Sunday, May 4th, 2008

MTB: My First Henry Coe Experience

I’m taking a Written Communication Skills class for ESL Speakers at work. The first feedback my instructor gave me on my assignments was “wordy.” Knowing my problem doesn’t necessarily mean I know how to fix it. But it enables me to warn you — this is going to be a long trip report. In an effort to cut down the word count, I will refer to my husband as E and his buddy as D in this report.

Also, this is a response to a thread I started on MTBR, so you will see some names/handles mentioned here that might not be familiar to you.


This would be my first time to Henry Coe and I do not get to ride my mountain bike every weekend, so I figured I should maximize this ride. 40 miles and 8500 feet of elevation gain later, I think I can say with satisfaction, “Mission Accomplished!”

Originally, I set out to do Plim’s 34-mile route. I knew ours would be slightly longer because we would start from Hunting Hollow and we would need to make a little detour to the headquarter to refill our water and buy a map. We had to start from HH because we would not be early enough to get two parking spots at Cayote Creek Entrance — as a matter of fact, we did not start riding until 10:46 AM. I also did not realize that none of us brought any money until we got to HQ — well, I guess I’ll buy a map by mail then, which was not a big deal because D brought his on the ride. But what really added the mileage was an unplanned detour.

Over all, the trails are well marked in the park. But there are always exceptions. I do not remember seeing the following two trail markers:
* Straightish onto Cattle Duster.
* Continue straightish/leftish on Coit Spring.
* Right up a no-name trail …- the trail is very steep at first

However, following the most obvious path, it’s unlikely you will get off trail there. The trail leads you to a post at a T intersection. A couple of laminated trail markers showed that we just came from Coit Spring Trail and Grapevine Trail was straight ahead. It didn’t say anything about that trail going right. If I had taken a moment to think about it, I would have figured out that the trail to the right was the “no-name” trail. However, three friendly locals showed up just when we got there, and the guy among them, Mike, started chatting with us. Busy socializing, I didn’t give myself time to think. Instead, I followed my instinct, which told me that according to this online map I had studied, that “no-name” trail was actually Grapevine Trail; therefore, we should stay on it. The locals did tell us that taking the trail to the right would be the shortest way to get on Coit Road, but I thought I should “stick to the plan.” Somehow, all six of us started riding together on Grapevine Trail (going southwest). We stopped here and there to wait for the slow rider (even slower than me) in their group. But the guys did not seem to mind the wait at all because they were busy chatting about the park, the bikes, and fishing in the park. We did learn quite a bit about the park from Mike. We parted ways when we turned off Grapevine Trail onto a narrow/smooth/fun single track, which dumped us onto Coit Road. For some reason, I thought that was the no-name trail, even though it missed that steep section Plim had mentioned. Oh, well, I was just happy that we “stayed on course.” So, when E pointed out that we should turn right in order to get to Mahoney Meadows, I pointed at my turn-by-turn directions and insisted we turn left on Coit Road. Boy, I could be stubborn sometimes. So, we turned left. Only when we got back to the first/lower Anza Trail turn off (we were there earlier) did I realize that I was wrong! Dang! We should have taken the trail going right where we met the locals after all! Up Coit Road we went. (So, BigLarry, I guess we also did the alternative you suggested — taking Coit Road all the way to Mahoney Meadows.)

It was 2:30 PM when we turned around on Coit Road. Half annoyed by the fact that we might not have enough time to finish the planned route and half annoyed by my own navigational incompetency, I became crabby (D said he didn’t notice, but E took a hit). Later when I apologized, E pointed out that it was my drive to do a long ride and to stick to a plan that made me crabby, but it was the same drive that got us through the long ride. Here is why. It was 4 PM when we were at HQ. E proposed that we cut the ride short by skipping Flat Frog Trail and Middle Ridge and go straight back to the car (I’m not sure if he actually knew the “straight” way). His reason was we might not have enough daylight. Ha, yesterday, you dismissed my suggestion of bringing a bike light or a headlamp. Pffft! D was as easygoing as always — “I don’t care. Either way is fine with me.” But I insisted we “stick to the plan.” (Did I say I was stubborn?) So, I got my way. Off Flat Frog Trail we went, which turned out to be my favorite trail on the ride. Never a downhiller, Middle Ridge scared me a bit. There were sections I chickened out and dismounted. But following Plim’s instructions to the letter, I did utter a “wheeeeeee” or two here and there. It was when we got to Poverty Flat that I relaxed and stopped being crabby because I knew the plan would get us back to our car. Even if we had to do Coit Road in dimming light, that would not bother me, because we wouldn’t get lost there.

However, we still had the notorious Creekside Trail to negotiate. As chudaman suggested, I prepared for the worst. The result? It was not bad at all. I actually enjoyed the little break from riding because my legs and butt were sore from climbing and my thumbs were sore from the death grips coming down Middle Ridge. Even though we missed the cutoff to the left and had to deal with the boulders before we hit China Hole Trail, it was all pretty manageable. That put us on the east side of China Hole Trail. The rest was just a long climb followed by a long descent back to the car. We got back around 7:15 PM with enough daylight left. Now that he had done the Creekside hike-a-bike, E said next time he would choose to ride Poverty Flat to Mahoney Meadows. He had ridden it before and a continuous ride is always more appealing to him. But he was happy to have done this alternative too.

This ride shows up 40.76 miles on D’s bicycle computer and 39.59 miles on my GPS. Motionbased corrected it to 39.4 miles. However you look at it, it’s a fairly long ride. But nobody cramped and there was no mechanical either. After the first stream crossing at China Hole, my chain rubbed and clicked pretty bad in the second half of the ride, but it stayed on. E got two ticks on him and I got one. Considering that was the only negative on this whole ride, I would call this one a smooth ride. We all had fun too! I now know what Coe is about, so next time, I think I’ll be more relaxed.

BigLarry, I lugged our bulky camera on our ride just for you. Here are some photos from this ride:

Well, what can I say? “Hi, my name is blahblah, and I’m an engineer.” It worked very well.

For people unfamiliar with Coe, the trail markers here are a little unique — the name of the trail is in small font on the very top, and the most prominant words are for the destination — where this trail will lead you.

Scared of crashing, I wear my elbow pads and shin/knee pads (under my pants) all the time. Sometimes, I do wonder how much lighter it would feel if I don’t have them on.

China Hole Trail right above the stream crossing is steep, but D showed us determination can get you up anything.

Sitting at HQ, D and E are planning the next trip already.

Stream crossing on China Hole Trail. I managed not to get my shoes wet on the entire ride.

A Bob’s 3/4 lbs burger made the trip complete — it was my order at Black Bear Diner.

Our skinny ride.

Mudncrud exclusive: For all the photos, please visit our gallery.

References: (A lot of maps, but a few trail names in the line maps are outdated.)

Weather: (include hourly mosquito activity)