Thursday, March 12, 2009

Henry Coe State Park - 16 Mile Semi-Loop Through The Narrows

Date: 3/7/2009
Distance: 16 miles
Elevation: 2,500' approximate total gain
Weather: 50s-60s, sunny

Back to Henry Coe State park yet again! This was my fourth trip to Old Man Coe's infinite ranch lands already this year. This time we came seeking a wild adventure through the Narrows, a long, narrow canyon south of Poverty Flats through which the east fork of the Coyote Creek flows. I knew after all of this rain the creek would be flowing strong and I couldn't miss the opportunity to see it this way. There won't be another chance this year unless we get another week of heavy rain. As it was conditions were absolutely perfect. It would have been impassible a couple of days prior (during and immediately after the rain) and a couple of days later the water levels will already have started to recede.

Our adventure started out just like a typical Mt. Sizer loop. From Coe Ranch headquarters we descended along Corral Trail and Forest Trail to the junction with Poverty Flats Road. From here it's a steep descent along the wide fire road into Poverty Flats campground.

Immediately upon bottoming out at the flats there is a creek crossing. In dryer seasons it's an easy hop skip and jump across the rocks to the other side. On this day it was flowing heavily so we took our shoes off and waded across.

We continued through Poverty Flats, passing the camping area, eventually hitting the turn off for Jackass Trail.

This trail got scorched pretty bad in the Lick Fire a couple of years ago.

Things are springing back to life in the burn zone already.

Indian Paintbrush, my favorite wildflower. I really like this magenta variety.

After the steep, hot trek up Jackass we arrive at the Blue Ridge. Instead of taking the ridge north towards Mount Sizer, we turned right to head south down into the canyon.

Some nice meadows of Shooting Stars are starting.

A couple miles of downhill on Blue Ridge and we reach our destination, the Narrows! We swap our shoes for our sandals and set off.

There are no trail markers for the Narrows, just follow the Coyote Creek.

Coe creeks are always great for finding animal remains. Anyone lose a femur?

There were lots of these yellow flowers throughout the hike. Anyone know what they're called?

The Narrows offers opportunities for bouldering...

...and tree yoga!

From where we entered the at Blue Ridge Road, to the junction with Willow Ridge Trail, the Narrows was dry enough that one could stay dry with a little effort. From Willow Ridge Trail to China Hole things quickly got deeper and all bets were off.

I took this last cool shot before we had to seal our cameras away for the deepest parts.

By the time we reached China Hole the water was over three feet deep and getting deeper. After several miles of walking through rocky water our feet had enough. We decided to cut north out of the canyon along the middle fork of the Coyote Creek, back up to Poverty Flats Road for the return trip.

When doing a loop from Coe Ranch HQ you always have a climb at the end, since HQ sits on a high ridge. This can often be a very painful thing indeed, but today we barely noticed our 3.5 mile climb out. Maybe it was the added resistance of walking through water that made us feel that much lighter when we hit dry ground. Maybe it was just feeling so damn good from one of the most stunningly beautiful hikes ever. Either way, we ascended back to HQ on angels wings, cracked a beer and watched the late afternoon sun start its slow sink behind the Diablo mountain range.

One to remember for a long time.

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