The Bears and El Toyonal

Sunday, November 28, 2010
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The club ride that Michael and I lead for today meets up at the Orinda BART parking lot. Water and restrooms are available.
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We are doing a clockwise loop around the hills known as "The Three Bears" and then continue up Wildcat for a counter clockwise loop on El Toyonal.
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**Photos may be enlarged by clicking on the selected image
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We head north on Camino Pablo through Orinda. The road eventually becomes San Pablo Dam Rd at the intersection with Wildcat Cyn/Bear Creek Rd. From that point on, we're riding on smooth pavement on a slight downhill with a few rollers in between. Once you pass the main entrance to the dam, there's a fast, fun, sweeping descent all the way to Castro Ranch Rd.
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There are two short climbs on Castro Ranch Rd and a short fast descent that takes us to our next turn on Alhambra Valley Rd. For the next few miles, we continue on flat rolling terrain all the way to Bear Creek Rd.
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We ride pass several horse ranches, a farm and a cemetery before reaching the first climb on the Bears loop; "Mama Bear". Mama Bear is less than a mile long with two humps in between. The average gradient here is 7%.
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Water and restrooms are available at Briones Park.
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The climb on "Papa Bear" starts after you cross the bridge at the intersection of Happy Valley Rd. The climb on Papa Bear is also under a mile long with the average gradient being around 7% too. Once you reach the top, it's a fast sweeping descent all the way to Baby Bear.
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"Baby Bear" is the final short little climb up to the intersection of Wildcat and SPDR. The gradient here is around 9-11%. There is a brief regroup at the top.
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The group starts to split up from here, some folks head straight back to the BART station, others head out towards Moraga for extra miles and some are going up Wildcat to get back home. The remainder of the us continue on the route up Wildcat to El Toyonal. The first mile up Wildcat is the steepest; the average grade is around 7-8% and eases up after passing El Toyonal.
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The left turn on El Toyonal is at the wide open turn out area off Wildcat. You have to go around a closed gate and ride and climb through several washed out sections of the road before crossing a bridge. The climbing goes on all the way to the next closed gate. This area is very beautiful! Once you pass this gate, El Toyonal continues through a residential neighborhood. I tell everyone that's it's all down hill from here, boy was I wrong! We're all moving pretty well and then...we hit a wall! OMG! I forgot about this one short steep climb and I'm stuck on my big chain ring in a very high gear. No way can I shift gears now... I'm struggling to keep myself upright and manage to muscle my way up without falling over. Whew! During this time, I'm also laughing at myself for being caught in this predicament. How stupid of me! Everyone else made it up and over the top. We continue down to Camino Pablo and back to the BART parking lot.
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Much thanks to everyone who showed up for this short jaunt around The Bears and El Toyonal!
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23 people in attendance.
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26 miles with 2466' of elevation gain
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Weather: Sunny and cold! The temp ranged from 47-48 degrees throughout the ride.

Post Thanksgiving Ride: Marshall Wall

Friday, November 26, 2010
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Michael and I lead today's club ride that meets up on Miller Creek Rd in San Rafael. Water and restrooms are available along with ample street parking.
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We take Lucas Valley Rd and climb up to Big Rock before dropping down into the redwoods to Nicasio.
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**Photos may be enlarged by clicking on the selected image
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We continue along Nicasio Valley Rd, pass the reservoir and take the right turn at the T intersection to climb Rocky Hill. The climb is a little over one mile with the average gradient being around 6%.
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There is a regroup at the Cheese Factory. Water and restrooms are available.
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We continue on to Hicks Valley Rd to Marshall Petaluma Rd. The stair step climb up "Marshall Wall" is about 2 miles long with a false summit. The first section is the steepest with the gradient ranging from 9-11%. The road eases up a bit to the false summit. The climb continues along the ridge with a gradient of 7-8%. You get fantastic views of Tomales Bay followed by a wickedly fast descent down to Hwy 1. Watch out for the potholes!
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We continue south on Hwy1 to our lunch stop at the Marshall Store. You can order clam chowder, BBQ oysters and sandwiches. Crab is in season! The views of the bay from the outdoor seating area is gorgeous!
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We head south on Hwy 1 to Point Reyes Station. It's nothing but fun short rollers all the way to the Winery. There is a short steep hill before the turn on Mesa Rd.
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There is another stop at the Bovine Bakery. Water and restrooms are available at the Fire Station or at the park behind the market.
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We return on Pt Reyes-Petaluma Rd and Nicasio Valley Rd to Nicasio.
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The climb up Lucas Valley Rd to Big Rock is easier on the return to Miller Creek. It's a very fast and fun descent back to the start.
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Much thanks to everyone who took the time to join Michael and I on this ride!
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17 people in attendance
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62 miles with 3382' of elevation gain
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Weather: Wonderful! Sunny, cool and breezy. Starting temp of 49, reaching a high of 58 while heading towards Pt Reyes Station and dropping back to 48 degrees at the finish.
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** For more photos regarding this route, check the blog archive for June, 2010: Marshall Wall
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Check out this video: Rocky Hill climb and the views of Tomales Bay
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video