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259. Mt. Sizer (04/13/02)

Hikers (8): Cal, Damon, Ian, Ketan, Oliver, Peter, Russ, Steve
Distance: 13 miles
Rating: 5 difficulty, 9 beauty
Park info: Henry Coe State Park east of Morgan Hill

Write-up by Peter

It was once again time for my annual birthday torture test. This year, my goal was to get from Coyote Creek to the World's Tallest Bench in under 41 minutes.

It was a beautiful day for a hike at Henry Coe (isn't it always?). Sunny skies, mild temperatures, slight breeze -- I couldn't think of anything else I would rather be doing! Accompanying me on the journey were two co-founders (Esteban and The Man), three of our recent regulars (Cal, Damon, and Oliver), and one newbie (Ketan). He had picked a great introductory hike.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

We started out at a brisk pace. Damon and Esteban jumped out to the lead, followed by Cal, Oliver, and Ketan, with The Man and me bringing up the rear. Rusty and I both knew we were in for a long trek, so there was no point in burning up too much gas early.

We were at Frog Lake before we knew it, and just kept on going ... up the Middle Ridge, then down Hobbs Road, past Deer Horn, and down to Coyote Creek. The Blue Ridge and Mt. Sizer loomed up huge above us. No matter how many times you do this hike, you can't help but be impressed when you see that trail going straight up to the top.

Esteban and Damon had already taken off by the time we got to the creek. The rest of us paused briefly to gather ourselves and get ready for the climb. Cal and I stashed a couple of bottles of water behind a tree to lighten our load going up the hill. We set our watches, and we were ready to go -- bring it on, baby!

The Man took off like a bat out of hell, with the others in close pursuit. Less than 30 seconds into the climb, we were all huffing and puffing. Past the first turn, we began to separate out. Rusty was in the lead, followed by Cal, Oliver, and Ketan, with yours truly in last place. Cal was keeping up a torrid pace. It had been a while since I'd done a tough hike, and I could definitely tell I'd lost a couple of steps. The last strenuous hike I'd done that would be comparable to this one was to Mississippi Lake where I injured my knee a few months ago. Esteban and The Man had been giving me a hard time, saying that I would't be able to make this hike, so that was motivation to keep going!

We kept pushing upwards. Unlike all the other trails, there was no talking on this one -- just heavy panting. We couldn't afford to waste any energy chit-chatting (and it's tough to talk when you're gasping for air). I estimated that we were about halfway up and it had taken us less than 20 minutes -- this was a good pace.

Around the half hour mark, Cal, Oliver, and Ketan started to slow down a little, but I knew we were close to the end, so I pushed on. The Man was about 100 yards up ahead and seemed to be picking up the pace. Despite the burning in my calves and the pounding in my chest, I forced myself to go faster too.

We were getting closer to the top ..... we passed another group of hikers that had headed out from the Ranger Station about 20 minutes before us. I glanced at my watch -- it was coming up on the 35 minute mark, and I knew there was not much more to go. Knowing that I would comfortably beat the 41-minute goal, I slowed down the pace.

As I approched the bench, I saw The Man frantically waving me in and telling me to hurry up. He said I was almost at the 41-minute mark! What??? Turns out he was right -- I had misread the watch! I almost screwed myself by slowing down near the end, but I did make it in under the wire. Whew!

The good news was that I'd made it in under the 41 minutes, but the bad news was that I was about 3 minutes slower than last year. The lesson to be learned is that I need to spend less time at the dinner table and more time at the gym. As I sat there contemplating my demise, the rest of the guys also showed up. Good effort all around! Cal looked like he had barely broken a sweat as he cruised in, Ketan did fine for a first-timer, and Oliver took a little longer because he had stopped to take some pictures along the way. It must have been a lot of fun lugging his camera and ham radio and other stuff up the trail.

Oliver didn't stop to rest -- he immediately hit the road to walk along the top of the ridge and (presumably) join Esteban and Damon at the actual peak of Sizer. The rest of us had had enough -- now it was time for a nice long rest! I lay down in the grass alongside the bench and stared up at the bright blue sky. Oh man, it felt great to stop walking!

It didn't take too long for Steve and Damon to come back from Sizer. These guys were full of energy today! They tried to guilt us into going to Sizer, but nothing doing. After a good long rest, we headed back down the hill.

Back down at the creek, we rested again. Even though Cal had been kind enough to give me one of his poles to help ease the strain on my knees going downhill, I still needed time to rest them. Good thing I had brought a generous supply of Advil today. I was also grateful that no-one had pilfered the water bottles we had stashed away (by the way, we saw at least 10 other people on the Shortcut Trail, which is a record for Sizer).

The problem about resting too long is that your muscles tighten up, so we had to hit the road again. The trek back up from the creek is no picnic. I'm not sure which I hate more -- the steep descent up towards Sizer, or the slow, gradual death march back towards Coe Headquarters. Either way, you're going to suffer!

The walk back took about two hours (two long painful hours), including a stop at the monument to pay our respects to Big Henry. As usual, we were pretty tired and sore by the time we got back to the Ranger Station, but somehow this time it seemed that everyone was in a lot less pain than on past trips. We must be getting used to the abuse!

Epilog: Afterwards, we found that another newbie, Ian, had shown up but had not found us, so he went hiking by himself at Henry Coe ... 16 miles, including China Hole and Poverty Flat. It's not Sizer, but it's definitely worthy of a leaf. Welcome!

Damon's 30th leaf
Ian's 1st leaf
Ketan's 1st leaf
Russ's 210th leaf

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