Seriously. Sarah said this port-a-potty “actually smelled good!” I refused to believe it until I tried it, but I’ll eat my hat if it didn’t smell just like a fancy bath product shop.

Bladder empty, Sarah bounds gracefully across Hunting Creek clad in full-on waterproof boots.

(Only problem is, she tends to kick up water knee-high every time she tries to take advantage of said water-proofness.)

Note how the trail behind us pretty much drops off into an abyss. Looking at the map, planning the trip, we neglected to consider the relative proximity of the contour lines. (Personally, I figured: “How steep could it get? I mean... Gilroy?”)

Turns out it was pretty steep.

The whole trip was punctuated by beautiful old oaks, frequently silhouetted on lonely hilltops with nary but the odd boulder or too to keep them company.

Some of them had some weird-ass acorns too!

We did our best.

Andre pauses to consider the poppies while Sarah lumbers ever upward.

Bunch of city slickers out here.

Remember what I said about oaks and boulders? (There were a lot more of this type of picture. For your sake, dear viewer, I’ve whittled the pile down to just this one.)

Almost at the crest of Wilson Peak, our first and longest ascent of the trip.

Sarah looking snazzy and b’dass with a neatly coiled rope carabiner-ed to her pack. Finally, those little loops serve some purpose!

Some of the oaks weren’t doing too hot. Dig the tumor-y growth on this one.

Though a far cry from the pumas of Santa Barbara, the bears of the Sierras, and the rattlesnakes of the So-Cal desert, Henry Coe was not without its own varieties of vicious, snarling wildlife.

Here, a bloodthirsty newt thrashes upstream in search of its next victim.

Partway up the second long ascent, Sarah espied two good sittin’ rocks, just itchin’ to be snacked upon. Our heroes relished in the silence of the nearly empty park and considered the irony of the 101’s location, a mere eight miles away.

Back on the trail, Sarah decided to christen this as-yet-probably-still-unnamed pond: Little Sarah Pond.

Oh yeah, and if you’re going to HWCSP, go in March. The wildflowers were outstanding!

Yellows with a couple of purples in the foreground.

I think there may be two moths in this picture. It’s hard to tell.

One more mile until our first night’s destination: Kelly Lake (a short hike down an appropriately named trail).

From the Kelly Lake trail, we could see that Coe got in on a little wildfire action too. That whole central ridge in the middleground seems to have been burnt. Otherwise, however, we didn’t see much fire damage anywhere else.

Another irresistible oak close-up. (I love this lens for these kinds of shots.)

A deer halfway through a tight 180°. Actually, we were both a little surprised at how few ticks we found hanging out in the park. It probably gets pretty ticky in the summer when the whole place dries out.

That deer took off soon after being spotted. Here, Andre harasses a more captive subject.

After setting up camp and eating a tasty pre-cooked-Indian-food dinner, Andre and Sarah decide to investigate the nearby commotion...

Rana boylii... Californian yellow-legged frogs. (Pretentious Latin courtesy of this helpful website.)

I don’t know what these frogs were up to (actually... I have a pretty good idea...), but apparently they just hang out in the shallows, legs splayed, a-fussin’ and a-carryin’ on.

At one point, when Andre went back for a better light, Sarah realized, with oozing uneasiness, that there were at least a dozen fat, croaking toads staring at her.

The newts (salamanders?) were out in droves as well. Not pictured: the comical way in which they kind of flip their back feet over when walking.

(Shown actual size.)

British newts.

The last few pictures were taken at night. It’s just the flash that made everything look bright. I don’t imagine these suckers come out in the daytime very often.

Andre’s brilliant anti-bear-eating-our-food device. Just like it looks, the bags (as we discovered in the morning) were really only about a foot and a half above the ground.

Sarah: “Well... It probably kept the mice out...”

...and when they awoke, all traces of nice, warm weather had vanished. Sarah said this day was the coldest she’d ever been through in California.

I have to admit, though, it did look pretty groovy. Especially with the sweet spot up on a hill that we snagged the night before!

Some other turkeys that came in the middle of the night had to settle for a less-than-awesome spot across the lake.

(Actually, there was a wild turkey about in the early morning. You could hear the gobbling echoing off of various canyon walls as it retreated to its daytime lair.

Ask Andre to make his turkey sound sometime...)

 

While Sarah loafed around in the tent, Andre decided to give the lake a once over.

The newts were still on the loose. And it turns out that if you put something in front of them, they’ll just keep going!

Fog or no fog, there were still plenty of wildflowers around to eat up the space on Andre’s camera’s memory card.

Sarah. Off to, er... “find a spot.”

Day 2 began with another long, steep ascent. Although this time, much colder and without a hint of cilantro. The fog was pretty relentless, until...

...that bastard sun started poking through a little bit.

Finally! A little blue sky!

It didn’t last very long though The fog lifted long enough for us to eat some of the best damn trail mix either of us had ever had (I forget the brand) and see a couple views, but then: right back to fog.

Still a pretty nice hike, anyway. Although, I think the gloominess makes these old oaks look more than a little sinister.

We had a little “dejeuner sur l’herbe” of PB&J bagels and low-quality turkey jerky. (Sarah kept her clothes on.)

I don’t know why you’d need a dock on such a small pond, but it looked like there was some kind of decaying, maritime structure in the middle of it.

Curiouser and curiouser...

We were planning on hiking a little further this day, but figured wed stop by “Willson Camp” (yeah, two Ls) first, since the we’d heard some rumors of impending T-storms. None of this was on our map, but there were actually several buildings at the site: a tilted and rickety old outhouse, a plush new state park service outhouse, a barn, and this sweet house.

If this house didn’t look very inviting to begin with, the mirror on the back porch didn’t help much.

(What does “MURDER EVOL” mean anyway?)

The place was locked up pretty tight, but that didn’t stop Andre from finding a loose window and commencin’ the trespassin’.

Sarah chose to stay outside.

It was pretty creepy inside. It looked like the place had been redecorated several times, but over the years all of the layers had started to peel off...

The kitchen still had goose posters tacked to the walls while the wallpaper in this bedroom revealed some older art.

Creepy old mattress in one of the creepy old bedrooms.

Kellie White, it would seem, was here on July 8, 1899 (and didn’t have much respect for the wallpaper).

Kellie’s no-frills shopping list--also written on the wall.

(I learned that there’s an A before the P in sarsaparilla!)

And what cozy, backwoods cabin would be complete without a semi-skeletonized bird carcass? Poor fella looks like he put up quite a fight.

Jar #2 was pretty tempting, but we ended up just leaving behind all of the left-behind sundries.

I ain’t the smartest person, but this seemed a little redundant to me.

The living room carpet could’ve used a good shampooing too. (Note the blue feathers in here too.)

Meanwhile, outside... Gary left his mark on the property too. Or should it be “Geary”?! Ha!

We decided that it would be way too creepy to sleep inside (what with the bird graveyard and psychotic shopping list and all) and that it would be way too wet and windy to sleep outside. So we compromised and set up camp on the porch!

It’s a damn good thing we did too. The storm that passed through overnight was incredible! The wind, the rain, the slamming doors, and the creaking oak limbs were relentless. I don’t know about Sarah, but I was pretty convinced that the whole place was going to topple.

But it didn’t. And the next morning was clear and beautiful. Here’s Sarah plotting. (Plotting a good hiking route.)

Despite keeping cozy in the tent all night, Sarah was starting to get a pretty bad cough. Here, she demonstrates what it looks like when she coughs.

Oh yeah. There were two ridiculous squirrels that lived at the campsite too. They spent most of their time chasing each other in circles around the house and the rest of it eating acorns and stashing the husks.

When I woke up in the morning, one of my boots (which was under the rain fly of the tent, not ten inches from our sleeping heads) was full of acorn shells! Damn squirrels.

Lucky footprint.

Willson Camp, it turns out, is popular with the horsie-riding crowd so there are a bunch of spring-fed equine watering buckets around. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but this one was pretty murky...

...so we went right to the source.

(Savvy woodsman Andre had the foresight to dig a little hole under this waterfall the day before so’s to let the sediment settle and make a nice deep pool from which to fill the Nalgenes.)

Storm evidence. (It was a doozy!)

And she’s off!

The fences seemed to become less and less effective as the trip went on.

I don’t suppose it’s this green year round, but the hike out reminded us a lot of Fletcher Bay in New Zealand.

It was much sunnier this day, but the wind was brutal...

See?

Sarah’s fleece, it turns out, had a built in muff. Here, she demonstates.

 

Presumably, this all used to be ranch land, so the place is dotted with little man-made ponds.

Despite having spotted the international sign for “Party over here!!,” Sarah and Andre could find no such festivities and were forced to trudge onward.

It also started hailing a little bit about a half-mile before the car. (This hailstone isn’t very impressive, is it? Well... the rest of them were the size of basketballs!)

Lest you think Andre wasn’t actually on this trip...

And one last cilantro-scented view of the rolling Henry Coe hills. As they made their final descent to the parking lot, our travelers reflected on the times they’d had--the impossibly steep climbs, the bone chilling fog, the hundred year storms--and decided HWCSP was the place to be and to come back early and often.

Trip stats:

Distance hiked: 16.41 mi.
Elevation gain/loss: ~3000 ft. (click here for more route information)
Newts spotted: countless
Toads walked in on: 12
Geocaches found: 2
Quality of trail mix: supreme
Size of delicious post-hike burritos: ginormous

Dig this nifty elevation graph!