Drought in Henry Coe State Park (The Narrows, Eagle Pines, China Hole)

I went on a fun and lengthy (~18 miles and ~3500 vertical feet) hike in Henry Coe State Park (http://www.CoePark.net) through some familiar terrain. http://www.strava.com/activities/208957413 The plan was to meet three other friends at park HQ at 8:30AM. Given that it’s October, I left the house shortly after sunrise and enjoyed the long shadows over Morgan Hill as I drove up to the park. (Note the low lake level, and the prominent El Toro peak at center-rear) IMG_1878

All four of us got there a bit ahead of schedule. We paid our fees, and chatted with the “INCH” hiking group, with about 20 participants heading in the same general direction. Beautiful sunny day!


High(ly flammable) grass! Let’s hope for some early and extensive rains this fall!


In the Manzanita Point area we stopped at Bass Pond. There are still fish there, but the water was VERY low


We zig-zagged down to China Hole, then started up “The Narrows”, which is a difficult hike when there’s water, but we saw very little of that…


Notice in the lower-right of this picture you’ll again see the 6 deceased turtles and the (cow or pig?) vertebrae. This spot still had some minor dampness and struggling water plants in the lowest spot.


A few spots along The Narrows did have enough water to support a few small fish.


In the Los Cruzeros area we saw zero water. The few pools we did see were to the south near China Hole.


This small deer appeared to be recently deceased. There was still velvet on the antlers and a mild smell.


An example of an “acorn storage tree” that I’ve seen many times in Coe. This one had an interesting spiral.


The normally reliable “Willow Ridge Spring” was bone-dry. Last year (also a drought year, but not nearly as severe) I passed through here 2 weeks earlier, on October 5th, and there was a bit of mud at the bottom of the trough (http://alpharoaming.com/2013/10/05/bikepacking-henry-coe-state-park-day-3-mississippi-lake-to-hq-via-poverty-flat/)

Ah yes, a really annoying hill on Willow Ridge Road, not far from the Spring.


We finally got to the area we had targeted. It’s a former trail, now missing from more recent maps, called “Eagle Pines Trail”. It passes over Eagle Pines Peak.


It’s a steep and high ridge, about 1000 feet above the creek below. We exited the north end of the ridge…then on down to the upper Narrows area, for a loop to where we came from.


Once down in the Narrows, the going was rocky, but relatively flat, once again.

We stopped in at the Arnold Horse Camp, where I bicycle-camped a year ago this month. http://alpharoaming.com/2013/10/05/bikepacking-henry-coe-state-park-day-1/ Last year the spring trough was full but not flowing. I enjoyed a quick sponge bath at the time. This year it was bone dry.

Below is the Arnold Horse Camp trough, early October 2013, in a “dry” year. It’s empty now! Can we have some rain, PLEASE?!?


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Mysteriously Misplaced Headstones in the Cupertino Hills

Back in January 2013 I was doing a little off-trail excursion in hills above Cupertino, CA. I was following an old, overgrown, unmarked road just to see where it went and as a possible shortcut to another marked trail. To my surprise I suddenly came across a clearing with a bunch of headstones!


I poked around a bit, after the shock started to wear off, and decided they were moved there…I had not stumbled upon an old cemetery!

Some of them appeared to be errors or “rejects”, like this stack of pink-ish ones.


Others, on the other hand, clearly looked like they were quite old and of historical value.


Old veterans



Loved ones and lost family members



…and even some that may tell the story of pioneer families of our area.


Why were they here? Well, I took these photos and promptly did a little e-mail “Q & A” with the Midpeninsula Open Space District (http://www.openspace.org/), on whose land I found these. They knew the stones were there, but believed them all to be “scrap” that the previous landowner had planned to use as landscaping or building materials.

Based on the age of some of these stones, I had to disagree! Mid-Pen was great, in that they were very open to a historical society or researcher working with them to identify and relocate the important ones. I had heard of “The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County” http://californiapioneers.com/ and their prior efforts to return gravestones to their proper location.

I quickly received an enthusiastic response from The Pioneers, who picked-up communication with Mid-Pen where I left off. They organized a coooperative venture with Mid-Pen to assess and photograph the headstones. I paid my annual dues to join the Pioneers and joined the enthusiastic assessment party.

Following the joint visit, The Pioneers rolled-up their sleeves and dug into some great research work. They were able to identify that several of the oldest ones had been removed from the historical Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak_Hill_Memorial_Park

Since that time, over a year ago, The Pioneers and Oak Hill have been working together, as time allows, to research these headstones in Oak Hill’s records. I’m hopeful they can soon be returned to their rightful locations!

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Cycling Woodside to Half Moon Bay (Kings Mountain Rd, Tunitas Creek Rd)


When the going gets hot, the hot go to the coast!

Love those NorCal “microclimates”!

I was looking for a challenging bike ride, as well as something a little cooler than what Silicon Valley, or (ugh!) Henry Coe State Park (http://coepark.net/) were forecast to be. I decided to repeat my previous ride from Woodside to Half Moon Bay, which was forecast to be ~25 degrees cooler. The San Benito Ale House (http://www.sanbenitohouse.com/) serves-up a great Bacon-Avocado-Cheddar Burger, which would be my destination and turnaround point.

I parked in Woodside, on the street near Robert’s Market (http://www.robertsmarket.com/). They’re quite bicycle-friendly, as well as having a faucet to fill water bottles to the right of their porch area. I often stop-in for an Arizona Ice Tea and a small hunk of cheese.

Here’s the right turn onto Kings Mountain Road:


Passing the old Woodside Store building on the left:


Just as I started enjoying the solitude of the climb through the trees, a paving truck passed me with a politely wide berth. Safe for me, but not so nice for the poor red Subie coming down the hill. The truck should have waited…The Subie and driver were fine (except maybe a wet front seat!). I directed them out of the ditch, without scraping bottom.


Passing by Huddart County Park. I’ve never been in the main entrance, but I have explored a bit from the lesser known (no bathrooms, no water. no parking fee) entrance up on Skyline.


Aahhhh! Redwoods! Nice on a hot day.


Kings Mountain Road crosses Skyline and becomes Tunitas Creek Road. The first of the 2 big climbs is now over!


Yes, this is the beginning of the same “Star Hill Road” that Neil Young lives on. (http://alpharoaming.com/2014/02/26/neilyoung/)


Halfway down (or up) Tunitas Creek Road is a convenient spot to stop. The creek along the road is not flowing, though there are a few stagnant pools remaining



Continuing the descent towards the coast, the ecosystem changes from redwoods to open and dry coastal scrub


Hang a right on “Lobitos Creek Cutoff” if you want the most direct route to Half Moon Bay. (Not the same as Lobitos Creek Road, further up the hill). If you’re not in a hurry, or if your bike or body need some assistance, stay on Tunitas Creek Road to visit the Bike Hut (http://alpharoaming.com/2014/05/05/bike-hut/)


Up and over a hill on Lobitos Creek Cutoff. This sign is at the top!


…and a pumpkin farm with a hay bale maze ready for the kiddies!


I decided to take the direct route to Half Moon Bay, which involves about 5 miles each way on Highway 1. There’s a respectable shoulder of about 4 feet, but the cars do move fast and cyclists have been killed or injured. (There is a way to avoid Hwy 1 entirely, but it’s longer and steeper: Verde Road, Purisima Creek Road and Higgins Canyon Road)

I see fog!


Burger time!


Heading back up the hill on Tunitas Creek Road towards the redwoods:


Silicon Valley is out there somewhere, after crossing Skyline Boulevard and starting the descent back into Woodside. Enjoy!


Strava Link: http://www.strava.com/activities/193258140

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Big Basin State Park: Waddell Beach to Berry Creek Falls & Beyond!

On September 7th I did a big hike of 20 miles with a few friends. Due to the warmer weather, we decided to head towards the coast and redwoods. Michael suggested starting at Waddell Beach in Big Basin State Park. Great idea!



Big Basin State Park was California’s first state park and one of the most popular. The campgrounds book-up very far in advance in the summer with families and tourists. There ARE several other entrances to the park for us “locals” who avoid the crowds and Visitor’s Center.

Park information: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=540

Park brochure and map: http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/540/files/BigBasinRedwoodsFinalWebLayout030311.pdf

From the scenic beach, with quite a few kite surfers, up we went!


After awhile we’d left the beach behind and enjoyed the cool, calm redwood forest.


The park has many trails, which are well-marked, though you do need a map of some sort!


Interestingly, we spotted this piece of old equipment. It was likely used to move logs out of the forest at some point. We noticed the large balloon tires, as well as the un-rusted wheels.


Upon closer examination we found the wheels were aluminum and had serial numbers, as well as a date of manufacture from 1942. Re-purposed aircraft wheels! …which were likely available right after the war at scrap metal prices.


It was wonderful to see and hear flowing water as we went uphill, given the extreme drought we’ve had recently.


Soon, we approached Berry Creek Falls, which, besides the large redwoods, is the most popular attraction in the park.


Most visitors to the falls walk downhill from the Park HQ, versus our uphill direction from the beach.



Above Berry Creek Falls, the waterflow is quite close to the trail. I suspect this may be closed and/or dangerous after a rain.


Sunset Camp is one of several “Backpack Camps” in the park. They take a little effort to get to, including packing your own water, but can be quite peaceful!


Continuing higher, we eventually lost all traces of water and redwoods. Like the neighboring “Chalk Mountain”, the soil is dry and less fertile than lower parts of the park. It appears to be ancient beach sand.


Chalk Mountain in the distance!


Getting ready to head down. Time for the redwoods again!


Let your eyes follow the valley, from close-in to the far horizon, just to the right of center. This was our route to/from the beach, which is just out of sight in the distance, about 8 miles as the crow flies.


There’s the beach! Almost back!



The park brochure and map are linked above. The beach entrance is on the coast about 20 minutes north of Santa Cruz (no cell reception!)

Here’s a link to the Strava track: http://www.strava.com/activities/191481024

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Kayaking Independence Lake – Nature Conservancy’s pristine spot (Tahoe Truckee)


The Lake Tahoe region is known as a “wonderland” for year-round recreation. It’s also known for it’s crowds! Just 22 miles north-west of Truckee lies one of the most pristine lakes in the West. It’s about the same size as Donner Lake, if you’re familiar with that (~3 miles long) http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/nevada/placesweprotect/independence-lake.xml

The Nature Conservancy purchased this entire lake from a private owner a few years ago and it’s open to the public…with some precautions to keep it pristine!

Because the former private owners ensured limited access, Independence Lake does not have any invasive species and is only one of 2 places that has a natural (unstocked / naturally replenishing) population of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. (Fishing is allowed with some restrictions. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and must be released. http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/nevada/independence-lake-fishing-information.pdf)

Damaging invasive species, such as snails, mussels, and plants, often hitch rides on watercraft. Because of this, no outside watercraft are allowed. HOWEVER, the Nature Conservancy generously provides a handful of kayaks on a first-come, first-serve basis to the public (and motorboats on alternate weeks). There is no charge for these watercraft, but I would encourage mailing in a donation after you get home!

The posted hours are 7:00AM – 7:00PM in the summer season. I visited on 2 weekdays in late July. One day there was an ample supply of kayaks (I was the only one on the water until about 10:00AM). The other day had a flurry of activity from an educational group and all the kayaks were taken well before 10:00AM.

If you’re a landlubber, or get there late, you may enjoy a hike along the shore. The northern shore is a truck road and the southern shore is a bit rougher, from the bit that I saw. I don’t think they connect at the far end.


Park at the designated area, and walk towards the caretaker’s cabin and sign in!



At one time there was a hotel and cabins here. One old building remains, besides the new caretaker’s cabin:


Walk down to the shore, a few hundred yards, and off you go! (FYI: There’s nobody to help you with the equipment, teach you to kayak, or to rescue you if you get in trouble! Wear the lifejacket and know what you’re doing. Watch for thunderstorms as well.)


In the early morning the water was incredibly still! The breeze typically picks-up later in the morning, giving you a small tailwind for your return…or a headwind on your outbound direction if you sleep-in and start late)



I kayaked the full length of the lake (approx 2.5 or 3 miles). While resting at the far end, along the left shore, I was “buzzed” twice by a bald eagle. Unfortunately my camera was stowed-away in a dry bag at the time. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen one, but definitely the best!


Around 10:30AM I started seeing “classic Sierra thunderheads” rolling towards me from behind the peaks to the right. I made my return to the launching point, and started walking towards the car and BOOM! …at 11:15 I heard the first nearby crack of thunder. What a great experience!



These directions are excellent (bottom of this page): http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/nevada/placesweprotect/independence-lake.xml Write them down, or take a screen shot, as your phone will be “off the grid” after you leave Truckee!

The Nature Conservancy recommends a high clearance vehicle, which I agree with. I drove the road when it was dry and had no problems in my normal 2WD sedan. Take it slow and watch for protruding rocks, where you should be experienced at putting your wheels on the high spots, not in the low spots.

Getting to Independence Lake from Interstate-80/Truckee, CA:

•Exit I-80 to Route 89 North – Sierraville.
•Travel approximately 15 miles North on Highway 89 to Independence Lake/Webber Lake/Jackson Meadow Reservoir turn-off.
•Turn Left/West off of Route 89 toward Independence Lake/Webber Lake/Jackson Meadow Reservoir.
•Bear left and stay on paved road for 1.5 miles. Turn Left/South at sign for “Independence Lake – 5 miles.”
•Continue approximately 5 miles to Independence Lake. The road becomes a rough dirt road. High clearance vehicle advised. After roughly 2 miles you reach a fork in the road and a sign for “Independence Lake – 3 miles.” Take the RIGHT fork of the road. After approx. ½ mile there is another fork, follow the LEFT fork across a stream. If you do not drive across a stream soon after taking this left fork, you have made a wrong turn. Continue along this road going roughly south.
•Follow the directional signs to the parking area.

Looking back after turning west off of Highway 89:


OK spelling geeks, how many times does the letter “A” appear in the name of this lake?


This is the creek crossing mentioned above. It’s easy if it hasn’t been raining recently. Just about 2 inches deep with some solid coarse gravel.


Typical section of the 5 miles to get there from Highway 89. Some sections are steeper and rockier than this:


That’s it! GET THERE EARLY if you want a kayak of your choice (and also to avoid possible afternoon lightning!)

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“Secret” Entrance to Pescadero Creek Park from Big Basin


Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn of a “back door” to Pescadero Creek County Park (and upper Big Basin State Park)? No crowds, no entrance fees, and great views of the Pacific Ocean if the weather is cooperating!


In the upper reaches of Big Basin State Park:


About 4 miles north of the park HQ, you’ll find a westbound turn on to China Grade Road. This is the upper boundary of the park and is quite sunny and dry compared to lower elevations.


Drive a few miles to approximately N 37° 12.900 W 122° 13.290 and look for a gated logging road and a small trail sign on your right at a pullout. (The coords are within about 100 feet of being accurate.) The logging road is not open to the public, but there’s a foot trail next to it that’s an “easement” for hikers and equestrians. It’s a bit over a mile, on the easement, from there to the boundary of Pescadero Creek County Park.


Be sure you have some sort of navigation skills and mapping tools. The first time I was here with a few friends, we ended-up missing where the trail crosses a logging road and went down the road for awhile…

Here’s the official map. The easement enters the main map at the extreme botton corner “Basin Trail Easement” https://parks.smcgov.org/sites/parks.smcgov.org/files/Pescadero-SamMcDonald-Memorial-Complex-Map.pdf …and the park brochure: https://parks.smcgov.org/sites/parks.smcgov.org/files/Pescadero-Complex-Brochure.pdf

Eventually you’ll “hang a left” and see some sandstone formations.


This one looks like a face. My water bottle was placed there for scale. (One friend asked what was the colored stuff in the bottom of the bottle! It’s a Nuun Electrolyte tablet. It is not a lab sample…


…and more typical views of the trail:


If you choose to continue to the north-west like I did, along the park’s boundary, you’ll eventually see a crossroads down to the main (lower) part of the park. If you REALLY want to “get remote” and do another few miles of even steeper dips…


You should (weather permitting!) be rewarded with some magnificent ocean views!




It’s a hilly roundtrip hike of 15+ miles:


You may even spot this odd stump with 3 significant “children” growing out of it:


That’s it! Enjoy your “no crowds, no entrance fees, and no drinking water” hike from Big Basin to Pescadero Creek Park.

Also consider a bit further down the road you parked on is Big Basin’s “Johansen Road” trail, as well as an even more obscure easement into Butano State Park. http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/540/files/BigBasinRedwoodsFinalWebLayout030311.pdf

and http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=2061281

There are also 2 other awesome hikes not “too” far from here. You’ll have to surf a bit (or drop me a note) to find those entrances. “Beverly Hillbillies crude oil” http://alpharoaming.com/2013/08/31/up-from-the-ground/ and Peter’s Creek remote old growth redwoods! http://alpharoaming.com/2013/09/16/peters-creek-old-growth-redwoods-portola-redwoods-state-park/

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The Wild Parrots of Sunnyvale!…and Telegraph Hill!

Many folks have heard of the movie “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”, released in 2003 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wild_Parrots_of_Telegraph_Hill Have you heard of The Wild Parrots of Sunnyale?

About 10 years ago they first caught my attention while I was in the parking lot of Toys-R-Us. I heard an unusual and happy cluster of “squawks” and looked up to see about 8 green birds flying overhead.

At that time there was one or two minor references on the internet, including one YouTube video. Now there are many more references, websites, pictures, and even their own Twitter account @SvlWildParrots

Rick Rutna has a great writeup from 2012, which is MUCH better than anything else. If you only read one link, read this one: http://ricktrutna.com/?p=13

Earlier material on the birds:

San Jose Metro from 1998: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/08.20.98/slices-9833.html

YouTube 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEctNrEQhFM
…and YouTube 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qrUa7Wp2x8
…and about 10 more videos if you search “Sunnyvale” and “Parrots”

A small article from 2009: http://www.examiner.com/article/stress-eased-by-connecting-with-the-wild-parrots-of-sunnyvale

More recent, and very nice close-ups, here: http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=482174

..and here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/larryhendler/2391148829/

A Geocache, for those of you who know what that is… http://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC1V23Z_wild-parrots-of-sunnyvale

Living not too far away, I have become accustomed to looking up when I hear their sounds several times a week. They apparently travel during the day and end-up back in or near Las Palmas Park for the evening. As for me, I enjoy their sounds and can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a cage instead!

There you go! A quick summary of the better links regarding this “almost famous” flock!

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