Kristoff Richter // Grand Epic
I completed the Grand Epic with an awesome crew-- Buck and Marshall. We started at 5:45AM on 4/22. Started with a nice smooth ride on the roads with minimal traffic. Enjoyed the sunrise at the top of the Rocky Ridge trail near BelGatos. Continued the smooth cruise through Almaden and over to Quicksilver Hacienda entrance. The initial climbs in Quicksilver were a nice warmup for what we knew was to come!!
As expected, the steep gravelly slopes on Woods Road going up to Mt. El Sombroso were exhausting, what a relief to get to the top, after several hike-a-bike sections! The rollers on the way to the top of Kennedy are kind of fun, as you need to keep your momentum to try to get to the top of the next hill, without too much climbing. We followed with a careful descent of Kennedy Trail, given the busy Saturday morning crowds on the trail.
After snacks and coffee in downtown Los Gatos, we chugged up and over St. Joseph's Hill, and around the reservoir. I never thought about the long road ride section here before! Very beautiful! The road climb up Black Road was brutal, with the sun beating down on us. What a relief to get to the JNT trail head and enjoy some nice flat gravel over to the reservoir and a short break at the picnic tables before the JNT climb begins in earnest.
The gravel climbing and riding up JNT and onto Skyline trail was very pleasant and fun. I usually ride my hardtail MTB here, so being on my gravel bike was an interesting change of pace! The picnic tables and water source at Castle Rock new parking lot were another nice pitstop along the way!
After Saratoga Gap, the Long Ridge trail was a fun descent.. I usually ride through here on my MTB. Gravel Biking here was a nice new challenge... especially the last steep loose descent on Long Ridge!
After cruising along all the awesome trails along Skyline, Sunny Jim trail helped us remember how exhausted we were starting to get, with steep fire road climbing! Soon it was a relief to know our final "big climb" was ahead of us. After cruising around White Oak, the climb up Bella Vista was quite pleasant -- scenic and not too steep. Thankfully also not too hot, despite the late afternoon sun.
After hitting Black Mountain, it was time for the rollicking descent down Canyon Trail. I was mindful to be extra careful with this descent, given how tired I started to feel. Soon we arrived at the start of Coyote Ridge trail to climb up to Fremont Older. Knowing this steep climb was at mile 97, I knew I wouldn't like it very much. But after cranking it out, we knew the final fun descent/climb at Seven-Springs was ahead of us.
With Fremont Older behind us, only the cruise back to the parking lot at REI remained. It was nice to have the gravel trails along the train tracks to ride for much of the final flat grind back to the cars in the parking lot! Arrival at the cars was at 7:45PM, just as it was getting dark!
Overall, the day was incredible! I enjoyed the epic loop with a great crew, we enjoyed perfect weather, and finished just as planned with no technical problems or issues! The three of us paced ourselves carefully, and we did a good job with planning nutrition, water, etc.. Can't wait to do it again next year!