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47. China Hole (01/10/98)

Hikers (8): Eric, Eugene, Nanda, Peter, Ram, Russ, Taylor, Wei-Kai
Distance: 12 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Henry Coe State Park east of Morgan Hill

Write-up by Peter

The first hike of the new year had to be in a worthy location. What better place than Henry Coe State Park?

We made a pit stop at the Morgan Hill Safeway where Ram stunned and amazed all of us by wolfing down a 2-pound container of mayonnaise-laden potato salad. Very impressive! Inspired, we set off for Henry Coe.

The plan was to hike from Park Headquarters to China Hole, cross the Narrows, climb up the ridge on the other side and down to Los Cruzeros, cross back over the Narrows, head back to Poverty Flat, then back up to Park Headquarters. Like I said, that was the plan. El Nino did not cooperate.

The threat of rain had been hanging in the air all week, but when we got to Henry Coe, the weather was perfect for hiking -- cool and misty, but no actual rain. We wasted no time and hit the trail. Quick side note: Rusty did not drive this time, but the car he was in did get the coveted parking spot at Park HQ. We are now 4-for-4!

We were in such a rush to get going that we took the wrong trail, but it was no big deal as I knew it would meet up with our intended trail a little further down. It actually turned out to be a more scenic route, so it was a beneficial turn of events.

We began the descent downhill into Poverty Flat. As we got closer, we could hear the rushing water from Coyote Creek down below. This was not a good sign. We had three creeks to cross on our intended route. In summer, they are pretty much dry, so crossing them is a breeze. Now, after weeks of rain, the task was not so trivial. Fortunately, we did not have to cross any water just yet.

From the flat, we took the steep Cougar Trail back up to the top of the ridge. Egg was out in front, followed by me, then Rusty, and then the rest of the pack. This climb seemed a lot longer than I remembered (and we had already walked about 14 miles the last time we did this). We huffed and puffed our way up the hill. I was determined not to stop till I reached the top. As I made it to the clearing at the top of the hill, I saw Egg standing there and knew that I had finally made it. Whew!

After everyone made it to the top, it was decision time. It looked like rain clouds were moving in and it seemed unlikely that the Narrows were going to be traversable (at least not without going waist-deep into the water). Taylor and Eugene said they had had enough and were heading back to the car via the direct route along the top of the ridge. The rest of us decided to head down to China Hole and re-evaluate our options.

Once we got to the Hole, we saw that the water was indeed pretty deep and the current was also strong. Nanda stuck a long branch into the water to gauge the depth, and the current carried it right off! We searched around for a little while, but found no obvious crossing point. Hmmmmm ... I think we need to have some food before making a decision. Just as we began to open up our backpacks the sky also opened up and it started to pour. There was no shelter anywhere, so we just stood there in the rain, silently eating our soggy sandwiches. Well, the only reasonable option was to turn back, so we packed up and began trudging back up to the top of the ridge.

By the time we made it to the top, we were pretty much soaked through to the skin (except for Ram in his slick new $200 Gortex outfit). Another decision time. Egg and Weikai chose to head back via the direct route (we abused Egg for being in a rush to get back home to his wife, but did not abuse Weikai as much since he was a newbie). Only half of the original 8 hikers remained.

We went slipping and sliding down the Cougar Trail back to Poverty Flat. Going down this thing is a lot easier than coming up! However, once we got to the Flat, the party was over. Climbing back from there to Park Headquarters is never a pleasant experience. You look up and see trail leading up a couple hundred yards and then disappearing around the corner, so you figure once you get there you're home free. Wrong! There's another stretch of trail just like it (but steeper) just around the corner ... then another ... then another. Oh man!

I managed to keep pace with Rusty, but Nanda and Ram fell behind. It was direct route back to HQ and the rain was coming down steadily, so we just kept going. As usual, the last 2 miles along the top of the ridge to the Ranger Station seemed to take forever (but at least there were no old couple to pass us by this time). There's no feeling quite like the last 100 yards to the Ranger Station at Henry Coe. You drag your tired legs around the last corner and practically run down the little incline to the parking lot. Thank God it's over!

Eugene, Taylor, Weikai, and Egg were looking very happy sitting in the warm, toasty car as we trudged into the parking lot. For some reason, Egg was wearing shorts and a T-shirt on a chilly day, but I was too tired to ask any questions. By the time we finished changing, Ram and Nanda had showed up, so we did a quick reading of the INCH leaves, inducted Weikai into the club by showing him the Full Moon, and hit the road to go home for a nice, hot shower followed by nap time. We had earned this one!

Russ's 40th leaf
Wei-Kai's 1st leaf

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