Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Henry Coe Fastpacking 2015: Conquering Stakes

I was at work the other day and saw a three day weekend coming up.  The thought occurred to me that I had not been on a fastpacking trip in quite a while.  Where to go?  Well, there was rain in December, January is a cool month here in the bay area - this might be the perfect time to hit up Coe. Henry Coe State park can be a tough place to backpack when conditions are nice (check out my prior trips from 2013 and 2014).  I would imagine it could be downright miserable if conditions are not on your side.  Early spring is probably the most ideal time for this park. 

I sent out an email to all of my buddies who I knew to be fastpackers to solicit some company for my adventure, being pretty sure that I would get no takers a week before the weekend because, well, people have lives - and not everyone gets MLK day off  (thanks government!).  Fortunately my buddy Sachin was looking for the perfect opportunity to get away from work and crazy hill training and get some nice time in the backcountry.  So we packed our bags and headed out for adventure:

The obligatory start picture.  Henry Coe Headquarters.

Great pic opportunity at Frog lake on the way to Blue Ridge.

Climbing Mt Sizer.

Sachin and I were curious about the bunches of vegetation in the dormant oaks.  Still need to look into that.
In deep contemplation on the summit of Sizer - 3216 ft. (Photo credit: Sachin)
Sachin and his sweet solar charger.  Kept his garmin humming all day - great Strava data. (Photo credit: Sachin)

Sachin ascending Hat Rock.

Views from Hat Rock.  Sachin shows off his toe socks.

Other views from Hat Rock.  I swear, I did not buy this shirt.  It was given to me at a race last year - but it did make a great hiking shirt!
Hat Rock.

Descending Rock House Ridge.  In my opinion one of the most beautiful sections of trail.
Observing the Newt activity. (Photo credit: Sachin)

Waterproof camera really paying off about now.

These guys are pretty impressive in the water.

Really - this is underwater.

I show Sachin the trail up Bear Mountain.

Cooling off my feet before we tackle the big climb.
 We ascended the steep trails of Bear Mountain and then entered the Orestimba Wilderness.  As we descended a ridge on the chaparral trail we stopped on a grassy ledge a couple hundred feet above Red Creek to camp for the night.  It's always a nice feeling to start setting up your sleeping quarters as the sun is setting because it gives you that warm and cozy.  Cooking up our freeze dried meals and snacking on pepper-nuts (yummy nickel size cookies that Joanne's family makes), we recounted our day and scouted out the map for the next days route.

That night some pretty crazy dreams came to both of us.  Usually I can't remember dreams at all, but oddly enough, on these trips, they come quite vivid.  Sachin dreams he was being carried off by a mountain lion - and I believe him because I heard his frantic voice speaking some gibberish in the middle of the night.  I dreamed that my youngest son Blake had taken a fall while under the care of a friend from church.  He was returned to us without any mention of the fall, and he started to deteriorate before our very eyes - his hair started falling out, he was gibbering all of his words, and he had a constant look of confusion on his face.  It was one of the most disturbing dreams I have every had.

Anyways, we awoke the next day and laughed off our frantic nights sleep and continued on into the upper Robison Creek area - a section of the park that I had never explored before, but had been told that I need to go there.  It did not disappoint:

Lion?  What Lion?

Incredible morning.

The ridge: On the right is the Red Creek valley, on the left are the headwaters of Robison Creek which will eventually flow into the Orestimba.

The valley of Robison Creek.

The wild flowers abound.
 From Robison creek we started keeping our eyes open for the mt stakes trail.  The thing about the trails in the Orestimba wilderness is that they are basically old farm roads that have long since been overgrown and are now there in concept only.  There aren't even any trail signs.  There are some lines on a map though - which helps.  We tested a deer trail that went up a ridge only to find out that the actual trail was one ridge over.  You would never have been able to spot the trail from the creek though, it was only through surveillance from our current vantage point that yielded the find.  So we contoured our way over and then made our way up to mount Stakes - the highest point in the area.

On the way up Stakes.  See the tuft of clouds in the middle of the valley.

Sweating pretty hard now... (Photo credit: Sachin)

Sachin's solar charger is going at full capacity!

On top of the world!
 You get done with most of the climbing to top out on a false summit only to find that you still have to travel another half mile down an old dirt road to get to the real summit.  We made it to the summit of Mt Stakes at 3804 ft and sat down and some some eleven-sees.  I whipped out my tin of mustard herring (thanks Santa!) and was in heaven.

On the way down the mountain.

This hillside reminded me of some kind of wild Savannah.
After descending back down to Orestimba creek, we decided to follow the water south until we hit the Orestimba corral, where we planned to spend the night.

(Photo credit: Sachin) 

Horny Indian.

The "Rooster Comb"

Picnic table?  Seriously?  This was true luxery.  The Orestimba Corral.
Sachin woke up this morning with a terrible discovery: He had a tick feeding on him!  The tick had been on his hip the day before, but he thought it was just his hip belt rubbing the wrong way.  This being his first experience with ticks, he freaked out and ripped out what he could and threw it away.  It turns out that he probably got the tick off soon enough and is in the clear, but it did kick off our morning with some worry.

We were able to enjoy the mystical quietness of the fog for most of the morning.  Here I am eating a "Joanne" Bar for breakfast. (Photo credit: Sachin)

The "Tie-down" trail was a fantastic little jaunt through the hillside where there wasn't actually much of a trail at all, but a bunch of ribbons tied to some branches.

The barely visible spire to the left was Tie-Down peak.  We got a stiff scolding from Toshi for not climbing that thing...

Following Pacheco Creek to get home.

Descending Willow Ridge to reach Los Cruzeros - one of the pretties parts of the park.
When we reached Los Cruzeros we finally started seeing people again!  We hadn't seen a soul in the last day and a half.  This boy caught himself a newt.  He and his dad were bombing around the trails with their mountain bikes.

Wow: people.

The "narrows"  Great fun.

Sachin - having a little bit too much fun.

Soaking in the views before finishing up our trip.

Awesome old oak on the way back to headquarters.

The End picture.
Sachin's data turned out pretty sweet.  Here is our route through the park as evidenced by his GPS readings:


Day 1 – Distance 20.0 miles, Vert 4945 ft, time 08:13:41
Day 2 – Distance 24.9 miles, Vert 6050 ft, time 10:14:35
Day 3 – Distance 21.7 miles, Vert 5400 ft, time 07:55:46

In terms of equipment and food it was pretty much same old stuff.  I think I have my preferences nailed down.  Gear lists have been provided in previous fastpacking posts.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like an awesome trip!
    Me to Jers just now: "I'm trying to think of something funny to say about weed..."
    Jeremy: "...but drugs are not a laughing matter."