Henry Coe - Dowdy Ranch
Duration: 1 day
Date: 10 May 2014
Distance: ~15 miles
Difficulty: Moderate on a hot day (Easy otherwise) – 4000 feet gain.
Trailhead: Dowdy Ranch entrance (Bell Station) to Henry Coe State
Access: Bell's Station Gate off Pacheco Pass Highway. Open during late spring, summer and early fall. Closed if it rains. The access road is gravel 7miles from Pacheco Pass Highway to the visitor center. (More Info: here)
Trail: Kaiser Aetna Road -> Burra Burra Peak Trail -> Center Flat Road -> Walsh Trail -> Ridge Road -> Coit Road -> Kaiser Aetna Road -> Tie down trail -> Creek Tr -> Kaiser Aetna Road -> Visitor Center
Maps: Bottom Half Top Half
This was my second hiking trip with Keung through the San Jose Hiking Group. I had been to Henry W Coe Park before for the China Hole hike along the Mt. Sizer trail but I did not know this other entrance to the park at Dowdy Ranch. I am guessing, our partnership (Keung and I) ends up with some amount of good adventure. We did go off trail for a bit this time too but this time it was far more controlled and simple J. The hike was planned for the Saturday (10th May) and having been to a play at San jose Rep the previous night, it was a quick morning for me. I was up and ready in a jiffy.
The group this time around was – Keung, his mother, Ilya, Sarav, Don, Jugal, PT and I. The start time was set to 9:30am but we were off by about an hour. The final 7 mile stretch to the trailhead from the Pacheco pass highway is dirt road (Kaiser Aetna rd.) which has a posted speed limit of 15mph but we pretty much drove at 3 or 5 very carefully. At the visitor’s center, I grabbed two maps (bottom & top half) and we were on our way hiking towards the Burra Burra peak trail which is about 0.3 miles before the visitor’s center. We started the hike at about 10:30am. The first destination was the burra burra peak. The views were great and to my surprise, Henry Coe was pretty green and the temperature was just right for a hike. There was a pleasant breeze almost all throughout the hike, which made it the hike a lot easier. After the burra burra peak, we got back to the trail and hit the center flat road. Walking along the road took us to the Walsh trail. This seemed to have not been used at all and the grass was overgrown. Being only grass, there was no need for bush whacking. This is a very lucky thing since I was wearing a trouser and not a pant. We decided to take this Walsh trail which is about 2.5miles in length.
The overgrowth gave this trail the feel of hiking in India. There wasn’t a trail per say. I took the middle or the rear so that people walking in front of me could smack down the grass and make me a nice trail to walk along. Thanks to Ilya for his razor sharp eye, we were privy to watch a huge turtle in water moving around at the creek. After crossing the creek, we climbed up trying to head N-NE to hit the ridge road. We were off trail already and were just making our own trail to the road. Finally we hit the ridge road. After a short break, we walked towards the Coit road. That is when we saw the Walsh trail. We had been about half km off when we reached the road. :-D.
The wind now grew stronger. We took a quick break for lunch (or whatever I had brought). Thanks to Jugal for the oranges and PT for introducing me to the electrolyte chews. I got to get them the next time I go on a hike. After lunch (at about 1:10pm), we continued the hike to coit road (1:20pm). This hike to Coit road intersection was pretty quick after all the off-trailing. I think we did 3.5mph or so on this road. We then took the coit road where we saw got to see a snake. Dowdy ranch is pretty isolated – we saw no hikers on any trails. I think this is owing to the facts that the 7mile approach road is no good and it’s further away from the bay area. This might have also been the reason we were able to spot a snake. (Or of course, it could just be luck :-D) The initial plan was to take the Alqiest trail into the Oristimba Wilderness but since we were 1 hr off we decided to take the Kaiser Aetna road, the tie down trail and the Kaiser Aetna road back to the visitor center. We reached the visitor center by 6pm.
This turned out to be a nice practice hike before the Rim-2-Rim hike that is planned for the next week.