At long last: the following photoessay has been over a week in arriving, but I blame nobody for my tardiness in posting it but the Hades Inc. Department of Pinched Nerves and Spinal Subluxation, Special Expensive Downtime Division. Thank you, dear reader, for your patient tolerance while I’ve been recuperating from this @#$*! neck thing – I quite frankly couldn’t work the keyboard for more than about 15 minutes for about 9 days. Could it have been the rigors of this hike that sent me spiraling into the Nether Depths of Neckdom? Well, highly doubtful. But dang it all anyway.
And so, onto the show: to see larger versions of each photo, the content of heart need only click once.
Sunday, October 15th, 2006
I got together with a few of my pals for a double-digit romp through one of my favorite backyards, Henry Coe State Park, which waits for the adventurous soul on a high ridge about 30 minutes’ drive along a twisty, tortuous mountain road east of the South Santa Clara County hamlet of Morgan Hill, California.
Coe Park is Northern California’s largest state park – even larger than Big Basin – at over 87,000 acres of former farm and ranchland.
Henry Coe kept a few horses in his stable, which still stands…
…along with his family’s former homestead, which is now the Henry Coe Park Headquarters and Visitor Center.
Much of the splendor that Coe Park offers awaits the ready hiker just across the road from the Visitor Center. I say “ready” for a reason: most of the hiking here requires stamina and a few good base miles. Our group, I’ll admit, was more than ready to tackle just a little more than ten miles’ hilly hiking along the Corral, Springs, and Manzanita Point trails to a keyhole loop of the Madrone Soda Springs, Mile, and China Hole trails.
Though the heat of Summer in the Diablo Range was over…
…we’d be hard-pressed to find any compulsion not to catapult ourselves off the trail. Yet somehow we escaped that fate.
At the junction of Manzanita Point, Corral, and Springs trails, we stop for a confab. It’s always good to meet halfway on stuff such as stopping at all hilltops and trail junctions. But it’s the spooky month of October, and who knew what critters lurked just off-trail, waiting to pounce on the unwitting, chatty hiker? I decided we’d better review our worse-, worst-, and worster-case scenarios before plunging down Springs trail.
After all, it may be Fall, but there may just be big hairy spiders springing upon us.
Meanwhile, the day was still ripe for some fine late-season ambling among the oak- and brush-dotted grasslands.
Hark! A stag a-leap!! And a fine piece of sharp-eyed camerawork, too. Photo credits – and there are many – go to Mr. Mark Shepley of Walnut Creek, California.
We continue, crediting Nature with this tranquil scene of pines and hardwood hillsides. And then…
…out leapt wave upon wave of big and scary demented hairy beasts!!
And so my prediction comes true: MJ, ever stout of spirit and brave of heart, models the latest line of furs from Halloween, Incorporated…
…yet there is much more trail to discover. Happy in our arachnid discovery, we continue, spirits aloft, to tramp down the trail. Andy and Annie, to my left, are almost bigger hikin’ fools than I am: we’ve pounded a lot of trail together these last coupla years, both locally and otherwise.
While it’s only been about 2 miles or so to this point on the trail, and while we haven’t yet enjoyed any strenuous hillclimbing, the endorphins are coursing, and it shows easily and often in the smiles of ardent hikers Caroline and MJ.
Though they say that a picture paints a thousand words, Mr. Shepley’s sense of composition has certainly added a broad palate of fine brushstrokes, as depicted in this still of a tough old ridgetop oak.
Into the canyon
The remains of the old Madrone Soda Springs resort, built in the late 19th century and destroyed by abandonment and neglect, but mostly by a much more recent Soda Springs Canyon flood: this former two-story building used to stand about a half-mile upstream.
The descent from Coe Park’s Pine Ridge down Soda Canyon spills, finally, onto Coyote Creek.
With 13 creek crossings and some truly fantastic wildlife sightings – the latter being nearly always true for Henry Coe Park – the hike thus far has been an exciting one…
…but that’s because it’s all been downhill to China Hole, a perfect place to swim in Summer if you don’t mind the long, hot, steep, and sweaty hillclimb out from here. Alas, even though the air temperature is rather warm, the water is already too cold for frolicking and wet-play, and all we’re doing is stripping down to our lunchbags.
“I smile unto you, my Children.”
Thus uttereth a satiated Winehiker from a well-placed post-lunch promontory. And yet somehow, wine was not involved.
Mark’s sharp eye once again captures a fine moment in wildlife poseurship: this time it’s a male Dark-Eyed Junco, a common sighting all over coastal California.
The old rancher’s grasslands spawn many oaks and many pines. This Monterey pine is more picturesque than most.
Our Coe Park sortie dissolves, as it nearly always does, into a fine mix of food, laughter, beer, endorphins, and hilarity. Such are the wily plans of a crafty winehiker. If I recall correctly, we also shared a bottle of 2001 Lindeman’s Pyrus from Coonawarra, Australia that afternoon, and I might just have to blog about that wine. [Editor’s note: I’ve now done so.]
The hike was officially over, but not so the day: Mark sighted this coyote through his viewfinder…
…and the coyote sighted Mark. Good thing Mark didn’t think this critter was a wolf!
Glad he’s on the other side of that really stout fence
No photoessay of the hills east, north, and south of the San Francisco Bay would be complete, of course, without including its most conspicuous citizen (besides us two-legged varmints). This steer appears well-practiced at posing for photographers exiting Coe Park.
On the drive home, we cross a bridge above the junction of Coyote Creek and Anderson Reservoir above Morgan Hill. Pine Ridge is witness to our departure in the mid-afternoon distance.
A view to the west out over Anderson Reservoir is quite enchanting. In late season, this pond is more full than usual.
Yes, it’s been a good year.
And thus concludes our broadcast day from Henry Coe State Park.