Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year

This is the 2nd of January and I am happy to report that I have been on a hike every day of the year so far, and if only I could keep up that ratio throughout the year, I’d be an incorrigibly happy man. The holidays are winding down now, and soon I will be returning to the anthill, with my next paid holiday being a full 5 months from now. But at least I’m lucky enough to still be employed. I will be salving my psyche with vacation planning and local hiking until I can get away again.

I really wanted to see some long range views, but with the weather reports being mostly cloudy I put those thoughts on hold for now. I decided to get back out to Henry Coe, utilizing the Hunting Hollow trailhead for a hike to Vasquez Peak, and Rock Springs Peak. My wife and I have a big loop route that we like to hike from here, but today being solo, I wanted to hike some of the other trails in the area just for some fresh perspective. Sorry, no GPS data this time. I just wanted to keep it simple, and didn’t even think to charge the batteries. The route I used was to hike up the Lyman Wilson Trail to Bowl Trail, and on to Wilson Camp. From there crossing over Wagon Road to Vasquez Road, descending into the gully to transition over to next ridge. Vasquez Road could take you all the way up into the area near Dowdy Ranch, but I was not going that nearly far. It was a cloudy cool morning, lousy for photography, and I was happy for the uphill to build up some heat. The creeks along Hunting Hollow Trail are starting to get water in them now so as the season gets wetter, and I hope it will, you need to be prepared to deal with that. Generally some trekking poles are enough to help me use the rocks to get across. I was really enjoying hiking up Lyman Wilson Trail because the variation in route provided unique views making it seem like a different place. With the loop we usually hike I tend to think of this area as being just one sweeping ridge, but actually there are several distinct ridge systems leading up to it, each with their own perspective. I was enjoying the views down into Braen Canyon and Coon Hunters Gulch as you climb amongst the mossy oaks. I could see a massive fog bank over Monterey Bay which stayed there all day, and there was also a bank of glaring white mist way amongst the far away peaks off to the northeast. I spotted a bobcat using the trail which scampered off the other way before I could get a good shot. I got a photo of its hind end as it pranced away only tepidly fearful. These handsome felines always seem prudently cautious, yet supremely confident in their abilities to move and evade. I’ve seen them make some really awesome moves.

These 2 peaks along Vasquez Road really are really not “peaks” the way I think of a peak being a distinct high formation. The term is somewhat misused here, as they are really just the highest points along a rolling grassy ridge top with a few moderately interesting lichen covered serpentine outcrops. The most distinct peak in the area is actually on private property, and therefore not hike-able. I had spotted it from a distance and thought it was Rock Springs Peak shown on the map as the highest. But this section passes right along a park boundary. Denied! But I had a nice time, and the Coe style up ‘n’ down route provided some good muscle burn. I had time for a brief little back country siesta as the sun made a fleeting attempt to provide some warmth. I was hearing to a lot of hawk cries, but only spotted a few, and witnessed some sort of aerial battle between to Red Tails from a distance. I’m not sure what behavior that was, but it was impressive. My return route was back to Wagon Road, to the Serpentine Trail, over Steer Ridge and a very steep decent down Middle Steer Ridge Trail while savoring the views. On the way back I was actually seeing a few Milkmaids blooming along some of the trails. It seems they are always the first wild flower out of the ground any year, but I was amazed to see them on the 2nd of January. I was seeing a few the previous day hiking with Sue at Rancho Canada Del Oro, but I was thinking that must be some kind of fluke occurrence. Wild flowers on New Year’s Day! Wow! Never would have thought that would happen. It was also interesting that Rodeo Pond was teaming with life. There were no waterfowl, but I could hear large toads croaking loudly as I approached, but then would quiet down and hide as soon as I approached. I could hear their splashing as they bolted away timidly, and I could also spot what looked like newts slowly swimming around in the murky waters, and little dragonflies were buzzing around. Once over Steer Ridge, I broke out my trekking poles for this knee-killer of a downhill along Middle Steer Ridge.

Click here to see my photos on flickr

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