Nacimiento_Ferguson + Arroyo Secco

Discussion in 'rec.bicycles.rides' started by [email protected], Apr 21, 2004.

  1. Nacimiento Spring Ride 06-07 Apr 04

    John Woodfill and I loaded our bicycles and touring bags into the car
    and headed south from Palo Alto on US101 to Salinas, from where we
    took Main Street that turns into Monterey Rd (SR 68) south of town.
    From here, on Laurels Grade (a steep road) we drove south to Carmel
    Valley to the Blue Sky Motel and dinner. We had done this last year
    and found the routine works well for this loop ride that is a bit long
    to enjoy on one day.

    Tuesday morning we left street clothes behind in the motel room that
    we would return to in the evening and drove to the coast, heading
    south on (SR 1) along the beautiful almost uninhabited and steep coast
    past Big Sur and on to Lucia, where we parked the car to begin our
    ride. We took the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road about a mile south of
    Lucia into the mountains.

    We chose the time because spring came early this year and without much
    rain to keep the hills green, we were concerned about the wildflowers
    that were plentiful last year. Just the same, we had clear skies, no
    significant wind and cool temperatures. In fact, as we drove through
    Big Sur, we noticed that the roofs of buildings were white with frost.

    The climb up Nacimiento Road starts out steeply but soon becomes a
    pleasant climb, especially in cool air. The steep meadows were rich
    green with many wildflowers along the road. Columbine, shooting
    stars, wild iris, blue and yellow ground and bush lupine, California
    poppies, paint brush, indian warrior and many more, with the backdrop
    of the deep blue Pacific where frothing surf and azure blue aerated
    water surrounded huge rocks lying off shore as though some giant had
    thrown them there eons ago.

    We entered the edges of a redwood forest about a mile inland, passing
    waterfalls in dark canyons under the trees where pale blue
    forget-me-nots lined the road. Although we didn't see many birds, we
    heard them warbling, black headed grosbeaks, wren tits, and tit mice
    while overhead a red tailed hawk soared in slow motion circles. To
    make up for that, we saw many blackbirds, scrub jays and steller's

    From the broad flat summit at Redwood Spring (2664ft), roads headed
    north and south as we crossed to the east side of the divide into a
    canyon with a completely different ecology along the rushing
    Nacimiento River surrounded by steep hills of scrub brush above and
    the shade of sycamores along the water.

    The descent that began steeply, gradually leveled off as the canyon
    opened toward the broad valley of Fort Hunter Ligget. Here a guard
    station with concrete road barriers and a mechanically erectable metal
    wall marked the boundary. After identifying ourselves, we were
    allowed to pass. We saw only two or three cars on this impeccably
    paved road on the way to post HQ.

    This wilderness area seems to no longer be used by the US Army, there
    being no sign of vehicles, tank or tire tracks, on the unused dirt
    roads that crossed our path. Although last year offered a flood of
    wildflowers, this year we met only a few areas with a yellow carpet of
    buttercups and lavender and blue lupine.

    The whole region all the way from the coast has a type of century
    plant, that seems to be agave sisalana, but I can't be sure, there
    being hundreds of agave varieties. Some of them had bloomed others
    were beginning to send up the flowering stalk. Only a few were in
    bloom with yellow and white blossoms.

    As we rolled across large open fields, sparsely populated with white
    oaks and a sycamore here and there, we spotted a coyote at a distance
    and wondered whether we should report having seen a mountain lion as
    we suspect is often the case. After crossing a small ridge we saw the
    officers club on a knoll across the San Antonio valley, and chose to
    use the bridge (that is off limits to tanks) and cross the richly
    flowing San Antonio River.

    Most of the roads have broad level concrete fords so that tanks can
    cross, because building tank bridges is prohibitively expensive.
    Riding through 3-4 inches of water is fun if you go slowly. The web
    site above shows a M/C crossing one of these fords.

    We rode up the hill to the officer's club aka Hearst Hunting Lodge
    (1100ft) for a good hamburger and large Coke before stopping at the PX
    for a take-along soda, candy bar, and bananas for the wilderness ride

    The San Antonio Mission, a remnant of the effort of the Spanish to
    convert native Americans to domestic slaves... oh, I meant Christians,
    was looking as lost as ever in the midst of this wilderness, the
    nearest town being Jolon in the Salinas Valley.

    We rode through the river, heading north on deserted Del Venturi Road
    to The Indians (1773ft) at the upper end of the San Antonio River. At
    Indian Ranger Station (2086ft), we crossed an inconspicuous divide
    into the Arroyo Secco river, crossing the stream on a well maintained
    ford as we left paved roads behind. Unfortunately, the road grader,
    whom we met farther down, had just "shaped" the road so that it was so
    loose in places that we had to walk, but as the road leveled off, we
    could ride the two miles to Escondido Camp Ground, where the grader
    had turned around.

    From here Indians Road climbs out of the canyon, the narrows of Arroyo
    Secco being impenetrable for a road without large expense and regular
    maintenance. The climb was pleasant with good traction on this fairly
    clean one lane road. The reason it is in good shape is that motor
    vehicles can not get past a large rock slide at the summit and others
    on the north slope.

    As we reached the high plateau (2800ft) we noticed a pair of old MTB
    tracks and a M/C track in what had been mud. At the north end of this
    section the road begins to climb a little before reaching the large
    rock slide. The rocks were easier to cross this time because some
    good trail maker had made a track in the slide that lies at the angle
    of repose that doesn't stop for nearly 400ft. We got on our bicycles
    again after this 100ft portage, some of it steep, that ends under a
    cliff with a spring that might come in handy in hot weather. The
    slide is at the red cursor on the map at:

    On the way up, I noted that we did not have to dismount for rocks on
    the road but on the descent, we both volunteered to walk, having had
    experience with slashed tires on other such rides. The view from this
    road are spectacular and the remoteness amazing, so close to
    civilization in the flatlands a few dozen miles away.

    That there was almost no visible wildlife was striking on this trip.
    Once over the cost climb, we didn't even hear any birds although we
    saw blue birds, yellow billed magpies and acorn woodpeckers and an
    occasional soaring turkey vulture that we hoped was a condor, but no

    We were back on smooth road as we got down to Lucia Creek (1000ft)
    where there were two cars and a large camper bus that showed no signs
    of recent human activity. We crossed the bridge and climbed over a
    small rise along Arroyo Secco, a richly flowing river at this point.

    Here at The Lakes Campground (945ft) we were again on pavement, the
    last impassable rock slide being a short way above the camp. From
    here is was a pleasant cruise to the junction (704ft) with Carmel
    Valley Road, also known as Jamesburg Road at this end. Jamesburg Rd.
    climbs gradually in woodsy sheltered curves along Paloma Creek. Just
    the same, the afternoon wind got stronger and colder as we progressed.

    The road changes name to Jamestown-Arroyo Secco Road at (1550ft) where
    it also begins its climb to its summit (2384ft) over which it crosses
    from Paloma Creek to Finch Creek watershed. This area was new to me
    because last year we got delayed crossing Indians Road so much that we
    ran out of daylight here, and with no moon at all. This year we were
    a couple of hours earlier and besides, there was a full moon in the
    event that we got delayed.

    Today, the land was green and lovely but the wind was not kind as it
    blew in our face descending Conejo Grade. It was cold enough that we
    put on our jackets and I put up my hood before descending Ardilla
    Grade along Tularcitos Creek. I was glad to have my thick doeskin
    leather winter gloves on. We got back to our motel (400ft) (97 miles)
    in good time, got a hot shower and a filling dinner before getting a
    good night's sleep.

    In the morning we stopped for breakfast at the corner grocery store
    before retracing the route we drove by car the day before. Traffic on
    Carmel Valley Rd. was regular commute traffic headed toward Carmel and
    Monterey. Once we were on HWY 1 heading south along the coast,
    traffic was light and mostly tourists.

    That the route is far more interesting seen from the bicycle than from
    the car was striking. We enjoyed the scenery immensely and were glad
    to find that the weather was warmer than the day before as we
    descended some of the longer grades around toward Bixby Creek with its
    beautiful concrete arch bridge. We even had a tailwind most of the
    way. We met three bicyclists heading north, somewhere south of Big
    Sur, so heavily loaded that we could hardly see their bicycles.
    Farther on we passed a couple heading south, but that was all we saw
    of bicyclists.

    We had an interesting incident at Point Sur Lighthouse where we had
    noticed in the past that the great rock was open to visitors at 10:00
    on Wednesdays (today). This was one of those days and a string of
    about a dozen cars was making its way down the paved one lane road
    toward the huge rock, so we climbed over the locked gate and followed.

    The tour guide at he end of the column saw us, blocked the road with
    his car, and informed us that bicyclists were not welcome and that the
    tour was a closed hiking event that took three hours. In other words,
    we could not ride our bicycles to the lighthouse. We were told return
    another time, and by car.

    After that event, we enjoyed the coast, sighting a pod of grey whales
    by their white spouts over the deep blue waters heading north as they
    usually do this time of year. In Lucia, we packed our bicycles into
    the car and headed home, once again noticing how much nicer this route
    looks from the bicycle.

    The first day was 97 miles and about 6000ft of climb and the second
    60 miles and about 1200ft of climb.

    Jobst Brandt
    [email protected]