Coe State Park is a magical place, and I decided to return there one last time before we move to Massachusetts. I left the park headquarters at 11:50 a.m., and began hiking up Monument Trail. It was slow going with a full pack, but even at my slow pace I overtook an amateur herpetologist who showed my a Southern Alligator Lizard he was photographing. Naturalists walk even more slowly than old backpackers.
After four-tenths of a mile, I turned onto Hobbs Road. As I passed the Frog Lake campsite, I stopped for a moment to talk with a parent and child who were just setting up camp there. I asked the child if they enjoyed Frog Lake, and they told me they liked throwing rocks at the sunfish to “bonk them on the head.” I explained that the Bluegills were probably close to shore guarding nesting sites, and that it wasn’t a good idea to throw rocks at them when they were trying to raise the next generation of fish. The child was not fully convinced, but their parent, sotto voce, thanked me for reinforcing that message.
I climbed up to Middle Ridge Trail, for a total elevation gain of 800 feet in about 2 miles, turned right on the Middle Ridge Trail, and walked down to the Two Oaks campsite. I laid out my ground cloth and sleeping bag, emptied my pack of everything except food and water, then went back up to Hobbs Road. As I walked down the switchbacks of Hobbs Road, I admired the view of Blue Ridge rising steeply up on the other side of the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek.
Although it’s late in the season, there were still quite a few flowers in bloom. Patches of Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) made a faint pink wash on some steep hillsides. Yellow Mariposa Lily (Calochortus luteus), Butterfly Mariposa Lily (Calochortus venustus), and Globe Lily (Calochortus albus) stood out in the dry brown grasses. Dramatic white clusters of flowers covered California Buckeye trees (Aesculus californica). I had hoped to hike all the way down to Coyote Creek, but it was getting late and my legs were tired. Discretion being the better part of valor, about two thirds of the way to the creek I decided to turn around.
Back at the campsite, I could hear Wild Turkeys gobbling up the hillside above, and down towards Frog Lake. One got louder and louder, and a big tom walked within 50 feet of the campsite, stalking angrily along, presumably looking for a rival to confront. I made dinner, walked down to Pajahuello Spring to fill up my water bottles, and then sat and enjoyed the evening. I was in my sleeping bag before dark. I awoke later in the evening to see the Big Dipper overhead, but fell back asleep almost immediately.