Dowdy Ranch > Walsh Trail > Pacheco Camp (Henry Coe State Park)


The lesser-known Dowdy Ranch entrance to Henry Coe State Park is open seasonally to cars on weekends starting in May. Four of us enjoyed a lengthy hike on the first open weekend of 2015. (Details and location of the park entrance:

After driving the 8 miles of well-graded gravel from Highway 152 (Pacheco Pass), we parked the cars and were soon walking past the summit of Burra-Burra Peak.

(You can also enter the park 24/7/365 by leaving your car down by Highway 152. The gravel road is always open to hikers and cyclists. It’s about 80 minutes uphill if you’re  a reasonably strong cyclist and ALOT of fun coming back down, despite the posted 15mph speed limit!

(History geeks will want to know that a Civil War-era copper mine was briefly attempted at Burra Burra Peak. It was named after the Burra Burra copper mine in Tennessee that became part of the Confederacy, necessitating the Union to look for an alternate source of copper. )


Below is a view from the backside of Burra Burra Peak, on the Center Flats Road. The chaparral-covered ridge includes (a trail I can’t figure out on the map) and the far valley includes Kaiser-Aetna Road, north towards Orestimba Corral.


After a bit, we turn right onto the Walsh Trail and start down, down, down… Few hikers come this way and even fewer bicycles.


Finally at the bottom, we find the creek and the Tin Cabin:


Complete with two broken bedframes and signs of rodents spending some time there (i.e. “hantavirus”).


As we cross the creek, the first in our group spots a turtle (not very effectively) running for cover. Just below the dry rock, notice the smaller underwater “rock” that’s shaped like a turtle!


..and crossing the meadow, with the cabin and creek behind us,  ready to climb out of the canyon:


We reach Pacheco Ridge Road after a very steep climb (“steep” like Steer Ridge and the Mt Sizer “shortcut”, if you “know Coe”. My Strava track shows 500 feet of climbing in 0.4 miles = ~25% grade.)

Finally we get to “Coe normal” roads, versus the “Coe steep” Walsh Trail:


From Pacheco Ridge Road we see the currently-dry Pacheco Falls area.


…and many scattered Mariposa Lillies prospering in the drought and poor soil


The occasional shade and flatter stretches of road are welcome after the climbing we’ve done so far.


Soon we see Pacheco Camp:


Pacheco Camp is a maintained and padlocked building, with kitchen facilities, used for various official State Park activities. (I think…I’ve asked the question of who gets to use it and under what circumstances. I’ve never been able to get an answer of who has the keys and makes the decisions. If anyone knows, please let me know. If it’s a benefit of being a Coe volunteer in the backcountry, it may be a motivator. As a secret, it’s demotivating…)

Anyway…it’s an awesome place to visit regardless, including shade, picnic tables, pit toilets, and a reliable source of great water. The water is gravity-fed to a sink and a shower house(!) from way uphill at the Live Oak Spring. Kudos to park volunteer “Paul L” and others for their work in improving and maintaining the water sources in Coe.


Time to start the return trip, this time down the other side of the canyon, past the proper trail to Pacheco Falls:


Here’s an older picture of Pacheco Falls, late April 2012, a few hours before sunset:

(Pacheco Falls, late April 2012)

A little further down Wagon Road we pass Wilson Tower, peeking above the trees, just to the right of center. The tower is for backcountry radio communications. There’s a great logbook near the tower, under some rocks. It was placed by geocachers, but is well known by cyclists too. Fun to read, but we didn’t stop this time:


Finally we head down the Hersman Trail and soon see the buildings and picnic area at Dowdy Ranch in the distance.


That’s it! About 16 miles and 3500 vertical feet. My Strava track missed the last few miles:

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Jurassic Faces & Applejacks! Portola Valley > La Honda > Alpine Road Cycling Loop


One of my favorite cycling loops is to park my car in Woodside or Portola Valley and do a nice counterclockwise loop over the Santa Cruz mountains! I park in either of two locations: the bottom of Windy Hill Open Space, or behind the newer location of Roberts Market in Portola Valley (Alpine Road at Portola Road). Roberts is a “mandatory” stop for an Arizona Iced tea (or a Boddington’s in a paper bag)  and one of their small pre-packaged scraps of exotic cheese when I’m done. (I’m getting ahead of myself!)


A few miles of flat-to-downhill, heading NW, Portola Road takes you to the bottom of Old La Honda Road (“OLH”). OLH is quite well know by cyclists as a safe and scenic (and steep, but not “insanely steep”) route up to Skyline Blvd, as well as over the other side towards the town of La Honda.

OLH is also used as a measure of fitness in a local club’s ride classification system (I used to be a “B” but have moved up to a “C”.) This is the beginning of OLH:


Eventually you’ll climb up past some large and often interesting, homes through the redwood trees, to Skyline Blvd. Crossing over Skyline you’ll eventually break out of the redwoods down to some great coastal views as you descend. This picture actually includes the fogged-over coast in the background:


It’s easy to miss the semi-famous Jurassic Faces, carved into the sandstone:


Look for them on your left, as you descend past the lengthy sandstone cutaway next to the road. This photo is looking back uphill:


…and this photo is that road cut from across the valley:


Eventually the VERY quiet road merges with Highway 84, just before the red barn, which is now part of the (Permit only) La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve:


Highway 84 is a major route to the coast, but it has a decent shoulder and I feel safe in the downhill direction.

Soon you’ll see the little town of La Honda. On your right will be the Fire Station, followed by a small plaza with the Post Office and Country Store. The store has great sandwiches, and you can take them across the street to Applejack’s Bar if you want!



Applejack’s was actually a 19th century blacksmith shop, with some sections of their wood floor being VERY old, or maybe “original”. Their weekday hours are a bit inconsistent and they don’t have a website. Quaint little place!


Between Applejacks and the Country Store is the town’s only crosswalk. If you go uphill to the left, you can explore a maze of homes and cottages where most of the residents live.

Continuing down Highway 84, turn left after about a mile onto Pescadero Road. This is also a major route the coast and to (guess where?) “Pescadero!”.

(If you’re interested in going a bit “Further” [sic][“Are you on the bus?”] and looking for an “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”, continue down past the Pescadero Road turnoff. I’ve been told that Ken Kesey’s old place is on the left at 7940 La Honda Road)


Tourists and stronger cyclists usually stay on Pescadero Road to the coast. My usual route is to bear left after about another mile onto the beginning of Alpine Road. (The “bicycles not advised” sign has been there since they “gravelled” the road last year. It’s perfectly fine now!)


Quiet, peaceful redwood forest, with a creek burbling near the road.


…and views of Mindego Hill from the downhill side. Mindego Hill is a landmark hill, recently added to Russian Ridge Open Space, but not yet open


…and eventually an intersection to a “back entrance” to Pescadero Creek County Park (“Camp Pomponio Road” from the northeast on the map: ):


…and later on an intersection for the main entrance to Portola Redwoods State Park


..and a view due east to Long Ridge OSP, just below Skyline. It’s the headwaters of Peters Creek, marked “Devils Canyon” on old USGS topo maps. (“Thank you” to my frequent hiking companion, Michael B, for identifying those cliffs!)


From here, you’ll continue your uphill “grind” for another ~900 vertical feet until you reach a new parking lot on Alpine Road. There are pit toilets here, but no water. Fear not, though, because you’re less than 200 vertical feet from the top!


From here, you can cross over Skyline Blvd and take (somewhat busy) Page Mill Road down. The better way (IMHO), which takes me back closer to the car, is to turn left off of Page Mill onto the now-closed Alpine Road (red diamond below). It’s open to bicycles and hikers, though it’s not paved. On my skinny tire bike, there are a few short sections that I have to walk down, and I take the gravelly turns slowly.


I find it much more enjoyable than busy Page Mill. Soon enough it re-joins pavement and takes you directly back to Robert’s market in Portola Valley with almost no pedaling!


That’s it! have fun! (About 30 miles and 4000 feet of climbing. Here’s the Strava track: )

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“The Land of Medicine Buddha” & Nisene Marks State Park (Santa Cruz / Soquel)

IMG_3702There’s an interesting place, uphill from Soquel, CA, bordering the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. It’s the “Land of Medicine Buddha“! They welcome quiet and respectful visitors to wander their interesting property. You can also use it for a “secret backdoor” into Nisene Marks State Park.

They’re a Tibetan Buddhist retreat and educational center. Their website explains it better than I will attempt to do:

Set your GPS for “5800 Prescott Rd, Soquel, CA” and you’ll eventually get to a small bridge and this small sign:


I highly recommend parking just before the bridge, where there is room for about 6 cars. If that’s full, there’s scattered roadside parking a few hundred feet back. (There isn’t really any reason to take your car into the property. The signs and navigation are a bit tricky and I’m encouraging visitors to keep the impact low and arrive on foot!)



Wander around the main buildings a bit and “explore”.


Turn the Prayer Wheel for peace and happiness, in the properly marked direction, of course!


IMG_3693 IMG_3695


There are a some signs, as well as a few roughly-drawn photocopied trail maps available. If you have an electronic toy that can download “real” maps, like Open Street Maps, it will be much more helpful…particularly if you want to wander further into the State Park.


Poison Oak? Why yes! It does seem to be thriving during this severe drought. Too bad it isn’t a cash crop, like almonds or rice, that can be sold to other states and countries…


A sign from a circular trail in the upper LMB property:


…and one more shot: a typical trail in the Forest of Nisene Marks: old redwood stumps and newer second growth redwoods.IMG_3724

Getting there: Waze on my iPhone easily brought me the few miles uphill from Soquel, CA. Drive slowly, as the roads are a tight squeeze if someone is coming the other way.

Here is a map of the Forest of Nisene Marks (last page) The land of Medicine Buddha is located just above the “Legend” on that map. To see the minor trails, connecting between the Nisene’s West Ridge trail and the Land of Medicine Buddha, please see, starting at the lower-center, near where it says “Yurt Village”:

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Silicon Valley’s “Computer History Museum”

A little different than my usual outdoor adventure blog post, but it’s fascinating to ***me*** and it’s ***my*** blog, so there! If you’re a techie who likes history, or an aging techie who isn’t sure if seeing familiar old hardware  preserved under glass is a good thing, then read on…

Right at the SE corner of Highway 101 and Shoreline Blvd, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is the “Computer History Museum” (Ironically, it’s located in a former Sun Microsystems or Silicon Graphics building, which is a bit of “history” itself!)


Once you pay your fee to enter, look to your left before you enter the main exhibit area. You’ll see the “PDP-1 Lab” and the “IBM 1401″ Lab. Both were very “significant computing platforms” in their day, and may bring back memories of “real computers” if you’re old enough: round CRT screens, tape drives, noisy printers, punch card readers…

Here is the PDP-1 lab, circa 1959. Note the round CRT screen and the “electric typewriter” style printer:



Next door is the IBM 1401 room. This is what an Old School mainframe is to me, including the raised floor for wiring and cooling.



Moving on to the main exhibits, you’ll start with antique computing devices. (Not to be confused with “computers”, which was originally a term coined in the 1940’s for the women (predominantly) who operated the computing machinery of the day!)


Some older “stuff”, including mid- to late-1970’s HP and TI calculators with newfangled LED displays, including the classic HP-41.


Below is a piece of the ENIAC (Electronic Numeric Integrator and Calculator), designed to calculate ballistics tables for the Army (trajectories and targeting tables for various munitions and operating conditions)


Ah yes! What “classic” computer doesn’t have a tape drive, with a Jetsons-era name on it like “Univac”?


…and for those knowledgeable about WW2. here is a real “game changer” Norden Bomb Sight, suspended inside a simulated nose of an American WW2 bomber.


The world’s first “disk drive”, the “Ramac 350″. It’s about the size of a washing machine and could store the equivalent of 62,000 punch cards (5 million characters!)


…and below is 128K bits of LSI Bipolar memory from Fairchild, conveniently packaged in a metal can a little bigger than a loaf of bread. (My iPhone stores over a million times as much information…much of it useless!!)


..and a Cray-1. Note the racks are in a circular pattern so that the longest wire is less than 3 feet. This was key to making the Cray the fastest in the world by reducing signalling delays in the wires. (I have nothing to say about the white trim on Seymour Cray’s suit)IMG_3631

Below is a tribute to the old Wagon Wheel Bar in Mountain View. where many historical conversations and business plans were drawn-up. It was torn-down in the early-90’s.IMG_3639

ROBOTS! Is that Rosie, from the Jetsons?


Here’s “PONG!”, the first coin-operated video game. Designed and assembled in Silicon Valley in 1972 by Atari. It was paired with an off-the-shelf TV and placed in a cabinet. It was a huge hit at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, where the first one was placed. (That building is now “Rooster T. Feathers”, on El Camino Real)


Here’s a VERY valuable Apple 1, with Woz’s autograph in the center of the upper wood cabinet.IMG_3651

Now, here we get to my own first computer, the Commodore VIC-20 (top-left). Wow, was that cassette tape drive a frustrating device! They also have MITS Altair, Atari, Sinclair, Radio Shack, and many other early computers that were marketed directly to home users


That’s it! Next time you’re in Mountain View take a look!  (Do you wonder how Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft will be represented in museums a few decades down the road? Hardware is entirely different…)

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Byrne-Milliron Preserve & Corralitos Sausage Co.

I recently found out about the “Byrne-Milliron Preserve”, just outside Corralitos. How could I not have known about this great place? It’s 402 acres under the ownership and care of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz (I found out about it via some local Geocachers when the property received it’s first caches.)

It’s a very cool place, and very dog-friendly.  Located less than 4 miles from Corralitos, when you reach the parking lot you’ll start to notice the whimsical nature of this forest.

IMG_2667Oh yeah, getting there! Go to the center of Corralitos and drive 2.7 miles on Browns Valley Road, heading east for a few blocks, then the road turns to the left (north). Look for a small sign on the left for #809 and “Roses of Yesterday & Today” and follow the paved driveway for another mile. There are no huge signs that say “Turn here for an awesome unknown preserve!”

The turnoff:IMG_2708Grab a trail map near the parking lot, or print one at home I used “Open Street Maps” on my iPhone and it worked great.

At each of several high vista points you’ll see collections of trinkets, mementos, and logbooks to write a few thoughts. This is not a “sanitized” park like you’re used to!


This is “AJ’s Point of View” on the official map

Bring a book, bring a camera, bring lunch…(and bring water! there’s only a Porta-potty in the parking lot)

IMG_2674The mailbox contains binoculars, and some logbooks to read and contribute to. The water is probably best left for the dogs, out of caution. (Did I mention there are water bowls for dogs “everywhere”?)

IMG_2676Until 2 months ago the caretaker was Jeff Helmer, who recently passed-away. He sounds like a great guy (not just because he had three times as many Studebakers as I do!)

We found Jeff’s business card in one of the trailside treasure troves.

IMG_2681A typical redwood forest scene in the lower areas of the preserve

IMG_2686And a turnoff with yet another dog bowl.

IMG_2687A few steep parts, with a rope to steady yourself.

IMG_2689…and a second major overlook area. “Eagle in Tree Vista” on the map


…and the Porcupine Hollow turnoff to the “Cathedral Rest Spot”



Not quite as wide and groomed as most parks, but you’re not likely to get lost!


It was a GREAT FIND! It’s only 402 acres, but it feels much bigger. There’s some steep climbs and quite a few trails to be explored. There were 10 cars in the parking lot when we returned at 1:00PM. I think we saw most of those groups at one point. More than half of them had happy off-leash dogs. (Bring your dog if you have one!) Take your time and enjoy the Byrne-Milliron Forest!

…and consider a visit to to Corralitos Market and Sausage Company on the way back.

A cute little country market, with a famous meat counter at the back:


House-made sausages, sandwiches, and treats for your canine companion.




I ordered a hot sausage sandwich, with a bit of sauerkraut and horseradish, plus a giant pickle. Walk across the street to the “town square” and have a little picnic.


(A WW1 memorial next to the picnic tables. Donald Leon Rose, died in France in 1918)



…and a map of the town…


That’s it! Enjoy the drive and exploring Byrne-Milliron and Corralitos

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Plane Crash Site above Saratoga, CA (F-2H Banshee, Lt James Wyley, 1959)

Airplane crashes were much more common just a few decades ago than they are today, prior to more sophisticated navigation technologies. The hills in the San Francisco area are steep and often shrouded in fog. This has resulted in a handful of crash sites, including some that are (relatively) less well-known.

In the immediate Silicon Valley area there’s an F-9 Panther in the East Bay hills and a DC-6 passenger plane. Both are easily accessible from the trail, both with just a few pieces not having been carried away. There are also bits of an F-4 Phantom (, as well as an elusive F-2 Banshee, both of which are not widely known (and will stay that way). I’ve also recently found that there’s an F4U Corsair wreck on private property on Mt Thayer )

About 5 years ago I met a “wreckchaser” who was kind enough to take me to the location of the F-2H Banshee in the hills above Saratoga, CA. The “code of honor” of wreckchasers, as well as visitors to pristine Native American sites, is to reveal the location only to those who will respect the site and to not make it any easier to find than it already is.

Enough of the background story!

On this particular day I decided to pay a second visit to the site and take a few more pictures than the last time.

Somewhere off of Skyline Boulevard I parked the car


…visited an un-marked location of Native American “grinding rocks”


…and began the very steep bushwhacking to the site. (I thought this was a circa-1960 Renault Dauphine, but I don’t see the air intakes in front of the rear wheels. It’s small and European and all the markings are gone…It turns out it’s an “NSU Prinz”, which was a German company that merged into Audi. Credit to several members of


Eventually, after some seriously steep route-finding and “hanging onto small trees so you don’t slide down the hill”, I saw the bits and pieces


..and an engine


…and some late 1950’s aviation electronics


…and a few other objects that were placed on a rock by others



“Assembly No” and “Inspection” still readable after 56 years


A red tow hook from the front landing gear, perhaps?


Control surfaces from a wing section



…and finally, the tail, which is located uphill a bit. It’s the largest remaining piece


If you look on the left side of the tail (underneath), you’ll see a small brass plaque in the middle of the red painted area:


This small memorial was placed here by the Wreckchaser that first brought me to this place.


Navy Lt. James Wyley died here on February 22, 1959. Please respect the site. Leave only footprints, take only photos.



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Cone Peak summit (Santa Lucia Mountains, Ventana, Big Sur)


Head south from Big Sur or head north from the Hearst Castle on California’s remote coast, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and you’ll see these amazing views. Up close you’ll also see distracted tourists driving rented motorhomes at 30mph. Take your time and enjoy!

Immediately south of the scenic Kirk Creek Campground  begins the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.

This road is the only road over the steep Santa Lucia Range The road also provides great access to the mountains, along with some incredible views (without guard rails! Pull over for pictures and post to FaceBook later when you’re back in cell range!)


At about 3000 feet above sea level, you’ll come to a plateau and crossroads. (20 miles further east is the Army’s Fort Hunter Liggett. It’s open to the public if you have ID, insurance and registration for your vehicle. There, you can visit the very well preserved Mission San Antonio de Padua (1771) There’s also the very cool “Hacienda Hotel”, open to the public and formerly owned by William Randolph Hearst



This crossroads is also the trailhead for my “bike-and-hike” up Cone Peak. It’s the second highest peak in the Ventana / Big Sur area and (according to Wikipedia) the tallest “coastal mountain” in the lower 48 states: over 5100 feet and only 3 miles from the ocean.

Below is the start of my journey. 7 miles of Fire Road, then 2 miles of steep hiking trail. I’ve heard the road is open in the summer. (It’s reasonable for a normal 2WD car  to give it a try, though there’s no passing or turnaround space in many sections.)


A chilly day, with ice on the fire road in the shady sections. (The photo below is not actually ice. This section has white marble or limestone on the road and hillside. There was real ice…really…but I didn’t take any pictures of that)



The patch of white stone is visible below, in the distance, on the right side of the photo:


The views keep getting better and better!



After 7 miles of gravel road, at about 3800 feet elevation, it’s time to hide the bicycle in the bushes and enter the Wilderness Area on foot.


Yup! That’s the 5100 foot summit, with a teeny-tiny fire lookout building on top


Alas, 2 miles and ~1300 vertical feet (on foot) later, we reach the top and take a picture of the coast to the south, just like the one in Wikipedia!


…and the summit lookout, which was very securely covered with heavy steel panels and strong padlocks. It’s not an “emergency shelter” if you’re up here in a blizzard (without bolt cutters).


And a view due west, with the surf being only 3 horizontal miles away.


Did I mention it was 30F degrees at the top, with howling winds? California was experiencing unusually cold and windy weather. I was a bit underdressed for standing still, though the uphill climb made me quite toasty. Time to head down!


I was racing sunset a bit, though I had a good flashlight in my pack, if necessary, and the Fire Road is easy to follow. The sun looks low on the eastern side of the mountains


Back to the car, and a scenic drive down the hill. Remember “no guard rails!”.



Below you can see Highway 1 clinging to the coast:


My Strava track (plus 3 additional miles in the car until I remembered to turn it off!)

Footnote: I was inspired to try this trip by reading Jill Homer’s recent blog post I had been unaware that I could go most of the way up a big coastal peak by bicycle. I’m also impressed with someone who came up from sea level by bicycle! Long sections of 10% and 11% grades, on a mountain bike, with camping gear: (No thank you, maybe another time!) I’ve read all of Jill’s books and recommend them if you’re interested in endurance racing in incredibly beautiful and challenging environments.










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