This is part 2 of my log of a recent backpack trip in Henry Coe State Park.<br />n<br />nOnce we rested up and had a few bites to eat in China Hole, we saddled back up and began to move on. Since China Hole is a convergence of a couple of different tributaries of the Coyote River, it was a bit disorienting which direction to head. With the help of my GPS and the map, we figured we needed to head north to get into the Narrows.<br />n<br />nThe Narrows is about one mile (1.6 km) of shortcut, and does have some bit of risk associated with the advantage of being shorter. The main risk is getting your boots, and maybe your socks, wet. Depending on the time of year, the water level in the creek may be higher, and you have to cross it several times to stay on what seems to be a trail.<br />n<br />nAt one point, we had to do some scrambling up and over a rocky riverbank to stay on the trail. At the end of that rocky section, we had to cross the creek where a few spires of rock, resembling rough, vertical statues, with worn, craggy holes, stick out into the water. Luckily, there were plenty of places to get a good foothold, and we ended up staying dry and moving forward.<br />n<br />nIn the middle of the Narrows, we passed a slower couple that were taking it really easy, going real slow. My opinion of their situation was that they were inexperienced hikers who had gotten into a bit more than they bargained for, though there was no real danger. It just may have seemed that way, with the overcast weather and slightly chilly breeze adding to the effect.<br />n<br />nThe river widened and flattened out after about a half mile (0.8 km), and we had some easy going, despite having to be ever vigilant about the poison oak. We eventually reached a bend in the river and a fire road. This was Los Cruzeros, the place where I had camped four years ago. Looked pretty much the same as it did back then, and the GPS guided me back to the exact spot where we had previously pitched our tent.<br />n<br />nWe didn’t do much hanging around Los Cruzeros since we were still ok on water and food. We stayed on the trail, which hugged the creek bank, rather than taking the fire road up and over the hill, and within an eighth of a mile (0.2 km) we were at a junction of the Narrows trail, the Mahoney Meadows Road, and the Willow Ridge Trail. The latter was our planned route.<br />n<br />nThe Narrows, Los Cruzeros and China Hole all were pretty much at the same elevation, around 1200 feet (366 meters) since they are all on the river. But now things were to get tougher. Now we were to be gaining elevation.<br />n<br />nWe began the ascension of the Willow Ridge trail. It was pretty much uphill the whole way, with the first half or three quarters of a mile (0.8 to 1.2 km) being through forested cover, with trees, lots of bushes, and of course, poison oak. Once we got to the actual ridge, it got fairly steep and we were simply heading up. As usual, Tom did better on these uphills, and had to wait for me a couple times to catch up. On one area on the ridge, where there is a bit of exposure and no cover, we began to get some amount of drizzle, which got a bit heavier, turning into sprinkles. (In my book, drizzle is ligher than sprinkles, which is lighter than rain.) It kept up for a good 30 or 45 minutes, nearly to the point of reaching the cutoff to the spring and our backpack camp. We didn’t get soaked, but Tom was beginning to seriously think about deploying his pack cover, something I don’t have.<br />n<br />nReaching the Willow Ridge Spring, the sprinkling subsided and we took a quick break to rest and examine the spring. There was a wooden box built next to the uphill side of the trail where it passed a gully, and in it, there is a perforated white PVC pipe. The water, coming out of some cracks in the rock which make up the small cliff above the trail, collects into the pipe and flows under the trail, up another vertical pipe, out a spout and into a heavy 40 gallon tub. At the other end of the tub is another pipe that flows up and over the top, down to the downhill side of the trail and back into the gully, continuing the small creek that would have naturally existed. The spring was flowing a bit, maybe about one drop per second, so the tub stayed nearly full all the time.<br />n<br />nThe tub was full of slimy green algae and droppings of nearby trees. It looked pretty bad, and most people I know would not have even considered pulling water from this source. But we were not discouraged since we were confident our water purifier/filter/pump would screen out all that muck.<br />n<br />nAfter resting up a bit, we carried on another tenth of a mile (161 m) to the backpack camp. It wasn’t much of a camp, but rather some flat areas, one under a tree and another not, which were marked only by the dry grass which had been tramped down by other hikers’ boots.<br />n<br />nBefore continuing on with descriptions of our setting down and settling down, this will be enough for this installment. Next time, we’ll continue on with narrative illustrations of our camp, dinner time, and settling down for the night. And beyond.