This is a recount of 3 kids/1 adult, 3 days/2 nights bikepacking Henry W. Coe CA State Park. You may know it by another name, such as "steep and nonstop" or something similar. That would not be inaccurate.
Every camping trip begins with the packing. In between that and the loading, it is Tradition to forget a thing or 6. Tent (never used- I packed it because I was concerned about ticks, which are parasites, but the sites were clear), sleeping pads (J, being small and light was to use the camp chairs so as to economize load bearing), sleeping bags, stove, cookware/silverware, food, water filter, misc...what did I leave out?
Water bottles. 6 of them, all filled and left in a row on the kitchen counter. There was cursing.
D had loaded his before we left, so there were 2 large bottles. N had 1 more large bottle. I did remember the Nalgene flat plastic canteen (a nice piece of gear), we scoured the race van to come up with 2 more plastic throwaway bottles (1 left from the Xmas trip...) and we were good to go.
I shouldered a reduced load this time (YAY!) as the kids all had some part of the gear on their bikes:
I'd installed a rear rack on D's bike the night before, so he had panniers loaded with his sleeping bag/pad and personal stuff (including a heavy, hard back book). He also had a handlebar bag with daytime snacks.
N took the green bike, the kid camper/townie, with baskets front and rear. She carried her sleeping bag/pad, the foldable canteen, her personal stuff.
J had his down bag strapped to his saddle, and snacks in a small handlebar bag. He also carried his pack full of personal stuff.
The route was to be Frog Flat Trail to Frog Lake the 1st day. From there, we'd spend Day 2 rolling Middle Ridge down to end at China Hole. I knew Day 3 was an unavoidably hellish climb back out, but I didn't see the need to share that with my unwilling co-campers. They were fussing about going as it was.
This area of Coe was unknown to me. I had it on "good" authority that Flat Frog was nice, but that same oracle referred to Middle Ridge as "techy singletrack". Those assessments are sound. Here are professional type movies of Flat Frog Trail:
...well, I was riding one handed. Yes, I cannot keep up with my 7 year old in the singletrack.
Frog Lake was...yucky. We camped up near Pajahuello Spring, an OK spot for grilled cheeses and sleep outs.
The kids squawk about these camping trips before hand (" there's nothing to do", "it's too hard", "I want to stay home", etc.) but I know they love them. And I make them go. They stop fussing once it's clear that they're going regardless, and after a little adjustment their attitudes improve. They adapt and let go of their "need" for Power Rangers DynoFury or skateboards or constant texting and get in a woodsy groove. It is delightful to see them team up and Get Happy. Their interaction with each other here is very different than at home- there's lots more getting along.
If you let your children dictate the terms, you are negotiating with terrorists.
We had blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I remembered the coffee.
These are the only 2 pictures I have of Day 2.
I took them after we had passed the nekkid couple, and before we encountered the nosy, trail-blocking couple. It was one of the many sections which were too steep for J to ride. These sections were both up- and down-hill. In several places, the ups were too steep for me to push the loaded Big Dummy up. I required the help of a child. Whichever was closest.
Middle Ridge is serrated. On the map, it is ridgetop until the clearly steep drop at the end. I have been riding long enough to know, looking at the map, that it would be uppy downy, but. But. That trail is no joke. It quickly became apparent that I needed to keep J on a short leash. I put D in the front to suss the technicality (he rips these days! loaded front and rear), N rolled behind him (dang if she didn't tear it up as well- loaded baskets front and rear, and cantilever brakes), and J alternated in front of me and behind me as it happened. J made excellent choices regarding what he was capable of riding. I was very impressed. It was a fine line, between encouraging him to get some and keeping him reined. I didn't want to scare him or discourage him, so I kept my mouth closed more than I wanted. He rode things I was hesitant to endorse, and the off camber drop-away hillside didn't phase him. Awesome.
It was a very tough day.
I ended up frequently dropping the Big Dummy and helping a kid(s) with their rig(s) and/or requiring help meself. I apologized for getting them into such a hairy situation, and I think that helped the mood. They had remarkable cheer, considering how brutal it was. The hardest 4.1 miles I have ever ridden.
We dropped like stones down the final switchbacks to the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek.
From there, we popped up onto Poverty Flats Rd, and rolled East looking for Creekside Trail. I wasn't sure how passable it would be, but it was the way to China Hole, or we were camping at one of the Poverty Flats sites...
These are pictures of my children mocking me.
I think they were giddy with the ending of the hellish slog down Middle Ridge. That, and the (disgusting) outhouse. D was deflated, "Awwww! There's an outhouse, and I had to poo in the wilderness!"
Of course, Creekside Trail looked great so we hauled the bikes across the creek and started in only to have the trail become impassable for loaded bikes. We turned a round and set up camp at Site#4. No China Hole, and we didn't care.
Before I even had the load off, J was back from the creek with a frog in hand. That creek is lousy with frogs (2 styles that we saw: little, Western Spadefoot- Spea hammondii; and Bull- Lithobates catesbeinaus), and salamanders (the yellow eyed Ensatina- Ensatina eschscholtzii xanthoptica...which is odd, because the description of this salamander says that in CA they do not inhabit bodies of water, but we saw 4 in the creek swimming like they knew what they were doing and hanging midstream plus others, including a mating couple doing it sexy cold pool style) ?!? Anyhow- they was a lot of aquatic herpetological hassling.
It was hard to sleep on account of the frogs were yelling all night, and you got used to it, but then they would all stop and wake you up with their inconsiderate silence. Then they would start yelling again. Repeat.
The following morning, there was no mess. We got up and got at it, as per N's request. We'd talked honestly about our options. The kids declined to ride up Cougar Trail, which would get us up the ridge quickly but brutally, in favor of taking the steady rising Poverty Flats Rd. Even though I always rather the singletrack, how could I attempt a parental veto? The road it would be...
That road did nothing but continually steepen for 2.5 hours.
We settled into our routine. I'd ride as much as I could and either need help pushing or not. Then I'd head back down to pick up whoever was helping me's bike (mostly D) and that kid would help the other, or take J's bike. This worked well until J began heckling the other 2. "I don't have to carry my bike. Ha ha!" That did not go over well.
J stopped for a poo break. I am that parent.
Then we climbed some more.
I like these photos a lot. These 2 working together (this was voluntary!) like this does not happen under normal circumstances.
Looking Northwards to the Middle Ridge we'd ridden uppy downy down the day before. The chainguard on the green bike had been a pain in the ass many times on this trip. I am the only one with the...patience to adjust it, and finally I'd had it. We stopped to remove it.
You may have heard the term "grab ass". Here are some live action photos:
By the time the novelty wore off, we were at the top.
Fittingly, at the top end, getting denied the easy peasy flat ride across Corral Trail in favor of the gratuitous climb up the road was a real kick in the teeth, but I had to teach the children. You can't roll out of a restricted trail at the Ranger HQ, for crying out loud.