Monday, April 27, 2009

Henry Coe State Park - Expedition to Pacheco Falls

Date: 4/24/2009 - 4/26/2009
Distance: 8.5 miles backpacking, 9 miles hiking (approximates)

I'm over a month late posting these pics from our latest Henry Coe backpacking adventure. On this trip Gina, Steve and I took the "easy" route to Kelly Lake and setup base camp for a weekend of hiking, fishing and bouldering. Steve would be moving back to Arizona a couple of weeks after this, so it was our last chance to pack in a spring adventure in our favorite wild place in the bay area.

On with the picture show...

Ascending out of Grizzly Gulch Friday afternoon.

The view from our campsite at Kelly Lake on Saturday morning.

Some Ewoks setup camp in a meadow on the other end of the lake.

On our day hike to Pacheco Falls we found this (radio?) tower. Gina was sad that climbing on the tower was not allowed...

But she got her fix on this big boulder (aka Radio Rock)!

A very happy Gina.

Steve takes a turn on Radio Rock...


This must be the way.

Miner's lettuce. Starting to dry out and die for the season already.

Wild looking magenta thistle.

Pacheco creek bed. Coe creeks are infamously rugged, and lots of fun to hike through.

Close up of a boulder in Pacheco Creek.

Pacheco Falls, just a trickle by this late in the spring...

...but the rocks were impressive none the less.

We scrambled up the falls to the fire road above.

Looking down into Pacheco Falls. My brownie fell down there somewhere. We thought better about climbing down for it.

A view of Walsh Peak.

We miss you out here Steve! Here's one more parting shot of an oak tree in case you get home sick for Coe.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Double Black Mountain - 27 Mile Day Hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Date: 4/18/2009
Distance: 27 miles
Elevation: 5,700' total gain
Weather: 60s-70s, sunny

This was an event I organized for the San Jose Hiking Meetup. For all the hike details, downloadable map, etc. visit the hike page here:

Very little time or energy for photographs when I organize these Meetup events, so just a few pics for this adventure.

This shot captures the size of our group on mile one, when we were still all clumped together. San Ho Hiking is an unstoppable force!

Looking east into Silicon Valley from Black Mountain. Diablo Range in the background.

Deer in the late-afternoon sun. This was immediately after the climb up Indian Creek Trail on the way to the summit of the mountain for the second time.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cache Creek Wilderness - 19 Mile Backpacking Loop Along The Blue Ridge

Date: 4/11/2009 - 4/12/2009
Distance: 17.5 miles (approximate)
Elevation: 4,000' total gain (approximate)
Weather: 60s-80s, sunny

A two day, one night backpacking adventure in the Cache Creek Wilderness, organized by David N. of Wildcat fame. CCW is a beautiful, rugged stretch of lands in the Vacca Mountains north of Napa, CA. The area is managed by the BLM and is mostly used by hunters, as well as hikers of especially sturdy stock.

Day One
From Cache Creek Canyon we ascend up and along the Blue Ridge, heading south to visit Fiske and Lowery Peaks respectively. From Lowery Peak we work our way down the other side of the ridge to Fiske Creek, where we setup camp for the night. Along the way we enjoy huge views of Northern California from Lassen Peak in the north to the Sutter Buttes and Sierra Nevada in the east to Mount Diablo in the south.

David N., leader of the Wildcat Pack, plots course.

The bullet holes are a good sign we're in BLM lands.

Ascending out of the Cache Creek Canyon.

Steve S. at the first lookout point.

Heading up the Blue Ridge to Fiske Peak.

Looking northeast at the Sutter Buttes. We traversed these earlier in the season.

Rugged beauty.

Break time on Fiske Peak summit. (l to r) Betty, Samantha, Jeremy.

A page from the summit log at Fiske Peak.

Shot from the Blue Ridge. I forgot to check the compass when I took this one. Snow Peak Wilderness maybe?

We roll with the mountain lions.

Mountain lion scat on the trail.

David taking in big views.

Spring wildflowers.

Lake Berryessa in the background to the south.

Day Two
We follow the riparian corridor of Fiske Creek back north to Rayhouse Road. Day two is mostly level, down in the creek bed. It features lots of wildlife, and great views of the ridge we traversed the day before.

Lost femur dept.

This snake's tail was trapped under the rock.

Did I mention this was Easter Morning? Easter (turkey) egg!

This rattlesnake was stretched out on a sunny stretch of fire road at the end of the hike. We accidently startled him and put him in this defensive pose. Don't tread on me!

Heading north out of the Cache Creek Wilderness. Glascock Mountain in the background.

Want to check it out? Yolo Hiker has tons of maps of the Cache Creek Wilderness.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Henry Coe State Park - 23 Mile Backpacking Loop to Coit Lake

Date: 4/2/2009 - 4/5/2009
Distance: 23 miles (approximate)
Elevation: 4,500' total gain (approximate)
Weather: 40s-60s, sunny

For my 31st birthday: a four day, three night backpacking trip in Henry Coe SP! This would be Gina's first ever backpacking trip, and my second (see Kelly Lake the week before). Coe is absolutely beautiful this time of year and we couldn't have had a better time relaxing together in the wild. One of the best damn birthdays ever.

Day One - Coe HQ to Coit Lake via the Narrows and Willow Ridge

We depart from Coe HQ early Thursday morning, descending via Madrone Soda Springs into the Narrows to pick our way through the East Fork of the Coyote Creek eastward to Willow Ridge. After climbing Willow Ridge we follow the ridgeline south to Coit Lake. Coit is the second largest of the Coe lakes, after Mississippi. Coe lakes were man-made for ranchers to be able to water thirsty cattle. Nowadays the lakes are home to numerous fish and birds. Bass, crappie, redwing blackbirds, wild turkey, and several species of duck are among the many things you are likely to see. Other people, however, are among the things you are unlikely to see.

On with the picture show...

Early morning sun on Pine Ridge.

Misty morning oak trees.

"May these quiet hills bring peace to the souls of those who are seeking."
Sada Coe Robinson, 1953

Gina smiles with the morning sun.

Wild turkeys on the way down to Madrone Soda Springs.

At China Hole, Henry Coe's perennial swimming hole.

Turtle at China Hole.

A technical entrance welcomes us to the Narrows.

Soaking up the magical waters of the Coyote Creek.

Snake in the Narrows.

Looking east through the spires. The water gets deep through here.

So we took the high route up and around.

From the Narrows it was 1.6 miles and 1,400' up to Willow Ridge. From there it was another 3.7 miles along the ridge to Coit Lake.

Coit Lake, our home for the night.

Day one stats (approximate):
Miles: 10
Elevation gain: 2,000'

Day Two - Coit Lake to Willow Ridge Spring via Willow Ridge Road

Waking up with the sun at Coit Lake.

Our site from my fishing spot across the lake.

The reedy banks of Coe lakes abound with Redwing Blackbirds.

Coe lakes are full of bass, crappie and other fish. I've been practicing my casting, but haven't caught anything yet. I'm always crashed out in my tent during the good biting hours.

Goodbye, for now, Coit Lake.

After a relaxing morning of sleeping, fishing and eating at Coit Lake we pack up for the four mile hike to Willow Ridge Spring where we'll make our camp for the second night. Willow Ridge Spring sits on the western face of Willow Ridge and has plenty of great spots that provide complete solitude and beautiful sunsets over the northwestern ridges of Coe. Along the way we stop at two spots that have been on my "must see" list for wildflower season, both pictured below.

Taking a break from our packs to dive into the thick wildflower meadow along the George Milias Trail. This trail on the west face of Willow Ridge is marked with orange tape on the trees.

Looking west through the meadow toward Mahoney Ridge.

Poppies in the mountains.

Perched in the poppies.

We took another break from our packs at the Hoover Lake airstrip. The big metal cross was to guide planes to the landing strip next to it.

Because the land in the airstrip is so compacted, these golden flowers grow extremely dense through it during spring wildflower season.

Lupine was in full bloom along the hills next to the airstrip.

Gina relaxing in the flowers.

This area was part of a controlled burn conducted by the park last fall.

Gina on the move. Heading north along Willow Ridge.

Gina eating dinner at our new camp site on Willow Ridge.

Me soaking in the golden hours.

Me watching the sun go down on my 30th of the best yet.

Day two stats (approximate):
Miles: 5
Elevation gain: 1,000'

Day Three - Willow Ridge Spring to China Hole via Willow Ridge Trail and the Narrows

Some breakfast, sunscreen, foot taping and we are good to go. Today we'll head back down the ridge into the Coyote Creek, the way we came. This time we'll stop for afternoon swimming at China Hole, Coe's perennial swimming hole. Tonight we'll enjoy our final night outdoors along the banks of the creek.

Entering a deep section.

I was determined to stay in the water as much as humanly possible without soaking my gear.

I had to bail out and pick my way along the bank at a few points.

After we reached our campsite at China Hole the camera went away while we did some swimming and relaxing. Just one shot of the site.

Day three stats (approximate):
Miles: 3
Elevation gain: 0'

Day Four - China Hole to Coe HQ via China Hole Trail and Manzanita Point Road

The camera stayed away all day as we focused on putting one foot in front of each other on the climb pack up to Coe HQ on Pine Ridge. After stopping in HQ to chat with the rangers we hopped in our car and winded our way down the mountain road to the valley and the town of Morgan Hill. We roamed the streets of Morgan Hill in search of calories and stumbled on a bar with an all-you-can-eat Mexican brunch. Life is sweet.

Day four stats (approximate):
Miles: 5
Elevation gain: 1,500'