The official Orr Springs route has its starting point at the Golden Gate Bridge. I pondered taking the BART train for most of the way there to avoid mediocre riding through endless suburbs. But after some consultation with my hosts, I concluded that the ride to get to the bridge may actually be nice for the most part, especially when taking a slightly longer route. With a hastily handwritten cue sheet in my handlebar bag, I headed out at 8:17 am.
|I have reached the ocean!|
The route indeed turned out to be pretty nice, probably helped by it being Saturday morning with light traffic. After following the Caltrain/BART route into San Bruno, I reached the South San Francisco Centennial Way. This is a nicely paved bike trail that, as I later learned, runs on top of the BART tube. Where the trail ended, I encountered the first of what would be many more climbs. Chestnut Avenue is a straight shot up toward the San Bruno mountains, until it intersects with Hillside Avenue. When planning the route, I had suspicions that Hillside, showing up as a major connector road, may be unpleasant, but it actually turned out to be beautiful. There was a good bike lane/shoulder, and the road takes you through a long stretch of scenic cemeteries.
|Plenty of surfers in the water|
|Looking toward downtown on Clement Street|
|View of the Marin Headlands from the Presidio|
|The start of the Orr Springs route|
|On the Marin side of the bridge|
|Beautiful residential street in Mill Valley|
|Looking back and catching my breath on steep Edgewood Avenue|
Past the entrance to Muir Woods, traffic volumes dropped quickly. I rationalized that away, thinking that with one section of Highway 1 being closed off, most people in cars would just take Panoramic Highway instead. I encountered a bunch of sad looking runners who, as I later learned were the back-end of an ultra running event. Well, soon enough I would look just as sad: At the intersection with Highway 1, there it was: ROAD CLOSED. LOCAL ACCESS ONLY. In both directions.
|Back at the entrance to Muir Woods|
I considered just continuing anyway, in hopes that on a bike I may be able to pass the closure. But having seen enough pictures of really big landslides on other parts of the coastal highway, however, that didn't seem like a great idea. Around I turned. At Muir Woods—which is where the serious climbing begins—I made a quick stop to ask one of the rangers about the closure. After all, my legs were somewhat tired at this point, and not only would I have to get back up to where I'd come from, but the route on Panoramic Highway would continue climbing for a good bit before going back down to the ocean. The ranger couldn't tell me much more than that the closure was because of a slide and that she didn't think I'd be able to pass on a bike. Oh well.
The climbing was tough and had lots of annoying car traffic. And yet, the sunshine and beautiful scenery more than made up for it. About an hour later I reached the highest point of the day at Pan Toll campground. I was in desperate need of a break, calories, and electrolytes. I had plenty of Clif Bars left for the calories, and the campground vending machine had some sort of sports drink to take care of the electrolytes. Just to make sure that I wouldn't encounter any further surprises along the road, I inquired with the volunteer at the campground registration about the status of the route from here on and whether Samuel Taylor State Park was open and had hike-bike sites. She gave the thumbs-up on the route and offered to call the park. Nobody picked up there, but she confirmed that they did have hike-bike sites and that she had no reason to believe the camping wasn't open. She also offered me a campsite right here. But with a few hours of daylight left and the worst of the climbing was behind me, I declined.
|Double espresso in Stinson Beach. The barista seemed a little stoned...|
[Continue to Day 2]