Henry Coe Dowdy Ranch (Mack’s, Pacheco Crossing, Vasquez, Dormida)

The Dowdy Ranch entrance to the massive Henry Coe State park is now seasonally open on weekends (and fridays, it seems) http://coepark.net/pineridgeassociation/planning-your-visit/visitor-centers-and-park-entrances/dowdy-ranch-visitor-center I was last there in January by bicycling from Bell Station http://alpharoaming.com/2014/01/20/henry-coe-state-park-pacheco-crossing-dowdy-ranch-bell-station/ With the road now open, Michael, Erin, and I decided to “see what we could” see!

We planned a loop from Dowdy, down into Mack’s Corral, up the creek to Pacheco Crossing, then up Scherrer, down Vasquez, and up Dormida. (Sounds like Coe: down, up, down, up…)

We arrived at Dowdy Ranch at 10AM. We saw Ranger Cameron Bowers preparing for next week’s “Backcountry Weekend” http://coepark.net/pineridgeassociation/pra-event-list/details/61-2014-backcountry-weekend We also quickly visited the “almost famous” Purple Panther sign!


I hope Backcountry Weekend is not rained-out like it was a few years ago. There’s a small chance of rain in the forecast this week, and if the roads are still wet or muddy by friday…Anyway, down we went towards Mack’s Corral, past a lightly flowing spring.


And bottoming-out at the nice meadow near “Mack’s Corral” and intersecting the “North Fork Trail”, which is the North Fork of the Pacheco Creek.


We walked along the creek trail, upstream towards Pacheco Crossing. We soon encountered the deepest pool of water along this trail. It appears to be year-round, with cattails, frogs, fish, and a pair of mallards that fled when they saw us.


On our way to Pacheco Crossing, I kept staring at the ominous (but not really that big) Tie Down Peak, where I had a really big “oh crap!” moment in late 2012: http://alpharoaming.com/2012/09/26/rattlesnake-adrenaline-rush-tie-down-peak-at-henry-coe/


Upon arriving at Pacheco Crossing, I was happy to see a bit of water flowing through the large tube.


We also noted the preparation for Backcountry Weekend and “field tested” the portable toilets that have been placed here in preparation for next week.


The “Hole in the Rock”, a few hundred feet upstream, was likewise full and gently flowing. During my last visit, in january, it was 6 feet lower than “flowing stage” http://alpharoaming.com/2014/01/20/henry-coe-state-park-pacheco-crossing-dowdy-ranch-bell-station/



From there, we slogged up the Scherrer Trail. It was my first time here, and steeper than Michael and Erin remembered. (Yes, we do carry the official Coe paper map, as well as downloaded topo maps on our electronic toys). The flowers all over the park were quite good. We wondered if the drought, followed by late rains, provided for better flowers than other years?



We then headed down the Vasquez Trail. It was quite steep, but nicely graded and not rutted. (Yes, my two companions are waaayy down there!)


We stopped briefly at the bottom, where the small creeks merge. There was a small amount of water flowing. We then looked carefully for our “exit trail”, the Dormida Trail, which can be tricky to locate and follow from either direction. We spotted the obscure trail, which concided with our downloaded “Open Street Maps” track, and up we went! These large downed trees made us think this area hasn’t burned in many decades.

In the distance is the Vasquez Trail, which we had just descended:


This is the trail…not as hard to follow as the last time I was here 5 years ago. That time I came from above and actually turned-back when I lost the trail where it dipped off the ridge towards the north.


Almost back! Here’s Dowdy Ranch, in the distance, from the Hersman Pond area.


We stopped in the Visitor’s Center for a few minutes on our return and chatted with Ranger John Verhoeven for a bit, then headed to the car.

That’s it! Give it a try, but be prepared with water, maps, and and steep hills. Henry Coe is big and can be unforgiving!

GPX Track: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=2744999

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Mt Hamilton, San Antonio Valley, Isabel Creek & Patterson on a rainy (almost snowy) day

Back a few weeks ago on March 26th I decided to do a one day (~200 mile) circular road trip. I was curious about the wildflowers and water flows in the San Antonio Valley, east of San Jose’s Mount Hamilton. I was also curious to see what sort of fencing and signs were preventing, or discouraging, entry into Henry Coe State Park from where Highway 130 dips south.

It was a gloomy day, but I’d have my cozy car to keep me warm as I rose above San Jose on Mt Hamilton Road (at center, in the distance)


..and saw lotsa spring greenery. I think these are mustard plants(?)


Passed by Grant County Park, where I hiked in january, just before the historic Pala Seca cabin burned to the ground: http://alpharoaming.com/2014/01/09/pala-seca-cabin-joseph-grant-county-park/


…and a flock of turkeys just outside the front entrance


This is a picture of the upper end of the valley where the main Joseph Grant ranch was:


After many twisting miles of interesting (and limited) views, I reached the top of Mt Hamilton and the historic Lick Observatory. http://www.ucolick.org/ (Yes, the snowplows were manned and on standby! It was a blustery 37F degrees in late morning. The main observatory dome is on the right end of the building, in the fog)


Indeed, as hinted in the “please remove cleats” sign, this is a cycling destination. Despite the intermittent rain, and near-freezing temperatures, I passed one cyclist on the way up. He actually summited, then turned-around without stopping!


There are at least a dozen various buildings up here. Some are private residences, and some are part of the observatory facility.



I continued east, towards I-5 and Patterson, CA, through the remote San Antonio Valley. Eventually descending to “Isabel Creek”. It was flowing just a little bit in this very dry year for California. I was hoping to see some elk in this area, or on my return over Pacheco Pass, but no luck…



Below is the gate I wanted to check out, where Highway 130 dips to within 1.5 miles of Henry Coe State Park. Very flat..which is unusual for Henry Coe State Park! The gate had several locks on it, indicating access to several private properties, including the “Shanti Ashrama” http://sfvedanta.org/the-society/history/shanti-ashrama-historical-overview/


Onwards to the junction of Highway 130 and Mines Road. At this point, the choice is to turn left (north) towards the city of Livermore, or turn right (south) towards Patterson and I-5


The appropriately named “Junction Bar and Grill” is closed on wednesdays. The other days of the week, it’s a gathering place for roadtrippers of all sorts, including motorcyclists. http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-junction-livermore


I turned right, towards Patterson, spotting some cows barely hanging onto a steep hillside


…and some a bit closer to me!


A bit further I passed by “Adobe Springs”, which was interesting enough that it warranted it’s own blog post! http://alpharoaming.com/2014/04/05/adobe-springs/

As I dropped much closer to sea level, away from the barren hills near Adobe Springs, I found a marginal orchard, on the semi-arid hills.


Further down, near Patterson, I found the more familiar Central Valley nut trees, lined up neatly as far as you can see!


Orestimba Creek? Hmmm…that sounds familiar! Indeed, it does drain from the northeast corner of Henry Coe State Park, all the way past I-5 towards the town of Newman!


So, yes, “curious me” drove upstream as far as I could, west towards Henry Coe’s Orestimba Wilderness.


This particular gate, about 2 miles west of I-5, appears accessible to hikers and cyclists. Following along past that using Google Earth, towards Henry Coe State Park, it appears to get more sketchy. The road gets narrower, and I see additional gates further to the west. Probably not a good idea…


From here I headed south on I-5, then west over Pacheco Pass to Gilroy and back home.

Anyway, that’s my “rainy day road trip”! I completely circled Henry Coe State Park and visited Mount Hamilton on a zero-visibility day. Fun! (Don’t forget to bring some empty containers to Adobe Springs if you’re passing through!)

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Russian Ridge, Borel Hill & Mindego Hill on a beautiful spring day!

Last weekend I went on a hike with some local friends. I met Paulina (@Paulina_dao http://www.littlegrunts.com/), Russ (@WineHiker), and Paulina’s boyfriend at a coffee shop in Cupertino and we carpooled up to Russian River Open Space Preserve. http://www.openspace.org/preserves/pr_russian_ridge.asp

Paulina was MUCH faster in doing her blog post this week AND I didn’t take many pictures since this was all familiar terrain to me…so, maybe I’ll just link to her blog and then add a little bit more of my own narrative. Take a look here, then c’mon back and read more below! http://www.littlegrunts.com/russian-ridge-osp-ancient-oaks-charquin-borel-hill/

Within a few hundred feet of Alpine Pond, there’s an interesting little spot that is easily overlooked. It’s a cluster of Native American “grinding rocks”. These little (~6 inch / 15 cm) depressions, along with a loose rock, where how acorns were ground-up for food, like a mortar and pestle.

Photo Credit: Paulina Dao www.LittleGrunts.com

Photo Credit: Paulina Dao http://www.LittleGrunts.com

We finished our hike on the Mindego Hill Trail, which ends at a “closed” area to the northwest. The area of Mindego Hill was purchased for park land from the family that had been ranching the area for over 50 years. Here’s a story about Chris and Veronica True. He sounds like quite a character! http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2007/10/11/chris-true-recalls-a-life-on-mindego-hill

Mindego Hill is such a locally prominent hill that many people hop the fence anyway (I have not done it and I’m not suggesting it…). While it was private property, it never really said “No Trespassing”, but rather had a sign that was likely taken even more seriously! (The sign is gone now)

Circa 2008 at the base of Mindego Hill

Circa 2008 at the base of Mindego Hill

That’s it! Here’s the detailed trail map: http://www.openspace.org/preserves/maps/pr_coal_creek_rr.pdf

Access from Silicon Valley is to head west up Page Mill Road from Highway 280. Cross Skyline Boulevard, then look for the parking lot immediately on your right.

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Roaming Toro County Park: Simas, Eagle and Ollason Peaks (Monterey / Salinas)


A wee bit outside my normal dayhike radius, near Salinas, CA, lies “Toro County Park” http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/parks/toro.html (…not to be confused with the prominent “El Toro”, visible from Highway 101 in Morgan Hill http://www.morgan-hill.ca.gov/index.aspx?NID=1054 )

Back a few weeks ago, after chatting with a small group of local friends about weekend plans, Rebecca and I headed out to Toro County Park to summit the high points. Her blog post is here: http://calipidder.com/wp/2014/03/tour-toro-county-park-peaks-eagle-simas-ollason/#more-7506

It started out a bit gloomy and cool, but having looked at the forecast, we were expecting better things later.


“Sticky Monkey Trail”?!? Must be a good story behind that! (Addendum: http://www.Outdorky.com @TheGreatOutdork just reminded me that Sticky Monkey is a flower!)


Eagle Peak was the first summit, and still not much of a view!


After Eagle Peak, we dipped down into a small valley and saw a “mini Yosemite” and “Cows in the Mist”!




Finally the skies were clearing-up as we got closer to our destination at Simas Peak. We stopped at the fork in the road…


If you’re familiar with hiking in the coastal ranges of northern California, the rolling ridgetops and vegetation should look familiar.


Finally! Near the top of Simas Peak! Note the flat farmland in the middle of the picture, under the clouds. These peaks rise quite abruptly from the plains below.


…and then a leisurely walk back, including more cows. This youngster was neither afraid, nor accompanied by Mom.


This was an interesting tree we spotted on the way back: Split almost symmetrically down the middle!


BTW: There isn’t any decent topo map of this park. Load-up your GPS and study your route before you go. http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/parks/images/toro/Toro-hiking-map.jpg It seems few people venture beyond the drive-up picnic tables…

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Stan’s Donuts – a Santa Clara treasure, hiding in plain sight since 1959!

Strict Paleos, folks who don’t work off their excess calorie intake, and those not interested in history, please keep moving…there’s nothing to see here!

Credit: Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd (www.Calipidder.com)

Credit: Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd (www.Calipidder.com)

There is very little in Silicon Valley that’s more than a few decades old. Santa Clara County was mostly farmland until the 1960′s and 1970′s. Even the buildings from that era were low-density and have mostly been pushed aside in favor of even higher density construction. One beautiful exception to this “everything is new” situation are the Victorian and other older homes in the older core areas of San Jose, Santa Clara. Mountain View, and Palo Alto.

(All of which reminds me to stay away from the Apple construction site, where Wolfe and Homestead Roads have become a mess! http://alpharoaming.com/2013/12/06/new-apple-spaceship-campus/)

Then, there’s “Stan’s Donuts“! They’ve been in business since 1959, when Stan opened his shop in Santa Clara. He eventually retired and sold his shop to the current hard working family.


Talk about nostalgia, the menu, painted right on the wall, has not been touched in decades (except the prices, which are quite reasonable)

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Their $1.40 cinnamon rolls are huge! I recently measured one at over 6 inches diameter and 1.5 inches thick (hand-rolled, and still warm from the fryer!)


There are no machines and conveyor belts here. There are big tubs of dough, dumped on the floury table, which are then hand-rolled and cut before being manually lowered into the fryer…all in the front window for everyone to see!


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Yes, you can join the cupcake or “cake pop” fads, if you wish. You can also have a bit of kitschy fun locally at Psycho Donuts http://www.psycho-donuts.com/ (…or Portland’s similar VooDoo Donuts http://voodoodoughnut.com )

However…if you want a classic, hand-made, family-owned, dose of comfort food and three major foods groups (flour, sugar, frying oil), then Stan’s is my go-to place!

Stan’s Donuts, 2628 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051 (near San Tomas Expressway. At the left end of the Safeway plaza, across from the Santa Clara Library)

BTW: They’ve got huge and awesome Yelp ratings, and more photos to browse! http://www.yelp.com/biz/stans-donut-shop-santa-clara

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Adobe Springs – Magnesium-rich water near Patterson / Mt Hamilton


I was recently planning an interesting loop trip, which I had never completed in it’s entirety before. The loop is to go from San Jose, east over the prominent Mt Hamilton, then turn right towards Patterson CA (near Interstate 5), and back via Pacheco Pass. I discovered in my planning that there’s a source of Magnesium-rich water that is bottled and sold, yet is available FREE at the source. It’s called “Adobe Springs”.


I stopped-in here on a weekday in late March and chatted with a few guys from Turlock who were loading-up some large containers in the back of their Toyota truck. They were quite convinced of the health benefits of magnesium, as is the owner of this spring!


The owner, Paul Mason, seems to be quite convinced, through his own research, that the low amount of Magnesium in our water is a huge health issue. This prompted him to share his knowledge on his site http://www.mgwater.com/ as well as provide his water free to the public. (Benefits, water test reports, etc: http://www.mgwater.com/adobe.shtml)

Adobe Springs water is also bottled and sold via the Modesto 7-Up bottling plant under the “Noah’s” label, if you want convenient packaging and are not interested in the beautiful drive out here! http://www.noahs7up.com/

(The “Life Extension Foundation” did an article in 2005, including some additional details on Adobe Springs. A reprint of this article is posted on the main signboard at the spring http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2005/sep2005_awsi_01.htm )

Up the canyon is some sort of fenced-off infrastructure. I also believe the owner lives at the property.


Yes, this area is steep and barren, and has been scientifically linked to the planet Mars! http://www.geology.wisc.edu/~wiscsims/pdfs/Blank_PSS2009.pdf (…and also some good information and photos of this area)

Quote from Paul Mason’s website http://www.mgwater.com/adobe.shtml :


The Adobe Springs flow at a rate of 75,000,000 gallons per year, and contain 110 mg/L magnesium. Nearly all other American bottled spring waters contain less than 6 mg/L magnesium. This magnesium may prevent up to 40% of all heart disease. Two books mention Adobe Springs as one of the world’s healthiest waters, thanks to the high magnesium content:

•In Search of the World’s Best Water, by Bill Sardi
•The Miracle of Magnesium, by Dr. Carolyn Dean

Adobe Springs is the source for multiple brands of bottled water. One is bottled at the Seven-Up plant in Modesto, CA, under their label, Noah’s Spring Water, and distributed in California and several other states. Another brand, hiOsilver Oxygen Water, is bottled in glass in Modesto. The water is oxygenated for extra energy and to promote fresh breath.

The Adobe Springs are located in western Stanislaus County in an area so remote that there are no schools or delivery of U. S. mail. The area is so mountainous that no bottling plant can be built at the springs, so the water is trucked out in “doubles” carrying 6,600 gallons per load. The owner is Paul Mason, who lives at the springs. He spends most of his time doing research on the health benefits of magnesium and lobbying for greater recognition by the FDA of the health benefits of magnesium in water.

The elevation at the Adobe Springs is 1,375 feet above sea level, which keeps the springs pure. At that elevation in such rocky terrain, there is no agriculture or industry using insecticides, herbicides, chemicals, no smog, or anything else. The area is a rugged wilderness, too steep for any development.”

Thank you to Paul Mason for his research and generosity in sharing his water with the public!

Note: I was looking for Adobe Springs, driving east from Mt Hamilton, using the GPS address of 19000 Del Puerto Canyon, Patterson, CA. It took me to this place (below), which looks like it used to be a “watering hole” of some sort. The sign is painted-over, but there is one small useable faucet at ground level. I don’t know anything about this water or location. The “Adobe Springs” you’re looking for is just a bit downhill (east) from here.



Note: I am not a doctor or scientist, and I don’t want to hear from your lawyer. ;-) I am not giving any specific medical or nutrition advice, other than to say “this is an interesting place to visit.” Your comments are welcome at the end of this blog post!

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Kayaking Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing, CA (Monterey)

If you’ve ever driven the coast between the funky surf town of Santa Cruz and the touristy location of the Monterey Bay Aquarium (http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/) and John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row”, you’ve surely seen the Moss Landing Power Plant. …but, did you ever stop here to explore California’s abundant wildlife?


(The Moss Landing power plant has been in operation, using natural gas, since 1950. It appears to be quite environmentally safe, having been recently upgraded for cleaner emissions. Though I wonder where the 1.2 BILLION gallons of cooling water is discharged each day? In some places, like with the Manatees in Florida, there are interesting environmental effects of the warmer water near the discharge pipes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moss_Landing_Power_Plant )

Anyway, back to the day’s adventure! I did a “walk in” rental from Kayak Connection http://www.kayakconnection.com/ and they were quite helpful and friendly. In addition, Monterey Bay Kayaks http://www.montereybaykayaks.com/monterey_and_elkhorn_slough/ is right next door. It’s probably wise to make a reservation during weekends and the summer holiday season. I had no problems on a gloomy weekday in March!

After a quick safety video and assurances to the staff that I’m an experienced kayaker, off I went! I paddled around the end of the dock, past a protected sandy beach with some seals and birds watching me.



I paddled under the bridge, which is Highway 1, and headed east into the “open” water of the slough.


Pretty soon I became an item of interest to the seals…which, along with the otters, can actually try to board the back of a kayak!


There were quite a few sea birds, as well as many of the incredibly cute sea otters:


Smile for the camera. Nice teeth! (They love wrapping themselves in kelp and floating on their backs)


This is actually a pair of otters. The head you see belongs to the body on the left. It was hugging a smaller otter on the right (a large baby, perhaps?)


During my 3 hour foray of about 3 miles each way, I saw one group on the shore that appeared to be scientists. In addition to some fancy cameras and tripods, they were carrying a large antenna. I suspected they were tracking a seal or otter that had a transmitter on it.


Additionally, there were a handful of other kayakers, plus one larger tourist boat, which was moving carefully and slowly in this protected area


Did I mention there’s a very active dairy farm on the southern shore? It smelled a bit, but I’m fairly certain they’re a “clean” operation and not allowed to have waste runoff into the open water. I suspect it pre-dates when Elkhorn Slough became valued and protected for it’s wildlife.


After about 3 miles, where the wide part of the slough goes from “eastbound” to “northbound”, I hugged the right shore and turned around where the smaller “off limits” side channel began.


On my return trip, I hugged the right (northern) shore. Right near the Highway 1 undercrossing is a dock that is well known for the many sea lions that hang out in a very noisy and smelly group. The smell of the dairy farm was actually better!


That’s it! Make a reservation for you and your camera, or bring your own kayak to the nearby public launch site. When you’re done, consider checking out Phil’s restaurant a few blocks away http://www.philsfishmarket.com/ They’ve won awards (Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown” and from BBC Travel), but I’ve never been there…yet!

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