WEATHER »

Casmalia Loop


Monday, December 3, 2007

THE BASICS

Distance-51.6 miles if you return via Cat Canyon; 60 miles if you continue on Foxen Canyon and return on Alisos Canyon Road.

Difficulty-Strenuous

Elevation Gain-Moderately level with ups and downs through the Casmalia Hills and uphill near the end going over the Gato Ridge at the upper end of Cat Canyon

HIGHLIGHTS

This ride is almost but not quite a metric century. The route takes you down the entire Los Alamos Valley, through the lovely Casmalia Hills and cuts across Santa Maria into the upper Sisquoc River valley. This route takes you through much of the best of the northern part of the county.

THE RIDE

As I cruise down the Los Alamos Valley I am always surprised how beautiful it is in the early morning. With the sun at my back the hills turn golden and the crisp air feels good. The valley is wide and open and the riding is easy all the way down to the Harris Grade. Once I am across Harris Grade, Highway 135 becomes San Antonio Road and the canyon narrows, becoming more of a creek canyon. Six more miles of easy cruising and a short half-mile jog on Highway 1 bring me to the Lompoc Casmalia Road and the next 10 miles involve a both more effort as I wind through the Casmalia Hills into the Santa Maria Basin.

The Santa Maria area is much more congested but by continuing on Black Road across Highway 1 and taking Mahoney to Betteravia, I manage to miss most of it. Betteravia is a different story, however, with lots of traffic, and I ride carefully. Fortunately it is only a few miles before I am across Highway 101 and back out in the country.

The second half of the ride is as enchanting as the first. Betteravia is long and straight, leading in the general direction of the Santa Maria River, but just a bit before it runs into the riverbed, Betteravia turns into Foxen Canyon Road and begins a series of jogs as it winds its way through or around large agricultural plots. It is six miles to the small town of Sisquoc, a great place to have a soft drink or bottle of water-or a sandwich-before the final ride back to Los Alamos. Here, I need to make a choice.

Foxen Canyon turns left and it is 18 miles continuing on it and Alisos Canyon Road back to town. This is a wonderful ride but I am a little tired so I take the shorter route via Cat Canyon. This way is just over 12 miles. Continuing straight ahead on Palmer Road I am confronted by a few hills, but they are easy and I am at the Cat Canyon turnoff in no time. I have a few miles of gentle uphill then one longer climb up over the Gato Ridge, then it is 6 miles of great downhill riding through Howard Canyon and across Highway 101 back into town.

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