Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Switzerland Trail/Gold Hill/Four Mile Fire Photos

This ride last Sunday will probably be my last long ride before Nationals.  Took the long way up to Gold Hill, going up Four Mile Canyon to the Switzerland Trail which is an old railroad bed.  The grade is gentle the entire way up the Switzerland Trail and it's not technical but it is bumpy/rocky in places and from the videos I've seen it looks very similar to the trail that goes up Wheeler Canyon at the start of the Xterra Nationals bike course.  I rode uphill for 20 miles and roughly 3500' of elevation gain with only 2 small downhills of less than a minute each, maybe even less than 30 seconds.  Took me about 3 1/2 hours or so.  I didn't stop for photos until I reached the top of the Switzerland Trail and finally thought I deserved a quick break for a photo.

A few more miles from there was the top of the climb and then a few miles of descent into the mountain town of Gold Hill where I stopped at the General Store to re-fuel.  Was so sick of energy gel at that point that I bought a homemade muffin and picked my way through half of it.  I often lose my appetite on long rides and I don't like energy bars/gels but it's important to stay fueled on long rides so I force the stuff down.

The store is for sale for $465,000.

I opted to go down Sunshine Canyon to get home which meant a steep, 7 minute or so climb then all downhill back to town save a couple very short climbs.  Since the bulk of the work was done I decided to finally take some pictures of the fire damage on Sunshine Canyon.

That mailbox and address marker stone used to be in front of a house.

Probably the most shocking thing about this view is that there is a view at all.  You never were able to see those mountains before from this location because they were blocked by trees and houses.

There used to be houses all down this hillside, now just piles of rubble and stumps.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not pining for the return of the gaudy, huge McMansions that used to line this hillside but I do feel bad for the people who had to endure this experience.  It must have been a terrifying ordeal.

A house reduced to rubble on the right side of the road and another left standing just across the street.
Wildfires have no rhyme or reason.

There were a lot more views that were shocking to me but I didn't stop for photos.  It was hard enough to take these.

In the end the ride was 35.35 miles and took 4 hours, 43 minutes.  Felt much better than I did the last time I went up Gold Hill but that was May 7 so I should hope it felt better.  This route was longer but less steep but I don't think I'll be seeing any super steep trails at Nat's. like the grade you get going up to Gold Hill the shorter ways so I didn't see any point in torturing my knee.  Which was already complaining after the steep, 1 hour 40 minute trail run up the Hogback the day before.  I feel tired now but this past weekend was a good confidence booster for Nat's. in 2 weeks.  I don't feel like I've gotten any faster over the summer but I do feel stronger which will help me on the longer course at Nat's.  Now if only I could stop obsessing over videos of the bike course.  How soon 'til I can start obsessing about the weather?


  1. Wow, I always wonder about the stories behind the fragments left behind, too. How long has it been since the fire? It looks almost like there was never anyone there at all. Wonder whether it takes that long to get the insurance straightened out.

  2. The fire started on Labor Day 2 years ago and burned for about a week and a half. There were special insurance centers set up during the fire to assist people so I don't think insurance claims were a problem in most cases. Very few people have opted to re-build. I saw very few signs from contractors on Four Mile and Sunshine. Many people were too traumatized to return and others don't want to live in a burn zone or just aren't ready yet. The soil is still very unstable in many areas and there is still danger from flash floods in those areas.

  3. When a friend's house was burned to the ground in the Oakland Hills fire (along with hundreds of others), they also set up insurance-on-the-spot centers but she eventually had to retain a lawyer to get the insurance to pay up. So who knows what's really going on. I don't blame them for not wanting to rebuild there after that. Certainly a boon for those of you who now get the view.

  4. Yeah, I guess nothing is ever straightforward when dealing with insurance companies. I do know a lot of people have so far chosen not to re-build for reasons other than money. If it was me, I wouldn't re-build. I can barely ride my bike through those burn areas, I can't imagine living there. Though I suppose it might be nice not having a lot of neighbors close by.