Etymology Story

It had been a week since I was last out hiking and I was getting antsy. So after the family went off to school and work, I drove back out to Henry Coe State Park in order to visit a summit I had missed on my more recent visit. I had planned to do a surgical strike, out and back by the shortest route, but I found the conditions so nice that I ended up visiting some other summits and making an 18mi loop of it. With a total gain of over 5,000ft, I got my $8 worth on this one.

The foothills around the Santa Clara Valley are starting to turn from green to golden and I expected Henry Coe to be similar. It appears the higher elevation of the park has given it a few more weeks of green, as I found it looking quite lovely. The grasses are all very tall and gone to seed, but still have a lot of color to them. Even better, the flowers were more abundant with more varieties than on my previous visits. Spring was throwing one last party before bowing out to summer. The skies were partially filled with clouds and a cool breeze was blowing - just perfect for hiking in a tshirt without it being too hot or too cold. I didn't see another person all day either, not on the trail or even at the Visitor Center. It was closed when I arrived around 9:30a and I left without stopping in after my return.

My route followed the Poverty Flat Rd from HQ past Manzanita Point, down to Poverty Flat and up to Jackass saddle. I took five minutes to reclimb Jackass Peak because it was a freebie on my way by. Just past the junction for Los Cruzeros I took something shown on the map as the Shafer Corral Trail, a barely-used route descending to Coyote Creek. From there I turned north and followed The Narrows Trail along Coyote Creek. Flowers bloom in great abundance along this route and I stopped to photograph a number of them in all manner of colors and styles. The trail ends where it joins the Bear Mountain Rd and shortly north of there is a junction with Little Long Canyon. Unnamed Peak 1,950ft rises to the northeast above this junction. Most of it is part of a private inholding within the park. Someone has recently (in the last few years) built a small cabin at the summit that is visible on the Google satellite views as well as from many points around the area. A road around the northeast side leads to the top but I hoped a shorter cross-country route up from the southwest would work. And so it did, following up grassy slopes with almost no bushwhacking required.

The cabin is a small, square two-story affair about 8ft on a side, really just enough for a couple of hunters to hunker down inside. There is a spacious deck outside and unobstructed views in all directions (N - E - S - W). What struck me as somewhat sad was the amount of construction debris and other junk that litters the site. Why would someone want to build a cabin out here in the middle of a wonderful park and then have all this crap lying about to look at? Is cleaning up really that hard? The hill burned over in the 2007 Lick Fire and as the brush regrows it will likely burn again in the future. Because of its position at the summit, it will be difficult to keep the cabin from burning along with the brush in that next fire.

Back down at Little Long Canyon, I started cross-country up grassy slopes to Rock House Ridge which I decided to take up to Mt. Sizer on my no-longer-the-shortest-route return to Park HQ. It had been years since I had been on Rock House Ridge, and this was the first time I'd been on foot. Upon intersecting the trail, I found much it barely discernable in the tall grass. It appears that a couple of mountain bikers had been down it recently, making it easier to follow than it would have been otherwise. Near the top of the ridge is a rocky pinnacle called Hat Rock on the park map. It's about 40-50ft in height and caught my interest enough to get me to explore it. The frontal assault from the east, nearest the road, is probably the most difficult way to approach it. Heavy brush and near vertical walls are found on that side. I found other ways, avoiding the brush, dancing around a great deal of poison oak that permeates the feature, and not getting too distracted by a large number of bees that were buzzing about. The scrambling turned out to be class 3 by the easiest route I could find, an enjoyable side venture. I found an old, empty PVC tube that probably once served as a register, but no active one that I could locate. I descended off a different side that had better scrambling and less brush.

Back on the trail, I looked around for the Black Oak Spring Trail as depicted on the park map that would take me down and back up to Blue Ridge and Mt. Sizer. Try as I might, I could not locate this trail, so instead I continued up Rock House Ridge, leaving the park briefly as I continued on what became a better, more recently used dirt road. The route reenters the park at Mt. Sizer, the highpoint of Blue Ridge and the highest point in the western part of the park at 3,216ft. I continued northwest another mile to the junction with Hobbs Rd which I could follow back to the park HQ. First I would have to descend more than 1,700ft to Coyote Creek, ascend 1,300ft to Middle Ridge, followed by another dip and climb back up to Pine Ridge. Along the way I came across a tom turkey strutting his stuff along the road, puffing himself up and displaying all his feathers to his best advantage. I was surprised that he didn't run away as I came by, until I spied the two ladies in the area he was trying to impress. They looked more interested in feeding than noticing what he had to offer, and I had to feel a little sorry for him. I revisited the highpoint of Pine Ridge which I had recently reached a week earlier with my daughter in tow. From there it was a short half mile back to the Visitor Center at HQ and my car. I spent just under six hours on the hike and my feet were feeling it. But what a fine day to be out hiking!

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This page last updated: Sun Sep 18 09:05:49 2016
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