This is a free description of how to have a great family adventure in the Nisene forest. Its also great for all adventurers, love birds, friends, and group outings. This bike ride starts at over 2500 feet, and ends up down near sea level. The beach is a very short continuation of this ride.
Here is how it works.
There will be 5 stages, 5 separate, related caches along the route and numerous things to see during this wild downhill bike ride, all on a fire road.
Each sequential stage will be revealed once the current cache has a ftf. The first 2 are in place, but the 2nd won't be published until someone has found this first one. The idea is to discourage the chance of one person claiming all 5 FTFs. By the summer, or sooner, when the weather starts getting better, you can plan a summertime ride down the forest, with 5 stages, and countless other caches and highlights along the way. Stages 2-5 will be unknown caches as you will get the actual coordinates and hint at the previous stage cache.
As a parent who has taken kids on countless adventures, let me give a couple of tips for parents, take them or leave them.
1. Keep the kids in front of you, not behind. There have been sightings of mountain lion, boars, and bucks up here. They are most likely to be attracted to a straggler. I’ve traveled solo for many miles and never felt threatened. If the kids get far ahead of you, give them regular intervals, to stop and wait for mom and dad to catch up. If you do see a creature, instruct the kids to stop, keep their bike between them, and wait for the group to catch up.
2. Make sure the kids all have decent bikes with good brakes. Make sure they aren’t very reckless as there are a couple of places when you get down near the stream that would be a nasty fall if they went off the road. Plan regular stops to let the brake pads cool down, and the vibrating forearms to recover. This is especially true for bikes without shocks.
3. When you come up to spectators, especially from their rear, slow down, greet them. Warn them of your presence if they aren't aware of you.
4. Don’t go too fast. Enjoy the scenery, enjoy the day, don’t get hurt.
5. carry packs with bike first aid, kid first aid, and snacks or a picnic meal. Enjoy your meal at Santa Rosalia, Sand Point overlook or down at one of the stream crossings, or picnic areas in the lower park.
Here are some of the highlights you can expect during the downhill…
1. After finding this cache continue on the road toward GC144V9: Overlook N 37° 04.598 W 121° 51.861, at a large clearing, just before you start the main downhill. Look on the right at the kiosk. You are at the top entrance to the Soquel Demonstration forest, a fantastic playground for avid mountain bikers. I don’t suggest you head that way unless you are a serious biker, as the technical trails can challenge you and your bike. You will be going straight on the road, past the point of no return, as you head down the hill. You can follow this road all the way to Aptos.
2. If your group gets strung out make the next stopping point be at ‘the lone-tree prairie’. A massive tree, burnt at the base, still very healthy, right on the road on the right side. Enjoy the sight of this massive tree. Then continue on down ‘the wall’. The wall is a bikers term used for the steep grade between the lone tree and Sand Point overlook. You have to be pretty fit to ride up ‘the wall’.
3. Come to Sand Point overlook with the bench overlook. You will be continuing left, straight. But first have a rest on the bench. If it’s a clear day it’s a great photo opportunity. You will also have a phone signal here. The road to the right goes down to West Ridge Trail Camp (more caches there), about a quarter mile down. This is actually an alternate route out, if you want to exit using Hinckley fire road, through the camp ground and out at old San Jose Road. At the campground is also the trailhead that goes down West Ridge trail, but this is a single track trail, a wonderful hike, not a bike ride. Also a cache in the area.
4. Continue left along the fire road. Keep your eyes open on the left, in one mile you will pass an unmarked road that goes up, past the white lagoon, then steeply down the Big Slide trail(single track) down to the Aptos Creek trail. You should not visit the park without someday making the trek to 5-finger falls, marked by the geocache called Decacherata. The hike to the white lagoon might be worth it if you have time, only a half mile out of the way.
5. Pass that turn-off, and keep going down the gradual slope. Another 2 miles you will see a small sign (you might miss it!), its says ‘top of incline’, this is a complete lie for bikers riding up, but for you, it is a sign that you will be descending another steep section, for another mile. Also a cache in the area.
6. Zoom down the the incline, but be careful as there are several hairpin turns. You know you are at the bottom when you reach a kiosk marking the trail to Five Finger falls, but along the Aptos creek. This trail has been closed for several months as there was a massive landslide which took out the trail. But you can go a short ways, over the creek, to get to the epicenter of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. If you want to get to five fingers falls, you have to use the White Lagoon route which you already passed.
7. Continue over the bridge, and gasp, climb a little hill, then continue on down. You will be passing several paths and caches nearby including the Nisene Troll and the Magnificent Mill. Take a look at the historical site, Loma Prieta SawMill Site,
and cross over Margarets Bridge, unless you want to stop anywhere and play in the creek. If it is a hot summer day, this is a great stopping place.
8. The last 3 miles are pretty level, and you have to actually pedal to get out. Pass the Steel Bridge, the entrance station, numerous caches, and you’re out. When you get to the parking lot, the Brittania Arms pub is just around the corner on the right. The parking spot, or Brittania Arms are good meeting places. Theres also a new Starbucks a short distance on the left on Soquel.
9. Bonus: If you wanted to continue down all the way to the beach, turn right on Soquel, stay on the sidewalk over the bridge, use the cross walk button to cross left down to Spreckels, and just keep going straight until you’re at the beach.
Here is what I suggest to get this first cache if you are going to do the downhill ride. Find a person you trust to drive your family vehicle as close as possible to Secret Trailhead #11 - Nisene Marks cache. Then the driver can meander on down to Aptos, to meet you in a few hours. Aptos has some nice beaches, and the Brittania sports bar is a good place to rendezvous if the driver would like to kill a bit of time watching sports on TV (plan this on a Sunday afternoon, and pay for a couple of drinks and a meal, and the driver can enjoy one of the big games).
After your family is unloaded, proceed UP to the coordinates. Depending on how close you can drive up will determine how far UP you have to pedal/hike before you get to enjoy the DOWN hill ride. When you get within 500 feet of the cache, start looking for a small, obvious footpath that leads up into the manzanita forest. You can leave your bikes at the road, and walk 3-400 feet on the path to find the decon container, near the top of the mountain. Since the signal was bad, I included a picture of the trees that block the container from obvious view from muggles, but also tells you where to start your search.
Signal is poor, but the decon container is in plain view, hanging from a branch about chest high, near the top of Santa Rosalia. This picture shows the trees in front of the cache.
Follow the path to these trees, then look behind them.