Road Recovery

Highway 1 today
Highway 1 closed due to gigantic landslide

You probably are aware that a week ago there was a gigantic landslide on Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast covering a quarter-mile of the road with up to 40 feet of debris. Combined with the earlier destruction of the Big Sur bridge to the north, a sizeable section of the scenic route is now almost completely cut off to traffic including bicycles. You can read more about it here or here.

David Gaus has been planning a Different Spokes bike trip down Big Sur and over Nacimiento-Fergusson Road for several years. For one reason or another—conflicts with Double Bay Double, in particular—it hasn’t happened. This year was going to be it until winter storms had their way with NorCal and the bridge was irretrievably damaged. In March Caltrans estimated that a new bridge could be constructed in six months, putting the earliest reopening sometime in early fall if everything went well (though it never does). But this newest disaster is estimated to take at least a year to be corrected. Unless a miracle happens we shouldn’t expect the Big Sur coastline to be fully open before next summer—it is after all more than a million tons of earth that have to be removed (and it can’t be dumped in the Pacific) and the slide isn’t stable yet to be worked on.

However a club ride partway down the coast and over Nacimiento-Fergusson Road could take place after the new bridge is erected since the landslide is further to the south. We shall see. Doing the ride before Highway 1 is fully reopen would likely mean having to deal with a lot of car traffic also heading up Nacimiento-Fergusson, which by the way is a serious uphill grunt. I wouldn’t recommend it; car traffic is bound to be intense as everyone tries to skirt the landslide, and the road is very narrow with no shoulder. It’s a lovely ride especially if you like climbing. But doing it with a line of rental Mustang convertibles racing by you would kind of kill the buzz. After topping Nacimiento-Fergusson you end up going through Fort Hunter Liggett and then on to King City, or if you’re adventure minded you can take Indians Road all the way to Arroyo Seco Road. This latter route is serious backcountry cycling and Indians Road has had its own landslides in the past. There’s no help out there so you’d best be prepared. I’d like to hear a report from any daring soul who goes out there this year on its condition. I’m willing to bet that Indians has had some serious erosion and/or landslides as well.

Ten years ago Roger and I went down the Central California coast, starting at Asilomar and down Highway 1 to Cambria. From there we went up the infamous Santa Rosa Creek Road—on our tandem no less!—over to Paso Robles and then up Arroyo Seco Road to Carmel Valley. We were lucky and had a two fog-free days when we were on Highway 1. The views are incredible from a car (specifically, a Ford Mustang convertible, top down ‘natch!) and being on a bicycle allowed us to enjoy them even longer. And lunch at Nepenthe sitting on the outside deck with a view of the coast is always delightful (and delicious). Let’s hope Caltrans is able to get Highway 1 cleared soon.

Nimitz Trail slip mitigation
Nimitz Trail slip mitigation

A couple of days ago I went on the Seaview Trail, which runs from the top of Vollmer Peak above Skyline here in the Berkeley hills down to Wildcat Canyon. I hadn’t been up there since last September; it’s completely intact although winter rains seem to have made the rock gardens in the trail a bit more challenging than I remember. I also checked out the Nimitz Trail, which I mentioned in the last post, and saw that EBRPD has done some reconstruction of the section that slipped a couple of months ago. As you can see in the photo, they simply plowed a dirt roadway around the slip. I was taken aback: wouldn’t they reconstruct the old asphalt roadway? Then I realized that despite the historic nature of the Nimitz it’s now just a trail, and rebuilding an asphalt road is a lot more expensive than plowing a dirt surface. I’m speculating that EBRPD decided that this was an expedient first move, and if it holds up it may be the last move as well. Perhaps they’ll slurry seal the dirt surface. Just like county roads, fire roads don’t get a lot of love these days. You may recall that Carquinez Scenic Drive was left to rot for 35 years and it was well on its way to Planet of the Apes status before EBPRD took it over a few years ago and rebuilt it into a lovely multi-use trail. It takes money to maintain trails and fire roads.