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. 





What a beautiful place to hike.

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