Do you know the his­tor­i­cal back­ground of your trails?

Mountain Bike for Her - - Front Page - Words By Michelle Lam­bert

When you are fly­ing down your favourite trail, do you know the his­tory of the area within which you are moun­tain bik­ing? Maybe the trail is only 10-years-old, or per­haps it could be 300 hun­dred years old? Maybe it was used by pi­o­neer set­tlers or pos­si­bly an his­tor­i­cal event may have oc­curred in that very spot? Is to­day’s kick ass sin­gle­track trail yes­ter­day’s method of liveli­hood for some­one, or even per­haps the front-line of a war battle? As moun­tain bik­ers, we of­ten fly through the trails by the seat of our pants, some­times not notic­ing what is go­ing on around us. I have rid­den some trails hun­dreds of times with­out ever notic­ing that there was a pos­si­ble piece of his­tory ly­ing just off the trail - that is un­til I had to stop to fix a flat and hap­pened to no­tice it. Re­search­ing the his­tory of your lo­cal rid­ing spot can re­veal many undis­cov­ered things. See an old aban­doned house? Find an old, rusted car? Or wreck­age from an air­plane crash? By just do­ing a lit­tle in­ves­ti­gat­ing you might be sur­prised at what you find!


I’ve been spend­ing a lot of time climb­ing Mon­tara Moun­tain, which is just north of my house. Lo­cated in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia near the city of Paci­fica, it is an area long steeped in his­tory. Mon­tara Moun­tain, along with San Pe­dro Moun­tain, forms the north­ern spur of the Santa Cruz Moun­tains which is the long nar­row range of peaks which sep­a­rates the San Fran­cisco Bay from the Pa­cific Ocean. Its high­est point rises to 1,898 feet (579m) above sea level. The ride starts near the sea with a grad­u­ally climb­ing, partly paved road that quickly es­ca­lates into

a tough fire road climb that winds its way through scrubby cha­parral ter­rain. The the last part of the climb is a leg-blow­ing 18 per­cent av­er­age grade with peak grades of 24 per­cent. As I pro­ceed up the climb, coyote brush, sage­brush, and monkey-flower line the trail and the colour­ful blooms dance around me as a gen­tle breeze waves them to and fro. Hum­ming­birds buzz my bright hel­met as I try to ig­nore the pain in my legs and con­tinue to plow my way to the top. There is no candy coat­ing this climb - it’s tough! Off to the side of the trail and part­way down the ravine, I no­tice what ap­pears to be the rem­nants of a rusted, old car, ripped apart and smashed flat against the soil. See­ing this car sparks my cu­rios­ity. How did it crash and why would any­one in their right mind drive a car up a nar­row loose fire road with cliffs on both sides? As I con­tinue up the trail, I no­tice sev­eral more cars lit­ter­ing the hill­side be­low. Why are there so many wrecked cars? I could not help but to won­der if the peo­ple driv­ing th­ese cars sur­vived the crashes. I fo­cus on the trail it­self and no­tice it’s cov­ered with a sparkly, tan-coloured, gran­ite gravel which makes for a slip­pery sur­face. Through the lac­tic acid pain, I man­age to think that all those sparkles look cool es­pe­cially on a bright sunny day like this!. I con­tinue my re­lent­less march to the top - the view is in­sane: the dis­tant mono­lith of Mount Di­ablo, grass-cov­ered Sweeney Ridge, moun­tain­bike-leg­end Mount Ta­mal­pais, the city of San Fran­cisco, and Mon­terey Bay all pre­sent­ing them­selves on this sunny day. This beau­ti­ful view just about makes up

for all the suf­fer­ing I’m do­ing to make my­self a bet­ter climber. I pass two more wrecked cars - al­most there. I don’t think I’m go­ing to beat the fog, though, which is rolling in fast and by the time I reach very top the view is ob­scured by thick fog. I take a quick break to catch my breath and zip up my vest to head back down for one of the coolest down­hills around. It takes con­cen­tra­tion be­cause all that cool, sparkly, gran­ite makes for a sketchy de­scent. With a very steep cliff on both sides, I don’t want to end up ly­ing on the side of the trail like one of the cars that lit­ters the land­scape from a time gone past.

Af­ter a few rides up Mon­tara, I de­cided to re­search the area to learn more about what the trail was orig­i­nally cre­ated for. I was also very cu­ri­ous to find out what the deal was with all the old cars lit­ter­ing the hill­sides. Af­ter re­search­ing on­line, I soon dis­cover that the main trail was ac­tu­ally a road in the early 1900’s. Orig­i­nally called Coast­side High­way, Old San Pe­dro Moun­tain Road served as the main road be­tween San Fran­cisco and Half Moon Bay.

I found sev­eral quotes from the time pe­riod, in­clud­ing one from Mo­tor­ing Mag­a­zine, which omi­nously warned that “Pe­dro Moun­tain Road is in such poor con­di­tion that any­one go­ing this way is sim­ply invit­ing dis­as­ter.” In 1915, when peo­ple started mo­tor­ing over Old San Pe­dro Moun­tain Road it was a nar­row, steep, wind­ing road which was never in good con­di­tion. The steep­est sec­tions of this route were vir­tu­ally im­pas­si­ble to au­to­mo­biles, with a grade of 24 per­cent. Ac­cord­ing to his­to­ri­ans, large vis­i­ble signs were placed at the be­gin­ning of Old San Pe­dro Moun­tain Road which warned mo­torist about the dan­gers of the road. I can’t imag­ine nav­i­gat­ing a large, old­fash­ioned au­to­mo­bile with a weak en­gine, skinny tires, and poor brakes up and over Mon­tara Moun­tain via this slip­pery, gran­ite-cov­ered moun­tain road. The drop-offs on both sides of the trail are enough to make me slightly ner­vous about bomb­ing down Old San Pe­dro Moun­tain Road on my ag­ile mod­ern moun­tain bike, so I def­i­nitely would not want to ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese moun­tain trails by car! In 1937, an eas­ier route was built and mo­torists started us­ing the new route in­stead. Af­ter World War II, Old San Pe­dro Moun­tain Road was closed to au­to­mo­bile traf­fic.

Look­ing over th­ese old pho­tos of Mon­tara Moun­tain, I see the ba­sic trails have not changed much since 1915. Only the wrecked cars on the sides of the trails are there to re­mind cur­rent and fu­ture trail users of an era gone by.


Ma­jes­tic old growth Red­woods, lush green ferns, and more, reigns supreme in a place called El Corte De Madera (ECDM).

Four­teen miles southeast of Mon­tara, and also lo­cated in the Santa Cruz Moun­tains, ECDM is stunning place to ride with gi­ant red­wood trees sur­round­ing some su­perb sin­gle­track and awe­some kamikaze down­hills. Sharply de­fined from the ex­posed cha­parral of Mon­tara, this is lush for­est, which in the past has been sub­ject to heavy log­ging of its rich pop­u­la­tion of old-growth red­wood trees. As you nav­i­gate your bike through this place - it’s so over­grown with big leafy ferns, wa­ter­falls, and healthy green Pa­cific rain­for­est plants - you would swear a ve­loci­rap­tor is lurk­ing around the next cor­ner! We have never ac­tu­ally seen a di­nosaur, but we have seen tons of other cool crea­tures while rid­ing here in­clud­ing deer, wood rats, ba­nana slugs, and the rough-skinned newt.

The ul­ti­mate place for moun­tain bik­ing in the area, lo­cal rid­ers know this place sim­ply as “Skeggs”, named af­ter Skeggs Point, which is a vista point and the park­ing lot used for trail ac­cess. Trails vary from fire roads so steep they’ll make you want to cry to well marked shady sin­gle­track. With roots, rocks, sharp drops, fast berms, bru­tal climbs, wicked down­hills, and creek cross­ings this place has ev­ery­thing you could pos­si­bly throw at a moun­tain biker. I have been rid­ing

Skeggs for many years and won­dered about its past. This place just seems to be steeped in mys­tery and his­tory.

I heard from other moun­tain bik­ers that Skeggs has some re­ally cool his­tory. Af­ter one of my rides in the park I de­cided to find out more in­for­ma­tion about one of my favourite rid­ing places. With a lit­tle dig­ging, I dis­cov­ered that a DC-6 air­plane had crashed deep in the woods of ECDM in Oc­to­ber 1953.

The plane was called the “Res­o­lu­tion” and it met its un­for­tu­nate demise against the rugged moun­tain­side one foggy morn­ing. The air­craft was fly­ing the last leg of a Syd­ney-San Fran­cisco flight when it crashed in Skegg’s moun­tain­ous ter­rain on ap­proach to the San Fran­cisco Air­port. There was a thick blan­ket of fog cov­er­ing the moun­tain­side and the air­craft - car­ry­ing 11 pas­sen­gers and eight crew mem­bers - crashed di­rectly into the side of the moun­tain. There were no sur­vivors. The crash caused a sub­se­quent for­est fire and many of the scorched trees are still black to­day from the in­tense heat of the fire. Sin­gle­track now runs di­rectly through the spot where the air­craft crashed.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, the trail is named “Res­o­lu­tion” af­ter the plane and it’s a very cool, rocky, sin­gle­track trail along a ledge that winds its way up to the top of the park. While rid­ing on the Res­o­lu­tion trail, you will no­tice the ecosys­tem chang­ing from for­est to cha­parral as you en­ter the old fire zone. If you stop about half­way through, you can still see the de­bris from the plane that is still there to­day. Look­ing around that area, you can ac­tu­ally see the crater-like scar in the hill­side that the plane cre­ated when it slammed against the moun­tain.

A mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to the plane and pas­sen­gers was erected in 2009 at a vista point near the top of the trail. Flags and flow­ers are still placed around the mon­u­ment by well-wish­ers in trib­ute to those who died that day.

I also dis­cov­ered that Skeggs was a mo­tor­cy­cle park in 1970s, which was used by a lo­cal off-road club who cre­ated the ba­sis for to­day’s ex­ten­sive net­work of mind­bog­glingly, kick-ass trails that are per­fect for thrash­ing you to a pulp. The ex­ten­sive log­ging in the area oc­curred up un­til 1988, when the 35 miles of trails were ac­quired by the Mid-Penin­sula Open Space Pre­serve Dis­trict who turned it into a park for ev­ery­one to en­joy.


Next time you come back from a ride, take a lit­tle time to find out a few in­ter­est­ing facts or trivia about your favourite park. While you are there, take a closer look around and look for the de­tails. As trail users and moun­tain bik­ers, it is im­por­tant for us to be aware of the his­tory and events that may have oc­curred in places we love to ride. In­form­ing your­self with lo­cal his­tory and knowl­edge will make your ride that much more awe­some when you swoop down a sin­gle­track or bust your ass up a climb and know that th­ese in­cred­i­ble trails you are en­joy­ing have a colour­ful past.






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