There is a certain color of green in the California coastal range that comes after the winter rains. Sometimes when the sunlight pours over the hills, that green can be so intense it feels as though it expands your vision into something psychedelic. The timing has to be just right, and this year is a dry year so that neon green is a bit less dramatic, but still there if you look at just the right moment.
Our moment was during a late afternoon hike to the Coyote Ridge Trail in Coyote Lake County Park, high above the hills of the Santa Clara Valley. After waking to rain in Garberville, driving through rain as far south as Santa Rosa, negotiating huge lines of cars buying gas for 4.15 a gallon at Costco, and transiting the Bay Area freeways, we were happy to find our little park in the hills just a bit north of Gilroy off Highway 101.
We found this one using Streets and Trips, researched it a bit, and made the decision that it would be a good overnight stop on our way to Pinnacles. Just a few miles east of the freeway, the park could be in another world entirely. Rising from the valley, we drove a very narrow, winding road to the park entrance, and then after a couple of serious switchbacks, dropped down to the broad but small valley that is the home to Coyote Lake.
The campground is lovely at this time of year. I can imagine that the summer heat might be daunting, but right now the temperatures were a perfect 70 degrees when we arrived in late afternoon. A large herd of resident deer wanders around the lush grassy site, and even now after dark I can hear the turkeys gobbling.
I know it is mid week, but this park was completely empty when we arrived, and later this evening, one lone camper slipped in to a spot across the field from us. There are 18 sites with hookups, not cheap at $30 per night, but that includes a fee for the dump station we passed on the way in.
The strangest thing about this park is the strict rule regarding NO swimming in the lake. You can water ski, use jet skis, kayaks, motorboats, but you can’t swim. Makes no sense to me at all. Abby saw the water and got all excited so it was sad that we couldn’t take her down to the lake for a dip.
The best thing about this park are the trails. There are 28.5 miles of very nice trails, and we only managed to get out on 3 miles or so of the Coyote Ridge and Valley oak trail. All are dog friendly, with leashes required of course, but with no one else in the park, it seemed fine to let Abby run free. I did get a bit paranoid about the poison oak, but it wasn’t right on the trail in too many places, and hopefully we managed to keep Abby out of it.
We found amazing sunshine, and warm temperatures. All the driving, all the rain, all behind us. Sunshine ahead and I am sitting here after dark in capris and a tee shirt. Great way to celebrate the beautiful balance of light and dark that this Equinox day brings.
PS: As we packed up this morning, I learned some new things about the park. On summer weekends it is packed. During the week, however, there is almost always at least half of the hookup spaces available. In summer it is hot and dry and brown. The lake is kept at 55 percent of maximum because it is on the Calaveras Fault and they figure that the Anderson reservoir below Coyote Lake and above the Santa Clara Valley floodplain could hold the overflow in the event of dam breakage. There are only a couple of mountain lions about, covering 100 square miles each, not enough to keep down the deer population.
I had no bars for Verizon MiFi and no bars for the ATT cell phone and no television signals. I suppose someone with satellite would have had good open sky. I am now posting from Highway 101 as we head for Pinnacles, another place with no bars. We’ll be back in blogworld on Saturday. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the prediction for today is in the 70’s. Yes!