Craig Schommer // Grand Epic

After viewing the Grand Epic route I was looking forward to riding the trails I knew from decades past. I grew up next to Quicksilver Park and rode the Skyline trail often. There were some new trails mixed in there as well, which was a bonus.

In the parking lot I met Sara who was also riding the Grand Epic that day. She had a mountain bike, which in hindsight was the perfect choice for the upcoming hours of jackhammering dished up by this course.

Climbing into Quicksilver I am feeling thankful that these trails are open to bikes. As a kid we rode here when they were neither legal or illegal. Shortly afterward the entire park was closed off to bikes.

I can’t blame the equestrians for wanting a safe place to ride. Their horses are there in New Almaden. Unlike us cyclists they can’t easily load up their horses and drive a few hours for trails. The equestrians I’ve chatted with say to simply approach horses very slowly or stop and wait for them to ride by. And it’s good to talk to them, so they are not surprised by your approach and know you are human.

At mile twenty-six my Garmin alerts me that I am off course. Even though I pre-rode this section twice the week before, I blindly obeyed. Turning around and descending Randol Trail Garmin admonishes me again; you are off course! It’s a half mile detour thanks to the siren song of the little merman docked on my stem.

Reaching Hicks marks the start of Woods trail. One of the most quiet and isolated trails. I enjoy the solitude.

Four hours into the route I stop in Los Gatos and buy two bottles of water. Little did I know this would be my last water stop until the Stevens Creek Ranger station, five hours later.

The John Nicholas trail is beautiful and entertaining. This is only my second time up. It has quickly become one of my favorite dirt climbs. This is the last enjoyable section. Another hour of using my upper body as a shock absorber ensues.

Naively I thought it would be easy to spot Castle Rock Park from the trail. I come out at Hwy 9 and realize I missed my water opportunity. For a moment I consider heading down Hwy 9 to end the suffering. I also wonder how much I could sell my bike for. However, the trail ahead is one of my favorites from the old days.

Poison ivy is out in full force doing me a favor by keeping my mind off the punishing trail. A gauntlet of branches and leaves, reaching out for you, ripe with irritating oil. As if a student from the House of Slytherin cast a spell on this part of the forest.

Breaking out of the forest onto Turtle Rock was a welcome change. A view of hills rolling slowly down into the Pacific Ocean with wildflowers in bloom everywhere. I had forgotten the breathtaking beauty of this section.

Sunny Jim is the low point. My legs, arms, hands, and mind are tired. The 31x32 gear is not quite enough to avoid triggering a leg cramp. You know that inner thigh muscle that you never notice until it decides to seize up on you? The one that requires a circus contortionist type body movement to stretch out. Thankfully I came across Daniel who had ridden the Gran Epic the previous weekend. Following him got me through this section. His bike was loaded with several liters of water and he spun efficiently up the climbs. That was enough to inspire me to keep going and stay positive.

I spotted a water spigot at mile 82. The sign says “Non-Potable”, so I take a shower.

We met up again at Page Mill Rd. Sitting behind Daniel and following his path is a welcome mental relief. He stops at the rest area. I say goodbye and continue.

The Bella Vista Trail is new to me. It is quite pretty, smooth, and not too steep. Shady oak trees greet you at each inward bend. A small thing to be thankful for. I stop in their shade for a minute break.

Taking a selfie at Black Mountain I prepare mentally for another long spell of upper body abuse. The Canyon Trail gladly obliges. My triceps stopped functioning hours ago and I’m not sure why they haven’t completely locked up at this point. The left calf and knee are also starting to complain about the descending.

On the steep pitch leaving Stevens Creek Park I pass a casual cyclist wearing running shorts and sneakers. He’s riding an inexpensive MTB. A few seconds later a leg cramp forces me to a halt. He passes by and informs me ‘that’s why mountain bikes are better; they have gearing to get up steep climbs.’ At this point getting on and off the bike is the biggest danger. Doing so without cramping is difficult.

I went off course five times in the last eight miles. I blame Garmin and my slightly foggy mind. Oddly, my legs feel fine while on the bike.

I reach my car at the finish and dismount, moving slow and awkward like a newborn foal. I’m torn between complaining to the organizer for designing this insane route and laughing that there is someone else who, like me, will attempt routes that are too long with too much climbing.

I swear to never try this route again… on second thought, I might if I had a dual suspension mountain bike and a few people to “enjoy” it with.