Let’s talk Ridge Route and rain!
There was a real problem with roadways washing out leading up to the construction of the Ridge Route. That ended up being the deciding factor for the placement of the road. When surveying locally, there were pre existing options that could have been used in place of the section we now know as the Ridge Route.
So why would they choose to essentially start from scratch instead of using a well known road as one of the first California highways?
One by one, the pre existing options were disqualified by Division VII Highway Engineer, W. Lewis Clark. San Francisquito Canyon was deemed “a steep, narrow, dangerous way that crosses a creek too often”. Soledad Canyon had a history of constant washouts. Bouquet Canyon, known at the time as “Deadman’s Canyon Road”, was disqualified on account of “sharp turns, steep pitches and threatening drainage problems; no way of joy”. Finally Mint Canyon was deemed excessive in length among other problems.
The Ridge Route was part of the Inland Route – one of two “Trunk Roads” running north and south through California. A sister road to Highway 1. It was of great importance that this road stay open and functional – rain or shine. So W. Lewis Clark set out with a few pack mules to find a new, suitable route.
The Ridge Route was a type of road new to America. Inspired by European engineers, they set out to build this new route on the tops of the mountains – when it was common practice to build in canyons. This avoided river and creek crossings and eliminated the need for bridges. Preventing many of the nasty washouts that happened regularly on canyon roads.
We have found, with time, that the caveat to building on mountains has been landslides, which the Ridge Route fell victim to in 2005. I’d say a 90 year run is pretty good compared to the seasonal washouts of its opponents!