Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fall at Coe

Fall is a good time of year to be hiking the Diablo Range. With cooling temperatures the exposed high ridge tops and steep elevation changes are not quite the punishing ordeals they can be in the heat of summer. Long range views are usually better simply because of the effect of heat on the photochemical smog that normally permeates the air. The winds pick up a bit overall and there’s more moisture in the air which has a cleansing effect. And of course when the rains begin, the precipitation provides a through bathing of the airspace all the way down to sea level. On a good day the views you can enjoy from the high places are well worth stopping to admire, and you can notice the difference in air quality, especially when you’re breathing hard climbing up some trail.

We like to get out to Henry W. Coe State Park during this quieter time of year. We went to Hunting Hollow at the south end of the park to hike the Steer Ridge loop. We decided to go up the Steer Ridge trail mostly because we both prefer climbing a wicked steep trail section like this to steep descending. And it is quite steep, trust me. The consensus seems to believe that the Hobbs Road "short cut" is steepest, but this trail must be second. There was a bank of fog hanging around along the bottom of Hunting Hollow making it very chilly, but it didn’t take long to get some heat going once we began climbing. And soon we were above the fog which was isolated to that little valley. After that the weather was great as long as the sun was out, but if it moved behind a bit of cloud, then I would contemplate a warmth layer. The skies were mostly blue with thin scattered cloud systems moving slowly eastward. Overall it was just too nice to be inside.

On the way up Steer Ridge I finally spotted an illusive tarantula moving in the grasses. First one I’ve seen this year. This one had more of a brown coloration compared to most of the others I’ve seen in this area which are usually darker, almost black. It occurred to me that the only time we ever actually see the tarantulas is when they happen to be crossing the trail at the same moment we’re hiking past. You might spot something large like a deer or coyote off in the bush, but you could almost walk right over top of a tarantula and not see it when amongst the grasses. Plus this one seemed to be camouflaged fairly well. It was the only one we saw all day, but their migration will continue for a few more weeks.

The views up on the ridge were not the best I’ve seen, but were still a delight. We had a good time visiting Wilson Peak and hiking through to Wagon Road. The serpentine rock along the ridge has brilliant swatches of orange, green, and yellow lichens. The grassy hills in this area have green grasses from the last storm that passed through, the latent effects of a Pacific typhoon. We followed Wagon Road all the way down, giving back all the altitude, to Hunting Hollow trail at the bottom of the valley. A little bit of fall color is evident down here amongst the maple and sycamore, and many oaks are dripping with mosses. There's lots of green grasses that could almost rival even the best manicured lawns back in the city.

Click here to see photos from this hike

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