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659. Butano Ridge Loop (02/28/09)

Hikers (12): Arlene, David, Diane, Jane, Janice, Jeff, John, Kim M, Linda L, Rudi, Sarah, Steve
Distance: 18 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Pescadero Creek County Park near Pescadero

Write-up by Steve

It has been a rainy winter so far, and when this notice went out, the chance of rain on the Saturday hike was 60%. But by the time Saturday came, the probability had dropped to 10% and we ended up with great weather. Of course, all that prior rain found its way into the many creeks in the park. . .

I had made a route covering several new trails, and was looking forward to adding the results to INCH's "Bay Area Coverage" map (a.k.a. all my GPS logs overlaid on Google Earth). Unfortunately, several Scotch Ales at Devil's Canyon Brewery's Beer Friday helped me forget to bring my GPS for the first time in nearly two years. Oh well, that's a good enough excuse to do this hike again in the summer.

1-2-3 INCH!

Pescadero has a habit of losing people. The signs are reasonably clear, but the maps are lousy. Near the beginning of the hike, Janice asked me to leave lots of arrows because she didn't want to get lost. Turns out we lost her and Diane M about a third of the way into the hike (but we still left many fine arrows).

Pescadero is a great park. It has one nice feature in common with Henry Coe: it doesn't get much visitation (particularly at the bathroomless prison entrance we use). Near the beginning of the hike we crossed the swollen and tar-less Tarwater Creek, followed by a nice traverse of an open green field. Soon we were at the top of Canyon Trail, where we followed the trails (rather than the fireroads) to hit Pomponio Trail, which goes roughly E-W through the whole park. Based on the map, I convinced myself we should head left. Jane O and others went merrily down the trail as I laid down an arrow. However, it wasn't long before I could tell something was wrong because the county jail (and Butano Ridge) were clearly on the wrong side of the trail. Eventually I convinced my still beer-addled brain that, yeah, this was wrong. Ran down the trail to get Jane O.

The good part of that fiasco was that we were all back together as we headed toward Shaw Flat. When we got there, front-running Rudi reported that the creek crossing was pretty deep in the direction we were heading. We decided to take the slightly longer way to cross the creek downstream. This did not turn out to be much better, but might have been a little shallower and wider. In the summer, there is a little wooden bridge, but in the winter they stow it up the trail on the other side. Thus, everyone took off their boots and barefooted it. Everyone but me zipped across--my tender feet were not enjoying the rocky bottom. If the water hadn't been so cold, I might still be standing there.

The trail dumped us on Old Haul Road, a short 0.4 miles from the Butano Ridge Loop trail where we should have exited. Thus, all we had to do was keep an eye out for the first trail on the right or left a short way down the road. As clear as that should have been, John G and Kim M walked right on by. I could see them look at the left-hand sign, but they didn't look to the right to see the big--though farther from the trail--Butano Ridge sign. Sarah called them back, and we all headed up the steep-but-not-too-steep 1.5 mile trail to the top of the ridge. It turned out that Janice and Diane M also missed the turn and proceeded for another 1.75 miles before they realized the error of their ways. They took the other end of the Butano Ridge Trail up to where we would be coming down and picked up the route from there (and were thus ahead of us the whole time after bypassing the ridge).

We crossed the ridge, which offered occasional long views on either side of the ridge. Lots of big, old trees of all types for as far as the eye could see. Not too many wildflowers out yet, but there was plenty of green. The new route took us over to Portola State Park where we crossed Old Haul Road for the second time. Here, the map was accurate enough to show that we had to cross the road, take a paved service road for a very short distance, and then pick up Iverson Trail. This worked out, and I left a three arrows in the span of 0.1 miles.

We went along the trail for a mile, encountering a few ambiguous Portola State Park signs. We reached an area where the trail hit Pescadero Creek again. According to the map, we should take Iverson Trail all the way to the end, but Rudi was itching to cross where we were. He talked to some people on the other side of the creek and convinced himself that it was the place to cross. I took the steeply rising trail that was signed as Iverson instead. Jane O followed Rudi. I went up the trail for a while and was a bit dismayed that it kept going up, up, up and away from the creek that we needed to cross eventually. Maybe Rudi was right? I turned around and came back down, where I ran into Sarah and Kim M coming up. Sarah thought this was the correct way to go, but did not believe it was Iverson Trail. As we were discussing this, David came up. I asked him why he was there, to which he replied "Because this is Iverson Trail". That's all I needed to hear, and we all headed on up.

The trail eventually stopped going up and plunged right back down the other side. We were happy to see a sign indicating our final trail, Coyote Ridge, was coming up. We finally reached the real creek crossing (and as before, the bridge was stowed along the trail). A second cold, rocky crossing ensued. As I was drying off (everyone else was gone because I was slow to cross yet again), Jeff came out at the other side. I asked him about the many hikers we hadn't seen in a while, but he didn't have much to update. Still, it was good to see he had taken the right route, and he said he'd left a couple arrows where he didn't see any (such as down where Rudi and Jane O had crossed).

Coyote Ridge was a great trail--highly recommended. When David, Kim, Sarah, and I got back, Janice was already there, along with Rudi and Jane O. Janice told us her 'lost' story and I found a note from Diane which ended thus:

We enjoyed some of Jeff's chips and dip while waiting for the last group to come in. Rudi also gave me the traditional Dutch hangover cure--a V-8. Just what I needed. Everyone made it back and in good spirits. Despite the creek crossings and non-trivial elevation gains, the soft trails and distracting beauty make the hike an enjoyable three.

Milestones:
David's 180th leaf
Sarah's 60th leaf



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