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99. Coit Lake (12/12/98)

Hikers (6): Eugene, Jamie, Jane M, Peter, Russ, Steve
Distance: 14 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Henry Coe State Park east of Morgan Hill

Write-up by Peter

The first two trips to Coit Lake were a little less than what you would call successful. OK, they were disasters. We were betting on "third time's the charm".

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

It was a beautiful crisp, sunny, winter's day as we headed out from Henry Coe's Coyote Creek entrance. The weather was good, we had food, water, and the latest maps ..... there was no excuse not to make it all the way this time!

The first part was familar terrain -- along the fire road for a mile and then up the Anza and Jackson Trails culminating in a great view from Jackson Field. This has got to be one of the most peaceful places in the Bay Area, but we were determined to make it to Coit Lake so we didn't hang around too long to admire the view.

From there it was about another mile over to the Wasno Ridge Road and then over to the Coit Route heading east to Kelly Lake. Finally, some new turf! We were now on uncharted INCH territory!

Esteban had gone up ahead as usual. Rusty, Jamie, and Jane were in the middle pack, and Eugene and I were dragging our asses along in last place. We did see a couple of mountain bikers on the trail, but these were the only other people we would see all day. That's why we love Henry Coe!

The fire road led rapidly downhill, across a stream, and then over to Kelly Lake. We'd come about 5 miles so far. This was a good place to stop and rest for a while. I enjoyed the view of the lake while savoring my cinnamon raisin bagel. The only thing missing was a nice cold beer.

We were only about a mile from Coit Lake, so we didn't hang around very long and hit the trail again. The next part was mostly uphill, but not very steep, so it wasn't too bad (at least compared to the usual sadistic hills of Henry Coe).

Before too long we found ourselves on the Willow Ridge Crest Trail and there below our feet we finally saw it -- Coit Lake! It actually does exist!

Getting to the lake would involve going down a long hill (which meant we'd have to climb all the back up the hill later). There was some debate as to whether we wanted to do it. I'd come too far not to actually go and touch the lake, and I talked the others into it. Onward!

Finally -- Coit Lake! Just us and the ducks. We could see Esty coming around the lake towards us from the other side (he'd taken the wrong trail and ended up on the other side of the lake). We kicked off our boots and flopped down amongst the bulrushes on the banks of the lake and ate our lunch. The sun was nice and warm. It had taken us three tries to get here, but it had been worth it!

I wanted to never leave, but we still had a long way to go and days are short at this time of year. Reluctantly, we packed up and headed out. We trekked back up to the Willow Ridge and then switched over to the Cross-Canyon Trail.

The first part of the Cross-Canyon was straightforward -- just meandering along the side of the ridge as we headed westward. After that, things got a little hairy.

The trail led downhill and into a stream. We were now at the bottom of the canyon and had to zig-zag our way back and forth along the mostly-dry creek bed. Visions of the Pinnacles' Northern Wilderness Trail came to mind. I was hoping that it would not be a similar disaster which would involve having to back-track out of here. If that were to be the case, we'd definitely be hiking in the dark on the way back.

Esty, Jane, Jamie, and Eugene were up front. The Man and I were trailing behind. It seemed that the pack up front was charging merrily along, and not paying much attention to their surroundings. I chose to go more slowly and make sure we didn't miss the turnoff that would lead out of the canyon. It was supposed to be about a mile from the point at which we had first reached the stream.

A long time went by. We'd been walking along the creek bed and through the brush for what seemed like an eternity, but had not seen a sign of any turnoff. I could tell The Man was starting to get nervous (so was I). I reminded myself that sometimes these slow trails can be deceptive -- you walk for a long time, but don't actually cover much distance.

Finally, we saw the turnoff. My fears had been unfounded -- the front pack led the way, and we all headed up the hill together. I never thought I'd be so happy to be going uphill!

After zig-zagging through the switchbacks for a good half-hour, we finally ended up back on the Coit Route. Whew! Now that we were on familiar ground, it was time to stop and rest for a few minutes. My legs and back were quite sore at this point and it felt good to just sit down for a while.

About 4 miles to go ... the good news was that it looked to be mostly flat or downhill. Deciding to be adventurous, we voted to abandon the safety of the fire road and take the scenic route via Coit and Grapevine Springs. That's the INCH spirit!

This was a nice trail ... starting out in the tall grass (where we saw a huge black wild pig running across the fields -- yes, I remember them well!) and ending up in the cool shaded area of Grapevine. We stopped there for a final rest (and my last bagel) before the final 2 miles back to the cars.

Everyone was pretty well beat by now and we just wanted to get this over with. Unfortunately, Henry Coe was not through with us and we had one more uphill to navigate before the Anza Trail finally flattened out and took mercy on us and led us downhill to the fire road that would take us the final mile back to the cars.

It was a long, hard trek to Coit Lake and back, but WE FINALLY MADE IT!!!!! Big Henry, you're still the best!!

Russ's 80th leaf

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