April 14, 2006 Friday Day 13

Grey most of the day, heavy fog as we gain elevation, then light rain
Temperatures 70 at noon but 55 in evening.
Walked 10.5 miles,
drove 0 miles

It was grey when we woke up but we could see sun shining down below us in Morgan Hill. Henry Coe State Park is set on a ridge top with sweeping views to the south, from east to west. The campground is centered around the old farm buildings of the Coe Ranch, with the old homestead being used as the ranger station/visitor's center. This is a campground that oozes with ambiance; it's charm is in the very simple improvements to the old buildings, the well kept appearance of the campground and the wonderful views.

john muir walkToday Coe's ranger, Barry Breckling, gave us a ride back down East Dunne Road to the Jackson Ranch where we would take up the walk where we left off yesterday. Through good fortune we have obtained permission to walk through the private Los Huecos ranch, and so for the first time on the walk are able to leave roads and civilization behind. It was like we died and went to John Muir's heaven.

Even though the sun was not shining, the plants and landscape were the most beautiful we had yet foun. A pastoral ranch road wound through small hills, lined with blue miniature lupines and yellow Johnny-jump-ups, speckled with little white popcorns and watched over by giant gnarled old valley oaks. Yesterday's confirmation of my theory about sunshine was proved false by the beauty of today's shaded landscapes and my other theory, that the further one gets from the impact of the metal locust the more beautiful the flowers and landscapes was proved the truer of the two.

Yesterday's confirmation of my theory about sunshine was proved false by the beauty of today's shaded landscapes. My other theory, that the further one gets from the impact of the metal locust the more beautiful the flowers and landscapes, was proved the truer of the two.

A three mile walk, with some good uphill sections (we had a 1500 foot elevation gain that day) brought us to the gate of the ranch. Our presence disturbed a small herd of cows just inside the fence, and they began mooing at us. We crossed the cattle guard, and started down the road to the ranch house to find we had separated about a half dozen cows from the rest of the herd. We did not want to do anything to spoil our welcome, so we stepped way off the road and tried to get the cows to go back to the main herd, but they just ran up the road ahead of us. One cow seemed to want to get back to the herd, as every few steps it would turn around and cry loud whining moos. We tried climbing up the hillside, way off the road and yell at it, "Go on, get back to the herd." I guess it understood, because it got up its courage and ran for it. The others just ran further up the road, so we gave up on them. We walked up to the ranch house, with them racing on beyond the house. We didn't do any harm, the rancher said, as he was going to get them up there anyway.

From the ranch house we set off cross a big fallow pasture to find the ranch road that led to Coe. The field was full of yellow cream cups, and Donna had to stop and paint them, so we stopped for lunch and the sun sent a few rays through the grey to bless us with a picnic in paradise.

john muir walkAfter lunch the real elevation gain began, and we had to take so many little steps that the pedometer was surely fooled because when we finally got to Coe it said we had walked 10.5 miles, but the trip was estimated to be only 7 or 8. When we paused to rest we looked down on hillsides to the grasses kept trimmed by the cattle and the landscape a hundred shades of green. It was the old oaks that really got our admiration. They were beautiful gnarled giants, hundreds of years old. There were dead grey snags on the hillsides, and some were woodpeckered with holes. We saw two or three giant bay trees, kings of the bays, standing alone on little ridges. These trees had four to six trunks coming from the same root structure. They were probably 20-30 feet around and the roots were nestled into eerie soil that was pocked with odd sharp angular rock outcroppings.

As we got higher we walked into fog and could not see more than 100 feet. We had a topo map, though, and felt confident because the route was described to us at the ranch house. The trees took on the appearance of giant ghosts, and we began to wonder if we had been transported to the moors of England. It began to rain, but still it was the most beautiful place we had yet been in. Clearly the further from the metal locust we get, the experience of being in nature is more satisfying for us.