Two Oaks to Coe State Park HQ via Poverty Flats

At 5 a.m., I got up to make breakfast. The temperature was about 45 degrees — cool enough for a sweater, a jacket, and a warm hat. After eating breakfast and packing up, I spent some time looking at the huge mistletoes growing on a nearby oak tree. Two of them must have been more than fifteen feet long, huge dark masses hanging among the branches of the oak.

I started hiking at 6:25, climbing up and then turning right to hike down the Middle Ridge Trail. In about three quarters of an hour, I passed the junction with Fish Trail, then went up a little knob through a stand of Bigberry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca). The dramatic contrast between the rich green leaves and dark-red twisted trunks of the manzanitas was quite beautiful. More visual drama was to come. As the trail wound down Middle Ridge, every so often I’d catch sight of a huge bank of white fog filling the valleys beyond Poverty Flats.

Fog in the distance from Middle Ridge Trail, Coe State Park

Walking through such a landscape didn’t leave much room for other thoughts, which was fine with me. I looked at flowers, and walked, and that’s about it.

At about twenty past eight, suddenly I heard the sound of running water, and then rounding a bend I could see the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek. After crossing the creek, I dropped my pack, and spent half an hour resting. An Anna’s Hummingbird buzzed close to my head, and lots of other birds were singing in the brush along the water. A female Wood Duck was startled when I walked too close to her, and flew low along the water to another hiding place.

Middle Fork of Coyote Creek, looking back up at the Middle Ridge Trail

Poverty Flats Road climbs fairly steeply up from Coyote Creek, rising about 800 feet in a mile and a half. I took my time, pausing frequently to look at flowers, or to admire the view of Middle Ridge across the valley of the Little Fork of Coyote Creek. A couple of state park trucks drove down the road; those were the only two people I saw for most of the morning. Then once I got to the junction of Forest Trail and Corral Trail, at about 11:45, I passed several groups of people — dayhikers and backpackers starting the Memorial Day weekend early.

At ten past noon, I arrived back at park headquarters. While I ate my lunch, I talked with one of the park rangers. Then it was time to head home before the Memorial Day traffic got bad. And as I drove north up Highway 101 to San Jose, I could see that it was already stop-and-go traffic headed south.

Coe State Park HQ to Two Oaks

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.

Southern Alligator Lizard

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.

Blue Ridge, as seen from Hobbs Road, Coe State Park

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.

Field trip

We went for a hike in Henry W. Coe State Park today. There were still quite a few flowers in bloom, of which my favorite was the Butterfly Mariposa Lily:

Butterfly Mariposa Lily

The terrain was the usual steep hillsides of the Coastal Ranges:

Carol on the trail heading back from Frog Lake

The weather was ideal: 65-75 degrees, with a steady northerly breeze. We walked about 8-3/4 miles with 1360 total elevation gain, enough of a workout to make it seem worth while, but we took it slow so we didn’t get burned out. Just about a perfect day.