Trip Report - Henry Coe State Park

Frog Lake (Jody Pritchard) More photos below.

By Jody Pritchard

Springtime in the young Pritchard family is becoming the season for a solid butt kicking at Henry Coe State Park. Preparing for a year of backpacking just isn't complete anymore without a visit to this local slice of rugged backcountry early in the calendar. This year's trip was our third time at Coe and we came prepared for the challenge… well mostly.

On a beautiful sunny morning in mid April, Matt and I took the now familiar road that climbs from Hwy 101 into the hinterland that lies between the Central Valley and the Morgan Hill area. This is the gateway to an adventure we feel is best experienced in the spring, when the park is bursting with life.

The friendly Park Ranger at Headquarters painted an irresistible picture of Upper Camp, ("Oh, you'll love it! Its nestled right by the water and is so quiet and beautiful!") We began our hike up the Monument Trail towards our evening's luxury accommodations. The trail afforded great views to the west and was covered in bright poppies announcing the arrival of the long awaited warm weather after a very wet and publicized California winter.

Our hike to camp included pine trees (Jody's favorite!) at the top of the aptly named Pine Ridge and a selection of wildflowers too large to list (we don't know their names anyway). We met up with Hobbs Road and, like most dirt roads in Coe Park, it went one of two directions that Coe roads go: straight up and straight down. When we bottomed out at Frog Lake, we took a breather and noticed a very odd shaped oak tree - check out the picture below.

We climbed back up to the top of Middle Ridge using Hobbs Road, but we noticed some mountain bikers taking a trail through the lush woods and were a bit envious. We checked the map and decided to take Frog Lake Trail back down the next day. On our way down the backside of Middle Ridge we saw ten, yes TEN smooshed lizards on the road spread over the course of two miles. We have no idea how they met their demise, but it was interesting to wonder.

At the bottom of the ravine we could hear the Middle Fork of Coyote Creek churning and knew we were near. Although what we saw was a giant thicket of poison oak with a sign in front of it, "Upper Camp & Mexican Flat" and an arrow pointed directly at the mess. Matt and I glanced at each other, shrugged, and proceeded through very carefully using our trekking poles to push the plants out of reach. We made it through and found our campground labeled on a secluded grassy knoll questionably close to the water. You've got to be pretty salty to keep going to Mexican Flat - the trail isn't easy to track and is blanketed by the poisonous stuff.

Some folks think we have adventurous hobbies, but truth to be told, my very favorite backcountry activity is napping. Curling up with in a fresh breeze after a tough hike and a long work week is a FABULOUS way to spend a Saturday afternoon. This time, we got a little carried away and it was nearly dark by the time we got up to cook dinner. Since Matt found a couple ticks crawling around on his legs in the afternoon we also did a very careful tick search on one another prior to hitting the sack for the night.

NOTE: Despite our careful efforts, I did find a tick nestled in on my hip while showering when we got home. Matt removed it for me using a pair of tweezers and some righteous pulling - those little guys can hang on with their barbs! Even though lime disease is not common here and the tick was on for less than 24 hours and not engorged, we did call the doctor to check in for advice. Everything turned out fine, although the spot still itches occasionally even 6 weeks later, and I've got a little round scar.

The next morning, before we headed down Frog Creek Trail, we encountered the unexpected as we stopped for a snack. A lone hiker who had passed us earlier and was headed back towards the trailhead paused and asked, "Excuse me, are you Matt and Jody?" We looked at one another with a mutual understanding that this hiker had been sent to find us and deliver terrible news about a looming family crisis. "I recognize you from your website."

Dumbfounded. I wanted to double over in laughter. Were we now Bay Area hiking celebrities? The hiker introduced himself as Matt and mentioned he visited sierrasoul occasionally and appreciated the info we posted. It is very cool to find out that people other than ma & pa check it out - but what are the chances of being sighted on the trail?! Thanks Matt, continued happy trails to you!

We chuckled for awhile as we continued the trek home on my now favorite path in Henry Coe State Park. Flat Frog Trail begins at the Little Fork of Coyote Creek between the Middle Ridge and Pine Ridge and is a truly enjoyable hike. Unlike most trails in the park, it climbs gently, and is shaded much of the way. Between the lush grasses, chirping birds, and multitudes of flowers, we were really enjoying ourselves and felt the peace Mother Nature shares in her Sunday church.

This trip was different than two prior visits to Coe. I was far from the tears of last year having taken extra precautions to hydrate well and add a little flavor packet to the creek water. I think we were both in better shape, and, well, the hike was a helluva lot shorter. So that helps.

We may have chosen a moderate route this year, but we've made big plans for the next trip. We're calling it the Triple Crown of Henry Coe: A hike that covers the three major ridge lines of the park's Western Zone. Check the Adventure Log in spring of 2006 and make sure we're not full of bunk… we probably are, but we'd like to prove you wrong.

Questions or comments about this trip report? Let us know.