Forest of Nisene Marks Park reveals a lost memory

Back in the 1980s we had to ride through the creek. Now there's a nice bridge.

Back in the 1980s we had to ride through the creek. Now there’s a nice bridge.

After my 2011 mountain bike ride on Aptos Creek Fire Road through the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, I wondered if I would ever take my road bike here again. I had difficulty negotiating a stretch of road leading up to the green gate marking entrance to the park on the high ridge overlooking Aptos and the Pacific.

I decided to give it a try. As expected there’s a short section that’s not rideable — for me at least — leading to the green gate. It’s not much walking though so it shouldn’t dissuade anyone from trying it.

On my way heading east on Summit Road (note that Summit Road runs east-west, not north-south as many, myself included, have believed) I saw dozens and dozens of riders going west as part of the Strawberry Fields Forever century ride. If only they would ride to work. We could save the planet from global warming.

Perfect weather made the ride go smoothly as I turned right at the summit of Eureka Canyon Road onto the dirt Buzzard Lagoon Road. It climbs steadily through madrone, oak and redwoods. The road was at one time paved based on the bits of pavement I saw along the way.

I took the crucial right turn (Buzzard Lagoon heads downhill steeply from here and it’s no fun to ride) uphill where soon enough the road became a boulder-strewn stretch that will test even the best mountain bike rider. Over the past 30+ year I’ve been riding here, I’ve seen the road deteriorate. It used to be graded, but that’s something I figure we’ll never see happen again.

Once I reached the summit, where a series of trails from Soquel Creek and Demonstration Forest connect, I came across a mountain bike convention. A dozen riders were contemplating their next move. I continued on Aptos Creek Fire Road and soon started the long, long descent to Aptos.

It was here in 1995 on the last small climb before the descent that a mountain bike rider slammed into me head-on. I was knocked out; he separated his shoulder. I rode home while he waited four hours for the ranger and a ride to his car.

But I digress. I continued on to a small bridge over Aptos Creek. Around 1982 Jobst Brandt took a photo of me and Peter Johnson, as well as Jim Westby and Tim Louis. I didn’t understand the location until I walked down to the creek to investigate. Then I realized this was the spot. The bridge over the creek wasn’t installed until the mid 1990s. According to my ride report at the time, the bridge was wiped out by heavy rains in the winter of 1981-82.

A couple miles farther along I rode by a small event commemorating the park’s 50th anniversary.

On San Jose-Soquel Road I made my traditional stop at the Casalegno Store. This ancient house turned store has a nice selection of snacks. I took a photo of four Strawberry century riders and continued on my way.

While riding on San Tomas Aquino Expressway I got into a conversation with a rider wearing a 7-Eleven jersey (you can still buy them) and he told me a sad story about his bikes being stolen off his apartment porch, 30 feet off the ground. The brazen thieves struck in the middle of the night, taking his Ritchey Break Away cross bike and a mountain bike, as well as his cycling clothing hanging out to dry.

How ironic that the first person I met who also owned a Break Away had his stolen (I know 2 others but they’re friends). And so ended a glorious ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains on a fine day in May.

Ray Hosler walks his bike through Aptos Creek on June 21, 1982. (Jobst Brandt photo)

Ray Hosler walks his bike through Aptos Creek on June 21, 1982. (Jobst Brandt photo)

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