An O'er Nighter at Henry Cowell Redwoods - Bike-Packing Trip June 25, 2011

Kent was in town, and eager to test out some gear on an overnight bike trip. Nicknamed S24O's ("Short 24hr Overnighter") in a popular bicycling magazine, it seemed like a fun plan to me too. We wanted to be legal (well, this time anyway) and I knew of only two local spots where there were specified bicycle campground sites- Henry Cowell Redwoods, and Big Basin. Henry Cowell would allow cycling mostly off heavily travelled roads, and I'd never camped at Henry Cowell. Turns out there's just one bike camping site at the park, and it's first come / first served.

Our total gear package; mine was in my daypack, Kent's totally loaded onto the frame of the bike

We left from Kent's cabin, rode up Glen Canyon towards Scotts Valley, stopping briefly at this park made for fishing out the creek

On Pipeline Road, in Henry Cowell

It looked like we were totally forked! Which way? We opted for the left.

At the top of Pipeline Road, an overlook

Strong winds and soggy winter soil did this

Late afternoon sun, filtered through madrone trees

Our campsite. Food box on the left, table and firepit behind the gangly tree. Big enough for maybe two people to camp and not much more. $10/night/person, which is a deal these days.


Kent's elegant lean-to, with zippered net front entry. He also brought a slick new ultrathin Thermarest mattress Home Sweet Home, or so it seemed...

Dinner: I made a delicious potato salad to start with, Kent supplied a fine red wine, sardines, a hot soup of lentils and spices, and a small salad of fresh greens.

Of the 135 campsites, the single bike camper site was w/o a doubt the least inviting - right at the crossroads at the entrance to the campground, and next to the camphosts site, with their behemoth RV motorhome, diesel generator and other modernities we had hoped to escape. Nevertheless, we smile bravely.

Kent's accomodations were well appointed... accomodations were more Spartan - a mosquito net. For bedding, I gathered together as many oak leaves and redwood duff as I could scrounge and yet avoid the poison oak.

Our unnecessarily humble campsite was even less desirable than we thought - while gathering my bedding, I must've disturbed a yellowjacket's nest, because Kent took an incoming stinger right in the neck. After returning from this bike trip, I learned the genetically programmed battle plan hard-wired into yellowjackets. The hive keeps an eye out for possible trespassers, and if one comes too close, a single attacker is sent out to make a solo assault. If the trespasser gets out of there, the hive is spared the trouble of dropping what they're doing and making an all-out assault. If the trespasser is too clueless or otherwise doesn't leave... pheromones are released by the first attack and rouse the rest of the hive to make a mass attack. It was Kent who took the initial attack, and when we cluelessly didn't run away, the hive then came after me..

In rapid succession, I got 4 stings on my hand, and then a yellowjacket got up inside my jacket and stung me on the inner side of my upper arm.

At this point we both were in full every-man-for-himself retreat. It seemed like a good time to take a hike. Destination - the observation deck at the top of the mountain. An astro program was awaiting campers who made the hike, as it turns out.

If we waited till after dark, maybe the hive would settle down. We still didn't know where the nest was. Indeed, we returned to continue dinner and the hornets had forgotten about us, for the moment.

My bed, now complete with the help of a hard log for my pillow. With luck, the hornets would not eat through my thin mosquito net during the night.

Morning breakfast - at the next campsite over, which was vacant. Right after breakfast, I carefully looked around the bike campsite and found the yellowjacket nest.

I notified the camp hosts where the hornets nest was - under the spreading tree just a few feet from Kent's tent - and they promised to have the ranger "take care" of it soon. A good time to take another hike - down Eagle Creek Trail down to the San Lorenzo River.

Still swollen

Eagle Creek trail

Me, among the redwoods

Kent stands atop an old growth redwood cleared a century ago, while this past winter's storm knocked over a big redwood across the way

Kent finds a 4 leaf clover! (or is it a 3+1 leaf clover?)

The last old-growth redwood in Henry Cowell is a burly giant - Kent and I celebrate with a Zen moment of Such-ness

Doing our best Hindu Goddess Kali imitation

Meanwhile, back at camp - the yellowjackets are dispatched by the ranger with a spray can of poison foam. Blunt, but effective.

Still swollen, now with some baking soda salve.

Back on our bikes, we head down to Roaring Camp to play tourist and buy ice cream to augment lunch.

At the vast and nearly empty lumber yard just north of Roaring Camp, I spot water cress growing beneath a permanent leak in a huge old redwood water tank. Kent is charged with making the harvest, for tonight's dinner

In Felton, outside my old girlfriend's former place

At the famous covered bridge in Felton, Kent ponders

Me, my bike, and a bridge

Lunch, at a nook along Mt. Herman Rd

Safely back at Kent's cabin, we prepare a delicious dinner of grilled chicken and salad with our freshly harvested water cress featured.

Well done, Kent! Let's do it again next weekend!