No, I’m not talking about Alexander Hamilton or a Tony award winning musical. I’m talking about Laurentine Hamilton, baby, whose name graces Mount Hamilton in the South Bay.
This coming Sunday club Treasurer Roger Sayre and VP David Gaus are going to lead the charge up the Bay Area’s tallest peak full-bore, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners….well actually not: it’s going to be a delightful romp at a modest pace with the dynamic duo sweeping you upward. The club’s annual foray up the hill, which we had to cancel last year due to you-know-what, is going to be extra-special this year. David is going to sag the ride…in his car. So you’ll be able to bring along your hair dryer, curlers, and change of wardrobe—at least two!—and David will carry them to the summit for you. And if you want to bring along that picnic basket with the 10-lb. Honey-Baked Ham with all the fixin’s he’ll shove that in the back as well so you can brunch to your heart’s content whilst your eyes lovingly adore the Lick contemplating your (in)significance in the vast universe that said observatory has explored.
Seriously, this ride is a part of DSSF history. The first club ride up Mt. Hamilton was in October 1983, less than a year after the club’s birth, led by then club mover-and-shaker Michael John. MJ was responsible for numerous club rides in the nether regions of the Bay Area as well as several club bike touring trips around the US. He also led club rides up Mt. Tam on the Railroad Grade on full moon nights on his touring bike (!) However he never led Mt. Hamilton again for some reason. (I’ll have to ask him about that…) All was not lost however as Ron Decamp, another early member who happened to live not that far from the start of the ride, loved to go up Mt. Hamilton and led it no less than four times in 1984! Kevin Anderson aka ‘Flo Velcro’ and ‘Rex Flash, Mountain Biker’ led it in 1986. (Kevin actually did bring several wardrobe changes on club rides. He’d use a restroom and emerge in entirely different bike drag!)
Then it sort of lapsed until Sharon Lum came along in 1991. Sharon is also a South Bay denizen and liked to do long rides. So naturally she and Hamilton were a match. Sharon led the ride annually until 2007 when David Gaus took it over. Why does David love this ride? You’ll have to ask him yourself this Sunday. But I’m betting that one of the reasons is that despite the enormous elevation gain—over 5,000 feet in total—that makes it a double-dare-you challenge it’s entirely doable because the average gradient is only about 6%. It is however a bit long at 18 miles to the summit. But then it’s 18 miles mostly downhill afterward! That’s only about 36 miles total. Sure you can do that! Just take your time. Despite the elevation gain (or because of it?) the 2015 edition brought 33 people out of slumber to ride to the top! That was the most people on a club ride until this year’s Pride Ride
Weather on Mt. Hamilton has been unpredictable. Some years it’s been unseasonably warm making for glorious basking at the top…
…and other years it’s been extraordinarily chilly leading to huddling in the lobby next to the wall heater.
And of course there’s always the chance of rain. Ten years ago Roger and I did the ride and it was in the low 30s at the top. Everybody crowded in the lobby to get some heat. The descent was unbelievably cold even with wind pants, GoreTex jackets, wool caps, and winter gloves. Roger could barely control the tandem it was so cold. And yes, it snows on Mt. Hamilton during the winter! (If you want to peruse the gory details of that ride, go here.)
This Sunday be sure to check the weather forecast before you head out the door. You will want to make sure you have plenty of warm—preferably windproof—clothing for the descent if the forecast looks at all chilly. No reason to hold back because you can always give what you don’t want to wear going up to David. Although the lobby has vending machines for snacks and drinks you will probably want to eat something more substantial like a small sandwich to replenish those calories so pack a lunch. Although Lick Observatory in recent years has sold hot coffee in the gift shop, it may not be open this Sunday. So throw that thermos of hot coffee into your goody bag just in case.
Sharon always brought freshly baked muffins to the start, something we always looked forward to. Rumor has it that David is going to show up with some special donuts. See you Sunday! To see the ride listing at the club website and to RSVP, go here.