Wednesday, May 28. 2008
This is part 2 of my log of a recent backpack trip in Henry Coe State Park.
Once 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.
The 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.
At 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.
In 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.
The 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.
We 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.
The 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.
We 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.
Reaching 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.
The 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.
After 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.
Before 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.
Tuesday, May 27. 2008
Like I mentioned in the earlier post, this was to be a three day, two night trip into Henry Coe State Park in northern California.
After arriving at the park and parking, we made our way into the visitors center to register and pay our fees. It was apparent that there were lots of other people with the same idea as us, and I was getting a big worried that there would be a lot of competition for the sites and locations I had planned for.
Speaking to the volunteer in the visitors center, we learned that the first night's spots were reserved already, but we could go a bit further and be at a nice place near a flowing spring, a place called Willow Ridge Spring. So we took it and finished our business.
We moved the car to the "long term parking", farther away from the car campground, and got our stuff ready, on our backs, and then set out.
It's mostly downhill from the headquarters, following a slight downhill slope along a ridge as we made our way to the China Hole area. Trying to stay off the roads and on the single track trails as much as possible, we followed the Corral Trail, then the Springs Trail, which run parallel to the Manzanita Point Road as it heads south east.
Eventually, we had to get on to the road and to keep going, through Manzanita Point and its dispersed set of camp sites. This is an area that's relatively close to the headquarters, and it's good for groups since the rangers will allow one car to come down the road to deliver and drop off supplies for the group.
Passing Manzanita Point, we got on to the China Hole trail and followed that down, down, down through lots of different micro forests of manzanitas (with their oily looking, dark red, smooth trunks and branches) and other shrubbery. We also passed by meadows that accurately reflect the stereotypical tan, dried grassy texture of the Diablo range, which comprises the eastern SF bay area foothills.
It's a good time to remark here, lest I forget, that the trek to China Hole is mostly downhill. My feet, or rather the skin of my feet, reminded me of this negatively sloped fact as it was being rubbed, back and forth, with an intention of loosening it from the substrate on which it's normally attached. Hot spots were developing in my single sock layered feet, as I hoped that this miscalculation would not result in various blisters on our first day, or first hours, of the outing!
We reached China Hole after only about 90 minutes of hiking, joining at least two other parties at the Hole enjoying lunch and some splashing around in the water. The Hole appears to be a convergence of two arms of Coyote Creek as it flows into one, making its way northward eventually to and through San Jose. The creek is quite nice here and looks to probably be wet all year long. Lots of boulders and rocks and some rough sandy beach provide plenty of space to sit down and grab a bar and bag of nuts, and even refill your water if need be.
We did have a bit of lunch here but didn't need more water. The still-overcast sky kept things cool, so no danger of overheating. I pulled out my Garmin GPS to check our elevation and get nail down our location for the first time, and after the device acquired satellites, I marked a way point, noticing that there were way points already marked for other nearby landmarks from my trip to this area back in 2004.
So far, so good. In the next post, I'll describe our passage through the Narrows and on to Los Cruzeros.
Memorial Day Weekend, 2008
Tom and I had been planning a backpack trip to Henry Coe State Park for a couple of months now. I was doing a lot of the up front planning work, such as figuring out a route, the food situation and calling the rangers a few days beforehand to check on conditions. Tom's been working on freeing himself up from work for the summer again.
We arrived at the park at about 9AM after a last minute stop at Target in Morgan Hill for some supplies. The weather was overcast and even a bit chilly if you weren't moving. These were good conditions considering the Summit Fire in the southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains had been burning for the past couple of days. The weather would help clear the air of smoke, which actually hadn't been blowing in the direction of the park yet.
The backpack campsites in the Western Zone of the park are on a first come, first serve reservation system. The spots that I had planned on, Lost Spring or Los Cruzeros, were already booked, and had no water anyway. So we decided we could go a bit further and stay the first night at Willow Ridge Spring. The plan for the second night was to be on Blue Ridge, staying near Black Oak Spring. Since this is technically outside the Western Zone, it was ok to camp anywhere we wanted. But close to water is always good!
That would be our second and last night. The third day, Monday, 26 May, the plan called for continuing on Blue Ridge Road then heading down (south) on Hobbs Road toward the headquarters and the car.
Over the next several postings, I hope to provide more detail about the various segments of the trip. One thing to note, however, is that I didn't bring a camera, so there aren't any pictures. But the park is so close to home, and I can see myself going back there again, I'm sure I'll have pictures next time.
Friday, May 16. 2008
I had hoped to make it an annual thing, to perhaps allow it serve as a kickoff, as a reminder that the weather has changed for the better and it's biking season again.
This week was the annual Bike To Work day/week. Despite my best intentions, I didn't follow through. Too much going on, is the regular and tired excuse. But things are starting to stabilize at home a bit, I have access to my bike and its Fatboys, so someday soon, I will mount the Soul and ride off in the cool of the morn.
Thursday, May 15. 2008
Third time's a charm.
Inspector came, saw that we fixed all the nits he picked two days before, and said, Goodbye, you'll never see us again.
Woo Hoo! We passed our Final! What a milestone we've achieved!
First thing I did was to call our concrete guy, who's been signed up since January, and got on his schedule. Our driveway approach and the back patio is scheduled to be put in during the 29th and 30th of May.
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