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Travels in California: Henry Coe State Park

April 26, 2010

For several years now we’ve made an annual spring break visit to the Otters in San Francisco (Ian, Debbie, Micah age 5, and Nina age 2).  The flight to SFO via JFK was uneventful, except for one barf extremely well aimed into an airsick bag on the descent to JFK.  Upon our arrival, Ian brought us to Glen Park where we munched on fresh bread, yummy cheese, pickles, and decadent chocolate ice cream.  There’s nothing like good food to wash the sorry flavor of airline peanuts out of your mouth.

On Tuesday we visited the California Academy of Sciences, a relatively new and high-tech natural history museum with a huge spherical tropical rainforest you can walk through, an aquarium with a tunnel that allows you to see the underside of fish, and a wacky undulating living roof.

On Wednesday we visited the San Francisco Zoo, which was blustery and cold.  The penguins probably thought that was just fine.

Thursday we got out of the house promptly and took the train downtown to a popular breakfast restaurant to share french toast and little Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam.  We met Ian and Micah at the playground in St. Mary’s Square and walked through Chinatown to a tiny fortune cookie factory.  The enormous machines reminded me very much of the antiquated strangeness to be found in the Clothespin Factory in our hometown.  For lunch we grabbed a large pile of assorted buns, dumplings, and lotus wrapped rice.  Some were really tasty, others were simply mysterious.

Lunchtime in Chinatown, San Francisco

By the time Friday rolled around, it was time for a real adventure.  The three of us easily packed quickly, since all we had to do was divvy up the contents of our duffel bag and shove everything into our packs.  Then we made a quick shopping list and walked over to the neighborhood Safeway for three days of supplies.  Just in time for a driving nap we headed south on 280 and 101 to Henry Coe State Park for two nights of backpacking.  Their website is not incredibly informative, especially when it comes to maps.  Suffice it to say that its an 87,000 acre park a bit south of San Jose.  The Lick Fire in 2007 burned 47,000 acres, but we didn’t encounter any of the burned areas.

Ready to hit the trail at Henry Coe State Park

We began our hike at the main visitors center on the west side of the park, with our sights set on the Lion Springs campsite, 1.2 miles in.

It took a bit of shoe-horning to fit three tents in, as the site is essentially on the side of a hill, but there were some cool rocks to scramble on.  The water source was a vague trickle at best, so it was pretty handy that Ian had brought his filter.  Aqua Mira is easy to use, but scooping water by the thimble full gets boring pretty fast.  And despite being only 1.2 miles from the trail head, the site had no privy, and the water source was below the camp site, so clearly full force water treatment was required.

We enjoyed mac and cheese with chopped up broccoli for dinner and in stages crawled, flopped, and bounced off to bed.  After Linnaea was asleep, I was eager for a bit more exertion, so I grabbed my headlamp and walked off into the night.  The air was very clear and the moon almost full.  I walked at a moderate pace, preferring to keep my headlamp switched off to breathe in the cool moonlight.  The twisted stout arms of the live oaks cast eerie shadows on the fields of wild grass.  A family of what were most likely deer bounded into the woods in the distance.  Especially after several days of enthusiastic kid babble, the quiet was most calming.

We kept up the tradition of the tried-and-true restaurant by serving hot oatmeal and cocoa for breakfast.  At least temporarily satisfied, we grabbed multiple piles of snacks and headed out for a 3.1 mile loop hike.  It was sunny, warm, and grassy.  Perfect for some random Frisbee tossing.  Linnaea had pretty good aim, and is working on distance.  The far side of the day’s route was on the cooler and moister side of the ridge, so there was plentiful poison oak, some of which was alarmingly healthy.  Fortunately Micah and Linnaea didn’t habitually dive off the trail, even when racing to be “the leader”, or arguing over who would be the “song leader”.  It was very clear that having another similarly aged kid along made all the difference in keeping the kids motivated to keep moving.

A magnifying glass makes everything look cool

For our second dinner we had ramen with boxed tofu, and for dessert…banana smilies (chocolate chips and mini marshmallows shoved into a sliced open unpeeled banana)!  Since we were deep in no-fire land (most of the park burned in ’07), Lexi got innovative and steamed the aluminum foil bundles in the largest pot.  It worked great, and we all enjoyed chocolate and marshmallow goo.  In the evening Ian and Lexi went for a moonlight stroll while Deb and I guarded the fort.

Linnaea, Micah, and Ian review our route

In the morning we finished off the bag of oatmeal, and took our time packing everything.  Linnaea was *mostly interested in carrying her pack (an accessory of our Sherpani kid carrying backpack), which held her Bob (pillow), Phokey (Audubon variety gray seal), tiny book, po, binoculars, sunhat, sunglasses, magnifying glass, and water bottle.  Normally she’d have her camera too, but I had that in my pocket, and my regular camera was out of commission.

The last couple of hundred yards got a little slow, and we broke out the magic carrot: a bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans.  You can go quite a ways doling them out one by one!  We all happily got back to the trail head and shared the last of the Ritz crackers and Chex Mix.  Then we drove back to SF and met up at Mitchell’s Ice Cream, where I had a Jackfruit/Tropical Sorbet double sugar cone and Linnaea dove into this:

Chocolate dipped chocolate with bonus chocolate

Hooray for our first self-mobile backpacking trip!  5.5 miles in three days.  AT here we come!

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 28, 2010 1:59 PM

    Love that the photo of Linnaea with the ice cream! If I can look like that at any point on TD I will consider it a success!

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