Compote in Henry Coe, June 1-3, 2012

Henry Coe Trailhead

The Hunting Hollow trailhead, Left to Right: Krista, Amy, Mike, and Bruce, backpacking

Bruce suggested a saunter through Henry Coe. Actually, he suggested a 30-mile per day slog, but Amy suggested reining it in a bit to a less ambitious itinerary. And heeding that advice made for a nice weekend.

Henry Coe State Park is the largest state park in northern California, and is a nice mix of rounded ridges, grassy meadows, and seemingly relentless steep slopes and canyons. And despite the proximity to the Bay Area, it’s not very crowded. Not a bad place for a stroll.

The short two-day trip, and less than grueling itinerary, consisted of starting at the Hunting Hollow trailhead, hiking to Coit Lake, day hiking to Pacheco Falls, and reversing the way out (see map). With the more leisurely route, Bruce suggested going a bit old school, and doing more camp cooking than I’ve done for years. And somehow “old school” included listening to Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC on the ride and in the parking lot and hiking in some serious bling. In memory of Adam Yauch, I also “got” to hear “License to Ill” start to finish. My only thought on this is that Bruce, Amy, and Krista must have all bumped their heads.

Hiking through the fields of Henry Coe state park

The hiking varies from shady, poison-oak lined trails, to sunny, tick-infested grass. The 50-yard section, was as close as we cam to level walking in two days.


We did a little off-roading to climb high for a view above the non-running Pacheco Falls.

The park looks rugged, varied, and beautiful, with lofty ridges and steep canyons. It seems you’re always either walking up or down, and often steeply. Not much flat and level. The trails are very well-marked. And thus it was of great pleasure to me when Bruce led us right by the first turn-off on a mile-long mistake (I had led the group astray at the beginning of a Grand Canyon trip two months earlier).  Our plan–fully executed–was to head in at Hunting Hollow trailhead, hike to Coit Lake, day-hike the next day to Pacheco Falls and back to Coit, and then run away.

Filtering water at Coit Lake. A nice place for a refreshing swim as afternoon temps neared 100 degrees.

Good walking. Saw lots of poison oak (including all around Amy on an ill-chosen bathroom break), but didn’t seem to walk through any. And some refreshing swims in Kelly Lake and Coit Lake. The land was hot and dry–but we were never too far from water.

The route in had us passing Kelly Lake–it was deserted of humanoids on the way in. We had Coit Lake to ourselves for two days.  And saw no one at all on  the middle day Coit Lake to Pacheco Falls and back. On the way out, it looks like as many as four groups had stopped at Kelly Lake–so the extra couple miles gave us a much less crowded experience.

Bruce cooking Amy’s M&M pancake.

The cuisine was particularly remarkable. Bruce’s idea was to go beyond the oatmeal and reconstituted meals in a bag. With offerings like delicious Bruce soup, an amazing fruit compote with Courvoisier and dumplings, and plump pancakes, and despite a finicky Whisperlite in need of some maintenance, he really delivered  The bottles of wine, including a couple of fine Pinot Noirs, complemented the fare nicely. Bruce can cook for me in the backcountry any time! Although, with the 20lb food bag he gave me for a two-night trip, I remember why I’ve drifted toward ultralight backpacking over the last several years. (I contend he was just trying to slow me down so that he could keep up!)

Kudos to Bruce on a trip well-planned and well-led!

About as enjoyable dinner as I’ve had anywhere! Meals took a LONG time to get through, but we weren’t in a rush. We sat and talked and watched Bruce cook for hours on end. What a great place to do it.

Chef Bruce’s fruit compote with Cognac on the trail. Incredibly yummy!


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