Nacimiento-Ferguson Road etc.

Discussion in 'rec.bicycles.rides archive' started by Jobst Brandt, Mar 31, 2003.

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  1. Jobst Brandt

    Jobst Brandt Guest

    Saturday 29 Mar 03

    Participants: Jeanie Barnett, John Woodfill, Jobst Brandt

    After a good night's sleep in Carmel Valley, we drove from Carmel, down the coast over the route we
    rode the next day making this a somewhat deja vu experience. Therefore, the second day, which in a
    way precedes the first is described first here for continuity.

    We headed south from Carmel under brilliantly clear skies with light breezes along a section of
    California coast, famous for its striking landscape. Here rocky mountains fall off as jagged rock
    cliffs into the surf, rather than onto sandy beaches. Among the well known sights are Rocky and
    Bixbe Creek, concrete arch bridges, built in 1932.

    The road drops to coastal meadows at Point Sur, where a large flat- topped rocky knob rises from
    alluvial flatlands on the end of a tidal peninsula just north of the Big Sur. A lighthouse and coast
    guard station sit atop this 500ft tall rock in an impressive manner, slightly reminiscent of Mont
    St. Michel.

    From here the road heads inland along Big Sur river and enters the redwood forest of Pfeiffer
    State park. The river comes out of steep ravines, typical of these mountains, that are even
    difficult on hiking trails. Highway one continues south where the Big Sur canyon emerges from its
    canyon to the east, and heads up Post Creek crossing a ridge back to the coast. We stopped at
    Lucia for some food and drink and continued south a few miles to turn inland on
    Nacimiento-Ferguson Road along Mill Creek.

    This road, formerly a dirt road, is well paved today. It climbs steeply at first and soon exposes a
    splendid vista to the rugged coast below. At this time of year one might confuse the locale with
    somewhere else because the fields are a lush green with California Poppies and Lupine adding the
    state colors of blue and gold to the steep meadows. The road crosses the north-south Ridge Trail at
    the 2664ft summit before heading down Nacimiento Canyon in a dense oak forest.

    The road finally catches up with the cascading Nacimiento river as it ambles down its broadening
    valley into Fort Hunter Liggett military post named after Lieutenant General Hunter Liggett
    (1857-1937). We passed a guard post where we had to show identification and got a "good conduct"
    pass in the event that, on leaving the post, we were questioned about how we entered.

    The green meadows had dense clusters of golden poppies and lupine that demanded a posed photo stop.
    Broad tank trails crossed the road at various places on reinforced concrete, a stark contrast to the
    natural beauty of the rolling hills. We stopped at the Julia Morgan designed "Officers club" for
    sandwiches and drinks before heading north to the San Antonio de Padua Mission, with architecture
    typical of California missions.

    We headed north from the mission on a dirt road that brought us back to Venturi Road along Arroyo
    Seco on the way to Santa Lucia camp ground, the end of the road. Here, Indian Road, an unpaved road
    that has been closed for about ten years, crosses the river on a well kept concrete ford across the
    richly flowing Arroyo Seco (that wasn't seco) to start climbing to the top of a ridge at about
    3000ft. At some spots rockfall had made the road impassable for anything wider than a single track
    vehicle and even at that, we had to carry our bicycles over some of these sections. Various
    wildflowers and cacti decorated the landscape between chaparral.

    The terrain is extremely rugged and the road unused except by "extremists" on bicycles. Finally we
    came to the main obstacle of the route, a land slide that lay at maximum slope with its lower end
    about 1500ft at the roaring Arroyo Seco below. The 18 miles on Indian Road that climbed over the
    gorge of Arroyo Seco was spectacular and ridable except for a occasional places of heavy rockfall...
    and of course the rock slide that had to be portaged carefully, it being at the angle of repose. A
    slip could give a 1500 foot drop to the river that was not dry as its name implies.

    We saw a lightweight motorcycle track going north and returning from the "impassable" rock slide and
    a similar track of an MTB that turned around after coming from the north to the slide. After
    carrying our bicycles over the 20yds of slide we continued on the road clinging to rocky cliffs of
    the canyon. The slow going over the 18 miles of rough terrain got us back down to Arroyo Seco and
    pavement a bit late. As we turned west on Carmel Valley Road it was already dark enough for a great
    horned owl:

    to fly next to us in the dusk and land a couple of times on the phone line next to the road.
    Meanwhile a bat flew under my arm brushing my chest and arm as I rode along.

    This road, also known as Jamesburg - Arroyo Seco road, climbs for ten miles getting steeper at the
    top at 1674ft before descending 18 miles to Carmel Valley, our destination. We ran out of daylight
    and with no moon at all at the summit, only John could continue carefully with his good night
    vision. As Jeanie and I walked our bicycles in the dark we admired an unfamiliar starlit sky, one
    that is not visible to city dwellers.

    We had sufficient food and water to keep rolling but we relied on John to find a ride. When he got
    to Carmel Valley he stumbled onto a generous Monterey Taxi driver who had gotten off duty and was
    going home. After being driven the last 13 miles to town, we stopped at the local convenience store
    microwave burritos, salad and deserts, and some breakfast. We were all well fed, showered, and in
    bed before midnight at our motel of the previous evening after 8810 feet climbing 113miles (100 for
    me and Jeanie).

    Mill Creek climb from the coast:
    Nacimiento Road to Hunter-Liggett: North from Mission San Antonio
    up into San Antonio Valley: San
    Antonio Valley to Indian Ranger Station on Arroyo Seco: Indian Road above Indian Ranger
    Station: Over the top of Indian
    Road: Down to The Lakes camp
    ground on Arroyo Seco: Carmel
    Valley Road aka Jamesburg Road:
    Carmel Valley Road aka Jamesburg Road overview: Carmel Valley on Tularcitos Creek:

    Carmel Valley - Lucia (Ferguson-Nacimiento Rd.) 55 miles, 3270 feet Lucia (Ferguson-Nacimiento Rd.)
    - Carmel Valley 113 miles, 8810 feet

    Jobst Brandt [email protected] Palo Alto CA

  2. kmead

    kmead Guest

    In article <[email protected]>, <[email protected]> wrote:
    >Saturday 29 Mar 03
    >Participants: Jeanie Barnett, John Woodfill, Jobst Brandt

    [fun story clipped]

    This route is part of the super fun two-day Big Sur Ride. The first day follows the route described
    by Jobst: Carmel Valley, Hwy 1, Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd, Fort Hunter Liggett and Mission San Antonio
    where you camp overnight. The next day goes north through the Salinas Valley and back Carmel Valley
    Rd over Cahoon Summit and Dum Do Do to Carmel Valley.

    I've done this ride twice and have enjoyed it immensely.

    A nice write up of the initial ride can be found at

    The official web site is at

  3. Jeff Orum

    Jeff Orum Guest

    I agree that the route is a terrific ride, but the Big Sur Ride charges almost $200 for the
    privilege of doing it.

    A group of my friends have been doing this route on our own for many years, typically in the late
    fall/early winter for far less money. From Carmel (rather than Carmel Valley) to King City is just
    about 100 miles, so that is doable in a day. There are many hotels to choose from (rather than
    camping as you do on the Big Sur ride), and places to eat in King City. The next day is 70 miles
    back to Carmel. By sharing a hotel room, my cost for the weekend food and lodging is less than $60.
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