Haul Road Memories

Beautiful day on the Old Haul Road. Note the colorful new trail sign next to the old brown.

I didn’t sign up for this — 48 degrees and a strong breeze that gave me the shivers on Skyline Boulevard.

But it was Monday, time for a longer ride. There’s no worse experience than descending at high speed while shivering. Must be something wrong with the bike.

Nope. It’s just the body creating disharmony.

As I descended Portola State Park Road, its steepness reminded me of why I haven’t ridden up it in 20 years. Only for the crazies.

The descent has its appeal. I coasted into the park, riding past the headquarters, crossing a creek bridge and turning right for the access road to the Old Haul Road, as I have been doing since 1980.

I arrived at the new steel bridge and took the obligatory photo of Pescadero Creek where Jobst Brandt always lamented the absence of big fish.

Jobst steered dozens of us his way onto the Haul Road, which today would be the wrong way. We turned left after climbing the hideously steep access road past Iverson’s Cabin (gone) onto the Haul Road.

In three-tenths of a mile we arrived at a gate (never took photos there) and continued on our way to the fabled Gate 10 road. Today it has decorative road signs to guide the logging trucks, but back then you had to know your way around.

Never photographed, the end of public access to the Haul Road going east.

It’s no ride for the faint of heart. We faced three miles of unrelenting climbing on a dirt road that could be muddy or dusty. It had sections of 16 percent, probably more in places.

When we rolled up to Gate 10, it meant the hard riding was over (Gate 10 was gone in 2009). Time for a celebration photo. Jobst took many over the years.

Hard riding to Gate 10, around 1977. Jim Westby, (rider hidden), Smokey, Rick Humphreys. (Jobst Brandt photo)

These rides drew Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey and other elite competitive riders. No doubt the rides inspired them to pursue their dreams of winning races, building the ideal off-road bikes.

Gate 10 ride about 1977. ?, Keith Vierra, ?, Marc Brandt, Peter Johnson, Gary Fisher, Bill Robertson, Tom Holmes, ? (Jobst Brandt photo).

Why the Gate 10 route? Jobst liked to avoid Highway 9. He preferred off-road riding whenever possible to reach a destination — Big Basin Redwoods State Park in this situation.

Celebrating the climb at Gate 10 circa 1981, Ted Mock, Keith Vierra, Dave McLaughlin, Sterling McBride, Dave Zanotti, Tom Ritchey, John Pinaglia. (Jobst Brandt photo)

Jobst scoffed at the notion of a mountain bike, but he was like that. He figured a road bike was good enough.

You’re not welcome here now. The signs say it all. It wasn’t as bad back then, but Jobst and his cadre hid from the logging trucks on rare occasions.

One of these days the Haul Road might be open to the public, extending from Highway 9 to Pescadero Creek Road. It’s going to take a lot of negotiating and public pressure, but it could happen.

I turned around and headed northwest toward Loma Mar. Note that Pescadero Creek County Park added new trail signage. Bridge Trail is now Baker Fire Road. They need to update their online map.

Over the years the road has seen its share of trauma from heavy rains. This past winter left the road rutted in places, but otherwise in good shape.

At Loma Mar I greeted the bearded fellow, Steve, doing all the hard work to build a fabulous new Loma Mar Store, soon to open. It has been closed for eons.

Jobst liked to stop here and talk with previous owner Roger Siebecker. Roger was also a volunteer fireman, and on more than one occasion, helped Jobst Riders who had taken hard falls, most notably the Wurr Road Bridge disaster.

I continued on up Highway 84 and Old La Honda Road to check out the slide. Still no repair underway, but the road is open for bikes.

Riding southeast on Skyline Boulevard the temps turned favorable as I ground my way back to Saratoga Gap. The temporary road repair past Horseshoe Lake has a stoplight. It could be a while before it’s permanently fixed.

At the end of my ride I reflected on the day’s effort and counted myself lucky that I could still do all the climbing. It doesn’t get easier with age.

Old Haul Road map

4 Responses to “Haul Road Memories”

  1. yodavemac Says:

    Hey Ray,

    Ted Mock is the ? guy in the picture with me. Blue jersey with red stripe, hand on helmet.


    Dave Mac

  2. Brian Cox Says:

    The Haul Rd (Redtree Properties calls their part of it “Pescadero Haul Rd”) and the Gate 10 Rd (Redtree’s “Butano Haul Rd”) were built in the early 1900s as logging RRs by Henry Middleton’s California Timber Co. The CTC mill was on Waterman Creek, just W of the current mill (no longer in operation but still occupied as recently as 2015) built by Santa Cruz Lumber.
    The RR started up towards Gate 10 ~300 yds E of the current road (Redtree calls it Deresti [sp?] Rd). When it washed out, Santa Cruz Lumber, no longer concerned about grade, cut a new road straight up the hill. This is the steepest section. When the road levels off and heads W, the old RR comes in from the E.
    About 40% of the way to Gate 10, there was, prior to the mid-1990s, a water tank. Shays, the locomotives used to log this area, were steam powered. The feeder creek was named “Water Tank Creek”. You can find it on maps.
    A little over halfway, a slide causes the road to be steeper than it was in the Shay days for 300-400 yds. Another washout somewhat higher, causes a shorter steep section. Other than these sections, the road is more or less RR grade (for Shays) until Gate 10. (The last time I rode it was 2013, so things may have changed…)

  3. jamesRides Says:

    Another way to visit Haul Rd is via Camp Pomponio Rd. From Alpine, this road connects with Baker/Bridge trail to connect with Haul Rd. It’s mostly paved and narrow, great for a road bike. I’ve only descended on it, but will most likely try to climb it someday. The Baker/Bridge trail (dirt/gravel) takes you through some nice deep redwood forest before connecting to Haul, making this a very worthwhile road to traverse. Baker/Bridge trail is open to bikes.

    Ward truck trail is still on some maps. It connects Long Ridge Open Space through some Portola State Park land and some Redtree land to the Redtree side of Old Haul. Definitely a mountain bike route, and of course not legal. There is a very cool old breakwater at the bottom for crossing the creek. The breakwater was made from large paving stones and dated somewhere around 1900. Along the way, lot’s of places to make wrong turns, and a few squatters hovels. What more could you ask for?

    Ray: if you started from Santa Clara, you probably rode 70 miles with probably around 6500 to 7000 ft climbing (if you went over Haskins Hill). Pretty solid ride I’d say.

  4. Larry Fieman Says:

    thanks Ray ….

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