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601. Pacheco Falls (01/19/08)

Hikers (16): Carissa, David, Diane, Eric F, Erika, Eugene M, George, Harvey, Helen, Iyad, Paul, Peter, Ross, Sabine, Sparky, Steve
Distance: 21 miles
Rating: 5 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Henry Coe State Park east of Morgan Hill

Write-up by Peter -- Pictures by George

It was slightly chilly when we met up just before 8 o'clock (officially 32 degrees). David and I were getting into the mindset for the next day's Giants-Packers NFC Championship game on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, so we were wearing our usual T-shirt-and-shorts combos, but most of the INCHers were decked out in parkas, gloves, and full north pole trekking gear. The only thing missing was the sled dogs. Hopefully someone took pictures of this embarrassing spectacle.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

Nani had hiked here a couple of weeks earlier and had sent warnings of raging rivers and the need for lifejackets and paddles, but the stream was a little more than a trickle now. Good thing -- less stuff to carry!

Here's the trail we took. The hardest part was the big climb right at the beginning. Sure enough, as we were about halfway up the hill, INCHers began to heat up and strip down. Take it off! Now you have to carry all that stuff for the next 20 miles, fool!

I made good time up the hill, even passing up Sabine and Harvey briefly at around the 75% point. Naturally, it did not last. I began to slow down and they kicked my ass the rest of the way up the hill where Ross, Steve, Eugene (no, not Dobby), and Sparky (10 minutes head start) were waiting at the top. We stopped at Willson Peak for a few moments to catch our breath and make sure all the stragglers (not me for a change) were accounted for.

Despite our calls for her to stick with the crowd, Sparky headed out earlier, but showed up again a few minutes later after walking in a circle for about a quarter mile, thus making it an official INCH hike. After a few moments of confusion, we found the trail and headed down the hill towards Grizzly Gulch.

We finally found the way down from the peak (note Sparky is in the rear!)

As usual, I slowed to a crawl going down the hill and everybody passed me up (or down). By the time I got to the gulch at the bottom, I was all alone. My tummy was starting to growl, so I took advantage of the solitude and took a break for a few minutes to enjoy the scenery while having a breakfast bar.

Rejuvenated, I picked up the pace. I had never been on this trail before and found it to be very pleasant. I made good time along the gulch and up the Tule Pond Trail, which was clearly marked and well-maintained, despite Steve's warnings to the contrary. I caught up with Sparky, Carissa, and Diane near the top before we turned onto the fire road.

The next 4-5 miles to the falls went by quickly. I walked solo most of the way, but could hear the voices from the main crowd not too far ahead. As I approached the bottom of the hill, I saw the main group sitting off the the side at an overlook with a great overhead view of the falls. There was a nice flow of water going in the falls due to all the recent rain (see George's video). I scrambled along the trail and joined them in a nice sunny spot. The bright midday sun felt good and my legs enjoyed the break.

Water -- a rare sight at Henry Coe

Nice sunny day in January -- perfect for hiking (or not)

After a quick lunch, I headed down to the bottom of the falls (most of the others had gone their prior to going to the overlook), and then back up the hill to Wagon Road. Along the way, I took a brief quarter-mile detour to see Live Oak Spring -- not very exciting, but it would have bugged me to have been so close and not make the trip.

Walking back along the top of the ridge, I could see Burra Burra Peak beckoning in the not-too-far distance. It would be nice to make a 10-mile side trip there and back, but we would have to save this for another day (memo to self -- schedule it for mid-August).

I was planning to take a break at Willson Camp, but as I arrived there I saw Diane, Carissa, and Eric just about to leave, and so I kept going. I probably should have rested because my knees were pretty sore and the last few miles of downhill did not help. The good news was that it helped the hike get over with faster -- just over 7 hours from start to finish. Not a bad day's work.

I was debating between giving it a "high 4" or a "low 5", but someone told me we gained over 5500 feet elevation of the day, so using my 1000-feet-per-hike-level rule of thumb pushed it to a 5.

The after-party was great! Hot chili, hummus, zucchini bread, peanut butter and honey sandwiches (which I had never even heard of before, let alone tasted, but they were great), baklava, beer, chips, cookies, chocolates, and much more!

"I can't figure it out, Doc. I hike hundreds of miles each year but I can't lose weight."

I'm pretty sure I gained back all the calories I lost on the hike, and then some, but it was well worth it. If only the Giants could win tomorrow, it would be the perfect weekend!

Eugene M's 1st leaf

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