White Rock Lookout and Big Basin State Park
The plan changed a little as Paul and I added an egg to the typical mornings’ coffee and toast. I was staying with Paul Sadoff, builder of Rock Lobster Cycles, and his wife Holly for the weekend. Paul had just welded me an amazing new bike which I had built up in his shop days before. We were hashing out the details of the second ride of the weekend. My goal for months had been to climb up out of town to the bombed out Eagle Rock Lookout and then dive back down to the coast on some un-named ridgetop to the Davenport DIY Skatespot overlooking the coast. Every time I mentioned this, Paul would give me this look. I had no idea what I was doing, he had all the beta and it took a lot of effort to not shake his head at me. Instead, just a wry smile.
After getting a hold of Rick Hunter, we switched the route from riding Empire Grade all the way to the lookout. Instead we’d ride the coast out to the infamous Bonny Doon Road and climb up past Rick’s shop and stop to say hello. The cruise along the coast is a great warm up, Bonny Doon is a beautiful bitch. Winding and steep it works you over right from the start and there is nothing to do but settle in. With every foot of elevation gained, the fog that was engulfing the coast seemed to be relenting to the sun. By the time we pulled into Rick’s driveway, we had bluebird skies.
I should have asked Rick to ride the pump track, but I didn’t. Next time…
Paul and Mark accompanied me as we finished off Bonny Dune and Pine Flats to where the road joined Empire Grade. Sitting in the bus shelter, taking a long drink and a break from the sun, my riding companions decided to call it a day and ride down back into town. Paul casually said that he didn’t have four thousand more feet left in him. It was my first warning. Then he told me not to worry about time, I had all day and a key to the house. That was my second warning. 18 miles and 21 hundred feet into the ride, I was still feeling pretty good.
We parted ways and I continued climbing as they tore off down the mountain. I figured I’d get to the lookout at least, and turn back there if I was scared.
I was stopping at each dirt pull out to see if it was the trail to the lookout. I could plainly see the dilapidated structure standing on top of the mountain just a quarter mile off to my left, but I wanted to make sure I picked the right gate to hop. After contemplating the tiny “No Trespassing” sign tacked high into a tree and finally deciding that I had found the right road, this tiny pickup truck pulls up alongside me. It slowly parks at the opposite end of the gravel patch on the side of the road. It was weird and I figured they were hikers, but just in case I got back on the road and continued heading up the hill. I thought that my next move down to the coast was near the end of this road so I figured I’d go check that out and circle back. Not one minute later, the same pickup was crawling up past me and parked in the last pullout available at the end of the road. It was plain that I was what they were interested in.
So, in an effort to keep them from following me down the hill I rolled up to the driver window to ask for directions. I was lost and trying to get to Little Basin State Park, which was half true. This seemed to hold them off my trail for just as much as I needed. I clipped in and raced back down the road, around the corner, doing my best to not skid up to the gate leaving an obvious trail to suspect. I swiftly hoisted the bike over the gate and hit the ground running straight into my best out of practice cyclocross remount. I sped out of view just in time to hear the truck pull into the gravel turn out.
The half mile up the crumbling road to the derelict lookout yielded the first views of the hills rolling all the way to the coast. I had the lookout to myself probably because the mountain top was scorching in the sun. The only noise was the constant buzzing of grasshoppers that would fly in waves as I moved around the site. I made my stop a brief one, shooting some photographs, enjoying the view and drinking a warm shaken beer. A toast to the new bike.
With a torn conscious, but no other option, I rode the Eagle Rock Trail down into Little Basin State Park. The two miles of single track that proved the Gravelero’s trail worthiness as the only steps taken were to get through some rock sections that would have been tough on my 6” trail bike. Paul had built me a dream bike.
I rolled down the road towards Big Basin Redwood State Park, unsuspecting of where I was going. I knew it was my way to the coast, but I didn’t understand the significance of my surrounding. Almost without warning, the road starts to weave between massive redwood trees. Silent giants hiding me from the sun. It made for a day-dreamy coast down into the heart of the park where the general store is. I loaded up on the essentials of a hot dog, snickers ice cream bar and can of ice cold beer. Mid ride fueling is the best kind of fueling.
I checked with the ranger who confirmed that Gazos Creek Road was rideable out of the park and to the coast. He didn’t tell me I was about to ride the best road of my life. The dirt climbs gradually away from the hustle of the parking lot and immediately I am alone amongst the giant trees. I rolled over arid dry ridge lines, occasionally getting glimpses of the coast, where the road would turn to solid smooth rock. Then the road would dive back into a draw and I’d be carving a corner of loam in a damp, musky redwood grove. It was magical. “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend” riding it.
The road leaves park property at Sandy Point where you can find a huge treehouse and a few rail cars nestled in the woods. Here the real descent to the coast starts.
The first half on the dirt is steep, loose and fast. The big tires and disc brakes on the Gravelero handled even the most sketchy corners with ease. About half way down, a gate separated the dirt from the pavement, where the grade evens out making it an easy tempo to the coast along Gazos Creek. I spent those final miles half coasting, daisily watching the butterflies.
I turned onto HWY 1 assuming I had an easy time of it back into town. Well, to assume makes and ass out of u and me. What lay in front of me was 25 miles of big rollers. Had it not been for the tailwind I would have been hitching my way down the coast. When I could uncross my eyes, I had an amazing view of the ocean and California’s coast. I plodded along for way longer than I had planned rolling back into the Sadoff’s driveway not knowing if I could climb the six inches up the curb. 75 miles, 7,500 feet of elevation gain over 8.5 hours of the day left me shelled yet invigorated. I love riding around Santa Cruz and can’t wait to be back.