I have a sort of like-hate relationship with Henry Coe park. It’s a huge park with many miles of great trails, but most of them are connected by hellish forest roads, and many trails are way too steep and poorly engineered for mountain bikes. On top of challenging terrain, Henry Coe Park is just far enough inland that there is no relief from the blistering sun and the cool ocean breezes you get at Skeggs or Saratoga Gap just a handful of miles away are sorely missed. During the summer, 90-100 degree days are common and potable water is scarce.
All of which paints a somewhat unfair picture of Henry Coe park. It is a massive park with tens of miles of great trails and many, many miles of decent trails. There are over 100 miles of trails which can be connected in endless ways and every year the park changes and evolves as the park service improves trails or trails are closed due to conditions or simply get too overgrown from getting under-used.
Which is why I’m really glad I took Fast Eddy up on his offer to come out this weekend. Being able to pedal 17 miles in to Pacheco Camp in the middle of the park, enjoy a day of riding in some of the more remote regions, and then pedal back out is perhaps the best way to appreciate the epic scale of this amazing park. For bike packers or adventurous riders who like long miles of exploring, Henry Coe is a truly epic destination….
… but I still hate those nasty super steep downhills, hundred degree heat, thistle…
Just a friendly reminder, there is no better time to be out on the trails enjoying the trails!
The Sierra Foothills and the coastal range are amazing right now so get out there and enjoy the beautiful green and flowers while it lasts. Here’s a sample of what you’re missing if you’re spending your day on the couch!
I’ve been eyeballing doing some big cross country trips in the Sierra Nevada for some time, and this weekend I was able to preview a big section of one of my longer route ideas. We started out our day off of 108 in Strawberry and pedaled 40+ miles to the town of Columbia. The ride was almost all dirt, with about 25 miles of single track & ATV trails, including some teeth rattling single track above Lyon’s reservoir called Pinball, about 10 miles of dirt roads, and just a little bit of road riding near the edge of Twain Harte and down Big Hill road on the way down to Columbia.
Our day started with some truly epic condiditions, we had 2″ of fresh powder on Sugar Pine trail (we call it Ewok trail), which was just deep enough to crunch nicely under the tires without slowing us down too much. This first part of the ride is probably the most memorable and my favorite of the day. The snow on the ground and the twisty single track were amazing, it makes me jealous of the fat bike guys riding up in Tahoe. The Ewok trail single track used to be a RR grade, but it’s been over 50 years since the tracks were there and it’s slowly reverting back to nature. While the overall grade is still 2% or so down, it’s filled with trees and there are sections where there used to be trestles where you have to go up and around. Overall, it’s an a+ section of trail and a spectacular start to the day.
After about 6-7 miles of that, we hopped on the road briefly before climbing up to a ditch trail which parallels Spring Gap road. If you are following this route, I suggest staying on the road for a bit before climbing to the ditch trail, as the first section after Frazier Flat will have many riders on and off the bike. The ditch trail lasts for about 4 miles before giving out to forest roads for a few miles to the Crandall Peak OHV staging area. From there we took some ATV trails and a bit more forest road to get to the beginning of Pinball Trail.
Pinball trail is rough, and the first half mile or so is mostly hike-a-bike, but there are some amazing sections on it where you are riding across lava flows and through some alien looking terrain. Though it is mostly downhill, the trail here is so rough it’s a serious workout getting through it. Jason and Kevin were champions through here, humbling the Ogre again and again.
Near the end of Pinball, we turned down into the Deer Creek watershed where there are a lot of ATV trails, this made for a fun, often fast descent down a mix of rough ATV trails. Some of the sections were armored with bricks or plastic grids designed to prevent erosion from the bikes. For us it was a bit like riding down a steep but skinny paved trail through the woods… tons of fun. To make things a bit more interested, it started raining while we were descending through the technical moto-trails.
At the end of Deer Creek trail, we popped onto Italian Bar road where we decided based on time and the rain that we should take the fastest/ easiest route back to Columbia which meant a brutal 5+ mile climb up towards Twain Harte where we found the ditch trail that goes most of the way between Twain Harte and Columbia. We spent the next 8 miles or so riding a slight downhill along a windy water ditch. Though the grade was in our favor, we were all pretty sore at this time (the Ogre whined a lot and slowed everyone down).
The ditch trail isn’t as adventurous as the alternative route, but it turned out to be the perfect choice because we finished up the ride just before Sunset and enjoyed some spectacular views coming down Big Hill road as we descended the final few miles to Columbia. Everyone had huge grins on their face when they saw Fiona waiting with the truck near the bottom of Big Hill road. Both because we wouldn’t have to pedal the last few miles of little rolling hills into Columbia proper, and because it was a truly amazing ride.
We went all the way back to the 1800s today, on the time travel trail. I had a great time with Darin and a good sized group of guys from the Dry Creek Trail Riders. It was a squeeze getting all six of us into the Delorean, but we made it to the past and made a side trip all the way forward to 2015!
Been a good few months, I’ve been riding like mad and things are really coming together. On one of my favorite technical climbs today, I only dabbed a couple times and made it with no breaks.
The ride itself was a blast, it was a super foggy night ride with Mark R. we kept a good pace and wound up getting 9 miles in just about 2 hours. (For Red Hills 9 miles is a solid day. Enough chatter, here’s some pics.
I’ve been building up my endurance and strength lately so I figured I’d try to push my limits and see how far I could go at Red Hills. It didn’t quite work out that way though. It was such a great day I was a bit of a shutter bug, snapping a bunch of shots of the fog rolling in and the sunset… Eventually running out of daylight and having to skip out in the dark. Even so I cranked out a respectable 18 miles at Red Hills including a fair bit of old school trails which are much steeper and tougher. Very little duplicate trails and only crossed my path in one spot. Touched most every major trail out there including the grindy Parts of Red Hills road trail.
I had an Amazing Ride Today at Red Hills. I spent the last half of the ride fighting to urge to stop for photographs and the other half chasing the fading light and trying to get back to the car quick enough. The result was just an absolutely amazing sunset ride. Glad I got out there!
Recently there’s been an effort near Santa Cruz to add a wildlife crossing and protected adjacent property near highway 17. Often highways split animal ranges and cross areas with critical food and water sources which all animals need access to. These highway crossings are particularly important for species with large ranges like mountain lions but they help almost all species living near the highway. The Laurel curve crossing will increase wildlife mobility and decrease dangerous vehicle-animal collisions which kill animals, damage vehicles, and injure or even kill people.
For a good idea of how these work, here’s a video of which talks about the effects of a similar program in Wyoming which added 41 crossings on a section of highway which significantly reduced the amount of road kill and increases human safety in the region.