Henry Coe SP – Jackrabbit Lake and Raven Pond Bikepacking

For the second year in a row, we were going to have to miss backcountry weekend at Coe. This year, Scott had to go to a wedding on the Big Island – so sad I know 🙁 Anyways, to make up for this we decided to head out for 3 days of bikepacking to hit some remote eastern parts of the park. We thought about doing Robison Mountain, but the possibility of poison oak in the bushwack portion made us save it for next year as a dayhike during BCW when we could go home and wash off.

Our plan was to head 24 miles in to Jackrabbit Lake the first day. The second day would be a relatively easy day into Raven Pond and then we would head out on the third. Being our first time bikepacking, we had to gather a lot of gear, but we ended up with a pretty good system. We both had handlebar holders where we were able to clamp down our tents and sleeping bags. Sean, who has a hardtail was able to also fit in a frame pack where he carried some food and smaller items. To round things out, we both carried our backpacking packs where we threw in whatever else didn’t fit.

Sean’s Bike
Scott’s Bike and Pack

Now on to the good stuff… Katie dropped us off at Bell Station at 9AM on 3/31. After a few minutes to get ready, we headed off. The initial climb up Kaiser Aetna road was killer and the sun was already out in full force. What a great warmup!

Climbing Kaiser Aetna Road

Once we crested the first big hill, we were able to ride most of the way to Dowdy Ranch. Along the way, we were passed by Ranger Paul whom we have volunteered for many times. We talked to him about the usual Coe happenings for a bit before moving on. An hour and 45 minutes after starting, we cruised into Dowdy Ranch. We filled out a backpacking permit here and dropped it into the Iron Ranger.

Resting under the shade of the (closed) Dowdy Ranch visitor center

Right after Dowdy Ranch was the demoralizing hill that everybody has to descend after the ranch. We knew we would have to ride up it again in a few days, but it was fun to descend now. Pacheco Creek was a flowing well – a testament to the torrential rain we have received in the last few months. More meandering brought us up the final hill before Orestimba Corral where we took a short rest.

Pushing the bikes up more hills

Despite the heat, we were happy to know we had crested the last major hill of the day. We quickly descended down to the intersection with County Line Road and Orestimba Creek Road.

County Line Road to the right – we would come down there in a couple days on our way out

Once we got onto Orestimba Creek Road, our progress began to slow due to the multitude of creek crossings. We counted somewhere between 35 and 40 creek crossing in total. One got the best of Scott who took a minor tumble into the creek during a rocky section.

Its more rocky in person – I swear
Froggy!

After about 7 or 8 easy creek crossings, we reached Orestimba Corral. It was deserted now, but in a month or so, it would be buzzing with a few hundred people.

Empty Orestimba Corral

We had thought the next six or so miles to Paradise Flat would be quick since it was all on a road and going the same direction as the creek so it should be a slight downhill. With the hundreds of miles of experience in Coe, I don’t know what we were thinking in assuming that a remote road would stay out of the creek. The first couple miles weren’t bad, but it quickly turned into a constant battle with the creek.

See the Hartman Trail? Neither do I…

The road included many creek crossing that got our feet soaked while riding through them.

Halfway across one, the bike sank into the dirt and I was stranded

Even the sections that weren’t the creek bed seemed to be all uphill.

I was promised a downhill road! Grrrr

Finally, the road left the creek for a mile or so and it was actually quite nice and mellow – what I thought the whole thing would be. Right before we left the creek, we were treated to a field full of wildflowers.

Wildflowers

On this short section, we took a short half mile spur trail to Mustang Pond. Others have reported the trail to be invisible, but we found it well-defined the flagged.

Heading to the Pond…
The pond

Back on Orestimba Creek Road, we dropped down to the creek and kept going for about 10 minutes until we reached the junction with Long Ridge Road.

Orestimba Creek Road with Rooster Comb in the background

We wanted to get a good view of Rooster Comb, so we dropped our heavy overnight gear at this intersection and continued north for awhile before hitting the Rooster Comb Trail. Along the way, there was a large field full of wildflowers. The remoteness, the green hillsides, and wildflowers under the towering Rooster Comb made this one of the prettiest spots in Coe.

Rooster Comb in the background
Wildflowers

With no signpost, we had some trouble finding the Rooster Comb Trail, but we saw some flagging on the tree and we soon found the overgrown trail.

Overgrown Trail
Just a small depression in the grass
Rooster Comb in the background

After this short jaunt on the trail, we headed back to the road and went back to Long Ridge Road.

Rooster Comb with the submerged Orestimba Creek Road in the foreground

Scott took a nice video of Sean crossing the creek here.

We were dead tired by this time, so we didn’t take any photos on the way to Jackrabbit Lake, but there were only a few minor hills and we rode the whole way. We arrived at the lake around 6 and quickly began to set up our campsite. There were a lot of reeds around the lake, but with a little looking, we found some good places to get water.

Our tent with the lake

As evening faded to night, it began to cloud up and we had our first concerns about weather. We knew that tonight would be OK, but we had seen a chance of rain tomorrow night and the next day. Our tent isn’t exactly waterproof and we aren’t sure about our packs. In short, we weren’t very prepared for rain. Oh well, we would deal with it when the time came; now it was time for sleep. Around 10, we dozed off for a nice sleep after a long day on the bikes.

The next morning we woke up around 6:30AM, but we didn’t get out of ten until around 8AM. Our tent had an incredible amount of condensation on it and the top had sagged down a few inches. It was a little humorous and we joked about how the impending rain couldn’t be worse than this. If either one of us even sat up a few inches, we knocked down a mini downpour of water.

Morning at Jackrabbit Lake

After a lazy morning, we left the lake around 10AM. Without much warmup, we were climbing the road up to Long Ridge.

Are we there yet?

We finally crested the ridge and had a few more miles to traverse over to Mustang Peak. There were some great views off this ridge.

Looking over to Mustang Peak

The ridge was a classic COE rollercoaster, but we were able to ride most of it and made quick progress…. until we reached the last hill before Mustang Peak. This was easily the steepest hill I had ever seen in Coe other than maybe the famous “Shortcut”. It was much shorter than the shortcut, but even pushing the bikes up it was almost impossible. On some sections, I couldn’t take a break as the bike would slide down the hill even with both breaks fully pressed.

Hey down there!

Once we topped out of this soul-sucking hill, we took a rest where we intersected with another portion of County Line Road.

The 10-ton bike

From here we headed east of Mustang Peak to the eastern boundary of the park that was rarely visited even by Coe standards. Well, I’m not even sure if it was still in the park. We had to cross a lot of gates as we headed east. Only the first and last were locked and a few others had “No Trespassing” signs. The rest had clips that we could undo to open the gates

The common gate-locking method used in this part of the park (or private land?)

However, we kept going since the park map has this road mapped out, but even on the park map, the road seems to leave the park. Our best guess is that they were left over from before the park owned the land. But you would think they would remove the gates….Oh well, we had a good enough reason for a rancher to not shoot us so we kept going.

We hoisted our bikes over this first gate and headed on down the road.

The sign is on the back of the gate as you enter the park, but it seems to say you can’t enter it. What?
Cool, old sign

About halfway to Raven Pond, we had stopped at another gate and noticed we had cell reception. We checked the weather and noticed there was a relatively high chance of rain tonight and tomorrow. We quickly decided to get out of here today. This would require a semi-herculean effort of some 40 miles and 5500 feet of elevation gain while carrying 20+ pounds of overnight gear, but we really didn’t want to be miserable in the rain. Since we still wanted to get to Raven Pond and the eastern boundary, we dropped our gear at this gate and headed out with just our bikes and some water.

Rearranging gear

Some 200 feet past this gate was the turnoff to Raven Pond. We were originally supposed to have camped here, but we realized it was a good thing that we were heading out tonight as Raven Pond wasn’t really the best place to camp. There wasn’t a good place for a tent and we would have had to drag loaded bikes down a steep and overgrown trail. We left our bikes on the road and headed down to the pond with only the camera.

The Raven Pond trail could have used some maintenance, but for a remote Coe trail, it wasn’t bad.

Raven Pond Signpost

The only tricky part was where we had to drop off ridge and we didn’t realize. Another old ranch road must have stayed on the ridge as the bushwacking wasn’t too bad, but we soon realized with the help of the phone that we were supposed to leave the ridge.

A nice section of the trail

About a half-mile down the trail, we hit Raven Pond. It was cool to have finally visited this remote place, but we were glad we weren’t staying here.

Raven Pond

We took a few photos then headed out.

Heading back up to County Line Road

We headed east for 3 more miles coming across 3 more gates. The first was had old “No Trespassing” signs, but it was open so we passed through.

Heading east!

Not 5 minutes past this one, we came upon another gate. We easily passed through this one that had no signage.

Gate 4

A little more climbing brought us to a funny sign.

hehe

We continued heading east taking some time to appreciate just how remote we were. So few humans ever made it out here so private property be damned, we were gonna go to the edge of Coe!

We finally made it to the last gate before the end.

One more gate to go!

We crossed a few more ridges and descended a few more bumps on our quest to the end.

Just riding along!

Finally, we reached the edge of Coe! We would have loved a sign to welcome us, but we were content to sign a remote geocache that nobody had found since 2013. It was muggy out and we were both low on fluids and food. We had some water and ate some dried oranges and gummies. These greatly helped and we felt a lot better.

The bikes at the end
Made it to the boundary!

After this small rest, we rode back to our stuff at the gate near Raven Pond and headed down. We alerted Katie that we were going to be heading out today. We had told her we would be out by 7:30PM so we had to hustle. We passed Mustang Peak again and headed down County Line Road to Kaiser Aetna Road. Along the way, we passed our first human of the day: the Coe pigcatcher! If you don’t know, Coe has a big problem with feral pigs tearing up the land so they has several traps out to catch them. He was setting the traps along County Line Road and Kaiser Aetna Road. We chatted a little bit and he ended up giving us some Dr. Pepper from his cooler.

Below Mustang Peak

A few hours of determined riding brought us to the Pacheco Creek Crossing where we enjoyed the Dr. Peppers before the huge climb back to Dowdy.

Cheers!

Sean was able to ride the entire hill in about 25 minutes while Scott trudged up in about 45 minutes. We’ll have to beat these times next trip! During the upper half of the climb, we started to get rained on and we could see the rest of Coe was in heavy rain. We felt we had definitely made the right decision as not only had the rain come early, but was a little harder than expected.

Selfie with the famous 20% grade sign in the rain
Coe gets rained on

We rode past Dowdy Ranch and finally crested a short hill which meant the next seven were downhill. And it was only 5:45! We were going to survive! The rain got hard enough that we had to put on rain jackets half way through, but we got back to Bell Station at 6:45!

We’re going to survive!

 

Whew! 65 miles and 9000 feet of elevation gain in 2 days! A tough trip, but one to remember nonetheless.

 

 

Big Basin Mountain – Trees on the ground and in the sky!

In preparation for a bikepacking trip out to Henry Coe SP next weekend, we came to Big Basin to do a little shakedown of our bikes. Bikes are only allowed on double-track trails in Big Basin so we stuck to fireroads for the day. There was the usual crowds at Big Basin, but we were able to find parking close to Gazos Creek Road.

Only some 30 minutes in to our ride, we came across the first of several downed trees we would encounter on the ride. They obviously had not maintained the road since the winter rains.

Sean crossing the log

We had only gone some 2 minutes down the trail before we ran into another, bigger tree. We had to crawl through a crack in this one to get by.

The Larger Tree

We continued down Gazos Creek Road through some smaller downed tress, and finally made it to Johansen Road. We were really enjoying the coastal redwoods and accompanying vegetation, but we were treated to a special surprise here. Karl (geocaching: Alpharoaming) had told us about this secluded and elaborate treehouse and boxcar somewhere back in this part of Big Basin, but we had no idea it was here. We were treated to views of a large and tall treehouse that somebody was living in along with 3 boxcars from 1973. Super cool!

See the treehouse in the top middle?
Boxcar and treehouse
Another view of the treehouse

We continued along Johannsen road for several more miles until we hit Middle Ridge Fire Road.

Sean on top of a stump

We didn’t take any photos on Middle Ridge trail since it was a a super fast, but fun descent on our bikes. We did stop off at Ocean View Summit to “bag” it for peakbagger.

All in all, it was 13 miles and 2000 feet of climbing in a leisurely 3.5 hours. Definitely recommended for a short afternoon outing!

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Murietta Falls and (almost!) Rose Peak

Recently, we’ve been doing a lot of tough, but short outings and we knew we needed to do something tough. Luckily, we were invited by a geocaching friend to climb Rose Peak from Del Valle. Another geocacher, Kass joined us to round out the group to four. We are all on the downward spiral of our geocaching interest, but that is still how we all met.

We had done Rose Peak last year from the Sunol and we had hiked Discovery Peak from Del Valle last year, so we had completed all of our objectives for the Ohlone Wilderness, but we were more than happy to go out and get some exercise and have some good chatter.

We met at Del Valle at 8am since the park opened late. We soon huffing and puffing up the first big hill.

Pretty Trees

As soon a we crested the first hill (which is the Rocky Ridge HP that we tagged last time), we had to go right back down into another canyon.

In William’s Gulch

To climb out of here, we had to go up the famous “Big Burn”. It is really nothing more than a Coe-like steep hill, but it is one of the steepest Bay Area trails outside of Coe so I can see where it gets its name. On the climb out, we could already tell that we were not going to make it to Rose Peak today. It was a hot day and the hills were steeeep! No matter, we were only out for exercise and good company – which we definitely got. Finally cresting the Big Burn, we dropped down yet another smaller ridge to the falls.

Murietta Falls!

There were several groups sat around, but we easily found a secluded spot a little bit uphill from the falls to eat some lunch. While there, we revisited the cache at Murietta Falls.

Kass went to find it, so we accompanied him

The flow of the falls was pretty good, but unfortunately, we didn’t get any snow like our last visit. From here, we bade goodbye to Kass who was feeling pretty beat after the hike to falls and he headed back on his own. We headed out for Rose Peak with Karl. We had our doubts about getting there, but we wanted to at least try. Awhile later, we passed the turnoff for Discovery Peak. I had forgotten if it was negatively signed or not so I went to investigate.

Signage on the way to Discovery Peak

Not long past this turn, we could see Rose Peak, but we were dismayed to see a large canyon in between us and the peak. With daylight fading, we turned back and headed to the cars. We had seen this coming for a long time and fortunately, Karl didn’t seem too disappointed either as he had also climbed the peak from Sunol a few months earlier.

Rose Peak across the canyon!

We retraced our steps, but taking the ridge around the falls to avoid having to drop back down again. Right before the burn, we stopped off at Schielepper Rock so we would have something to put on peakbagger.

 

19.5 miles and 5200 feet of climbing. A great day with some fine people!

 

 

 

 

Little Blue Ridge – Yolo County Highpoint

This peak has been on our radar for about a year now – ever since we got into peakbagging. It was always in the back of our mind, but David and Lisa’s report made this shoot to the top of our list, so we had a chance to summit before the bush totally grew back. Sean doen’t mind a good bushwack every now and then, but he seems to deathly allergic to poison oak. He has had 5 or so cases of eyes swollen shut and the kind only fixed by oral steroids along with countless other more minor cases. In the past year, we have gotten much more careful and he hasn’t had a spot of PO, but the memory of those terrible cases has left some psychological scars. However, we figured it was either now when the brush wasn’t too bad or later when it was insane as CA CoHPs are an important list for us.

We drove up 3/10 as the peak is a lengthy 3 hour drive from our house. We were hoping to get in Mt. Konocti on 3/10, but we left too late and had to settle with just a pretty drive. We stayed at the America’s Best Value Inn in Lower Lake and I would highly recommend it. On 3/11, we drove to the trailhead. It had rained consistently the past week and the road had only had about one day to dry out. This made the drive a little interesting, but the 4WD on the 4runner got us there safely. We quickly packed up and headed out.

Mud-Covered 4runner at the trailhead

The beginning was fairly simple as we followed the old road/firebreak.

Hiking along the old firebreak

At about a 0.9 miles in, we saw a fresh motorcycle track coming in from the firebreak to the southwest. It had to have been the previous day since it was fresh since the rains. Surprisingly, we would never stray from this track until we had finished the bushwack. At about 1.2 miles in, there was PO across the road for about 20 feet and the old road narrowed into a singletrack trail for a few hundred feet. With a bit a sidestepping, this was easy to avoid as the PO hadn’t leafed out yet, but it might be more tricky once it does. However, a few small snips with some loppers would be all thats needed to get rid of these several strands. Past this, the road widened once again and we were continually amazed at the skill of the motorcyclist as they had managed to naviagte several nasty washouts and deep puddles of water that had us hopping back and forth to avoid.

We soon crossed a small creek and headed up the start of the bushwack. So far, we had been impressed with the motorcyclist, but we were pleasantly surprised and thankful that they had rode through the bushwack section as well. They seemed to follow the flagged track as we saw several faded pink flags on our route. There was hardly any poison oak in the bushwack and with the help of the motorcycle track, we had little trouble with this section. If future climbers could bring some loppers or equivalent, it might be possible to catch this section before it grows all the way back and turn it into a good use trail!

Typical terrain in the bushwack – you can see the motorcycle track in the middle of the photo

At the end of this section, we caught a firebreak heading west and we followed this before making a beeline across a usually pleasant grassy field to reach the ranch road. Due to recent rains, we ended up wading knee deep to pass through this impromptu lake.

Crossing the mini-lake on the way back

The ranch road looked to be used somewhat frequently until we reached a gate about 3 miles in.

Hiking along the ranch road

This gate looked very new and didn’t have any locks on it, just a chain looped around holding it shut. On the other side of this gate, the road was still very easy to follow, but it was definitely not used by vehicles and our worries of being caught greatly decreased.

The New Gate

We followed this road for another 1.5 miles or so taking care to avoid the random PO shoots sprouting in the middle of the road.  Along the way, we had a great view of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen.

Lassen on the far right and Shasta in the middle left

We finally reached the final saddle where the firebreak heads right up the summit. Sounds easy right? No. There was an enormous amount of downfall and within all of this there was a lot of PO – the most we had seen all day.

So this is the “trail”?
More of the great “trail”

We considered turning around, but we figured this was the easiest this hike would ever be and we better finish it out. We persevered and finally summitted.

Summit Cairn

We didn’t take much time up top other than to sign the register left by David and Lisa and take some photos.

Made it!
Views to unkown (to us) terrain
Snow Mountain (maybe, not sure) from the top

 

Once we returned back the below the downfall, we Tecnu-ed all over and set out for the car. We were feeling a little better by this point thanks to the Tecnu we had applied. On the way back, we stopped at the “famous” white couch.

A grand view of the route to Little Blue Ridge

We finally got back to the car after a little over 5 hours on the “trail”. From here, our new PO Prevention process commenced. Gloves and plastic bags were used in excess and Fast Orange motor oil was readily applied. Finally, we drove back down on the now completely dried out road and back home.

And good news: As of writing this on 3/15, Sean doesn’t have a single spot of poison oak. Maybe he has immunity,*wait*…that’s a scary idea he probably should NOT test out! 😉

Sunol Ridge – Alameda County Prominence Peak

In perusing the maps, we realized that we had missed an easy P1K near our house. We headed out early one morning to rectify this situation. The peak is owned by American Tower Corporation and is not technically open to the public, so we hoped the fog and heavy rain the past few days would help us stay undercover.

We found a parking spot just down the road from the classic Palomares Road entrance.

Parking Spot

After a short but semi-unsafe road walk, we arrived at a gate which we hopped and began our hike.

Entrance

The whole hike turned out to be a road walk. We were correct in assuming no cars would go up the road in this weather since there was running water and heavy mud on much of the road. After a short walk in the canyon, the road began to steeply switchback up the hill.

Typical Road Hike
Selfie in the mirror

Soon, we crested the ridge where we walked for awhile to the top.

Foggy morning

Since we couldn’t see the top, we always assumed it was around the next corner so this ridge walk turned out to be a lot longer than we though it would be. Finally, we made it to the top. With the heavy fog, we could only tell it was the top because of the towers on top.

Towers up top
Selfie on the highest ground

Even with the fog, we didn’t want to linger too long on top so we headed back down. It cleared up for a bit and we got some nice views.

Break in the clouds

 

A quick, but rewarding hike that I’m sure has some great views. 4.5 miles and 1600 feet of elevation gain in 45 minutes up and 30 minutes down.