Friday, March 8, 2013

Henry W. Coe State Park

January 31 - February 5, 2013 

China Hole
Planning on hiking in the Sierras? Henry W. Coe State Park has an amazing network of trails that seem to only go up. I am a huge fan of steep up hill climbs so naturally I felt right at home in Henry Coe.

California Newt
We spent five days backpacking around Henry Coe, starting and ending at the Henry W. Coe State Park headquarters in Morgan Hill California. The day before our five day trip we drove from Los Angeles up the coast of California to the park where we camped at the headquarters for the night. Keep an eye and ear out for the sounds of turkeys, while we were setting up the tent we saw a group of turkeys wondering around near the campground looking for food.

Our first day we packed up camp and got ready and hit the trail. We hiked From Henry Coe headquarters to a beautiful campsite called China Hole. We originally planed on camping at a different campsite about a mile further up the trail but China Hole was definitely worth the extra mile the following day. The second day we hiked from China Hole to Kelly Lake, got there somewhat early in the day so we spent a few hours exploring the area. If you find yourself camped at Kelly Lake, try to find the small waterfall just past the bathroom! That night the beautiful birds songs turned into hundreds of frogs making their own music for the rest of the night.

Kelly lake

The third day we hiked up and down and up and down along the fire roads to Mississippi Lake, one of the larger lakes in the park. When we got down to the lake, the road splits off in two directions, we went right and set up camp a little ways away from the bathrooms. While walking the short 0.4ish of a mile to where we camped for the night we passed and almost stepped on a bunch of adorable California Newts, they seem to leave the lake and hang out in the brush at night (that's what it seemed like, I could be wrong)

Our tent at Kelly Lake

The forth day we packed up camp, said good bye to all the newts and hiked to Los Cruzeros. On our way there we passed the only backpacker we saw the entire trip! Its so nice to go backpacking in an area and not have to deal with hoards of visitors or even loads of other backpackers along all the trails. Los Cruzeros is an amazing area to camp or even just hang out after miles of hiking. As soon as we arrived we dropped our packs in the shade and sat by the water while I soaked my aching feet in the nice cool creek. That night as we ate dinner we were again accompanied by the beautiful sounds of frogs. The fifth and final day we hit the trail early and hiked up hill for what seemed like the full 5 miles back to headquarters. I have never seen fire road as steep as the ones we had to hike up that day! After finally making it to the highest point along the trail, it "flattened" out just as a cold front came in and we were surrounded by thick fog for the last mile. Eventually we made it back to the car and drove back down the mountain to get some burgers!

The breakdown:
Day 1: Henry Coe Headquarters to China Hole
Day 2: China Hole to Kelly Lake
Day 3: Kelly Lake to  Mississippi Lake
Day 4: Mississippi Lake to Los Cruzeros
Day 5: Los Cruzeros to Henry Coe Headquarters
An old Navy buoy

What I learned hiking in Henry W. Coe State Park

Think Rollercoaster- If you are like me and love up hill climbs then you will really enjoy Henry Coe. However, I don't much care for steep descents and Henry Coe has its fair share of them as well! If you decide to stick to the fire roads you will find they are more like an endless rollercoaster, nothing but up and down and up and down...
What is That HUGE Ball?!- If you hike enough in Henry Coe chances are you will come across a HUGE metal ball sitting in a small open area a few yards from the trail. After examining the large ball we really couldn't make heads nor tails of what it could possibly be! After getting home a doing a bit of research we learned what it was:

"The wrecking ball... is actually a buoy used by the United States during World War II. The buoys were manufactured for the War Department in Clearfeild, Utah, and were made out of 3/8", preformed steal plates. They were used to hold up anti-submarine nets at the entrance to U.S. harbors during the war. At the end of the war, at least 1,500 of these buoys remained unused, and they were purchased by the owner of a junk yard near Turlock, California, for $5 each. This junk dealer turned a handsome profit, selling them to farmers for $300 each. The buoys held 440 gallons of water, and farmers used them to store water. Frank Coit, who was from the San Joaquin Valley, seems to have purchased at least one of these bouys to clear out brush. Steel plates could be welded into the buoy, a cable attached to the plate, and, filled with water, the buoy could be dragged by a tractor or bulldozer to clear brush."
Why Are There Human Sized Cages?- Relax, they were not put there to keep out of control kids or hikers who drop trash along the trail in. They are in fact traps to catch wild pigs, for the past few years Henry Coe has been very determined to rid the park of these "rats with hooves" The wild pigs are responsible for causing severe erosion and slit problems from storm runoff in watersheds. The pigs also damage many native wildlife species, including deer, squirrel, quail, and other birds. 




Monday, February 18, 2013

More Gear Reviews

All the gear on this page was used and reviewed by Eric or myself, the reviews are our honest opinion of the products. For more reviews not listed below check out the What's in My Pack Page.


Gear Reviews

High Sierra Summit 30L & 45L Backpacks
The North Face Women's Hydration Pack

Trekking Poles:
Black Diamond TrailBack Trekking Poles

Sleeping Pads:
Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOlite Sleeping Pad

REI Day Pack First Aid Kit

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How To Make: Seasoning in a Straw

A quick a simple way to bring seasoning with you while backpacking or camping without having to bring way more than you will ever need! I bring these with me when I go backpacking, they allow me to season my food without all the extra weight. 

What you will need
  •  I recommend making a small funnel out of some scrap paper, it makes it a lot easier to pour the seasoning into the straw.

  •  Use the lighter and melt one end on each of the straws.
  •  Fit the funnel on one of the straws and carefully pour in the seasoning of your choice.
  •  Once they are all filled, cut the straws to size and melt the other ends, sealing the seasoning inside the straws.

Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Make: Toothpaste Dots

A quick and simple way to bring toothpaste on the trail without having to carry a tube of toothpaste. To use, just pop one of the dots in your mouth with a small amount of water, then start brushing!

  • Make sure the toothpaste you are using isn't the kind with gel in it. My first attempt at making these I used gel toothpaste and it never set.
  • Put small dollops of toothpaste on a sheet of foil, make them as big as you want them to be. 
  • Make just a few or stock up for your next few trips. 

  • After 2 - 3 days gently peel off the toothpaste dots and coat them with baking soda so they don't stick to each other.
  • Store them in a small baggie or container.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Evolution Basin Loop- Sequoia/ Kings Canyon

September 26- October 3, 2012

What a wonderful place to spend a week backpacking! I spent the whole week aw-struck, every bend in the trail revealed new and beautiful scenery and every pass we made it over rewarded us with magnificent views of the Evolution Basin area.

Starting at South Lake and ending at North Lake, we spent part of the first day hiking to Bishop Lake at the base of Bishop Pass where we camped the first night. The next day we left Bishop Lake and slowly made our way to the top of Bishop Pass, (11,972) along the way I kept getting flash backs from Mt. Whitney's 97 switchbacks section. After making it to top we took a short lunch break before continuing down to Dusy Basin, if you ever find yourself hiking along this section of the trail keep an eye out for jumping fish! That night we set up camp near the trail just before it drops off down to Le Conte and enjoyed dinner with the most amazing view!

Almost to the drop off where we camped the second night.
On the third day we hiked down to Le Conte, passing two deer eating horse poop along the way?? After finally making it down to the John Muir Trail junction we headed up the JMT toward Muir Pass. After hiking about half way up Muir Pass we found a tiny camp site just before a  "no campfires past this point" sign. The tiny campsite was big enough for one tent and included a small fire pit. We were lucky to find it, it was tucked away off the trail behind some trees, there was no way we were going to be able to make it to the top of Muir Pass that day so finding this campsite was an amazing find! The fourth day we hiked to the top of Muir Pass (11,955) then headed down into Evolution Basin  where we camped next to Wanda Lake.

The fifth day we hiked past McClure Meadow ranger station to Evolution Meadow and camped for the night. The next day we watched a mother deer and her three babies graze in Evolution Meadow as we packed up camp, then set off toward the San Joaquin River then continued on up Goddard Canyon to the Piute Canyon trail and camped just before Hutchison Meadow. The seventh day we hiked up Piute Canyon through Humphreys Basin and camped at Summit Lake (11,423). The eighth and final day we hiked over Piute Pass and down to North Lake Trailhead where we got a ride back to our car from a very... interesting.. couple.

Eight Days of Fun:
Day 1: South Lake to Bishop Lake
Day 2: Bishop lake to Dusy Basin
Day 3: Dusy Basin to Muir Pass
Day 4: Muir Pass to Wanda Lake
Day 5: Wanda Lake to Evolution Meadow
Day 6: Evolution Meadow to Piute Canyon Trail
Day 7: Piute Canyon Trail to Summit Lake
Day 8: Summit Lake to North Lake

What I Learned Hiking the Evolution Basin Loop

Where did the trees go?!- If you plan on hiking this loop make sure you bring a hat. There are long stretches where there are no trees to shade you from the sun, wear plenty of sunscreen and drink lots of water.
Have I been here before?- While hiking to the top of bishop Pass I kept getting this feeling like I have done this trail before, then about half way up it dawned on me, Mt. Whitney's 97 switchbacks section looks a lot like the trail over Bishop Pass. Even includes the foot high rock steps the trail crews were so kind to build for us... who do I send my doctor's bill to for my knee pain?

It's more fun when you bring a map- While taking a short break on a rock overlooking a lake we spotted a backpacker in the distance headed toward us. This section of the trail has no trees, its just rocks and mountains as far as the eye can see. Watching him for a few minutes I noticed him stop, look around, then head back the way he came, a few minutes later he stopped, turned around, and started hiking toward us again. Eventually he made it over to where we were sitting, didn't see us, stopped, turned, looked around confused and started hiking back the way he came! Finally he spotted us and asked where is the trail. When hiking in areas where the trail isn't always clearly marked or visible make sure to pay extra attention to where you are going.
Summit Lake

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Death Valley National Park

December 10- 12, 2012
In a galaxy far far away... actually in California, there's a beautiful place called Death Valley. After spending an amazing week camping and day hiking in Moab Utah, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks we decided to cancel the Zion part of our trip to Utah due to extremely cold weather and head over to Death Valley California. Eric and I spent a few days camping, day hiking, and exploring all this magnificent park has to offer. As huge Star Wars fans we of course visited a few of the locations where scenes of the epic Star Wars trilogy were filmed. We spent most of our time in Death Valley completing day hikes, both long and short, we drove to a bunch of the lookouts, took some tours, and even took the Prius on some dirt road trails! Our trip to Death valley was a blast! and I can't wait to go back in the coming year to see even more of the park!

Click here to view all the photos from this trip

Rhyolite Mining Town
What we did while in Death Valley:

Hiking Trails:
Fall Canyon Trail- 6 miles RT
Natural Bridge Canyon- 2 miles RT 0.5 to bridge
Badwater Salt Flats- 0.5 to 5 miles
Mosaic Canyon Trail- 4 miles RT
Salt Creek- 0.5 mile

Driving Only Trails:
Titus Canyon narrows- 1.5 miles
Twenty Mule Team Canyon- 2.7 miles

Lookout Points:
Dante's View
Artist's palette

Site Seeing:
Rhyolite Mining Town
Scotty's Castle- Take the tour!
Harmony Borax Works

The last time I was in Death valley I was knee high and honestly I don't really remember the experience. So having the opportunity to come back as an adult and do whatever we wanted was an amazing treat and a great way to end the year! During our stay in Death Valley we camped at Emigrant campgrounds, only available to tents so we were not disturbed by huge RV's. Most evenings after a long day of hiking and exploring we would enjoy a delicious meal at the restaurant in Stovepipe Wells. Try their mac and cheese, its to die for! Simply one of the best mac and cheese dishes I have ever had.

Dante's View

Eric and I spent the few days we had to enjoy Death Valley hiking every trail we could and seeing all we could see. In that short time We hiked quite a few trails, my favorite being Mosaic Canyon Trail. Only 4 miles round trip, this short hike involves a small amount of climbing to get past each dried waterfall but its completely doable for most hikers. I absolutely love trails that involve scrambling to get past obstacles, I enjoy the puzzle of finding a rout around whatever blocks my path. So when I come across a trail like this one I get extremely happy! There are many great hikes in Death valley but this one was my favorite out of them all.  

Have you hiked this or any other trails in Death Valley? Let me know what you thought of Death Valley and its hiking trails! Comment below or leave a message on my facebook page :)
Salt Creek Trail- All photos are property of Jessie's Trails

Things I Think You Should Know:

It gets HOT!- Being one of the hottest places on the planet, Death Valley is no joke when it comes to keeping hydrated and protected from the relentless sun. Make sure you bring plenty of water for everyone in your group, try not to hike during the hottest times of day and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Wildlife is just that, WILD- Help keep the wildlife wild by not feeding them, cleaning up after you and your family, and keeping food in a safe location where animals can't get to it. Teach kids the correct way to be around wildlife and show an example by following all park rules.

WATER WATER WATER!- While in Death Valley you will notice their signs everywhere telling you to carry water and how much each person will need at each trailhead. Always carry water on you and in your car. You never know when or if you will get lost or brake down. Make sure to carry enough water in your car to last you for at least a few days. We kept huge water jugs with spouts on them so we could refill our water bottles at each trailhead.

Rules are not a suggestion- Make sure everyone in your group is well aware of all the parks rules. They are there not only for your protection but the wildlife and other hikers and campers as well. Do your part in making everyone's trip a good one, follow the rules. Park Rules

 Learn more about Things To Know Before You Come

Scotty's Castle

Now it's my turn!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Los Padres National Forest

I recently spent a rough four days in the Los Padrea National Forest, fighting my way through thick brush, muddy trails, and snow, ending in getting rescued by Santa Barbara Search and Rescue.

The first day we started from East Camino Cielo and hiked to the Cold Spring Trail, through the Mono Jungle to Mono Camp. The next day we hiked up the Mono to Upper Mono then continued on to a trail junction with the Alamar Hill Trail. We then followed the Alamar Hill Trail to the top of Alamar Hill, however it had been raining and the trail was nothing but thick mud all the way up to the top. Hiking, or should I say sliding, down the back side to Alamar Creek was exhausting and very painful! I slipped and fell butt first about four times during the duration of our decent down this incredibly muddy hill. After making it down and rejoining with James and Sierra, who we got separated from on the way down, we took a nice long break before continuing on to Rollins where we camped for the night. The next day we awoke to our tents covered in a blanket of snow, not my favorite thing to hike in when you're not prepared for it! Eric and I decided to get an early start and hike toward Dutch Oven where we made plans to wait for James and Sierra to catch up with us before continuing on. After three hours of both rain and snow along with pushing our way through thick wet brush we made it to Dutch Oven! Eric and quickly set up our tent and crawled inside to get warm while we waited. After two extremely long and painful days of bushwhacking we were both tired and cold, not to mention I re-injured my ankle and after assessing our situation we determined I couldn't take 11 more miles of bushwhacking we turned on the PLB and waited to be rescued. :(

Note on Being Rescued: Although the experience of being rescued was new and an exciting one at that! I am and have always been against being rescued unless it is a life and death situation. In the past I have been hurt on the trail but refused rescue and hiked, limped, out on my own. In this situation both Eric and I felt being rescued was the only way we were going to make it out of the Los Padres. I want to give a huge THANK YOU to the team who came to our rescue <3

Things I think you Should Know Before Hiking in Los Padres:
  • Always wear long pants- I suggest wearing long pants made from a think material like jean, even in the summer! I made the mistake of wearing a short sleeve shirt one of the days and my hands and arms are still covered in cuts, I can't imagine what my legs would have looked like if I wore shorts like I usually do.
  • If it rains there will be mud- We did this trip right after it rained for a few days, it then proceeded to rain on us throughout the hike. At one point we had to hike up a steep slope to a ridge line then down the even steeper back side, in the mud, my shoes had to weigh 10 pounds each! It was not easy hiking in mud, I even slipped butt first into the mud a few times.
  • It gets cold when it snows- It snows in the Los Padres. On the last night we were camped at 5,000 feet and woke in the morning to a blanket of fresh snow. Be prepared for the snow and cold weather, pack warm clothing and a rain jacket to keep you and your clothes dry. Know the signs of hypothermia and how to prevent it.
  • Know how to follow a trail that isn't there- Most of the four days consisted of following unmaintained trails covered with overgrown brush. This can be extremely hard to do, if you get lost with directions, some of the trails in the Los Padres are not for you. The trails are sometimes market with tiny colored flags tied to trees and bushes. However, they can be spaced far apart or placed in the wrong spot leading you somewhere else. 
  • Always carry a PLB- Personal Locator Beacon or PLB are small devices designed to give out a signal to local search and rescue so they can come save you. You should always have one in your pack whenever you hike. We always carry one on us, hoping we never have to use it. On a past trip we came close to using it when I sprained my ankle, I refused to use it and instead I slowly limped 10 miles in three days back to the trailhead. This past trip in Los Padres we were not so lucky, because I didn't let my ankle heal properly I re-injured it and we ended up having to be rescued. Normally I would have hiked out on it but because the brush was so thick it would have been impossible and would have taken longer than we had food to do so.
Eric and I with the search and rescue crew hiking back to the helicopter
A huge Thank You! to the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue crew that saved us! The crew of six men were all very professional, they clearly knew what they were doing and were very well trained. I am sad I forgot to ask for a group shot in front of the brand new helicopter once we landed, oh well :( Thank You guys again you guys are amazing! Here is a video someone took of us in the helicopter landing at Santa Ynez Airport:


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