Mono Pass & White Sierra Clothing (Rock Creek Lake)

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A few weeks back, on Labor Day weekend, I joined some friends on a mountain getaway, to the Bishop and Mammoth area. It was beautiful seeing bits of leftover snow at the top of Sonora Pass, after our record-breaking winter. (I did not see any Pacific Crest Trail hikers, like I did the previous July.)

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On our first night we met at one of the campgrounds in the June Lake area. June Lake offers some great scenery, a swimming lake, a few stores, and some high-altitude acclimation (acclimitization?), without the crowds of Mammoth Lakes.

Mom, and two babies behind her, visited the our campsite

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The next morning we had a great “diner style” breakfast, at the nearby Silver Lake Resort. http://silverlakeresort.net/

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After breakfast, we headed up the highest paved road in California, past Rock Creek Lake. The lake is at 9695 foot elevation, and we drove a bit past that to the trailhead, for an awesome hike.

We parked at the end of the road, along with many other cars, on this busy Labor Day weekend, and soon entered the “John Muir Wilderness”

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No, the trail was not flat, but thank you for asking!

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Up we go, higher above that lake down there…

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That’s “Ruby Lake” at 11,121 feet, and we’re heading westbound, just above the lake, towards Mono Pass:

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In the picture below, the 13,125 foot wall to our left, is on the edge of the map, SW of Mono Pass. We’re heading up to the right of the wall to Mono Pass:

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Here’s the top:

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This is the crest of the Sierra. The snow, where we are standing, drains NE towards Nevada, while the snow just up ahead drains to the Pacific Ocean

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Map and GPS track of the hike: https://www.strava.com/activities/1163602110

Later that weekend we enjoyed a visit to Coppertop BBQ, in Big Pine. http://coppertopbbq.com/ It was (oddly) rated as the best restaurant in America on a Yelp poll a few years back. I would say that was a bit skewed, but it’s very good, and definitely the best post-hiking food for 50 miles in either direction.   http://www.businessinsider.com/this-california-bbq-joint-was-just-named-the-best-restaurant-in-america-by-yelp-2015-1

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On our last night of camping, after it got too dark to take pictures, I started getting really chilly. I started thinking what I had packed (and not packed) in the car. After all, wasn’t it 95F degrees in Bishop just yesterday? Oops!

Oh! I have two new items from White Sierra, which were provided for my review.

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White Sierra is a small company, with their HQ right in Silicon Valley https://www.whitesierra.com/ They do some private label work, as well as their own brand. The story of the immigrant family that owns the company, is fascinating, yet shares a common theme with many other successful people. https://www.whitesierra.com/pages/family-heritage

The first item is a full-zip fleece, with a zipper pouch on the left arm, called the “Cloud Rest”. (A familiar name, if you’ve ventured to the less touristy parts of Yosemite.)

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Comfy, stylish, and I’m a fan of full-zipper clothing.

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The second item, that kept me warm at that high elevation campground, is the “Sierra Ridge II Stripe” quarter-zip (below). It’s much lighter than a fleece, and features a zipper pouch in the upper-left chest area.

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They are almost the same color, but very different in terms of the material and construction.

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The Sierra Ridge is light, in between a standard shirt and a sweatshirt. Soft and comfy!

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If you live in Silicon Valley, near Sunnyvale, they occasionally have close-out sales at their offices. If you’re not a “local”, they have an easy-to-use website for ordering. Using code “Alpha33” will get you a 33% discount at checkout.

Thanks White Sierra! …now go plan your next trip, and remember their hashtag #MyOutdoors

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Mt. Umunhum is open!

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NOTE: It has been “crazy busy” this first full weekend (Sept 23/24), with full parking lots, and motorists being turned back. You may want to consider waiting a few weekends, trying a weekday afternoon, or leaving your car at the bottom of the hill! (~7 miles and 2200 vertical feet, each way)

Thanks to the efforts of the Midpeninsula Open Space District ( https://www.openspace.org/ ) and the taxpayers of the neighboring cities, it’s now possible to drive, bicycle, and hike to the top of Mt. Umunhum.

Thanks to the efforts of the Umunhum Conservancy ( https://umunhumconservancy.org/) there’s actually something to see at the top! The historic Concrete Cube, visible from many miles away, has been saved from Mid-Pen’s bulldozers. (The work is not yet done, though. The cube needs to be sealed, or protected, to prevent long-term deterioration.)

All of the other buildings of the former Almaden Air Force Station (682nd Radar Squadron) have been removed. Some history and old photos here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almaden_Air_Force_Station

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If you’re inclined to hike or bike up, you can park at the intersection of Hicks Road and Mt Umunhum Road, or park about half-way up at the Bald Mountain parking lot.

View from Hicks Road parking:

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Bald Mountain parking:

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From the bottom, you can hike or mountain bike: Woods Trail > Barlow Road > Mt Umunhum Trail. Driving halfway up, you can pick up the Mt Umunhum Trail just a bit up the road from the Bald Mountain parking lot. (Mid-Pen’s page, plus a map link here: https://www.openspace.org/mount-umunhum-sierra-azul )

In all three parking areas: Hicks Road, Bald Mountain, and the summit, there are vault toilets and no drinking water. (Intrepid hikers or cyclists could bring a water filter and filter from the new horse trough at the summit. )

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Arriving at the top, there’s parking for about 30 cars, then 159 steps up to the main viewing area. (Disabled vehicle tag holders can drive all the way up, and bypass the 159 steps. A quick dropoff is also OK at the very top, without a disabled tag.)

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Along the side of the cube, and a few other spots at the summit, I was impressed to see benches made from solid pieces of redwood:

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The new Mt Umunhum Trail is quite well done, with many switchbacks, and an even grade. It’s 3.6 miles, in length, from just above the Bald Mountain parking lot:

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GPX Track: https://www.strava.com/activities/1193883351

…and if you’ve read this far, and still have time on your hands, here is a bit of what the freshly paved road looks like, followed by a portion of the new hiking trail (I took it very slow. I don’t recommend the trail on a skinny-tire road bike!)

 

 

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Big Sur – Exploring the Isolated Sections (Limekiln, Gorda, Kirk Creek)

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Incredible view, just south of Limekiln. (Kirk Creek is in the fog)

I’ve been watching the Highway 1 drama for months now, feeling bad for the affected businesses and hoping to pay them visit. Kirk Creek campground was calling out to me, and I recently saw that the pedestrian trail around the damaged bridge in Big Sur was now open to tourists. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/07/01/big-sur-island-open-to-the-public-again/ Time for a road trip!

Background: at the current time, there are 3 closures, creating two “islands” with limited access. From south to north:

(1) The HUGE slide, just south of Gorda, called “Mud Creek” or the “Mud Slide”. This will take a very long time…

(2) A minor slide, just north of Limekiln State Park, called “Paul’s Slide”. This is expected to be open by the end of this month (July 2017)

(3) The bridge, currently being rebuilt, which splits the town of Big Sur in half. This is expected to be complete in September 2017.

Big Sur Kate, a locally well known blogger, describes the closures, too. Watch her site for updated access information and maps: https://bigsurkate.blog/

My first stop, was to head to the “island” between #1 and #2, which has vehicle access on the twisty and scenic Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. Take it SLOW! Expect a construction or delivery truck in the middle of the road at every blind curve, especially weekdays. (I was there two years ago to climb Cone Peak https://alpharoaming.com/2015/01/05/cone-peak/)

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The bottom of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road,

I made the long and twisty drive down the road, and arrived at Kirk Creek at 5:00PM, on monday July 3rd. I was quite happy to find that there were 3 campsites remaining, without reservations. (These are usually impossible to get, without reservation months in advance.)

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Kirk Creek Campground, site 2B

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Fishing Boat

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Lounging in the right lane

After paying $35 for one of the best campsites in California, I cycled about 1.5 miles north, to Limekiln State Park, and closure #2 listed above. Limekiln was full, but hardly any other cars on the road. (This “Paul’s Slide” (#2) closure allows limited access for local residents and delivery trucks, heading north towards Big Sur. It’s a LONG way, via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, but does allow supplies to get in to the residents and businesses.

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Heading the other way, about 10 miles south of Limekiln, the road is blocked just south of Gorda. That’s the HUGE “Mud Creek Slide” that won’t be fixed this year. This completes the ~10 mile island between closures #1 and #2.

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Gorda itself, has a cafe, gas station, and small store. They were all open, but staff outnumbered customers on the afternoon of July 3rd. I ended-up seeing a “Serving Dinner” sign. just north of Gorda, for the Treebones Resort. http://www.treebonesresort.com/

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Treebones Resort was hopping!

I wandered up the hill to look around and the parking area was full! It’s a huge effort to get here for tourists, but it was doing well. I looked at the menu, and spotted an awesome seat on the deck, overlooking the ocean, and ordered a beer and an appetizer.

(I later peeked at their lodging availability on the website. They do have availability, if you want to go. They’re doing much better than the other businesses in Gorda. I suspect that’s because they are a “destination” for most visitors, rather than relying on people passing by.)

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The outside deck of Treebones, in Gorda, CA

The next morning, I headed back up N-F Road and Fort Hunter Liggett (…where you also may be delayed due to Army training exercises. Where else have you seen tiny bridges with an 80 ton weight limit?)

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The top of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road

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It’s a tough summer in the tourist business!

After a long drive north to Carmel, then south on Highway 1 to Big Sur, I arrived at the north end of closure #3. I parked the car a few miles before the end of the road, and got on the bicycle. At the end of the road, at “Big Sur Station”, I stopped in to ask about the pedestrian trail to the south. This would take me to the ~20 mile “island” between closures #2 and #3, that has access from the south for locals and delivery trucks.

The nice guy at Big Sur Station said my bicycle was welcome if I could “shoulder it”, as the trail was steep, with many stairs. My antique Specialized bike weighs only 17 pounds, so off I went! The trail starts at site #31 of the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground.

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North end of the trail. Site 31 in Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground

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About 400 vertical feet of climbing

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A view from the trail

In the ~3/4 mile trail, I passed about 20 people heading the other way. They were a mix of locals and tourists. They were all friendly, except one grumpy lady who cursed at me for having a bike on the trail. I guess she doesn’t like tourists who spend money… (Oh, I had just passed two State Park Rangers, who greeted me!)

At the “Southside”, two friendly folks from Nepenthe http://www.nepenthebigsur.com/  pointed the way to the Big Sur Taproom and told me that the number of tourists had greatly exceeded expectations!

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South end of the trail, 1/4 mile from the Taproom & Deli

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Some local residents’ cars

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I stepped inside at about 3:00PM, and had the place to myself, except for 3 local residents, and one other tourist who arrived after I did. (WiFi, too!)

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4th of July at 3:00PM

I reversed my course, and headed home! Great trip!

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Next time, I would consider arriving earlier to Big Sur, and cycling, or taking the shuttle service to Nepenthe. It’s a unique opportunity to visit Nepenthe, while the tourist traffic is lower and they NEED your support.

When Paul’s Slide (#2) is finished later this month, it will be possible to drive to Nepenthe and the Taphouse, via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. A very long drive! I expect they will still be slow for the rest of the summer, until the Big Sur bridge is reopened later in the year.  GO!

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Walsh Peak Trail, Pacheco Camp @ Henry Coe State Park

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I had been to Pacheco Camp a few times before, but never had a chance to camp there. It has a great old cabin (no access!), plus clean fresh water and a cold shower, piped from a spring uphill.

During the recent Backcountry Weekend I was again reminded that the abandoned trail across Walsh Peak had been restored about 2 years ago. I had a free weekend, and I hadn’t been bikepacking in awhile…

With a bit of free time for an overnight, I headed to the (summer weekends only) Dowdy Ranch entrance. I registered for my trip, including leaving my car overnight. http://coepark.net/pineridgeassociation/planning-your-visit/visitor-centers-and-park-entrances/dowdy-ranch-visitor-center

Just after you leave the Visitor’s Center, you’ll see this welcoming sign, below!

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Welcome to Henry Coe! 20% grade is perfectly normal!

…and below is Tie Down Peak. (Never again! https://alpharoaming.com/2012/09/26/rattlesnake-adrenaline-rush-tie-down-peak-at-henry-coe/

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Tie Down Peak!

“Hole in the Rock” is a beautiful swimming hole, just upstream from Pacheco Crossing. It was clean, clear, and flowing, though it can dry-up in the summer

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Beautiful flowing water “Hole in the Rock”

Below shows the forces of this past winter’s floods. This “trickling” creek left flood debris 8 feet up, in a wide channel!

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Flood debris, 8 feet up.

Finally, I see pink ribbons about where the steep side Walsh Peak Trail should be. No brown signposts yet, so you need to study the map and know where the trail should be. Below you can see how steep the climb is: 1000 feet, over one mile, and this is just the beginning!

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Starting my climb!

Below, the ecosystem changes as you go up. I saw one Horned Toad up around here. I couldn’t take a picture without my loaded bike falling off the mountain (seriously!)

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The ecosystem changes

The summit register, below!

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The summit!

This log, below, was done by some influential people at Coe. I heard this hike helped start the effort to restore the trail

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Old summit register

The loaded bike near the summit. About 65 pounds, in total, including my heavy winter sleeping bag. I was cold at Backcountry Weekend and this day was even chillier. It was worth carrying!

The climb was about 2/3 the height of the Mt Sizer “Shortcut” that I did 3 years ago. (Third photo shows the same bikepack rig, with more water and less sleeping bag! https://alpharoaming.com/2013/10/05/bikepacking-henry-coe-state-park-day-1/ )

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About 1/4 mile from the top

Heading down, with some random dead tree, to remind us that there hasn’t been a debris-clearing fire here in many years.

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Views!

The barbed-wire fence on the left is the line between Santa Clara County and Stanislaus County, which passes over Walsh Peak.

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The easy way out!

The camp! Enough sunlight to take a quick, chilly, shower, and lay out on a picnic table in the sun.

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Pacheco Camp

Headed back the next day, sweeping across the ridge to the right, and over the distant summit.

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Heading back, over yonder peak!

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Rest…I have all day!

Strava link, showing 16.5 miles and 3719 feet of climbing https://www.strava.com/activities/986641353

That’s it! Plan you trip carefully. Bring lots of water and tell someone your route! http://coepark.net/pineridgeassociation/ I also carry a DeLorme InReach satellite communicator. Cell phone signals are available on some ridges and peaks. Enjoy!

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White Sierra Clothing Review #ThinkOutside #MyOutdoors

Recently, the local, family owned White Sierra company sent me a few items to evaluate. I’m happy to support them in my own little corner of cyberspace. They’re just down the road, here in Silicon Valley, and have a great “American Dream” story! https://www.whitesierra.com/pages/family-heritage They have periodic closeout sales in their Sunnyvale HQ, where I had a chance to meet the husband and wife owners, and connect with the company.

What did I get? Clockwise, from top-left: an “Insect Shield” bandana, an “Insect Shield” stretchy scarf or headcover, “Rocky Ridge II” pants, and a “Kalgoorlie II” Long Sleeve Shirt.

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Both the “Multifunctional Headwear” and the bandana contain a small amount of permethrin insecticide, which survives multiple washes, and is EPA-registered as safe for normal use.

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Below, you see the information card, confirming it’s safe for normal use. These two products seem quite interesting. Seeing that we don’t have any bugs to speak of, in this area, I’m anxious to give these a try on my next camping trip.

The headwear is $25 on https://www.whitesierra.com/collections/insect-shield/products/bug-free-multifunctional-headwear?variant=15311797894 There’s also a wide selection of similarly treated clothing https://www.whitesierra.com/collections/insect-shield

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The Kalgoorlie II Long Sleeve Shirt is a light fabric, offering full protection from sun (SPF 30). Excellent ventilation features include: interior mesh, a horizontal flap across the back, and roll-up sleeves with a retaining tab. I usually wear long sleeve runner’s shirts when I hike, but these ventilation features are superior. ($43.00 https://www.whitesierra.com/collections/mens-tops )

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The Rocky Ridge II pants offer a similar lightweight fabric, with simple and comfortable construction. Perfect for summer hikes where you want your legs protected and covered. Front slash pockets, rear Velcro pockets, elasticized waist, and a single snap closure.

I often wear “zip-off” or “convertible” pants when I hike. These pants are lighter, and faster drying. I rarely ever remove the legs of the zip-off pants, anyway, because it requires removing my boots. I’ll be giving these a try soon! ( $45.00 https://www.whitesierra.com/collections/s17-new-men/products/rocky-ridge-ii-pant?variant=36542283398 )

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White Sierra regularly publishes discount codes, as well as offering free shipping over $100. If any of their items interest you, check the hours on their Sunnyvale store fro closeouts, or buy their new items for 33% off list price, from their website (Code: “ALPHA33“)

The end! Go take a hike!

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Madrone Soda Springs – Henry W. Coe State Park

On a steep side trail, not far from the HQ of Henry W. Coe State park, is a quiet meadow, by a creek. A few small remnants remain of what was once a hotel and resort. “Madrone Soda Springs” is not as widely known as Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs, but shares a similar background, when tourists and vacationers didn’t travel far from home!

Believe it or not, there is still valuable information that is not yet on the Internet! The best source of information I’ve found is called: “The Mineral Springs of Santa Clara County”, by Ian L. Sanders. ($19.95, plus shipping, on Amazon, as I write this http://a.co/7Jklu8J ) I’ll throw you a few teasers from the book, and if you want to know more, you’ll have to buy a copy!

The waters here were known to the early Ohlone natives, with a Mexican settler first claiming them in 1866. Cabins and a pavilion were built around 1880, and a Post Office existed from 1883 to 1895! From those bustling years, the property declined in the early 20th century, and was eventually added to the Coe family’s ranch in 1938. (Now “go buy the book”, which includes 8 pages of text and photos!)

Start your visit at the Henry W. Coe Visitor’s Center. The stuffed Mountain Lion watches over the cash register. $8.00 for parking, or else…(or else you can ride your bike here, or show your Annual Pass!)

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If you don’t already have an official map, you’ll probably do fine without one for this short trip. Follow the signs, about 3 miles, to Manzanita Point, and turn right.

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Down you go…about 900 feet, from Manzanita Point, to the creek below.

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The creek is often dry in the summer, but in the record rainfall year of 2017, it’s likely to keep going well into the summer.

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Hang a left when you get to the creek. (There’s really no other way to go!). Soon, on your right, you’ll see the “Madrone” sign, with an old stairway behind it

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…and a basin, of some sort, in front of the sign, marked “1941”. One of Coe’s former Park Rangers tells me that this basin used to be where visitors could partake of the bubbly waters. It was from a shallow spring, below this basin near the creek. During my visit in March 2017, following a record winter for precipitation, I had hoped to find bubbly mineral water once again coming from the ground, but I failed!

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That’s about all there is to see here, except a small cobblestone “cooler room” a few steps further down the trail on your left, plus a collapsed cabin about 1/2 mile downstream.

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You may also wish to explore the meadow, which had two tents and four first-time visitors to Coe when I was there.

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In this same general vicinity, there is a VERY overgrown trail into the “Lakeview Zone” portion of the park. It has great views of the valley, towards Morgan Hill. Navigation is very tricky and involves large quantities of poison oak, ticks and thorns. Unfortunately, the area became off limits after my two visits.

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After poking around, and contemplating the area’s history, you can proceed downstream to China Hole, or head back the way you came.

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A newly falllen tree, below, after the particularly harsh winter we just had.

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This tree, below, made me realize that there hasn’t been any fires close to HQ in a very long time.

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Plan your visit! The park HQ is on a twisty mountain road, east of Morgan Hill, CA. The website is http://www.CoePark.net

At a different entrance to the park is the better known “Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs”. The Ian Sanders book, mentioned above, includes about 35 pages on Gilroy Hot Springs. He also has another book entirely dedicated to GYHS. GYHS has many structures still standing, and is well known for providing a temporary place to stay for Japanese-Americans after their release from internment in 1945. The area is closed, except for special events. They have a supporting organization, which (I think still) gives guided tours, though their website needs updating! http://www.gilroyyamatohotsprings.org/ It’s listed on the “National Register of Historic Places”. You can find quite a bit of information about it, as well as photos, on the internet, including Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilroy_Yamato_Hot_Springs

The End!

 

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Washouts in the Hills, Flooded Coyote Creek down below!

It’s been about 3 months since my last blog post. Why? Well, three reasons: I’m working 5 days a week now, I’m short of ideas within an hour of home, and the weather has been, um, “interesting”!

Below is a photo of Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) near Castle Rock State Park. It’s a major thoroughfare in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This will NOT be repaired quickly. It’s about 200 feet deep and very wide. Look at the people on the other side and the downhill side of the slide. (This photo was widely spread on social media, without credit to the photographer. I’d be happy to add credit if anybody knows the source.)

img_4414In addition to that photo, someone in the Santa Cruz Mountains is collecting various (unattributed) photos from around the area. It seems all the backroads have been affected in the area.https://www.facebook.com/nick.moless/media_set?set=a.10154626617431284.1073741833.615776283&type=3

I got a late start, and decided to stay out of the hills. I went to investigate the Coyote Creek Trail, by driving to Hellyer Park in San Jose and heading south by bike. Oops! I got about 1/4 mile on the trail, near the Hellyer Velodrome (which is a great place to see or learn cycling on a banked track http://www.ridethetrack.com/ )

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I checked my Google map, and found a way around, via a road bridge and a few residential streets. Here’s the view from the other side: Fast and deep. It might work for a high clearance vehicle, but it might not…

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After going around, I headed north from Hellyer, towards the northern end of the Coyote Creek Trail, and an area known to have homeless camps. Below is where I turned around. Fast, deep, and close to the northern end of the trail.

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Notice, below, the Great Blue Heron. It’s tough looking for lunch when the water is murky and moving fast!

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So..I managed a whopping 4 miles, round trip, until I hit fast water in both directions. (GPS track here: https://www.strava.com/activities/862955138 )

I put the bike in the car and headed south to where the trail crosses Bernal Road / Silicon Valley Blvd. About 2 miles of cycling northward, not too far from where I was before moving the car, deep water appears again. The creek is to my left, but spilling over at a depth of about a foot. Not moving dangerously fast, but I didn’t want to soak my hubs and feet.

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After that turnaround, above, I headed south from Bernal Road / Silicon Valley Blvd, and got in a few good miles and a glimpse of (gasp!) BLUE SKY and flowers.

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A little bridge, near the power plant and the small waterskiing lake. Usually a trickle in the summer.

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Below is allegedly the geographical center of the county, as marked by some IBM engineers about 30 years ago. The background engraving says “Santa Clara Valley”.Parlez-vous ASCII?

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Oops! a little past the power plant and http://www.coyoteranch.com/ , north of Bailey Avenue, I came across more “deep and wide”. Back to the car! (My second GPS track of the day. I managed 13 miles, round trip, between the flood plains! https://www.strava.com/activities/863031910 )

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The sign below is new and makes the point better than the usual type of sign!

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Back to the car, and a quick look at overflowing Anderson Dam, that’s releasing at the water you’ve just seen…followed by a stop at “The Running Shop and Hops” in Morgan Hill. 51 taps, nice people, and “BYOFood” or order from a nearby pizzeria for delivery.

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That’s it! The mountains are crumbling and the lowlands are flooded. Maybe I’ll stay home and do a blog post and install TurboTax 2016!

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