brian barnhartt

Eagle Rock + Big Basin Jay Camp

I didn't really let my buddies Mike and Brian know this but my goal for this trip was to suffer. The original route made its way through UCSC and up Empire Grade to Eagle Rock. At Eagle Rock we'd hop on the fire roads to Big Basin and make our way up Middle Ridge to the Butano Fire Trail. From Butano Fire Trail we'd connect with Olmo and drop into camp at Butano State Park. The route featured over 6000 ft of climbing which was mostly on dirt. I quickly realized that the route would be too challenging for this trip so I went back to Strava and made some tweaks. The final proposed route was 37.8 miles with 5490 feet of climbing which can be viewed here. EagleRock_BigBasin

The first 20 miles of the trip was pretty much one long climb up Empire Grade. Brian was running Odyssey BMX pedals and Mike was on a borrowed bike (thanks Jackson!). I've only climbed sections of Empire so I was stoked to finally get a chance to climb the entire stretch.


After making the long ascent up Empire we found ourselves at a dead end. We could see Eagle Rock and the abandoned Fire Lookout that sits at the peak but we couldn't find the entrance. We did however find two locked gates. Are only other option would be to back track up Empire and ride down Jameson Creek which would have just felt like a defeat. We could see the Lookout spot and we could see a labyrinth of trails leading its way up to it. Brian and Mike found a pretty clear depression on the barbed wire fence next to one of the locked gates which made us think that it's used quiet frequently. I decided to do some recon while Brian and Mike tried to rid their legs of all it's lactic acid. After pedaling down the trail a bit I was pretty set on taking this route up to the Lookout so I pedaled back with the good news.

Getting loaded bikes over tall gates is never an easy task. Team work is generally required. I definitely do not condone trespassing but we were left with no choice.


After taking runs around a motorcycle track that we found it quickly became clear that the trails we had found would not lead us to the Fire Road. Mike is an Arborist and was the most qualified person for a recon mission in the woods. He quickly found a route through some bushes and up a steep section of loose dirt. With some team work we were able to get our bikes up onto the Fire Road and we were on our way!


I don't think any of us expected that the view would be so damn good. Eagle Rock sits at 2488 ft of elevation on Ben Lommond Mountain which is located in Little Basin. The Panoramic view is absolutely breathtaking. From mountains to oceans; here you can see them all!


I am pretty sure Brian's brain was turning when we got to this place. Brian's photography is next level so I could only imagine how much fun he was having capturing the vastness of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Brian wrote an awesome article which is accompanied by some incredible photographs from the trip onThe Radavist!

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After Eagle Rock we got to shred an amazing ascent down the Eagle Springs Fire Road. Eagle Springs dropped us off right into the Little Basin Campgrounds. We got a little turned around here but with a little help from some strange wilderness instructors we found our way to Pine Mountain Road. The initial climb up Pine Mountain Road was really steep. I watched my Garmin top hit 30% which is definitely the steepest incline I've had the privilege to climb. Brian was motivated and made it up the steep section as well but you should have seen his face! Everyone has a Pain Face when it comes to cycling. Brian and Mike both found them on this trip. As sick as it sounds I am pretty stoked I was able to curate a trip that would do that to them. We all walked away stronger and I am sure Mike and Brian would agree.

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After reaching Blooms Creek we came to a group consensus that we should wrap things up and camp at Big Basin. Big Basin has a really nice Hiker / Biker campsite and it's within walking distance to the camp store which is over flowing with beer, chips and all that other good stuff. The nice part about ending the trip a bit early was that we had time to sit back, relax and really enjoy the redwoods.


We rolled out of camp fairly early. The climb out of Big Basin was cold and slow. Once out of Big Basin we basically had an endless descent into Boulder Creek. Nothing like an early more descent down twisty country roads to wake you up and put a smile on your face. Once in your Boulder Creek there aren't too many options to get back into Santa Cruz. Mike worked out a cool route that took us down highway 9 to Felton. In Felton we'd pedal through Henry Cowell and pedal along the train tracks back into town. Highway 9 could be a world class cycling route if it weren't for all the angry drivers. Its safe to say that we all just wanted to get down into Felton and the hell off of 9.


Rolling into Henry Cowell felt like a huge achievement. We made it down Highway 9 unscathed and now we were in the redwoods jamming over tree roots and hobo single track.


This was the last of three railroad bridges that we'd cross to get back into town. As we got closer to town we slowly found ourselves near Heroin Hill AKA Pogonip. Small encampments could be seen littered through the brush and we occasionally passed a group or two of the lost, the high and the soon to be dead. It's a dark side of Santa Cruz that is rarely seen.

Towering redwoods opened up into blue skies. The sound of the ocean. The sound of the Boardwalk. Lost in our own thoughts. What a rad fucking journey.

+ If you liked this make sure to check out Brian's write up on out trip at the Radavist!