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Beautiful Purisima Creek Ride

We realized that we had not been to Purisima Creek in a while (actually a bit over two years), so we decided to see what we have been missing. It turned out to be great ride. I made me wonder why we don't go there more often.

As usual, we started in the main parking lot at the PC01 gate and headed down North Ridge. This took us to the top of Whittmore Gulch, the highlight of the open space. This is a beautiful single track that works its way down the mountain through a series of switchbacks, crossing section of scrub and forest on the way down. It transitions from running across the mountain side to running parallel to creek, allowing it to end with a nearly straight run down the hill.

From the bottom, we rode up Purisima Creek Trail which runs just a few feet away from the creek. This means that the air is cool and moist and the nightime fog is captured in the canyon, making it the perfect place for redwoods and ferns. The trail is a combination of lush green and rich brown colors speckled with sunlight and wrapped in the soft sounds of flowing water. This is definitely one of the prettiest place we ride.

We headed up Borden-Hatch Mill, which climbs through the forest. It climbs and climbs until you think it must be the top, but then it continues climbing. It picks up about 1,100 feet in 2.6 miles.  While the average grade is a manageable 8%, there are several sections with peak grades of over 20%. It was a tough climb where I thought we were near the top several times only to be disappoints by another grade just around a bend.

After a brief refresher at the top, we headed down Grabtown Gulch. This is another very pretty trail, but I missed most of it as it is a pretty steep downhill ride and I had to keep my eyes on the trail. It was over in a flash and we were back on Purisima Creek and heading back.

All the downhill fun we enjoyed on Whittmore Gulch now had to be paid back as we re-traced our route to the start. It was pretty steep going at the beginning (remember that straight run down the hill - now it is uphill). I did notice a place with exposed rock on the side of the trail. Instead of the horizontal layers of sedimentary rock one normally sees, these layers were almost vertical, testimony to the power of tectonic plates and the fact this area is between the San Gregorio and San Andreas fault lines.

The ride was slow and steady until I hit the fire road climb at the end. I was out of gas for the final climb. I made it to the top, but it wasn't pretty and not much glory.

In spite of the climbing, this ride was memorable for the beauty of the forest. The contrast between hot open scrub and cool dark and moist forest was so stark that it could not be missed. Popping out of the forest into an open area was like hitting a hot wall. We should not wait so long to visit Purisima Creek again.

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