Place: Henry W. Coe State Park, Morgan Hill, California
Length: 9 miles
A few years ago I found out about Henry W. Coe State Park and immediately booked a camping trip there for my family, plus a good friend who came to visit us at that time. It was late in November, and the park was cold, bare and dreary. On top of that, some of us got bitten by ticks. To sum it up, our first experience there wasn't the greatest, and I was in no hurry to return there.
In the last couple of years, however, I've been thinking that it might be time to reconsider my opinion of this park. I've met people who've been there and loved it, and I've been seeing photos online. and still, I kept putting it off.
Until I was looking for a group campsite for our 4H Camping Project and found that the only available site for the date we had was at Henry Coe. A clearer sign that this I couldn't expect, so I booked a group site and headed there to check it out.
Manzanita Point Campground is 2.5 miles removed from the parking lot. Campers are allowed to drive two cars only to the campsite, everyone else walks.
I left home at dawn to avoid passing San Jose in the morning rush hour, so I arrived at Henry Cow very early. The place appeared deserted. Only one other car was parked by the closed visitor center. I parked next to it and walked around the place, looking for the trailhead.
California Quails were running near the roads and scattered away as I approached, not recognizing me as one of their own :-)
|California Quail, male|
|My hike at Henry W. Coe as captured by my GPS|
The shade and cold didn't hold any bloom back and under the oaks were all the little blue flowers i could think of.
The flowers themselves were enough to make me happy. It was spring galore.
All the way to the campground I was going in and out of oak groves, spaced by large areas of open grassy slopes.
It was about mid way to the campground that I first noticed the irises. There was a group of them under the oak trees and they were very short. If not for their intense blue color I'd probably have missed them. At first I thought these were just stunted versions of another iris species I was familiar with from other places in the area, but as it turned out, these were ground iris - species that's normally short. All the irises I saw at Henry Coe that day were of that species, and that was the only place I've seen them as of yet.
The grassland was almost all old-world invasive grasses. the most common being the wild oats, with other grasses poking over the see of oats here and there.
Patches of clover and other flowers gave their colors to this part of my hike. There were also small manzanita bushes here and there: a prelude to the giant manzanita grove that was down at the point.
There was a D'Artagnan there as well who' s trying to join them but they kepy chasing him away.
They walked on the trail just ahead of me, and I was keeping a respectful distance from them, until they eventually slipped into the vegetation again and merged with the shadows.
I don't fish. I focused on the wildflowers around the lake, one of which was another species that was new for me: the large-flowered Leptosiphon .
But when else would I have this wonderful opportunity to explore this park before spring was over?
So I moved on. I turned right (south) on the narrow Madrone Soda Springs trail and started downhill.
I yearned to take my shoes off and wade in the water but I hadn't the time so I kept pushing on.
|Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)|
|Royal Larkspur (Delphinium variegated)|
Even with the tree cover I couldn't quite call it a forest. The woodland star didn't mind.
|Hill Star (Lithophragma heterophyllum)|
When I finally arrived at China Hole I was already 15 minutes behind my allotted time, and I was still facing the uphill part of the hike. All I allowed myself was to click a few photos and start up China Hole trail without delay. It was particularly sore because China Hole is the most beautiful place along this hike.
And that's why when I returned there with the 4H group I dragged everyone downhill back to China Hole. The second time around I did take my time. I took lots of time, to properly enjoy the place and its charms.
|China Hole at Coyote Creek|
|China Hole at Coyote Creek|
|Lupine (Lupinus sp.)|
|A view of China Hole from the trail.|
|White Globe Lily (Calochortus albus)|
I was focused on getting up fast. I've seen power walkers take headphones on their walks, but I never do that, as I much prefer the sounds of Nature. But when I in need of a power walk, I tend to run marching rhythms in my mind, usually the same one over and over. This time it was the late Ronnie James Dio blaring inside my mind, "Maaaan on the Siiiilveeer Moooountain!"
I was on the roll, marching on and on. Only a flower could stop my on my march. A humble chaparral flower under the chamise bushes.
|Coyote Creek, a view form above.|
Finally the trail started leveling off, and in a good time because the fast pace and the up-slope had left me winded.
I then entered giant manzanita rhealm.
The way by Manzanita Point Road, at least up to the meeting place with Corral Trail would be shorter, but it also meant going more uphill, and my muscles were already protesting loudly. I walked up to the intersection with the Springs Trail, decided I didn't feel like going uphill again and started down the narrow Springs Trail where I had came from in the morning.
A few minutes after making that choice I looked at the time, swore, and turned around back to Manzanita Point Road. I'd have to go uphill by the shorter route because it was way too late to go down Springs Trail.
It was the better decision. The uphill part was over quickly and then I was walking on the ridge with a beautiful view of the high plateau. A fantastic carpet of California poppies matted the grass and the sight was magnificent.
|California Poppy ( Eschscholzia californica)|
|California Ground Squirrel|
In the end I was late, but not by much. The chikas were a bit miffed but forgot all about it after I fed them lunch. My muscles took more time to forget this crazy race against the clock but by the following weekend when it was time to go back there with the 4H group I was fine again and ready to go back down to Coyote Creek.
Henry W. Coe is a beautiful park. I really shouldn't have waited so long to get a second impression.