August 19, 2017

Redwood Rain

I stepped out of the car, just a few miles from home, and was surprised by the chill. [Uh-oh.] I didn't expect to need an extra layer. Micro-climates. I pulled out my arm coolers, which I'd brought for extra sun protection. They would have to do.

Hazy view of Mt. Umunhum and Mt. Thayer from the west, Santa Cruz County, CaliforniaI'd caught a glimpse of thick fog in a sheltered valley on the drive up to the start, and hoped we would stay above it. [Nope.]

By the time we reached Summit Road, the fog was thinning but still blowing sideways from the coast. It looks like steam ... but it's cold. And of course, wet. In the forest next to the road, there were pockets that sounded like steady rain as the condensing fog dripped from the branches of the redwood trees.

“If I ever move away from here, it's the redwoods I'll miss most,” one of our riders remarked. How very fortunate we are, to be cycling through the redwood forest just a few miles from home.

The surface of Highland Way continues to deteriorate, battered by last winter's storms. Slides have reduced it to one lane in a couple of places, and some fresh boulders are perched at the road's edge. This is not a place to linger when there is any likelihood of earth movement.

We made our way up to a high point on Loma Prieta Road. The agricultural fields around Watsonville were just barely visible, if you knew where to look; Monterey Bay and the peninsula were obscured by the marine layer.

Scorched slopes of Loma Prieta, Santa Cruz County, CaliforniaAnd as close as we were to their peaks, we had hazy views of Loma Prieta and Mt. Umunhum. Only then did I realize that there was another layer above the fog, a thin layer of smoke. From where, we wondered, as we looked at the hillside scorched by last summer's Loma Prieta blaze.

37 miles, 3,535 feet of climbing. For an out-and-back route, what goes up must also come down. Translation: That's a lot of climbing over a short distance. I suffered.

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