If I disappear you know where to find me...
The boys and I vanished into the space on the map labelled Henry Coe State Park. I have threatened their participation in riding bikes to "at least" Kelly Lake on more than one occasion. This October Break week-long school's out was when I put their money where my mouth is.
As per usual, we started after noon (2PM, to be precise, and only an hour after my realistically predicted departure time) so Day 1 was truncated. We got to the park and loaded and on the road by 4:30PM.
For those of you to whom these trail names mean nothing: sorry for you my friend. From the Coyote Creek Entrance we took Spike Jones and parlayed it into Grizzly Gulch (love that word). Friends, that is a fine way to gain some altitude without crushing yourself. It was unknown to me then and known to me now- it is the way to approach Kelly Lake if you're looking to minimize suffering. This is key. If I want the hook to set, I can't have them crying and spitting it out.
Well, it is Henry Coe.
We had our system in place from the last Coedown. When it became so steep that I required help (and it did) D would drop his bike and push with me to a stopping place, then we'd both head back down and I'd push his bike while he'd push J's.
I was riding the Big Dummy with an unusually lightened load: my down jacket/wool hat/light wool gloves, a 100oz water bladder, 3 full bottles, 5 days of food for the 3 of us, the water filter, the 1st aid kit, a small tiTANIUM wood burning stove, Ti cookware, 3 sleeping bags, 3 lightweight pads, several floaties (for lake fun), my book, and assorted bike repair stuff. Altogether too small a load to justify, which may have you remembering to wonder what I forgot. I forgot the blue tarp, but we had D's poncho. I left out intentionally the tent (20% chance of rain on Wednesday, 10% on Thursday?!) and our rain gear. Color me foreshadowed.
D had his choice of bikes, and he opted for his mountain bike. Panniers containing our 3 pairs of "water shoes", extra straps, his book, a roll of "shit tickets" haHA!, his jacket, some other stuff, and not much else. He had a pack full of 100oz bladder and an extra shirt. On the bike he had a bento box thing full of snacks.
J carried his backpack. In it he had anywhere from 0-4lbs of "crystals", a piece of rope he found, a small water bladder, his jacket, several Captain Underpants books, a swimsuit, a "water shirt", a pencil stub, a hand pump generator-powered flashlight, etc. He had a small handlebar bag containing a random key, a zip-tie, and snacks.
I figured we were aiming for Kelly Lake in a broad sense. Given our late start, a very broad sense. I am open to amending plans on the fly. It soon became clear we'd have to just ride until dark declared our campsite.
At the junction of Cullen Trail and Grizzly Gulch I lost what cool I have when D_____ (the older of the boys, at 12) was obviously not paying the least attention to our position on the map. I yelled. The gist of it was/is that were something to happen that disabled me somehow it would fall to him to deal. However that played out, it would fundamentally require he know how to get out of the 2nd largest State Park in California! I made damn sure he payed proper attention to the map after that. Adventures on any scale worthy of the name demand respect and preparation. Full stop.
J______ is eager to please, and he had already been playing along. He could show me where we had been and had a vague idea where we were headed. After the intersection we were all on the same page.
We made it to the flat spot in the trail where Tower Trail drops down to Grizzly Gulch as it grew too dark to continue. Happily, this flat spot was big enough for us to camp, because it was a pretty vertical hillside. Those of y'all who have been in Coe can back me up: those slopes are steeeep.
[edit: it is pointed out to me by my children that I have frequently scoffed at the idea of camping right along the trail, to say nothing of camping right in the trail- to which I reply: extenuating circumstances, a.k.a. do as I say]
The boys and I had burritos from El Frijolito in Watsonville for dinner our 1st night out. That is becoming a Henry Coe bikepacking tradition with me, and I am happy with it.
Scary stories centered around terrible things happening to children are a time honored way of passing the time before sleep. Joaquin Murrieta, pirates, headless ghosts, vengeful parents, enslaved children, the eating of same...