Contouring along King Ridge
 
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Cazadero, King Ridge and Meyers Grade

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Jenner sitting at the mouth of Russian River Turn off to Guerneville and Russian River Valley

This ride stood out from the list of 'Ten Great Sonoma County Rides' shown on Santa Rosa Bicycle Club's website.

This 55-mile loop with 4,500' of climb is considered one of the most beautiful, fulfilling bike rides in the world. Once into the hills, there are no services and only one likely spot for water. Be prepared, fit, and self-sufficient.
Highway 116

A few days beforehand I'd asked cyclists at the Jimtown Store how they rated the King Ridge ride.

Russian River

The Jimtown cyclists couldn't agree on the best ride in Sonoma County ... let alone the World.

I started the loop on the Pacific coast at Jenner ... so that the final miles would be downhill.

Old railway wagon at Duncans Mills

Jenner sits on Highway 1 at the mouth of Russian River. A massive sandbank almost closes the river mouth and is a favourite summer breeding ground for harbour seals.

Rodeo grounds at Duncans Mills
Duncans Mills' General Store One of the cafés in Duncan's Mills
Loops in Russian River

From Jenner I headed south on Highway 1 and then turned onto Highway 116 to follow Russian River inland.

After a few miles I reached the small riverside hamlet of Duncans Mills. I then realised that apostrophes are not popular in these parts.

historic sign

The area was developed to produce timber for the construction of San Francisco some 80 miles south.

Redwood lumber mills were operated by the Duncan brothers in the late 19th Century ... and in 1877 the North Pacific Gauge Railroad reached the town.

The railroad ran from Sausalito ... which I'd visited two days before ... via Duncans Mills to Cazadero ... which was where I was headed next.

Cazadero this way ... Bridge over Austin Creek
Austin Creek Road

I turned off Highway 116 to follow Austin Creek northward.

Trestle bridge crossing Austin Creek

Two roads follow the creek ... one is laid on the now disused track of the former North Pacific Gauge Railroad.

Austin Creek Road - Old Duncan's Road Junction A quiet section of Austin Creek A tree house ... with paddle in case of flood
More of Austin Creek

After passing a noisy quarry ... the road winds its way through the redwoods .. slowly climbing.

Junction with East Austin Creek Road

I was a little disturbed to realise that ... although I'd cycled nearly 15 miles I'd only climbed about 100'. Given that the trip promised 4,500' of climbing ... that left quite a lot more to do.

Even more of Austin Creek

Hidden among the trees were dozens of empty houses ... weekend retreats for the city dwellers further south.

I also passed the Cazadero Performing Arts Camp where ... 'in these beautiful surroundings, lives are changed forever through music making, recreation and friendship'.

Climbing gently through the trees Small tree ... holding up big rock If you don't keep up with your weeding ... those pesky redwoods take over
Turn off for Cazadero Performing Arts Camp More climbing through the trees

The town of Cazadero was just on ahead.

At this point I have to make an admission ... I missed a café!

Cazadero's General Store ... and my bike

Just down the road ... unfortunately the other road alongside the creek ... is Raymond's Bakery which is known for serving a variety of focaccia, French and artisan breads, cakes, tarts, scones, cookies, and assorted other pastries ... and I missed it!

Cazadero's General Store

Luckily for me I did notice Cazadero's General Store.

Cazadero's General Store

The store contains an unimaginable selection of merchandise from jelly beans to vintage wines and rock candy to organic chicken ... fortunately for me they also had English tea.

Cazadero's Community Church

The friendly owners Heidi and Dale quizzed me about life in England ... while I asked them about the road ahead ... I was reassured that I would soon find the hills.

Cazadero .. like Duncans Mills ... was originally established on the back of the timber industry. The railroad ... as well as providing a route out for timber ... allowed tourism to develop. The area became ... and still is ... a popular place to escape to from San Francisco.

Not sure what this sign means Old Cazadero Road ... closed Reflections from below the bridge
King Ridge Road Francis Drake Trosper's memorial
Good job I didn't bring my trailer The uphill starts here ... ... and continues
... and continues

One of the early developers who encouraged tourism was Francis Drake Trosper who established a resort hotel at Cazadero. His resort attracted many of San Francisco's notables such as the author Jack London.

... and continues round the bends

On the road out of Cazadero I passed a memorial to Trosper ... and immediately after the road kicked up and the climb started.

I wonder how many of Trosper's guests cycled up King Ridge?

The memorial is sited at a cross roads with Fort Ross Road and the Old Cazadero Road ... the former I was to meet again later ... and the later is now impassible to vehicular traffic.

One of many hairpin bends
Views glimpsed from between the trees on the road up to King Ridge Road looping ... and climbing ... between the trees Piles of leaves by the road-side
First of the hairpin bends Soft landing if you fall off the road?

At first the road continues to follow Austin Creek ... but soon climbs up the valley side around a series of hairpin bends.

Ahead was a ridge which was called The Butcherknife on the map ... I must admit I wouldn't have recognised it from its name.

Many other features had been given imaginative names ... I assume that a goat had been seen once on Goat Rock ... but I was a little worried about Bearpen Creek.

Altitude profile ... a flat run to Cazadero ... then the climbing begins More glimpses of the views
Reaching the ridge Twisting and turning along the ridge

Most of the initial ascent is amongst the trees ... so you only get intermittent views.

After about 1,500' of climbing I reached the ridge line and the trees began to thin ... revealing the countryside around.

Ups and downs

A weather system was headed inland from the Pacific ...

More up than down

... and rain was forecast for later in the day ... so I was keen to complete the ridge before the weather closed in. Unfortunately cloud and mist ahead of the system was limiting visibility.

Aerial view of King Ridge as visualised in Google Earth
King Ridge King Ridge King Ridge
King Ridge The road winding away into the distance Small lake in the valley below
King Ridge Road carved into the side of the hill A fig tree?

Once you've completed the initial climb the road undulates along the ridge line for some 10 miles ... twisting this way and that.

This is the part of the ridge than most cyclists look forward to ... swooping down a series of slopes and climbing up the subsequent rises.

Vineyard ahead

This section felt very remote. I passed a few abandoned farm buildings and some turn-offs that seemed to have seen little traffic recently.

King Ridge

The only company was a few cattle which were sauntering across the road.

After passing a high point of around 1,670' a light drizzle began ... and I decided to stop briefly for some refreshments.

Wild Hog Vineyard Small red bike ... big red wood
Small lane ... ... big lorry Another (gentle) climb
Mini vineyard

Near Wild Hog Vineyard I stopped under the shelter of some trees. As I was unwrapping a muselli bar ... I heard a distant grunting from the wood ... was it a wild hog or a bear?

Sinuous road

Discretion being the better part of valour ... I decided to press on to a less secluded spot.

Junction of Hauser Bridge, Kings Ridge and Tin Barn Roads

From the high point King Ridge Road descends past a number of vineyards to the junction with Tin Barn Road.

Ripe for conversion

Along Tin Barn Road is a Buddhist Monastery and a well regarded Syrah vineyard called Coryelle Fields.

I decided to forego a trip to the monastery and descended down Hauser Bridge Road. After the exposed King Ridge this road winds its way through giant redwoods.

Friendly sign near Hauser Bridge Friendly sign near Hauser Bridge
Friendly sign near Hauser Bridge Friendly sign near Hauser Bridge
The Hauser Bridge Road bridge is a three-span structure over the south fork of the Gualala River in northwestern Sonoma County. The original bridge was constructed in 1947 and consisted of a 19' girder span on the west side connected to a 100' truss span over the river to the easterly abutment. The truss span consists of twin prefabricated steel box truss sections (probably U.S. Army surplus) with metal decking. The bridge has a width of 12.5'.
Hauser Bridge and the south fork of the Gualala River Hauser Bridge Road squeezing through large stands of trees Kruse Ranch Road leads to Plantation and Stewarts Point on the coast
Pumpkin left over from Halloween the day before

Work was planned on the bridge for 'earthquake upgrades' ... as the bridge was only a few miles from the San Andreas Fault ... I decided not to hang around on the bridge investigating what these might be.

More signs of life alongside the road

The descent to the bridge had to be paid for.

A couple of steep climbs led up through woods to the small settlement of Timber Cove which boasts a well equipped voluntary fire department.

Lunchtime Timber Cove Voluntary Fire Department
Signs for Jenner ... my starting point and destination 18% ... somewhere between 1 in 6 and 1 in 5 Timber Cove Road .. a shortcut to the ocean
Fort Ross School

Somewhere round here the road changes its name to Seaview Road ... but it was hard to tell whether I could see the ocean or just mist and fog.

Rustic entrance to Number 28800

As I pressed on there were more signs of life.

Clint Way wasn't on my map

The area supports a school ... Fort Ross School ... but it seemed to be remarkably quiet when I cycled by.

Strange sculpture in wood and stone

Beyond the school is the small settlement of Seaview which supports an artists studio ... with a number of sculptures in its grounds.

As if I didn't have enough to look out for

Many of the farms were still displaying pumpkins from Halloween ... the night before.

The trail also passes an exclusive resort called Timberhill where clients arrive by helicopter ... I wonder why they don't come by bike?

Timberhill is currently undergoing refurbishment ... so trucks, diggers and workmen were far more numerous than helicopters and film stars.

Seaview Ranch More pumpkins left over from Halloween
We want Jenner Turn off for Fort Ross Road

After Seaview I met Fort Ross Road ... the other end of which I'd passed in Cazadero some hours earlier.

This road continues westward to Fort Ross itself which sits on the Pacific shore.

Glimpse of the Pacific ahead

Beyond Seaview the ridge is still some 1,500' above sea level and the ocean views become more frequent.

Fort Ross road heading into the interior ... back to Cazadero

Seaview Road at this point is over 1,500' above the sea ... and then changes its name to Meyers Grade.

Thistles

Mayers Grade then descends steeply down towards the coast and Highway 1.

I freewheeled down for several miles ... and in no time at all found myself at the junction with the Pacific Coast Highway.

Cattle on the horizon
Take it easy for the next mile Meyers Grade descending down to the Ocean View down the coast to Jenner
Arriving at Highway 1 ... only 5 more miles to Jenner

At the junction the Pacific Coast Highway is 600' above the ocean.

Zig-zags down to Russian Gulch

Travelling south the road enters a dramatic series of loops ... as it descends into ... and then climbs out of Russian Gulch.

Rocky sea shore

The road continues down the coast passing empty sandy beaches and dramatic rock formations.

Russian River meets the sea

Unfortunately this section of Highway 1 only has narrow shoulders and the presence of trucks and RVs make for rather uncomfortable cycling.

Still 19 feet above the sea

I carefully made my way back to journey's end at Jenner.

Jenner nestling on the estuary of Russian River

As I arrived the rain began to settle in ...

... I'd ridden King Ridge and Meyers Grade and managed to stay dry ... just.

 

Kirby James

 
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