Phegley Ridge P300
Willson Peak 2x P500 NN

Sat, Jan 4, 2014

With: Jim Burd
Marty Sexton

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

My older brother from Colorado was in town for the holiday and I decided to take him out to Henry Coe SP for a hike. Marty, a friend from Scouting, came along to make it a party. Marty and I had been to the park many times, though never together, while Jim had never hiked there before. I chose a route out of the Hunting Hollow entrance to allow a visit to Phegley Ridge, a summit I had not visited before. The hike was about 11 miles in length, taking just under 5 hours. It was 33F when we started, rather brisk, but it began to warm up some as we hiked and was quite pleasant for most of the day.

We started from the parking lot ($6 day use fee) just before 8:15a, heading southeast along Hunting Hollow, the canyon between Bills Hill and Phegley Ridge. From the start, Marty had his binoculars at the ready in search of game. An avid hunter, he enjoys spotting animals even out of season, both to hone his skills and for the simple joy one finds in nature. A short distance down the road we stopped to examine an old windmill that at one time had been used to pump water from a well to feed cattle. While the well is no longer serviceable, it appears if still in use, the nearby tank is probably filled by truck in season.

After less than two miles we started up a trail climbing Phegley Ridge. There were no switchbacks, just a straight shot up more than 1,000ft over a mile plus. Jim fell behind when the climbing started, but Marty and I waited near Redfern Pond at the top for him to catch up. The highpoint of Phegley Ridge is off the main trail, reachable via a single track trail from the east or any of several use trails from the north. When Jim caught up, we went around the pond and up one of the use trails. Fog and haze partially obscured views to Monterey, Hollister and other low-lying areas, but the surrounding mountains and hills were clearly visible southwest to the Santa Lucia Range and west to the Santa Cruz Mtns. Just visible far to the east was the faint outline of the Sierra Nevada across the Central Valley. Many of the hills and summits in the Diablo Range were visible as far south as Laveaga Peak and Santa Ana Mtn.

We next turned east to follow the trail back to the main ranch road. Marty spotted a few cyclists half a mile away, but they would be long gone before we reached that spot on the road. Henry Coe appears to be at least as popular with cyclists as it is with hikers. Our route turned north down to Coon Hunters Gulch then back up another 500ft to Willson Camp. An old homestead is found there, tucked in a small canyon with a trickle of a spring above it. Serveral buildings in poor condition are situated in the area. We peered in the windows of the main cabin, but all was a mess inside and signs outside warned of Hantavirus. Just above this on a small bluff is a newer restroom and a dilapidated shade structure with a picnic bench underneath. We ate our lunch in the shade, conjecturing on who might have lived here and what it might have been like trying to sleep at night with hot summer temperatures.

After lunch we continued up the ridge, Jim once again falling behind. As we came around a corner, a red-tailed hawk squawked as it flew out of an oak. Underneath, we spotted a bobcat taking off up the road in front of us. It paused momentarily to look back at us, giving me a chance to snap a photo, before taking off out of sight. It was nearly noon when we reached the top of Willson Peak where the La Canada benchmark is located. Jim caught up a few minutes later, disappointed at missing the bobcat. Higher than Phegley Ridge, we could now see further north to Mt. Hamilton and most of Henry Coe. The Sierra ridgeline was no longer visible due to increasing haze in the Central Valley. Continuing west from Willson Peak, we came across a second bobcat, this one smaller, with just its head sticking out of the grass to the side about 50 yards away. We stood and watched each other for some time. Marty and I would make meowing noises which probably sounded more like a cat being strangled while Jim commented, "I don't think that's the sound of a bobcat..." It didn't seem to do anything to encourage or discourage the feline. Eventually the bobcat tired of us and turned to slink back through the grass out of sight. Further down the ridge we came across a group of cyclists making their way up. One was an elder gentleman like ourselves, a volunteer ranger from the Pine Ridge Association. The others were a younger group on their way to Willson Camp. We chatted briefly with them before continuing down the ridge.

It was Marty's turn to fall behind as we began the steeper portion of the descent back down to Hunting Hollow. Jim and I would intermittently jog the steepest sections while Marty was content to walk and periodically pausing to see what he could find with his binoculars (not much luck today, in this department). By 1p Jim and I had returned to the dry creekbed and the nearby parking lot, Marty joining us about five minutes later. We changed out of our boots and finished off most of the food we'd brought with us before heading back to San Jose. A very enjoyable way to spend a Saturday...

boyblue comments on 01/20/14:
I took my family on this excellent hike last Saturday. We even found a GC/register in an ammo box on top of Phegley Ridge HP. (my son was pretty thrilled) Thanks, Bob, for the great report and the inspiration. :-)
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