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641. Booze Lake (10/25/08)

Hikers (13): David, Diane, George, John, Kirk, Nani, Paul, Peter, Ross, Rudi, Sarah, Steve, Traci
Distance: 14 miles
Rating: 5 difficulty, 9 beauty
Park info: Henry Coe State Park east of Morgan Hill

Write-up by Peter

For this week's hike, I was planning to do my semi-annual pilgrimage to The World's Tallest Bench, but the INCH crowd gave me so much grief about being predictable that I had to mix it up a little. I had heard Steve mention he wanted to lead a hike to Booze Lake, so seeing as he had stolen my hike a couple of weeks earlier, I decided to return the favor.

Booze Lake is located on private property on the far side of the Rocky Ridge from HQ, but in looking at the Coe map, it seemed that we could almooooost get to the edge of the lake without encroaching on private land, so I decided that would be the hike. . .from HQ to The Bench, down the other side to Booze Lake (with the appropriate celebration), back up to The Bench, and back in. To give it a couple of additional new wrinkles, the outbound trail would go via the Fish Trail and along the top of Middle Ridge, bypassing Frog Lake, and the return leg would take Hobbs Road, once again bypassing Frog Lake. I still have the scars from the ranger suggesting I go to Frog Lake on my first visit to Coe almost a dozen years ago.

We met up at Coe HQ at the designated time and started getting ready to go. All who had signed up were present, except for a newbie, Kirk. It often happens that newbies sign up and then don't show up (not a good practice!), so we didn't think much of it and started the hike.

1, 2, 3, INCH!

We headed out from HQ on the Corral Trail (except for Steve, who just had to be different and take the road). From there, we crossed over onto the Fish Trail down to the (dry) creek and up the other side. This was a pretty good climb early into the hike. Not only had I made the hike longer than usual, I had also thrown in some extra elevation. Whew! As I approached the top of the Middle Ridge, I saw Nani had stopped for a breather. I did not blame him. It was pretty warm, and I was sure the long Nehru jacket (with another shirt underneath) and dark pants he was wearing were not helping. Crazy guy.

I continued on along the top of the ridge to Hobbs Road. Once there, I stopped to rearrange some stuff in my backpack and this allowed time for Nani to catch up. He seemed to still be struggling a little, but he assured me he was OK, and so I headed down the long hill towards the creek.

Down at the creek, I caught up with Dave, who was getting ready to head up the other side. I took a few minutes to stash a couple of bottles of water for the return trip. No point in carrying extra weight up the hill. By the time I was ready to go, Dave was long gone, but Nani had once again caught up. It looked like he was none the worse for wear. In fact, I was thinking the whole thing was just a big act and he would smoke me going up the hill.

OK, let's get the show on the road. This was not an officially-timed ascent up to The Bench as I do on my birthday hike, and I wasn't sure how far we'd have to drop down the other side to get to Booze Lake (and back up again), so I was not planning on going all out. At this point I should probably mention that I was carrying a quart of booze to celebrate at the lake--a concoction I called a Bloody Tight Snatch (be sure to ask me for the recipe sometime), complete with ice packs. These factors, and the warm temperature, led me to believe my time up the hill would not be that great, but I would still try to give it a reasonable effort.

I slogged up the hill. . .past Sada's Spring, past the usual trees that I had come to recognize as landmarks, ever upwards with no break in the action. I felt like I was making decent time. With about five minutes to go to The Bench, I thought I heard a car behind me. I moved to the side, and was passed up by a ranger truck heading up the hill. It was Ranger John, who had come to help us on our last trip to Coe. Right away, I knew something had to be up. He would not be driving up the Shortcut Trail for no reason. I figured either someone in our group had made a call for help (wouldn't be the first time), or word had gotten out that we were headed to Booze Lake and the ranger was coming to make sure we were not going on private land.

I picked up the pace as best as I could. As I approached The Bench, I could see Ranger John was talking to a bunch of our guys and George had pulled out the map and was showing him something. As I got there and was able to overhear the conversation, my hunch was confirmed--he was telling us not to go to Booze Lake. It turned out Kirk had showed up late and told the rangers he was with the INCH group going to Booze Lake! Nice going! We're on the verge on getting black-listed at Coe anyway, so might as well get it over with.

I shoved Traci out of the way and told her to take her yoga with her, and plopped down on The Bench, huffing and puffing while George and Ranger John continued the discussion about Booze Lake. By the way, my time up the hill was 36 minutes--not bad considering the extra weight I was hauling and the warm temperature. Definitely better than I had predicted. The usual front-runners (who shall remain nameless) were nowhere to be seen, so I assumed they had not been busted (yet) and were well on their way to the lake.

While George and Ranger John continued the discussion, Dave and I decided to head out to see far down we could go before we hit the park boundary. This side of the hill was charred pretty badly from last year's fire--the houses on the side of the lake were lucky to have survived. I bet the owners were sweating bullets when those flames were approaching! It didn't take us too long to make it down the hill. We were only a few hundred feet from the lake when we heard Ranger John calling us on the truck PA telling us to stop in our tracks. Busted!

Dave and I turned around and headed back up the trail a short ways until we met up with Ranger John. He showed us where the park boundary was (just a couple of poles that were remnants of the old signs), so we just stopped there and waited for the rest of the gang to catch up. I was not planning to haul my booze all the way back, so even though we did not make it to the lake, we decided we should celebrate anyway. Cheers!

As we sat there resting, the front-runners appeared in view, heading back from Booze Lake. I started begging Ranger John to take out his gun and shoot them, but he was too nice. How about a warning shot over Steve's head? C'mon, please!! Nothing doing. Boooooooo! As Ranger John was going over his explanation once again to the front-runners, Nani finally showed up, as did a bald eagle flying overhead. Quite a magnificent sight (the eagle that is, not Nani)!

It turned out Kirk was also with the front-runners. After he had started late, he just headed out on Hobbs Road, bypassed most of us slower folks, and smoked up the hill. Good job! Nevertheless, this did not excuse his transgression of getting us busted, and so I informed him that he would have to buy us a couple of rounds of beer to make up for it. He whole-heartedly agreed and even asked us what type of beer we liked. Hey, maybe this guy wasn't so bad after all.

In the meantime, Nani decided to head down to the triangle that marked the park boundary. He was getting dangerously close to crossing over! I once again started begging Ranger John: "Is that a real gun? Shoot him! Please! You don't have to kill him, just get him in the leg. OK, how about a warning shot over his head to make him drop his load? Give me the gun, I'll do it!" I even promised to sign up to do trail work for the Pine Ridge Association if he would just fire off a couple of rounds, but he was just too nice. What's the point of packing heat if you won't use it?

Well, all good things must come to an end, and so we began the long trek back to HQ. The effect of the booze wore off pretty quickly, so we were left to trudge along in the usual misery down the Shortcut Trail and back up the other side. The highlight of the return trip, as always, was a stop at the monument to pay respects to The Man. Oh, and we did have pumpkin pie at the post-hike party.

p.s. to Kirk:I'm still waiting for the beer!

Kirk's 1st leaf
Ross's 180th leaf

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