal Poly Aggies, and Al's
steam railway club that runs the 19" gauge steam railway, aptly called
the SP or Swanton Pacific. The railroad is at home just south of Big
Creek that adds more water to Scot creek than Scoot creek brings in.

It's up a couple of short bumps to the junction with SR1 just north of
Davenport, the end of the UP rail branch that hauls coal in and cement
out of a large cement plant. Arro's grocery store makes a convenient
stop for food before cruising downwind to Santa Cruz, although today
there wasn't much wind. At Bonny Doon Road and the beach noted for
its tanning capabilities for people who prefer sunning in the buff,
the parking lot was nearly full. It's a great beach and well wind
protectd.

Santa Cruz was in fine form, there being nearly 100 surfers attending
a class of the Santa Cruz Surfboarding School. The beaches were
finally cleared of piles wood debris that came out of the San Lorenzo
river. Beach volleyball was in full swing and the Roaring Camp and
the Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific was waiting to depart from the
Giant Dipper roller coaster. We crossed the San Lorenzo on the
footbridge attached to the railroad bridge and headed south toward
Capitola and Aptos. Brian headed up Branciforte Road to get home a
bit earlier than I had planned so I continued down the coast.

http://www.roaringcamp.com/beach.html

Valencia Road heads inland from Aptos to connect to Day Valley road
and Freedom Blvd from which Hames Road climbs a short steep hill to
Corralitos and the sausage factory/grocery store. I tanked up and
took a spare 20oz soda pop along so I wouldn't run dry after I got to
the top of Eureka Canyon Road (1850ft) at "four corners" the junction
of Eureka Canyon Rd., Highland Way, Buzzard Lagoon Rd., and Ormsby
Cutoff. I turned up Ormsby Cutoff, now known as Ormsby Trail and
paved about half way to the top at Summit Road.

Ormsby gives a beautiful view to Watsonville in the Pajaro Valley and
Monterey in the back drop at the tip of the Santa Lucia mountains.
Vegetation o this dry slope is mostly brush, manzanita, and digger
pines. I was passed by only one pickup truck and no one gave me the
"git offa my land" routine even though there are threatening signs at
the lower end of the road where there is a permanently open gate, open
by law after the claim to a private road was tested in court. There
was no longer a gate at Summit Road (2860ft).

The ride along Summit Road is an up and down event with great views to
the coast and the Santa Clara Valley below the ridge. I met no
traffic here except an MTB rider with whom I talked a bit and who
lived on Ormsby. I met three road M/C riders parked at the junction
with Loma Prieta Avenue and headed up the "dirty bump" that years ago
we named it because for its steep and loose surface, a challenge to
ride. Since then, because even cars had trouble climbing it, the
short steep part was paved, it being the connection for people who
live beyond there on Loma Chiquita road on the east side of the ridge.

http://tinyurl.com/yw8xs
http://tinyurl.com/2uxzj
http://tinyurl.com/3f8bw

I took Loma Ridge Road (3363ft) around the base of Loma Prieta Peak
(3808ft), stopping at the spring to refill my bottle before traveling
this road that has locked gates and practically no traffic judging
from the lack of tire tracks. The road descends half way and climbs
back up to about the same hight at Mt. Umunhum. With no users and no
maintenance, the road has large ruts in places that mostly have one
end that is easily ridable.

At Mt Umunhum, I was surprised at the assembly of dead motor vehicles
and other hardware on the knob just before the junction with Mt
Umunhum road (3290ft), a paved road that served the Air Force station
located there. I met no one on this stretch and didn't expect to
because there isn't much up there to do and few people have keys to
the locked gate below. I was impressed how steep the paved road is
and that I rode up it about three years ago. It is a real brake
burner and in the old days was a hazard for Tubulars, melting their
glue.

About 2/3 down, at a cattle guard and locked gate, cars of hiker were
parked on a wide spot and turn-around and there were even more farther
down near the junction with Hicks road (1400ft). I took Hicks down to
Shannon and then Kennedy Road over to Los Gatos from where the ride on
SR9 to Saratoga and Homestead Road and Foothill Expy was mostly a
downhill cruise home. I missed getting too hot by doing my climbing
on the coast side and by finishing late in the afternoon.

140miles and 10200ft of climbing filled my bill for the day.
---------------------------------
Jobst Brandt

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  #2  
Old June 2nd 04, 11:16 PM
Alan Walendowski
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Last Chance Road / Ormsby Cutoff

On Tue, 27 Apr 2004 04:47:17 GMT,
wrote:

Last Chance Road 25 APR 04


[snip]

Valencia Road heads inland from Aptos to connect to Day Valley road
and Freedom Blvd from which Hames Road climbs a short steep hill to
Corralitos and the sausage factory/grocery store. I tanked up and
took a spare 20oz soda pop along so I wouldn't run dry after I got to
the top of Eureka Canyon Road (1850ft) at "four corners" the junction
of Eureka Canyon Rd., Highland Way, Buzzard Lagoon Rd., and Ormsby
Cutoff. I turned up Ormsby Cutoff, now known as Ormsby Trail and
paved about half way to the top at Summit Road.

Ormsby gives a beautiful view to Watsonville in the Pajaro Valley and
Monterey in the back drop at the tip of the Santa Lucia mountains.
Vegetation o this dry slope is mostly brush, manzanita, and digger
pines. I was passed by only one pickup truck and no one gave me the
"git offa my land" routine even though there are threatening signs at
the lower end of the road where there is a permanently open gate, open
by law after the claim to a private road was tested in court. There
was no longer a gate at Summit Road (2860ft).


[crossposted this to ba.bicycles as there have been various threads
about this there as well]

Just to toss in my two cents - Ormsby is indeed a private road. I
have spent the morning on the phone with the county (Surveyor's Office
and the Dept. of Public Works). Both departments think that Ormsby is
private.

I am not saying don't ride there, I'm just rebutting the incorrect
assertion that Ormsby is a public road. It is not. Summit Road's
status is a separate kettle of fish.


-Alan

  #3  
Old June 3rd 04, 03:01 AM
[email protected]
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Last Chance Road / Ormsby Cutoff

Alan Walendowski writes:

Last Chance Road 25 APR 04


[snip]


Valencia Road heads inland from Aptos to connect to Day Valley road
and Freedom Blvd from which Hames Road climbs a short steep hill to
Corralitos and the sausage factory/grocery store. I tanked up and
took a spare 20oz soda pop along so I wouldn't run dry after I got
to the top of Eureka Canyon Road (1850ft) at "four corners" the
junction of Eureka Canyon Rd., Highland Way, Buzzard Lagoon Rd.,
and Ormsby Cutoff. I turned up Ormsby Cutoff, now known as Ormsby
Trail and paved about half way to the top at Summit Road.


Ormsby gives a beautiful view to Watsonville in the Pajaro Valley
and Monterey in the back drop at the tip of the Santa Lucia
mountains. Vegetation o this dry slope is mostly brush, manzanita,
and digger pines. I was passed by only one pickup truck and no one
gave me the "git offa my land" routine even though there are
threatening signs at the lower end of the road where there is a
permanently open gate, open by law after the claim to a private
road was tested in court. There was no longer a gate at Summit
Road (2860ft).


[crossposted this to ba.bicycles as there have been various threads
about this there as well]


Just to toss in my two cents - Ormsby is indeed a private road. I
have spent the morning on the phone with the county (Surveyor's
Office and the Dept. of Public Works). Both departments think that
Ormsby is private.


I am not saying don't ride there, I'm just rebutting the incorrect
assertion that Ormsby is a public road. It is not. Summit Road's
status is a separate kettle of fish.


Thanks for the clarification. I guess Ormsby was not included in the
court case that opened the gates on Summit. In any case, the Ormsby
folks don't seem to take individual bicyclists as a threat to their
community anymore. Maybe that's because these folks are actually land
owners and wage earners in contrast to the former trailer folk who
seemed to be squatters to me.

Jobst Brandt

 




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