Old Railroad Grade a rocky road

Gerbode Valley was going to be developed into a condo haven, but environmentalists rebelled in the 1960s. Good for them.

I hadn’t been up the Old Railroad Grade to Mt. Tamalpais since 2007, so I decided to pay a visit one last time. Maybe it’s age, but back in 1981 I’ll wager the road wasn’t as rocky.

There’s no denying the grade is rocky. The crookedest railroad in the world, built in 1896, reported 90 percent bedrock. However, they must have used ballast and aggregate to smooth out the road.

After all these decades, rains have washed away the topsoil, and everything else laid down, and now we have bedrock.

Another difference between now and the days of old is that West Point Inn has turned into a hangout for just about everyone living in Mill Valley. It was downright crowded.

The last grind to the summit was in a pea soup fog, so for the first time I was disappointed by the view. Because I was on a road bike, I headed back down Ridgecrest, Pan Toll, Panoramic, Hwy 1. Full suspension mountain bikes have their place, and one of them is riding down the Old Railroad Grade.

I knew Panoramic Hwy could be a zoo on a Sunday, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so bad with the fog. I gave thanks I wasn’t riding uphill.

Rather than taking the crowded Sausalito road back to the Golden Gate Bridge, we opted for Tennessee Valley and Marincello Trail, Bobcat. Because I had never tried the Baker Tunnel, we took Bunker Road, hit the tunnel light perfectly, and blasted through on a fast downhill. So fun.

Old Railroad Grade in 2007. Rocky road.

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