Every once in a while I get a wild hair about riding Coe. Lately I've had plenty of opportunities to go with others, but I'm pretty picky about riding mostly singletrack, and not getting cooked on the way to do so.
Last year I bought the lightest sleeping bag/tent/pad combo I could find at the local sporting goods. It was for backpacking, but I was thinking about riding in the back of my mind, as usual.
Way back in '87 when I bought my first MTB, I got a rack and panniers anticipating long rides many years before the Camelbak came along.
A couple weeks ago I came across plans for the penny stove
, so I suffered through a 12-pack of Heineken (still have some), whipped up a stove, tested it, and sure enough, it works great.
So Monday all these elements came together. Sorry for the total lack of photos. Use your imagination: '91 Stumpjumper Team Edition in almost-black purple with XT 21-speed thumbies and XT canti brakes and original extra rigid fork, Blackburn alu rack, one Avenir pannier, tiny tent bungied to the top of the rack, Niterider Flamethrower HID/LED bar light. (According to my calculation, that description is worth 4.2% of the picture I would have taken if my camera was still alive.)
In my Camelbak I packed my stove, a light alu backpacking pot, a few ozs of alcohol, a couple cup-o-noodles, some bars, some Gatorade powder, some M&Ms, two bananas and 50oz of water for the trip to HQ. In my spare cage, I carried a water bottle with more gatorade powder, but no water.
To get an idea of the location of the ride, go to http://maps.google.com
, put in 'gilroy ca', center the map at the north end of Coyote Lake and set the zoom to level 6.
You can follow along on the trail portions by starting with this link:
Then going up, down, right, right, down, down, down, down. I don't have time to make a nice, whole map like I'd like. Bummer. Map this, dweeb:
After a tasty meal of sausage on a wheat roll and a jumbo artichoke, I hit the road around 6pm. It's 12 miles or so to Coe HQ from my house in four pitches. There were folks still celebrating the 3rd of July at the Anderson Lake picnic area as I passed. On the way up the 2nd and biggest pitch, half a dozen or so cars passed; more than I expected, including the Safeway delivery man who was in a big hurry to get it over with.
I called home just before 8pm at the Coe Sign by the outer parking lot to say, "Good night" to the kids and my rightly-worrysome wife. For some reason she thinks I shouldn't go out alone, regardless of night or day.
There's a big tree down on the parking lot trail right near the parking lot. I love the trail, so not to be denied, I went up the road past the tree and slid myself and my overweight bike down the slope to the trail.
At HQ, I refilled my Camelbak and my Gatorade bottle. The sun was still up and there were people coming and going from various activities. A pair of girlies came up the trail clamoring for water. They'd hiked up Short Cut, down Blue Ridge, through Los Cruzeros and up from China Hole and had just run out of water about a mile out.
I headed up the road to find powder. The fire of last week drew quite a response, and all the fire trucks pounded the roads into a fine Northstar-in-September powder. The road down to Flat Frog Tr was painful dirt surfing, instead of too-fast hardpacked fun.
Flat Frog Tr itself was as sweet as ever. There was still plenty of light. I caught a glimpse of the sunset reflected off of the top of Blue Ridge. There were a bunch of trees down since last time I rode it, including one that pulled a section of trail out with it's roots that was begging for a rock bridge that I didn't have time to build. Otherwise it was all flowy goodness.
In the darkening evening, I didn't notice any no-bikes sign on Frog Lake Tr. On the way up to the lake, and all of a sudden, my ass started getting a nice cold shower. I immediately realized this was a threat to my whole plan. I whipped off my Camelbak, and turned it over to stem the tide. Inside, I found the hose was a hair away from coming off and draining my whole water supply. The day saved, I figured the 8 oz or so that came out wasn't going to stop me from continuing, so I, um, continued.
I made that one hard left-hand switchback just up from the lake. Up near the top I realized that I needed a safety stop before heading down Middle Ridge, so I went left, out to Hobbs Rd to the new picnic table there at the Blue Ridge overlook. The trail was about as dark as can be ridden by this point. At the table I checked, and it was 9pm. I had some food and stuff, mounted my weak helmet light, and safely headed back out.
I forgot how cool night riding is. The only thing that could have been better was my brakes. You can argue all you want about v-brakes vs disc, but canti brakes need more power than I have left in my old typing-ravaged hands. I had to go much slower than usual, but it was all fun anyway. I had to get off much earlier than usual on the first climb on Middle Ridge due to my not-so-low 24:28 granny, and the extra 10 lbs strapped and bolted to my frame. Other than the extra weight climbing, I didn't have much trouble with the camping gear. I was still riding most of the technical parts. I did skip the one dirt slide just after the trail drops off the north side of the ridge. The contrast the light threw onto the log drop in the middle of it was ominous, and OTB, in the dirt with my gear spread all over went through my head. I hate wimping out, but I know how to do it.
At the bottom of Middle Ridge I became aware of how loud my rigid ride was with a bottle and battery clanking around in the cages and the light cord tinking against my steel frame as I bumped over the last rocks down into the creek. I was wondering if I'd see anyone camping as I saw the two headlamps shine over my way from the Poverty Flat camp. The two German (?) campers were pretty surprised to see me. I can imagine how it sounded as I got close enough for them to hear.
We chatted a bit about where I was headed before I returned their privacy. The second creek crossing looked unfamiliar with the spring's growth illuminated by my blue light. I got across with dry feet and was, once again, greeted by the evil powder on Poverty Flat Rd. It wasn't bad from there to the third crossing, but after that it was barely ridable. I dropped all the way down to granny to ride on a flat fire road. It sucked. I wasn't looking forward to either hiking through the creek, nor climbing Poverty Flat Rd up to Jackass Pass, but the powder made that decision very easy.
There's a great crop of poison oak out there this year. I've never really gotten it, and I've taken some grief for forgetting just how much of it there is along the creek trail when I've led groups through there. The last couple years I've had a couple tiny reactions, so I've been trying to avoid it. That makes the trip through the creek pretty interesting. In one spot where I was trying to heft my hefty bike without tumbling 20 feet down to the creek, I found my elbow in a giant patch. Luckily, I got nothing today, so maybe I don't need to worry so much.
After a couple more harrowing moments with my heavy bike on the sketchy trail, I arrived at the confluence of the two creeks at the beginning of China Hole. I really didn't want to carry my bike any more, so instead of going down to where China Hole Tr crosses, I stopped at the spot where we had all the fun with the frozen pond
It was 10:45, I'd been riding for almost 5 hours, so I decided to eat. The grass fire the week earlier made me cautious about my stove, and the rocks in the creek were a very safe place to fire it up. I dipped some creek water, boiled it, and had a fine cup of noodles under the light of a half-moon. I laid down for a while after and stretched my tired back and enjoyed listening to the cacophony of frogs. I even considered camping right there, but I realized that I really needed to be further up the trail to make it home by when I said I would, so I packed up to leave. I drank the last of my Gatorade and filled my bottle with creek water for breakfast, in case I camped somewhere with no water.
After donning my arm warmers, I proceeded to get my feet wet crossing over to the other side. That sucked. An extra pair of socks would've been a good addition to my supplies. Lesson learned. I missed the trail junction from the China Hole campsite going up briefly. It is pretty overgrown. The climb up the other side of China Hole Tr was a bit strenuous after 11pm. I walked a couple hard uphill switchbacks that I've never walked before.
At the top of this trail I had a pretty scary pig encounter once and I always think about it when I'm approaching now. No pigs this time. The short downhill down to Mahoney Meadows Rd was extra smooth, fast and swoopy.
At this point, I was thinking of camping at the top of Coit Rd where it intersects Wasno Rd. I wanted to be up high somewhere where the sunrise would help me wake up early. As I was grinding and walking up the climbs on Mahoney Meadows Rd, not looking forward to the climbs on Coit Rd, I decided to stop and camp. I pulled off the road once in a spot that I decided was too rocky, then again in a nice spot under some oaks just a few turns from Coit Rd, with a nice view of Willow Ridge to the east. It was 12:30.
While setting my alarm I noticed I had phone service. I called my voice mail to confirm. I checked again in the am, but no dice. There must be some atmospheric condition that helps the signal when it's colder at night.
My alarm went off at 6am. The sun was not yet up. When the snooze went off the first time at 6:10 it was. I hit snooze another four or five times and finally got up just before 7. I skipped the cooking episode and had a power bar instead. I originally had the idea that I might make it to the parade at 10am in town, but by the time I hit the road it was about 7:45.
In deference to the time, I skipped the climb up to the top. I love Domino Pond and Cattle Duster Trails, and I hate having to skip them. Instead, I turned right where Cross Canyon comes up and went down towards Grapevine Spr Tr. I still can't find the singletrack on the left. I went down the doubletrack.
My headset was loosening on the bumpy sections, giving me something to grumble about, but the rock garden was good. I took a drink out of Grapevine Spring due to some weird compulsion. I was paranoid about it the whole rest of the ride for no good reason.
Anza Tr was nice as usual. Again, I walked a couple parts I usually ride, even though I was feeling relatively good. The creek at the bottom of Coit Rd is totally dry now. I stopped at the picnic bench just to be safe, and to stretch and eat. I chatted up some roadies at the bridge who asked, "Are there any good trails in there?". Silly roadies. They caught me later on Gilroy Hot Springs Rd. I kicked it up a notch and stayed with them for a couple miles. On the little climb after the houses and before the Nature Conservancy property, they slowed down enough to allow me a weak breakaway. I led them down the hill past where the road is divided. They didn't have much trouble with my fat ass on the big climb up to the Coyote Lake turn off. By the time I passed that and got around the s-turns, they were nowhere to be seen.
That's about where the entrance to Harvey Bear Ranch Park is. I pulled in there and filled a bottle from the faucet. I was guessing it was about an hour from there home, and I still had some water in my Camelbak. That park is not the place for a rigid bike. Maybe not for any bike. It's dry and bumpy. I decended a different loop than last time I was there, but it sucked too. Sorry if it's your favorite park, but I doubt it. You could run a beotchin' downhill race on a couple of the roads, I suppose.
I called my wife from a nice overlook with a bench around 10:15. They were waiting for the parade to start. I wasn't going to make it, but I didn't exactly tell her that. As I exitted the park I saw something on the road that I had to turn back to check out. It was a new package of gummy worms. Worms from the gods? You decide, but I grubbed those sugary little grubs. over the next mile-or-so of road on the way to my house.
I got home around 11:15, called to waive off on the parade, grabbed a hot dog, a Heineken and a shower. It was about 54 miles, and easily over a mile of vertical. I rode for 6.5 hours on Monday night, into Tuesday, and another 3.5 hours or so on the 4th.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. I hope you enjoyed it.