With summer rapidly approaching, I always feel like I am really missing something if I have not spent enough time at Henry Coe. The place is so vast it’s actually not possible to day hike all of it. While most parks can be fairly well documented on a small, pamphlet sized piece of paper; the official map of Coe is so humongous, it has to be printed of both sides of a large, reinforced, folded map that’s too big for a pocket. If it was waterproof you could probably make an emergency shelter out of it. The park is divided into regions, almost like there were separate, but contiguous, smaller parks that exist within the boundaries of the one enormous tract of land. Many areas are so remote you simply cannot expect to hike there, and get back out on the same day. One of these days when I finally have more time on my hands, I plan to do a lot of backpack trips here, but for now I am content to stick to the areas that I can day hike. This time of year, Coe’s punishing terrain is a lot more manageable than it will be when the glowing California sun starts coming in buckets. In spring, the hillsides are green and moist, and there is a lot of natural fresh running water around that is filterable. If you get a clear day you get treated to nice mild sunshine, cool breezes, and beautiful views. But maybe best of all are the springtime displays of wild flowers, billowing white clouds, and butterflies. With our proximity to the south end of the Santa Clara valley it’s a fairly easy drive for me (us) to get to Henry Coe, which is where I’ve been for the last two Saturdays, and likely will go back several more times before the season evaporates into the heat of summer.
On 4/24 I went hiking by myself out of Coyote Creek around the Mahoney and Grizzly Gulch regions of the park. The Mahoney region has quite a few seldom used trails that are a bit more obscure than the more popular trails and old ranch roads. They are especially nice to hike if you enjoy not seeing other people all day, and don’t mind if the trail markers are not quite as good as other places. In areas of high grasses, the narrow single tracks can be a good place to pick up ticks if you are not careful, and there are rattlesnakes moving around. I had one fairly large rattler cross the Grapevine Trail right in front of me. I spotted its back and stopped in mid stride. It calmly disappeared into the grass and I think it never even knew I was there. I didn’t get a photo, but I wasn’t about to go looking for it. Past visits have taught me that the wild flower displays are always changing. The types of species you are likely to see are not always as expected making each year’s hiking a different experience. My favorites this time were the Chinese Houses, some pure white ones, and some with the traditional purple and white whorls. Owl’s Clover in 2 different varieties, along with Tomcat Clover seems to be unusually abundant at Coe this year. I also enjoyed hillsides covered in Goldfields and Johnnytuck, clear blue skies, and lots of birds and butterflies.
On 5/1 Sue and I decided to hike Blue Ridge. I would have been content to hike the flatter trails around the headquarters area just to scope out the flowers, but Sue must have been feeling some cabin fever. She wanted a workout so we did the Mt Sizer loop. We did the short sidetrack onto the Ponderosa Loop Trail. I really enjoy the sounds of the sighing breeze high in the tall pines on this section of Pine Ridge. With the pine scented air it reminds me of being in the Sierra. Coyote Creek is still running strong and clear. Perfect for using a filter for a quick refill on refreshingly chilled water before hiking up the Hobb’s Road “short cut” section to the top of Blue Ridge. From the high points near Mt Sizer we had views to the east all the way to the Sierra snowcaps. This was the first time this year I have been able to see the Sierras without being in them. We’ve had a lot of murky skies this season, but we’re finally getting some clearing. Damage from the Lick fire is still very much in evidence up here, but at least the views have opened up. Before the fire the views to the east from this ridge were mostly obstructed by overgrown mixed vegetation. Now the views are excellent in all directions. Further down the trail we were both amazed to watch the soaring pass of a bald eagle gliding along the valley between Blue and Middle ridges. I was not fast enough to get any photos, and it was quickly gone as it banked off to the south. I’ve never seen a baldy out here before, and it was quite a surprise, but it was unmistakable. That’s the second eagle we’ve seen this year in the Diablo Range. We hiked past masses of Purple Owl’s Clover, lots of Lupine, and Ground Iris is in much greater presence than I can remember. Even the scorched Jackass Trail, which had been a virtual black moonscape, has lots of Iris showing. We ran into the Sierra Club Day Hikers along Poverty Flat as they were headed up to Manzanita Point for a barbeque. They invited us to join them, but we had to get back home, so as they were turning up the Cougar Trail, we headed for the dreaded 1000+ foot return climb up Poverty Flat Road to regain Pine Ridge. This climb always seems worse than it really is at the end of a fatiguing hike. This is a really great classic hike which we usually do at least twice a year. Not a casual hike, this is one for the ramblers.
Click here to view my photos from 4/24
Click here to view my photos from 5/1