Big Sur – Exploring the Isolated Sections (Limekiln, Gorda, Kirk Creek)


Incredible view, just south of Limekiln. (Kirk Creek is in the fog)

I’ve been watching the Highway 1 drama for months now, feeling bad for the affected businesses and hoping to pay them visit. Kirk Creek campground was calling out to me, and I recently saw that the pedestrian trail around the damaged bridge in Big Sur was now open to tourists. Time for a road trip!

Background: at the current time, there are 3 closures, creating two “islands” with limited access. From south to north:

(1) The HUGE slide, just south of Gorda, called “Mud Creek” or the “Mud Slide”. This will take a very long time…

(2) A minor slide, just north of Limekiln State Park, called “Paul’s Slide”. This is expected to be open by the end of this month (July 2017)

(3) The bridge, currently being rebuilt, which splits the town of Big Sur in half. This is expected to be complete in September 2017.

Big Sur Kate, a locally well known blogger, describes the closures, too. Watch her site for updated access information and maps:

My first stop, was to head to the “island” between #1 and #2, which has vehicle access on the twisty and scenic Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. Take it SLOW! Expect a construction or delivery truck in the middle of the road at every blind curve, especially weekdays. (I was there two years ago to climb Cone Peak


The bottom of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road,

I made the long and twisty drive down the road, and arrived at Kirk Creek at 5:00PM, on monday July 3rd. I was quite happy to find that there were 3 campsites remaining, without reservations. (These are usually impossible to get, without reservation months in advance.)


Kirk Creek Campground, site 2B


Fishing Boat


Lounging in the right lane

After paying $35 for one of the best campsites in California, I cycled about 1.5 miles north, to Limekiln State Park, and closure #2 listed above. Limekiln was full, but hardly any other cars on the road. (This “Paul’s Slide” (#2) closure allows limited access for local residents and delivery trucks, heading north towards Big Sur. It’s a LONG way, via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, but does allow supplies to get in to the residents and businesses.


Heading the other way, about 10 miles south of Limekiln, the road is blocked just south of Gorda. That’s the HUGE “Mud Creek Slide” that won’t be fixed this year. This completes the ~10 mile island between closures #1 and #2.


Gorda itself, has a cafe, gas station, and small store. They were all open, but staff outnumbered customers on the afternoon of July 3rd. I ended-up seeing a “Serving Dinner” sign. just north of Gorda, for the Treebones Resort.


Treebones Resort was hopping!

I wandered up the hill to look around and the parking area was full! It’s a huge effort to get here for tourists, but it was doing well. I looked at the menu, and spotted an awesome seat on the deck, overlooking the ocean, and ordered a beer and an appetizer.

(I later peeked at their lodging availability on the website. They do have availability, if you want to go. They’re doing much better than the other businesses in Gorda. I suspect that’s because they are a “destination” for most visitors, rather than relying on people passing by.)


The outside deck of Treebones, in Gorda, CA

The next morning, I headed back up N-F Road and Fort Hunter Liggett (…where you also may be delayed due to Army training exercises. Where else have you seen tiny bridges with an 80 ton weight limit?)


The top of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road


It’s a tough summer in the tourist business!

After a long drive north to Carmel, then south on Highway 1 to Big Sur, I arrived at the north end of closure #3. I parked the car a few miles before the end of the road, and got on the bicycle. At the end of the road, at “Big Sur Station”, I stopped in to ask about the pedestrian trail to the south. This would take me to the ~20 mile “island” between closures #2 and #3, that has access from the south for locals and delivery trucks.

The nice guy at Big Sur Station said my bicycle was welcome if I could “shoulder it”, as the trail was steep, with many stairs. My antique Specialized bike weighs only 17 pounds, so off I went! The trail starts at site #31 of the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground.


North end of the trail. Site 31 in Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground


About 400 vertical feet of climbing


A view from the trail

In the ~3/4 mile trail, I passed about 20 people heading the other way. They were a mix of locals and tourists. They were all friendly, except one grumpy lady who cursed at me for having a bike on the trail. I guess she doesn’t like tourists who spend money… (Oh, I had just passed two State Park Rangers, who greeted me!)

At the “Southside”, two friendly folks from Nepenthe  pointed the way to the Big Sur Taproom and told me that the number of tourists had greatly exceeded expectations!


South end of the trail, 1/4 mile from the Taproom & Deli


Some local residents’ cars


I stepped inside at about 3:00PM, and had the place to myself, except for 3 local residents, and one other tourist who arrived after I did. (WiFi, too!)


4th of July at 3:00PM

I reversed my course, and headed home! Great trip!


Next time, I would consider arriving earlier to Big Sur, and cycling, or taking the shuttle service to Nepenthe. It’s a unique opportunity to visit Nepenthe, while the tourist traffic is lower and they NEED your support.

When Paul’s Slide (#2) is finished later this month, it will be possible to drive to Nepenthe and the Taphouse, via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. A very long drive! I expect they will still be slow for the rest of the summer, until the Big Sur bridge is reopened later in the year.  GO!

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Walsh Peak Trail, Pacheco Camp @ Henry Coe State Park


I had been to Pacheco Camp a few times before, but never had a chance to camp there. It has a great old cabin (no access!), plus clean fresh water and a cold shower, piped from a spring uphill.

During the recent Backcountry Weekend I was again reminded that the abandoned trail across Walsh Peak had been restored about 2 years ago. I had a free weekend, and I hadn’t been bikepacking in awhile…

With a bit of free time for an overnight, I headed to the (summer weekends only) Dowdy Ranch entrance. I registered for my trip, including leaving my car overnight.

Just after you leave the Visitor’s Center, you’ll see this welcoming sign, below!


Welcome to Henry Coe! 20% grade is perfectly normal!

…and below is Tie Down Peak. (Never again!


Tie Down Peak!

“Hole in the Rock” is a beautiful swimming hole, just upstream from Pacheco Crossing. It was clean, clear, and flowing, though it can dry-up in the summer


Beautiful flowing water “Hole in the Rock”

Below shows the forces of this past winter’s floods. This “trickling” creek left flood debris 8 feet up, in a wide channel!


Flood debris, 8 feet up.

Finally, I see pink ribbons about where the steep side Walsh Peak Trail should be. No brown signposts yet, so you need to study the map and know where the trail should be. Below you can see how steep the climb is: 1000 feet, over one mile, and this is just the beginning!


Starting my climb!

Below, the ecosystem changes as you go up. I saw one Horned Toad up around here. I couldn’t take a picture without my loaded bike falling off the mountain (seriously!)


The ecosystem changes

The summit register, below!


The summit!

This log, below, was done by some influential people at Coe. I heard this hike helped start the effort to restore the trail


Old summit register

The loaded bike near the summit. About 65 pounds, in total, including my heavy winter sleeping bag. I was cold at Backcountry Weekend and this day was even chillier. It was worth carrying!

The climb was about 2/3 the height of the Mt Sizer “Shortcut” that I did 3 years ago. (Third photo shows the same bikepack rig, with more water and less sleeping bag! )


About 1/4 mile from the top

Heading down, with some random dead tree, to remind us that there hasn’t been a debris-clearing fire here in many years.



The barbed-wire fence on the left is the line between Santa Clara County and Stanislaus County, which passes over Walsh Peak.


The easy way out!

The camp! Enough sunlight to take a quick, chilly, shower, and lay out on a picnic table in the sun.


Pacheco Camp

Headed back the next day, sweeping across the ridge to the right, and over the distant summit.


Heading back, over yonder peak!


Rest…I have all day!

Strava link, showing 16.5 miles and 3719 feet of climbing

That’s it! Plan you trip carefully. Bring lots of water and tell someone your route! I also carry a DeLorme InReach satellite communicator. Cell phone signals are available on some ridges and peaks. Enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

White Sierra Clothing Review #ThinkOutside #MyOutdoors

Recently, the local, family owned White Sierra company sent me a few items to evaluate. I’m happy to support them in my own little corner of cyberspace. They’re just down the road, here in Silicon Valley, and have a great “American Dream” story! They have periodic closeout sales in their Sunnyvale HQ, where I had a chance to meet the husband and wife owners, and connect with the company.

What did I get? Clockwise, from top-left: an “Insect Shield” bandana, an “Insect Shield” stretchy scarf or headcover, “Rocky Ridge II” pants, and a “Kalgoorlie II” Long Sleeve Shirt.


Both the “Multifunctional Headwear” and the bandana contain a small amount of permethrin insecticide, which survives multiple washes, and is EPA-registered as safe for normal use.


Below, you see the information card, confirming it’s safe for normal use. These two products seem quite interesting. Seeing that we don’t have any bugs to speak of, in this area, I’m anxious to give these a try on my next camping trip.

The headwear is $25 on There’s also a wide selection of similarly treated clothing


The Kalgoorlie II Long Sleeve Shirt is a light fabric, offering full protection from sun (SPF 30). Excellent ventilation features include: interior mesh, a horizontal flap across the back, and roll-up sleeves with a retaining tab. I usually wear long sleeve runner’s shirts when I hike, but these ventilation features are superior. ($43.00 )


The Rocky Ridge II pants offer a similar lightweight fabric, with simple and comfortable construction. Perfect for summer hikes where you want your legs protected and covered. Front slash pockets, rear Velcro pockets, elasticized waist, and a single snap closure.

I often wear “zip-off” or “convertible” pants when I hike. These pants are lighter, and faster drying. I rarely ever remove the legs of the zip-off pants, anyway, because it requires removing my boots. I’ll be giving these a try soon! ( $45.00 )


White Sierra regularly publishes discount codes, as well as offering free shipping over $100. If any of their items interest you, check the hours on their Sunnyvale store fro closeouts, or buy their new items for 33% off list price, from their website (Code: “ALPHA33“)

The end! Go take a hike!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Madrone Soda Springs – Henry W. Coe State Park

On a steep side trail, not far from the HQ of Henry W. Coe State park, is a quiet meadow, by a creek. A few small remnants remain of what was once a hotel and resort. “Madrone Soda Springs” is not as widely known as Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs, but shares a similar background, when tourists and vacationers didn’t travel far from home!

Believe it or not, there is still valuable information that is not yet on the Internet! The best source of information I’ve found is called: “The Mineral Springs of Santa Clara County”, by Ian L. Sanders. ($19.95, plus shipping, on Amazon, as I write this ) I’ll throw you a few teasers from the book, and if you want to know more, you’ll have to buy a copy!

The waters here were known to the early Ohlone natives, with a Mexican settler first claiming them in 1866. Cabins and a pavilion were built around 1880, and a Post Office existed from 1883 to 1895! From those bustling years, the property declined in the early 20th century, and was eventually added to the Coe family’s ranch in 1938. (Now “go buy the book”, which includes 8 pages of text and photos!)

Start your visit at the Henry W. Coe Visitor’s Center. The stuffed Mountain Lion watches over the cash register. $8.00 for parking, or else…(or else you can ride your bike here, or show your Annual Pass!)


If you don’t already have an official map, you’ll probably do fine without one for this short trip. Follow the signs, about 3 miles, to Manzanita Point, and turn right.


Down you go…about 900 feet, from Manzanita Point, to the creek below.



The creek is often dry in the summer, but in the record rainfall year of 2017, it’s likely to keep going well into the summer.


Hang a left when you get to the creek. (There’s really no other way to go!). Soon, on your right, you’ll see the “Madrone” sign, with an old stairway behind it


…and a basin, of some sort, in front of the sign, marked “1941”. One of Coe’s former Park Rangers tells me that this basin used to be where visitors could partake of the bubbly waters. It was from a shallow spring, below this basin near the creek. During my visit in March 2017, following a record winter for precipitation, I had hoped to find bubbly mineral water once again coming from the ground, but I failed!




That’s about all there is to see here, except a small cobblestone “cooler room” a few steps further down the trail on your left, plus a collapsed cabin about 1/2 mile downstream.


You may also wish to explore the meadow, which had two tents and four first-time visitors to Coe when I was there.


In this same general vicinity, there is a VERY overgrown trail into the “Lakeview Zone” portion of the park. It has great views of the valley, towards Morgan Hill. Navigation is very tricky and involves large quantities of poison oak, ticks and thorns. Unfortunately, the area became off limits after my two visits.


After poking around, and contemplating the area’s history, you can proceed downstream to China Hole, or head back the way you came.


A newly falllen tree, below, after the particularly harsh winter we just had.


This tree, below, made me realize that there hasn’t been any fires close to HQ in a very long time.


Plan your visit! The park HQ is on a twisty mountain road, east of Morgan Hill, CA. The website is

At a different entrance to the park is the better known “Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs”. The Ian Sanders book, mentioned above, includes about 35 pages on Gilroy Hot Springs. He also has another book entirely dedicated to GYHS. GYHS has many structures still standing, and is well known for providing a temporary place to stay for Japanese-Americans after their release from internment in 1945. The area is closed, except for special events. They have a supporting organization, which (I think still) gives guided tours, though their website needs updating! It’s listed on the “National Register of Historic Places”. You can find quite a bit of information about it, as well as photos, on the internet, including Wikipedia

The End!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Washouts in the Hills, Flooded Coyote Creek down below!

It’s been about 3 months since my last blog post. Why? Well, three reasons: I’m working 5 days a week now, I’m short of ideas within an hour of home, and the weather has been, um, “interesting”!

Below is a photo of Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) near Castle Rock State Park. It’s a major thoroughfare in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This will NOT be repaired quickly. It’s about 200 feet deep and very wide. Look at the people on the other side and the downhill side of the slide. (This photo was widely spread on social media, without credit to the photographer. I’d be happy to add credit if anybody knows the source.)

img_4414In addition to that photo, someone in the Santa Cruz Mountains is collecting various (unattributed) photos from around the area. It seems all the backroads have been affected in the area.

I got a late start, and decided to stay out of the hills. I went to investigate the Coyote Creek Trail, by driving to Hellyer Park in San Jose and heading south by bike. Oops! I got about 1/4 mile on the trail, near the Hellyer Velodrome (which is a great place to see or learn cycling on a banked track )



I checked my Google map, and found a way around, via a road bridge and a few residential streets. Here’s the view from the other side: Fast and deep. It might work for a high clearance vehicle, but it might not…


After going around, I headed north from Hellyer, towards the northern end of the Coyote Creek Trail, and an area known to have homeless camps. Below is where I turned around. Fast, deep, and close to the northern end of the trail.


Notice, below, the Great Blue Heron. It’s tough looking for lunch when the water is murky and moving fast!


So..I managed a whopping 4 miles, round trip, until I hit fast water in both directions. (GPS track here: )

I put the bike in the car and headed south to where the trail crosses Bernal Road / Silicon Valley Blvd. About 2 miles of cycling northward, not too far from where I was before moving the car, deep water appears again. The creek is to my left, but spilling over at a depth of about a foot. Not moving dangerously fast, but I didn’t want to soak my hubs and feet.


After that turnaround, above, I headed south from Bernal Road / Silicon Valley Blvd, and got in a few good miles and a glimpse of (gasp!) BLUE SKY and flowers.


A little bridge, near the power plant and the small waterskiing lake. Usually a trickle in the summer.


Below is allegedly the geographical center of the county, as marked by some IBM engineers about 30 years ago. The background engraving says “Santa Clara Valley”.Parlez-vous ASCII?


Oops! a little past the power plant and , north of Bailey Avenue, I came across more “deep and wide”. Back to the car! (My second GPS track of the day. I managed 13 miles, round trip, between the flood plains! )


The sign below is new and makes the point better than the usual type of sign!


Back to the car, and a quick look at overflowing Anderson Dam, that’s releasing at the water you’ve just seen…followed by a stop at “The Running Shop and Hops” in Morgan Hill. 51 taps, nice people, and “BYOFood” or order from a nearby pizzeria for delivery.



That’s it! The mountains are crumbling and the lowlands are flooded. Maybe I’ll stay home and do a blog post and install TurboTax 2016!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Alma College (aka: Bear Creek Redwoods)

How much do you know about the “Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve”? It’s right off Highway 17 and Bear Creek Road, just above Los Gatos, California.

Well…it’s not open to the public yet, but it’s very easy to get a permit to visit and it’s a very interesting place!

(Get your car’s license plate number and apply here a few days in advance: )

Why is it interesting? Well it was the site of a wealthy individual in the early 20th century. He had extensive fountains and a man-made waterfall. It was then sold to the Jesuits around the time of the Depression and was home to “Alma College” until 1969. There was then a small private school there for a few years, then it passed through the hands of  few owners. Since 1999 it’s been owned by the Midpeninsula Open Space District (“Mid-Pen”), which is taking the slow steps to open it to the public in 2019. Read about those efforts and more history here:

Why am I blogging about it? Two reasons: (1) GO SEE IT before the bulldozers arrive. Mid-Pen is proposing to demolish all the buildings except the main chapel and library building. and (2) when I was there recently, we met someone who offered a collection of historical photos from when the Jesuits were there. She didn’t know the origin of the photos, but they do seem like they were taken by the Jesuits. If you know anything more about them, send me a comment (link at bottom). I’d like to give credit where credit is due, and maybe learn a bit more.

Anyway…back to YOUR upcoming visit and the photos.

After you enter the gated parking area, you’ll be in a small parking area. It used to look like these photos (below), but not any more! Note the pond in the background.



From there, walk straight back, with the pond on your right, and you’ll see a lot of fenced-off derelict buildings.


Study the roofline of the photo above and the photo below. Same building!


I believe this current photo (below) is the chapel building


The chapel building (below). Again, study the roofline to be sure you’re looking at the same building!


More of the chapel (below), during a rare snowfall:


More of the chapel, with the flagpole in the background, near the entrance area:



Towards the rear of the main cluster of buildings, you’ll see these brick columns:


I believe the above brick columns match the following three pictures. This place was beautiful “back in the day”!




Below, I believe, is the library building. (Photo credit: Sharon Lum) Notice the tall, smashed windows, then look at the second photo below. See also pictures #7 and #31 in the Mercury News article.



Below are a few more historical pictures of the grounds, including many of the same buildings, as well as the pond, which is at the right foreground of the main buildings.






The picture below, dated 5/5/1942, is in front of the chapel. An interesting rumor that I heard from this individual we met, was that the hilltop at the back of the property had a ham radio antenna, which received the first mainland report of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Is that true? Quicker than military communication channels? Who knows for sure, but I did send a comment to Mid-Pen suggesting that be investigated as part of the current historic assessment of the property.


My advice is to go see it now, including walking counter-clockwise around the main buildings, onto the lower road. From down there, you’ll get quite a view of these (potentially historic) structures, as well as what looks like a huge (dry) man-made waterfall.

The adjacent historic stables, mentioned in the Mercury-News article, have an active Facebook page and some great programs!

That’s it! If you have anything to add, please send me a comment. (Comments are reviewed by me, before publishing. If you wish to send me a note, that won’t be published as a comment, that works too!)


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Chill in the Air: White Sierra & El Corte de Madera

A chill was in the air here in Silicon Valley this week, unlike any I’d felt since spring. The lack of light coming through the curtains, at my normal wake-up time, told me that summer is passing.

On thursday evening I sent out my periodic “here’s my hiking plan, please join me” e-mail to about 20 friends. I can’t plan much more in advance than that, and I usually get about 4 others to join me.

At 9AM on sunday we met at the “CM08” gate of El Corte de Madera Open Space, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (General info: Trail Map:

It was chilly! A few weeks back I connected with White Sierra, a local outdoor clothing company. They provided me a few complimentary items for evaluation, including convertible zip-off hiking pants and a flannel shirt. They’d been sitting at home, waiting for an opportunity to try them out. In the summer I usually wear shorts and a long sleeve runner’s shirt. On this day, I was glad I brought the warm stuff!

Off into the beautiful redwoods the 6 of us went. (Did you notice the three people on the left, studying the ground? Yup…Geocachers! )


The park is quite popular with mountain bikers, as all the trails are open to bikes and nicely graded (and quite steep!) All the cyclists we encountered were careful and polite. We even had a good conversation with a few of them, as three of us in the group also ride mountain bikes.

Below, you’ll notice three people who couldn’t seem to stay on the bridge. Yup! They’re called “trolls” and there’s a cache under there somewhere.

If you’re not familiar with this area, notice the stately old redwood stump on the right. Most of the redwood forests around here were clear-cut around 100 years ago, particularly after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, when there was a huge need to rebuild the city.


The photo below is a bit washed out, but it’s a good overview of what much of the park looks like: smaller, second growth redwoods in steep canyons. I highly recommend parking at one of the lesser-used gates, versus the bigger parking lot on Skyline. You’ll avoid the starting point for most cyclists and get into the quiet canyons quicker. (If seeing bits of plane crash debris is interesting, you can find them on the “Resolution Trail” if you know where to look. The story is here:

The lower part of the park borders on the property of Neil Young. (Yeah, you know: The Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Cinnamon Girl…) Some people claim to have heard him jamming from these trails. Here’s a bit more about the nearby roads and his property:

Here is a map and GPS track of our 14 mile and 3000 vertical foot hike


Oh yes, back to the clothing that kept me from freezing on this hike, at least until the sun warmed things up a bit. White Sierra’s “Trail Convertible Pants”


…and the comfy cotton flannel shirt. One person commented that it looked like a classic Pendleton pattern. (Being cotton, you wouldn’t want to take it on a trip that might involve wet weather. For fair-weather hikes and casual wear, it’s great!)


I’ve been using a pair of Columbia zip-off pants that I bought at REI a few years back. They’ve served me well and I was interested in a direct comparison. The White Sierra zippers worked easier, as did the belt buckle. I also liked the generous amounts of Velcro on the pockets, versus the smaller Velcro bits on the Columbia pants.


Also (below) the White Sierra pants have both a vertical zipper and a horizontal Velcro flap at the bottom of each leg. This helps in converting the pants to shorts, without removing your boots or shoes. All are thoughtful design features. (The only advantage I’d give Columbia is the waist button is riveted, versus sewn.)


White Sierra just introduced their fall clothing line, which can be ordered on-line. Their Sunnyvale HQ (right off Central Expressway) has an outlet store, with significant discounts on overstock and clearance items. Sign up for their mailing list.

The husband and wife team that founded the company in 1979 sounds alot like other Silicon Valley success stories, except they’re not techies. They’re clothing experts! Their interesting story is here:

That’s it! Enjoy the hike, say hello to the mountain bikers, dress warmly, and maybe stop for a snack or rehydration at Alice’s on the way home!


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment