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Canada del Oro/Blair Ranch - September 27, 2009

Distance: 8.06 miles Ascent: 1786 feet Moving time: 1:18 hours

The Santa Clara Open Space Authority opened the Blair Ranch area today for one day of mountain bike access. This area is normally closed to everyone while they go through all of the procedures to put in new trails, assure compliance with watershed regulations and look for any endangered species, but they open this area once a year for mountain biking. They hope to have this area open with new trails in about four years, but for now they are allowing access to the existing ranch roads on these special access days.

The ride started with a check-in with the rangers in the overflow parking lot (not the main parking lot). This was fast and easy, so we started the ride pretty quickly. Once through the first gate near the parking lot, the trail starts climbing. It was not so bad at first, but it quickly steepened in the mid-part of the climb. Overall, the initial climb picked up about 740 feet in 1.3 miles with an average grade of over 10% and a peak grade of over 45% in the middle. This peak grade was steep enough to result in a bit of hike-a-bike for all of us. Once to the peak (the water tank), it was a short ways down to right turn through the first gate.

The next section ran along the ridgeline. This resulted in several short ups and downs with little net elevation gain as the trail traversed along the ridge up to the next trail junction (not signed or named since this section is not open yet). We turned left at the junction and pretty quickly started heading down. This was still old ranch road, but the we quickly got to sections with a 30% descent on loose gravel over dust. We managed our speed pretty well, but there is one right-hand turn that we all went a bit wide on due to a bit too much speed. It seemed like we should be at the bottom and ready for a ride out along a creek, but instead the trail turned up. Steeply up. My GPS measured a maximum grade of about 65% over a fairly short distance. This was definitely a hike-a-bike section, but even hiking this part was pretty difficult. Just past this steep section was a nice stock pond that was a good place to take a few pictures and catch our breadth.

Once recovered, there was a short climb out from the pond and a short ride to the next trail junction. We were required to turn up the hill (the trail out to Uvas Road was closed) and start another good climb. We made it a pretty good ways up the hill, but when the incline hit 40% it was time to push again. Once we made it to the shade of some oak trees, the temperature dropped a few degrees and the trail flattened out a bit. Leaving the trees, we climbed about 400 feet in 0.9 miles back to the trail junction where we had turned left. From this point, it was back-tracking along the route we came in on. The long hill we had climbed initially was much faster coming down! What took 21 minutes to climb took about 4 minutes to descend.

After checking out with the rangers, the others decided that was enough for today. They were probably right since we had seen a temperature of 102 at one of the trail junctions. Since it was only a few minutes past 11:00, it was definitely going to be getting hotter. We agreed to just celebrate the new area and leave as heroes.

This was a fun ride, but it will be nice when they are able to build some trails rather than just ranch roads. This will make the rides longer and more enjoyable. I think there were several sections we could have seen but the roads didn't go there. Even as it was, there were ranch roads we weren't allowed on. We will have to be patient.

I thank the Santa Clara Open Space Authority for putting on this event and staffing the checkin/checkout table. They continue to set the standard for local support of mountain bikers!

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