First, I would like to thank all the people who put up their trip reports because they are such motivating factors for me. Although I made several fastpacking trips last year (Tahoe Rim Trail, John Muir Trail and the Ouachita Trail) and bought a camera, I am embarrassed to say that I did not take a single picture.
I am planning a fastpacking trip (averaging 40 miles per day) along the Colorado Trail at the end of August 2009 and have begun training for it. Looking for opportunities between work and family to get out and test my endurance early in the season, I heard a rumor that Henry Coe State Park is for serious backpackers. Anxious to go, I teamed-up with fellow BPLer Jesse Gibbs and set a date for April 10 & 11. Feeling up to the challenge and ready to get our shoes dirty, I was not disappointed.
We started at 6 am at Coe Ranch and reached our first climb up to Blue Ridge road – we climbed a steep 1500 ft in 1.25 miles! This was one mean climb. As we walk along Blue Ridge we where constantly rewarded with beautiful grass valleys and meadows
and many ridges with fire roads running along them.
We ended up at the beautiful Arnold Camp spring, collecting several deer ticks along the way through the tall grass.
After getting water, we headed off for Bear Mountain which was another solid climb of 1400 feet over 2.5 miles. The mountains around this area had colors I have never seen before – it’s as if one actually painted these hills with splashes of bright green, yellow and orange. A close-up shows that its combination of various wild flowers.
This is the view back from Bear Mountain:
Because of a fire a couple years ago, many trail markers in this part of the park where gone and we missed critical trails. After 10 miles of back tracking and 4 hours of “wasted time” we found the elusive and obscure Chaparral trail. From here on, we started relying on the compass and a very careful inspection of the landscape from the map. We really had an adventure on our hands. Unfortunately, I missed doing the very thing I came for – to climb Mount Stakes.
From Chaparral trail we made our way to Red Creek Road,
which lead us to Jackrabbit Lake for the night. So for day one we walked 36 miles and climb about 7,500 ft.
Day two started at 5 am for Jesse getting breakfast while I attended to my feet’s known hot spots with benzoin, Leukotape and BodyGlidue on both my heels (I usually eat breakfast while I walk). Since I’ve done numerous 40 miles per day, I know my body well enough to prepare for the long miles. It was very cold (under 40 F) but we warmed up very quickly climbing up Mustang peak; a 6 am 1100 ft climb! Here is one of the views up to Mustang Peak where the tiny hump in the middle is Lick Observatory on Mt Hamilton.
Moving along Long Ridge road to the obscure Dutch’s trail (again picking up many deer ticks along the way),
through Center Flats road (which was a series of many intense short climbs)
to Vasquez trail and then back up to Kelly Lake. At Kelly Lake, we stop here to add more BodyGlide to our toes and heels, and collect water. This was our 20 mile marker for the day. Following Willow Ridge we make a significant descent from 2600 ft to 1100 ft and came out of the woods looking at this last climb:
We are now at 1100 ft and our cars are at 2700 ft – for those unwilling to do the math like me at the bottom, it’s a 1600 ft climbing over 4 miles. At the end of the day when I am faced with a long tough climb I always use an mp3 player for motivation and charge the climb. Day two totals where 35 miles and climbed about 11,500 ft. A great second day!
Even though I have spent most of my time in the Sierra’s, I was quite surprised to find how challenging Henry Coe State Park was and it’s a little over an hour away from my home. I now have plans to come back next year around this time (when water is plentiful) to try and do the complete circumference of the park. I expect it would take 3 days to complete about 110 to 120 miles.
If any fastpackers are interested in joining Jesse and I in future adventures, we would love to hear from you.