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Copyright © 2000-2002 by Michael Wimble, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Henry Coe State Park

There certainly were some adventures on this trip. I suppose we could have guessed so from the very beginning of the hike. We were to all meet at Julia's house, where we would go up to the trailhead in just two cars, and return to Julia's after the hike for a barbecue. Because of individual plans for doing things after the hike, two cars were to head directly to Julia's, and two other cars left our place to pick up other people along the way. But, when we met up with the people for pickup, they decided to take one of their cars instead, so now we were 3 cars, plus the two other cars that were going on their own. Dirk and I lead in one car, since I was the only one carrying directions to Julia's place, and the other two cars were to follow.

Dirk and I headed down 280, with Kathy and Sherman following in the van, and Robin and Laura following in another car. After a few minutes, I looked up and noticed that Kathy and Sherman weren't following anymore, only Robin and Laura. A bit later, as Dirk and I were talking away with each other, I looked up and noticed that we had gone by our exit, and no one was following us anymore. I called Kathy on the ham radio, and she said that they were taking a different route to Julia's -- and I could give them directions over the radio when they got close, and Kathy also said that Robin had a cell phone and Julia's phone number, so they'd figure out how to get there. Ok, were still had a way to all meet up at Julia's.

At Julia's, we filled up Kathy's van and Janna's van with the 10 of us and headed up the mountain. Janna's van, however, had some "interesting" seating arrangements in it. Let's just say that some of the seats had a strong preference for staying in a reclined position. I can only guess what they did in the back of the van. But, we did manage to get to the first parking lot without falling out of the seats and the car.

We had hoped that they would let us park right at the ranger station, but because of a big Mother's Day breakfast, they made everyone park at a different parking lot -- a half mile from the ranger's station.

When we got to the ranger's station, everyone went to make a "pit stop" before the long hike. As is usual in any public facility, there was hardly anyone in line to use the men's room, and a long line in front of the lady's room. When the men's room finally cleared out, though, the women began using it as well, and things went much faster.

While waiting for the women, the men all had a conference, looking at maps and reading data from Ron's GPS unit. As anyone who has been on a few hikes with us knows, one of the most dangerous aspects of any hike is men with maps. We are all absolutely sure where we are on a map at any given instant, and we all believe we're at a different point. The women just rolled their eyes and ignored us.

We had a short talk with some of the rangers, letting them know where we were going, and then we were off. We were a bit worried at the very beginning when we saw an oak caterpillar on the trail. If you look back at previous hiking reports to Henry Coe, you'll see just how bad the caterpillars can get if you go to Henry Coe at the wrong time of the year. But it turned out that we missed the caterpillar season.

The hike begins with a moderate, somewhat steep climb to the top of the first mountain. Janna was often in the back of the line as she took pictures, and pictures, and more pictures. At the top of the ridge, while everyone went on a short side trip to a vista point, I went out looking for snakes and taking pictures of the irises, which were a deep, vivid blue up there.

From the top of the mountain, there is a very steep climb down to Frog Lake. Several people slipped and nearly fell along the way. I think Janna only took 40 or 50 pictures on the way down the mountainside. At one point, I turned to Janna and said, "You missed a spot."

At Frog Lake, we took our first break and had water and snacks under some trees near a site that had a lot of damage from wild boar. Many of the lower parts of ravines showed a lot of damage from pigs. Julia took the opportunity to take a short nap, so it seemed, or maybe she passed out -- she's very good at relaxing at a moment's notice and it seemed pointless to wake her up to ask if she was asleep.

Then we climbed 500 feet to the next mountain top. Much of that leg of the trip was through great fields of wildflowers. The climb is gradual up to 2900 feet, down a few hundred feet and then up again to 2800 feet, with a short, steep hike just before the second peak. About a mile along this section of trail, someone heard wild turkeys calling from across the ravine. This was the perfect opportunity for Kathy to demonstrate her proficiency at turkey calling. Sure enough, she called, and they answered, a couple of times. Over the years, she's gotten very good at this -- along with calling peacocks.

By the time that we four in the back had reached that second peak, the 10 of us had widely separated into 3 groups. Those of us in the back decided to just stop and have a second break, not knowing where the others were along the trail. After the break, we eventually caught up with the second group that was also taking a break. After we all started out again, I saw Dirk and Laura coming back up the trail. Dirk had been calling me unsuccessfully on the ham radio and said, "You know Mike, the radios only work if you have them turned on." Well, I just hadn't noticed yet that Dirk and Laura were missing.

At this point in the season, there wasn't a lot of grooming on the trails. There was a lot of poison oak overgrowing many of the narrow trails. And some of the narrow sections along the nearly vertical mountain sides had eroded at the edges. Along one of those eroded sections, I fell off the trail. Again, the trails were narrow, ungroomed, overhung with poison oak, eroded, and -- OK, I was talking as usual and not watching my footing. As I was falling, I was flailing my arms just trying to catch onto anything. As I fell down the side of the mountain, I was sure that I was just going to keep falling until I hit the bottom of the ravine. But just before I disappeared from site, I managed to grab and hang onto the very edge of the trail with my finger tips.

Ron, behind me, and Robin, ahead of me, each grabbed one of my arms and pulled me back up onto the trail. My right knee was torn up, muddy, and bleeding. "You look like you were just mauled by a mountain lion," one of them said. And so that's the story I'm going with. I didn't fall off the trail like a dufous -- I was savagely attacked by a mountain lion and I went over the edge of the trail bravely defending the rest of the group.

Robin used her water bottle to help clean off the major portion of the mud and dirt. We then went further on a short distance until we came to the stream at the bottom of the ravine. There Kathy further cleaned my knee and constructed a bandage.

Zona was chasing after wildlife around the stream, like usual. She picked up foot-long lizards and a grasshopper that had red markings on it and cooed, "This is so beautiful, look how beautiful it is." Kathy, tired and hungry like the rest of us, looked up from repacking the first aid kit and said, "It's only a bug, for God's sake." That was so funny that it became our new catch phrase, as in. "It's only a mountain lion, for God's sake."

From the stream bed, we had to climb up to the top of the first mountain again. For some reason, however, this steep climb always goes quickly and doesn't seem so hard as climbing the previous mountains. By time we went through the pass near the top the mountain and crossed the meadow on the other side of the pass, we were about a mile and a half from the ranger station, and it's pretty much all uphill.

This is the only part of the hike I dislike. I'm usually tired at this point and it's a long hike yet. I stop frequently along the way and buzzards begin circling me in increasing numbers as I plod along. I often describe this hike as follows: "It's a fun 5 mile hike -- unfortunately, it's six and a half miles long."

After a mile, we came across a large group of other hikers. Then it's a short downhill past some of the most spectacular fields of wildflowers, and a final climb to the ranger's station where we began. The half mile from the ranger's station back to the parking lot is nearly flat and easy.

Then it's on to Julia's for a barbecue. It's also near her birthday, so we fire up some candles and sing loudly and off tune. There we were -- 10 fairly dirty people in Julia's very clean house. I immediately headed out back before I got tempted to sit my dirty self on her elegant chairs.

As often happens at our picnics, everyone brings an interesting dish or two to share with others. With 10 of us, that means there a lot of interesting food to sample. As we replace the sugar in our system, things just get sillier and sillier.

A couple of days later, I hear that pretty much nobody was sore from the hike. Dirty, tired, sure, but not sore. We often tell new people to the group that you don't have to come on very many hikes before you get in pretty good shape. And this group is in shape for the couple of other big hikes we sill have left this year.

For the gallery of pictures from the hike, click HERE.