Monday, February 15, 2016

Henry Coe Backpacking w/family 2016

Well, I saw that valentines day was coming up and figured I would propose the most romantic idea that I could:  take the family backpacking!  I mean, usually I am a romantic date for valentines day.  I'm not really a flower giver, and I am not really good at presents in general, but I have been known to give a nice new shiny kitchen implement.  If you knew my wife, you would know I did it right.  Anyways, where we were going had all the right ingredients for a romantic date:  beautiful flowers, pretty sunset, pretty sunrise, husband cooking a delicious dinner, picturesque peaceful landscape, etc. So what could go wrong?

Well, when I went into the office at the Henry Coe State Park headquarters to obtain our wilderness permits, the ranger replied:  "Are you sure?  There are many adults that wouldn't attempt that hike..."  And with that we were off.

Ready to rock some Henry Coe trails!

This trip literally used up all of my accumulated backpacking equipment, plus the normal camping equipment needed for six people, lol.  We didn't load up the kids too much.  The girls got daypacks with their clothes, trail snacks and sleeping bag, the boys got hydration packs(they shared their water with the girls), snacks, and clothes(the hydration packs are girl packs, which I am sure neither boy was extremely excited about, but they bore their loads well).  The rest was shared by mommy and daddy.

Ada(7 yr old with blue hat) had seen me dunk my bandana in creeks before, so she decided to be like daddy so she could stay cool in the afternoon heat.

Seth(5 yr old with a penchant for taking risks) found what he deemed to be a sufficiently awesome trail artifact.

Some of my girls...

Lunch time at Manzanita Point before we drop down to the creek.  Jerky and Cheetos of course...

Seth, pushing his limits early.

We dubbed Joanne's backpack the "jetpack"

My poor 35 liter fastpacking pack was stretched to it's limits with probably 40 liters of gear and another 20 liters hanging off the outside.  Probably stressed that sucker pretty good, but it keeps truckin'.  There is some serious history with this pack now.

China hole.  This place is pretty awesome.  Great place to mess around in the creek.

Joanne just soaking it in.

I have no idea what is going on here, but this picture is just one of those special ones where you capture a moment in time and it just seems cool.

Seth was not content with just playing in the water.

We hiked the "Narrows" which is a windy, rocky, technical trail that follows the creek.  The kids had the most fun with this trail!  I actually made a navigational error(which is hilarious considering how many miles I have covered at this place) and we added an extra 1.2 miles of this type of trail to our hike on day one.  The kids didn't seem to mind.

A few of these along the way.

Los Cruzeros is a beautiful camp location next to a creek in an open valley.  Setting up camp was quite a bit more enjoyable than tearing it down.  Let me explain the setup:  I had the boys in 30 degree bags in the two person super light tent.  I had the girls in 20 degree bags under my tarp.  And my wife and I used my two 25 degree bags with bivy sacks and we tried to steal some of the tarp to keep the dew off of our faces.  Bear in mind I really thought it wasn't going to get any colder than like 40 degrees, and that would only happen in the morning right before the sun came up...

Happy right now.  Let's see in a few hours...

This is three days of backpacking food for six people...

They actually all genuinely liked the "Mexican style chicken and rice" (see I am a good cook.  very romantic)  Only Hayley(9 yr old girl in pink) was into my "Beef Pho", so that is what I ate...
That night was interesting.  First warning sign was that our stuff was already wet when we crawled into our sleeping backs.  The inside of the tarp was wet.  And then I realized my strategic error of campsite selection.  Being next to the creek in a valley puts moisture on everything!  Only the boys in the double walled tent escaped the situation.  Next issue:  The girls couldn't handle the croaks of the frogs.  The sound was driving them crazy.  And some noisy neighbors(without kids of course, because who would be crazy enough to take a bunch of little kids backpacking?)  Then the cold came.  My wife has a superpower: she can sleep on her good ear and no amount of noise will bother her (she had meningitis when she was one year old and lost all hearing in her right ear)  - so she was out quick(I didn't know that she was nursing a headache that was only getting worse).  When it started getting cold the girls started voicing their grievances.  Of course this was mostly directed towards me because they know mommy when she goes to sleep...  About those "20 degree" ratings:  I assume they mean you could sleep (however uncomfortably) in 20 degree weather if you used the bag correctly.  And if the bag was dry...  moisture inhibits the insulation capabilities.  Try explaining to a seven year old that she has to sleep on her back and put her head in the mummy compartment and cinch the breathing opening around their mouth, etc to trap heat!  There is no way.  So by 10 p.m. it was definitely not working.  I was empathizing big time and knew that they were in agony, especially Ada.  I went with the first solution I could think of.  I invited my 7 yr old into my mummy bag with me(to hypothetically share body heat - if we could actually fit...)  Well, it took some major contorting that included me putting one arm above my head to reduce the width of my shoulders and basically wrapping around her.  It was a tight fit that stretched my bag (more on this later), but she was immediately 100% better and promptly fell asleep in my involuntary embrace.  I instructed Hayley how to use the mummy bag correctly (she was not a fan and abandoned the instructions promptly, leading to a nighttime of moaning and complaining - which I took in full force because in inviting Ada into my bag I pretty much committed to no sleep that night), and then I told her to put Ada's bag on top of hers to act like a blanket.  This worked at first and then she tossed in her sleep and Ada's bag was off and she was complaining again.  Ada and I engaged in a dance that we called "changing sides", because in my body contortion one side of my body would get fatigued, go numb, and then start hurting, so I would request a side change and we would wiggle for several minutes while attempting to stay on the sleeping pad and achieve the new position.  It was not idea, but it was doable.  Then I started to get cold.  Ada had it nice: she basically had a 200 lb heat generating meat blanked surrounding her.  I had a stretched feather bag that had now lost it's insulating capability.  The insulation comes from the air barrier created by the feathers in the bag separating the air of outside and inside.  Well, imagine what happens when the feathers are squished together?  So I was shaking and Ada would ask: Are you cold daddy?  and I would answer: "I'm ok".  It is ok.  Shivering is just the bodies response to core temperature dropping below nominal.  Shivering means muscle contraction, which means using energy, which means internally generating heat.  You just can't really sleep when you are shivering, or at least I can't.  But in this situation it didn't really change anything.  Just a little bit uncomfortable - been there, done that.  Oh yeah, and the boys slept like rocks.  They were the only ones.

I was thankful for the sunrise.  I got up first and started away on the herculean task of packing up all of that stuff and trying to fit it back into our packs, all the while trying to manage the comfort of my family:  Keeping a couple of kids in the adult bags while I packed up their stuff, etc.  It was a dance of sorts, a very logistically challenging dance.  Also, there was frost on our stuff, so yeah, it got cold.  Joanne was a trooper that night, and endured a big headache that abated by some time in the middle of the night, right when she started getting cold and thinking about how to communicate her will to abandon day two of wilderness sleeping (we planned a 3 day trip).  When she woke up in the morning and found out about our fun night she was relieved and knew that we were locked into hiking back to the car that day.  Don't get me wrong, I think she felt sorry for us, but relief was definitely foremost in her mind, lol.  So I plotted the quickest way back to the van.

Seth: sporting his mothers jacked to stay warm for the morning hike.

I am sure Blake (3 yr old with orange hat) was telling me about all of the fun he was having...  He was, in general, a pretty good trooper.  I mean, what should you expect from a 3 year old kid?  He slowed us down a lot though and it took all of our tricks to keep him going.  Candy, contests, stories, uphill towing - everything was on the table.

Hayley: being goofy with 2 miles to go.

We covered 10 miles on day one (didn't plan such a big day, but it actually turned out pretty good).  7 miles to get back to the car on day two.  I thought the kids did great.  They were strong, hiking well with weight on their backs and getting it done.  Joanne is a tough woman.  She carried a big load and never complained about the situation.  And it was valentines day.  I am so lucky to have such a fun family that are willing to tackle adventures with me!  Next time I think we will be better prepared.  At least we had some good learning opportunities and much fun was had.


  1. Thanks for taking us! You were amazing with everything!

  2. Replies
    1. You mean did we like going to the beach on Monday instead of being out in the wilderness? Well, we tried to go to the beach on Monday, but everyone else in the bay area had the same idea and as soon as we got to highway 17 it was a parking lot, so we went to a park near there and played with the kids. There are too many people here...

    2. I should have texted you back! We bailed. Hwy 17 was ridiculous, so we went to a park instead.

    3. Haha, just saw Jers' answer. Ya, trying to get to a beach on a holiday--gotta leave early.

    4. Sorry ! Kinda like trying to find a restaurant on Mothers day !

  3. Jeremy - as a father of 4 also, that was a bold goal of two nights. I did two nights with my kiddos (sans Mom) at Coyote Lake in Morgan Hill/Gilroy. It was a blast but we had car access and summer temps. Nice job on the attempt and bonus for your "sherpa" pack. thanks for the blog post.

    1. Thanks for the note Jon. Thats great that you got out with your kids! It's a great bonding experience... Keep that family in on the adventures!