Wild Recovery Meetings
| What is Wild Recovery?
Trail Maps/ Park
Info | NA Online
Resources | Contact Us
April photo (and a half-moon) of the view from the
high ground near Dowdy Ranch, looking south. It is always beautiful,
but it is a challenge to predict the weather at any season because it is
so close to Pacheco Pass. We would think of warm nighttime temperatures
for a mid-August hike, but you never know: sometimes the wind can come roaring
up the pass from off the ocean, blowing unguyed tents flat and becoming
downright chilly in exposed locations.. We'll situate ourselves accordingly,
but the kind of clothes that can cope with warm temperatures or chilly winds
can be a big help to you.
Full Moon Hike
Henry W. Coe State Park
Bell Station Entrance/ Dowdy Ranch
August 16, 2008
The Occasion, The Place
A popular Wild Recovery
tradition is transplanted to a new location, within the same park, this year.
The Full Moon hike has always been wildly popular with newcomers. One
may suppose that, being with your recovery buddies, hiking under the sunset
in the backcountry, enjoying a meeting as the full moon rises, and hiking
back under its gorgeous silver illumination has something both exciting
and cozy about it. Yet, some have not found the return hike, a good
uphill pull at the end of the night, so cozy. We thought we would
spare the newcomers, somewhat, this year and yet take them into the fresh
and delicious air of recovery, outside the church basement, without running
them into the ground the very first time out.
The newly opened Visitor
Center at Dowdy Ranch allows for more flexibility in the choice of a hiking
route that will scale well to the abilities that both our new, and more experienced
members bring. It takes us to a less-frequented part of Coe Park which
is a truly beautiful area comprising the inner marches of Coe Park's famous
and coveted Backcountry Weekend. It is a longer drive to reach the
entrance at Bell Station, then another six-and-a-half miles, uphill, on a
winding dirt road that has a rightfully-posted speed limit of 25 MPH and
because of the dust and road surface, it may be smart to drive more slowly
than that. Dowdy is impossible to miss once you get on the road:
it's the end of the road.
An afternoon shot, this time looking north toward
Walsh Peak. If we looked a little further into the top of the frame,
into the hazy area, we could see part of the burn area from the fire of 2007,
which burned the face off half the park. If you wished to arrive earlier
in the day before the moonlight hike, you could hike either within sight,
or right into the burn zone. In many places it is recovering well,
already, with fire-adapted plants making a good comeback. However,
our regular hike will not take us into the burn zone.
For those who wish to
camp overnight, Dowdy offers a level area with picnic tables off the large
parking lot, or you may hike in to camp, near or far. There are restrooms
with flush toilets, and hot showers. Camp stoves are allowed, but no
campfires. Though some may see this as a downside, the truth is that
with half the State of California already on fire this very dry season, it
is greatly doubtful that open fires would have been allowed at the previous
location either. But, keep reading--- we have a solution.
You might like to camp at Dowdy Ranch, which for
this event (though not regularly) offers drive-up camping and so it will
be easy to do. On the other hand, if you come prepared to backpack,
even minimally, there are some wonderfully charming spots within a short
hike. This kind of camping is permitted regularly, so you could do
it any time the Dowdy is open... or, if you can hike in, the park is never
really closed to camping except in dire emergencies. The rules are
the same: camp stoves are permitted, campfires are not.
Dowdy is normally not
available for overnight camping and has been provided to us by special arrangement.
There are trash cans, but we are asked carry our own trash out as much
as possible, as is the case with almost any backcountry park. The Parking
and Day Use fee is $5.00 per car, please bring enough cash to meet this
modest expense. Camping for Saturday night only is available for $10.00 per
peson. Please contact our treasurer Diane T. (831) 462-0262 for reservations.
It will be very helpful,
tactically and financially (both for you and the group), if you are able
to carpool, within your margin of comfort... considering the length of the
trip, the dirt road, and the fact that you may have camping gear. But,
with a couple of people in the car, the gas will be more affordable and
you can split the cost of going through a car wash on the way home. Your
writer humbly suggests you just plan on it. You'll see the value of
this suggestion at the park's exit.
These wildflower species will not be blooming in
mid-August, but you may recognize the entrance to Dowdy Ranch Day Use Area
anyway from the split-rail fences. If the Dowdy Visitor Center is
open, which is only somewhat likely, you can buy a map of the park, highly
recommended if you think to make any kind of a hike into the backcountry.
Never enter the backcountry without a map on your person, and it helps
to have a compass in these highly-dissected canyons and drainages where
directional clues can be harder to see. Maps are available by mail
order from the Coe Park website: www.coepark.org , from the Visitor Center
at the main entrance in Morgan Hill, and at certain bookstores and backcountry
From San Jose, take 101 South to
Gilroy. Take 152/156 East (Pacheco Pass Highway). Beware of taking
the wrong exit and going west toward Hecker Pass; if you find yourself headed
toward Mt. Madonna, through downtown Gilroy, turn around. Now, this
end of Pacheco Pass Highway is very scenic, but can be somewhat of a problem
to drive and the traffic can be quite slow. There are only two lanes,
there is road construction, and getting past the turnoff to Hollister, which
crosses your path, can be time-consuming. Allow two hours for this
trip and you will probably have some time to spare. On the other
hand, you could be in quite a pinch if you cut it too close. However,
we made an error in the advance information when we said the park gates
close at 6:00 PM. Actually, they close at sunset, which is closer
to 8:30 in August. However, our hike will start at 7:00. If
you're late, at least you can get in the gate.
After the exit at Casa de Fruita Parkway, Highway 152 widens to four lanes.
About 5½ or 6 miles past Casa de Fruta, you will see an eroded
volcanic throat on your right ( a knocker, if you were to ask a geologist),
which is the landmark for the Bell Station entrance to Coe Park, on the
left. There is a generous left turn lane, and from the road you can
see a closed restaurant called "Bell Station Restaurant." It's a dangerous
turn all the same; you have to cross the fast-moving lanes of downhill traffic,
which couldn't stop if they wanted to. After you make the left turn,
you will be able to see the park entrance sign, and can pull over into the
small parking lot, where there are restrooms. Pacheco Pass Highway
used to be a toll road, and Bell Station is generally where the toll house
was. Before that, it was an Indian trail and trade route.
At this point, where you enter the park, the road changes to gravel and
dirt, nicely engineered but only two lanes. Initially, as it goes uphill
fairly steeply, the road has some washboarding. There are different
schools of thought about how best to drive a road in this condition, but
it is probably easier on your car, shocks, and butt to go more slowly. Once
the grade lessens, the road becomes smoother. 6½ miles later, you will come to the Dowdy
Ranch entrance, with a closed gate barring further travel down the road.
It would be difficult to overstate the need for caution and courtesy to
other drivers when using this road. Roaring down the track, raising
a big rooster-tail of dust, and tailgating the next guy can really mess up
your car and air filter, and possibly lead you into an accident on the steep
grades and blind curves. This is especially true coming down the grade,
when you return home. Do not be tempted to floor the accelerator, it
can be quite hard to stop on the downgrades (the tires can't bite on the road
surface, you just slide).
This view looks south and east from the high point
before the Dowdy.
The hike will begin from Dowdy
Ranch parking lot at 7:00 PM. Remember, the park gates at Bell Station
will be locked at sunset, so you have time to save yourself if the trip to
the park doesn't go smoothly, but the hike will start at the scheduled time,
with you or without you. The map will help you catch up, if necessary.
Go downhill from the parking lot entrance, on the main road, for a couple
of hundred feet. The trailhead is on the left side of the road. This
is a shady single-track , which passes a little cut-off that leads to a small
stock pond fed by a spring from further up the hill. It is unlikely
to have much water at this season, but this is the kind of environment, and
the time of day, that mosquitoes like, so you might like to have on your 100%
DEET. In April, this area is jumping with wildflowers, and the last
wildflowers of the season also grow here. So, we may see Clarkia
and Zantedeschia as we pass by. You wouldn't think, looking at
the rocky hilltops, that they would have much in the way of drainages or
spring-fed anything, but it is a relative matter and wildflowers' needs and
adaptations are not the same as ours. About their outlook on life, who
Shortly after the pond, the trail forks and we take the left turn, uphill.
It is a rough track for 4WD, high-clearance vehicles at this point,
so you will be glad you have on your hiking pumps. You may be able to
see where they parked the generator truck and mast for the radio repeater,
which serves communications at Backcountry Weekend. The mast can just
see over the ridgelines at this location, so that line-of-sight radio communications
can work. It is just after this small point-of-interest (to some) that
the trail forks again, and this time we take the right turn. This takes
us across a fairly level ridgetop trail that goes toward Rock Springs, Center
Flats (a serious misnomer, if you've been there), and Canada de la Dormida.
That more or less means Sleepy Canyon, and it is a lovely area, even
in the summer. There's some great backpacking over here.
You will see a modest high point with a track intersection
leading to the right. This is our somewhat arbitrary turning-around
point, to try to keep the hike at a reasonable length, yet give a good sample
of what this part of the backcountry has to offer. Once we regain the
point at which we turned off the main trail (near the repeater site), we turn
right and continue uphill onto Burra Burra Peak. There are two modest
crowns, but I can't give you any very good reason why they would call it
such a name. This is a fairly well-beaten single-track that may have
supported jeep traffic (or mule wagon traffic) at some time. The exposure
is to the south, with a wonderful big-sky view, and several ridges that finger
their way off the (very modest) main route; there are some fine camping spots
for those who have thought ahead and arrived early enough to find them. But
this is where we'll stop for the meeting, pretty near the spot marked M on
the map. By this time the sunset will have drawn down and the full
moon will be rising. Some may want to take the side track that leads
up through the chapparal to the hilltop to see what they may, but there are
nicer places to sit, with the size group we will have. Everyone wants
to sit in the back row and right in the doorway--- all meetings are like
this--- but it will show some consideration for the speaker if we draw a
bit closer. Even the heartiest voice can only scream so loud.
No campfire this year. If you brought one of those headlamps that
has a strobe setting and fresh batteries, we could put a bunch of them together
and it would make a nice, random flickering light. Maybe not exactly
like a real fire, but it could be worth a try. Anyway, it's about the
fellowship and the message of recovery, not the fire, really; the outer fire
is only a reminder of the inner fire, in actual truth.
What do you know, we're actually quite close to the Dowdy once the meeting
is over. The track may be somewhat faint, so be careful of your footing.
Streptanthus grows by the trailside over here, a lovely sight
in the silvery moonlight. Its flowers are tiny, but jewel-like; in fact,
its common name is Jewel Flower. As you descend from the single-track
onto the main road, cross over the dirt road into the green light woods behind
the small hill, and turn to your left, downhill. There is a trail that
leads downhill, it should not be too hard to follow in the moonlight. As
we emerge from the very light canopy of the woods, there is a beautiful view
of the ridges and draws to the north, covered with ghostly Grey Pine, a beautiful
moonlight sight to draw our hike to a conclusion.
"To the Egress"
This was a sign in Barnum's Museum; people may have thought
they were going to see an exotic bird, but they ended up exiting onto the
street... because that is what egress actually means. They had to pay
again to get back inside; it was only a nickel, but that was a lot of money
back in those days.
Those who are not camping overnight will have to be let out
through the locked egress at the Bell Station entrance. That means that
about twenty minutes after the last people have made it back from the hike,
your host for the hike will drive back down to Bell Station and open the
gate, then after locking it, return to the campsite. It will be tempting
to many to form a caravan, each eating the previous car's dust plume and
trying to make some time on the road home, but it would be very much smarter
to do neither. We know this is the case from Backcountry Weekend; we
see it every year... people are simply too used to freeway driving. The return
road is dusty, steeper than you might think, and has some tight curves (some
of them also blind curves) that could result in a very bad accident if you
were to go off the road, whose natural route follows ridgelines when it can.
And of course, it will be dark by this time. And, where the road
is steeper the tendency for it to form a wahboarded surface is much greater,
and the bouncing of the wheels off the track lessens the traction--- and
braking capacity--- they have. Simple physics.
The smarter and more pleasant way to get down will be to
allow enough space between cars for the dust to pretty much settle, and to
take a moderate pace. This will not only raise less dust, but may give
you just that opportunity you need to save yourself if the road does something
you're not expecting. With a little luck, sometimes the wind will blow
the dust to the side and it takes less time to get a clear view. Going
downhill, it helps to put your car in a lower gear rather than riding the
brakes. Going so far with a foot always on the brake can make them fail
in service, or even catch fire.
Wild Recovery Meetings
| What is Wild
Trail Maps/ Park
Info | NA Online
Resources | Contact Us