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Alum Rock/Sierra Vista - July 9, 2009

Distance: 13.3 miles Ascent: 2400 feet Moving time: 1:53 hours

Due to conflicting family obligations, I didn't make it to last Sunday morning's group ride. They went to Alum Rock park in San Jose, so I had to play catch-up and ride over there on my own time.

I started at the Alum Rock Road entrance because I knew how to get there and there is no parking fee (always a plus). I headed down the service road, passing nice looking singletrack entrances on both the left and right (they were all signed to prohibit bikes). The service road ends on the Penitencia Creek Trail and the creek itself. There are several picnic grounds and a couple of stone arch bridges crossing the creek here. This is the site of a luxury spa many years ago where people would come to "take the waters" that still percolate out of the hillsides.

I rode northeast out to the end of the ridable portion of Penitencia Creek. There is a small bridge here than ends in the middle of a tree and a stair case down. The trail continued but bikes are not allowed past this point, so I had to turn around. I crossed over the creek on one of the arched stone bridges to explore the other side. There are several active springs still percolating into what used to be stone soaking tubs, several of which still had visible carvings on them. It was a quick trip to a bygone era.

I crossed back over and rode west on Penitencia Creek to the end, where it crosses over a bridge onto the road and then connects to the North Rim Trail. I continued west to the end of this trail, but had to check the map a few times to figure out where I was. At the end (road), I turned around and retraced my path to Lariat Trail. There is a sign that indicates it goes up to Eagle Rock, so I thought I should explore. After a bit of climbing, I got to a part that was seriously uphill. I tried to ride up, but the combination of a steep grade and very loose soil got the better of me. My GPS indicated a grade of over 30% where I stopped. The trail was even steeper and looser ahead...I don't think I could have made much progress with a hike-a-bike, so I turned around and headed up North Rim to the Eagle Rock Trail. This took me up to the rock and the view. The other trail was hard to see due to the drop-off.

I descended and headed north a bit more on North Rim to the Todd Quick trail. I ascended the western side of the loop and went through the gate into the Sierra Vista Open Space, transitioning from a San Jose city park to Santa Clara County Open Space lands. After reading their sign boards (there are several, generally well written and informative), I headed up the west side of the Boccardo Loop trail to the top. This is trail takes you up to the top pretty quickly with an average grade in the 15-20% range, but there is one straight and steep section out in the sun that seems to reach a 35% grade. After passing through some trees, the Boccardo Spur takes you to the top of the hill for a very nice view of everything below. When I was there, there was a flock of vultures riding the wind currents at the top of the hill, swooping down to zoom just over the hill top very close to where I stood.

I descended on east sides of the Boccardo Loop, Todd Quick and Weather trails. The eastern routes have a gentler grade due to quite a few switchbacks. The Todd Quick trail was pretty nice. I continued north on the North Rim trail, dropping me down to the picnic area again. There is a paved road near the bottom of North Rim that heads off into the hills, but is aggressively signed as a private road. I headed back up to the starting point, with a brief detour to something labeled as Inspiration Point. I didn't find any inspiration there.

This was a pretty nice ride. The western side of the Boccardo Loop is certainly steep. The picnic areas looked nice. I was surprised to get as much riding and hill climbing in as I did since the map made the trails look very short. This place is worth a try.

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