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Poverty Flat

Henry W. Coe State Park

Henry W. Coe State Park Links:

October 17th, 1998

9.5 miles
2400 vertical feet
Total Time: 5:41

Rating: 7/10

Directions:   View Driving Map


If you want to go: Take Highway 101 south toward Morgan Hill. Exit East Dunne Ave. Follow the road east up into the mountains. The road dead-ends at the park, 13 miles from the freeway (this road is very narrow and winding, and will take about 30 minutes to drive).

Alden, Ben, Cammy, Jennie, Kane, Lan, Reza, Sam and I did the Poverty Flat loop in Henry W. Coe State Park.

We met at Coe Headquarters under a cloudless sky. A large group of hikers started off on the trail while we were still getting ready. It's also a popular place for mountain bikers. The rangers at the visitor center were nice enough to lend out a backpack to Sam, who couldn't find his.

We finally got started at 11:30am, heading north on the Monument Trail. Coe Headquarters rests at 2640 feet elevation, and we immediately started climbing toward 3000 feet. This first part of the hike was mostly unshaded, among golden hills. After just six tenths of a mile, we turned left onto Hobbs Road (formerly Northern Heights Road). This is a fire trail leading up toward Frog Lake. While open to mountain bikes, we hardly saw any bikers. We perhaps saw just two sets of mountain bikers the entire hike.

After going up and down, we came to Frog Lake, 1.6 miles from headquarters. The lake isn't so much a lake as it is a pond. There were 3 or 4 people there, fishing. We carefully avoided being hit by a fisherman casting his line, and continued northwest toward the Middle Ridge Trail.

1.9 miles into the hike, we reached the intersection with Middle Ridge, a narrow single-track trail. Many different kinds of trees provided shade for us here. We soon realized that it would be well after 2pm before we reached Poverty Flat, so we stopped for lunch at some shaded logs. Ben, Cammy, and Lan walked to a log in from the trail, but in doing so, were attacked by dozens of burrs which they're probably still picking out of their socks.

Reza, Jennie, and Sam on the Middle Ridge Trail

We thought we'd be descending for quite some time, but the trail instead headed up right after lunch. Then down for a bit, and up yet again. It was around the last false summit that we started noticing the magnificent manzanita trees. They were everywhere, their distinctive smooth outer bark making them look like, as Jennie would say, chocolate-covered trees.

Finally, we started our decisive descent. Portions of the trail were very steep, indeed, and we had to proceed with caution, making careful to stay out of Cammy's way in case she fell. =) Here, the forest was much denser, as well. There wasn't a lot of fall foliage, but there were some colors -- a few beautiful yellows mostly.

After almost 4 miles on the Middle Ridge Trail, we reached the Coyote Creek. After concentrating for mile after mile of descent among forest, it was a beautiful sight. A clearing held a gentle creek set at the base of a hill, several trees with bright yellow leaves in the background. We put down our packs and walked along the rocks in the creek, checking out the tiny fish. The sense of isolation, of distance between us and the rest of civilization, was nice (at least for me). In addition to the few mountain bikers, we saw the 3 or 4 fishermen, and maybe 3 hikers coming the opposite direction, both near headquarters, before we got back closer to headquarters.

Fall colors along Coyote Creek

Reza, Jennie, and me at Coyote Creek

After a satisfactorily long break, we continued along the trail. We passed a campsite near the creek, then crossed it and came to the Poverty Flat Road (formerly known as the Pacheco Route). We could either head west back to headquarters, or first head east toward Poverty Flat.

We didn't know what lay in store for us at Poverty Flat, but it was only three tenths of a mile away, and we'd come this far, so we decided to go there. A short while later we came to the creek again. This time, Alden spotted a tiny frog in it. We tried to get some close-ups as best we could before continuing on toward Poverty Flat. Ben and Cammy walked right by it before I called them back to the prominent sign saying "Poverty Flat", seeming to announce only the lone outhouse behind it, and not much else.

A tiny frog spotted near Poverty Flat

Heading up the steep trail

After nearly being mutinied by the rest of the group, I led us back along the Poverty Flat Road to begin our 3.5 mile ascent back to headquarters. The road is a fire trail, and it immediately climbs -- steeply. Portions of the trail are at least a 20% grade. Most of these sections are short, however, and most of them are near the bottom. We also had some pleasant surprises along the trail. We spotted several wild turkeys slowly making their away across a field. We couldn't get a clear view, as the brush mostly concealed them. But it was still a nice treat. Shortly after that, we spotted a few deer. We also saw a coyote on the drive back -- this is probably the most wildlife I've ever seen on a hike so far -- fish, frogs, turkey, deer, coyote, a few lizards, but no tarantulas!

Wild turkeys lurking in the brush

A shedding Manzanita tree

Full view of the tree

A little less than 2 miles from the headquarters, we intersected with the Forest Trail. Deciding we'd had enough of the fire trail, we headed into the forest and back onto the single-track. We saw more manzanita trees, big slimy mossy rocks, and an (ahem) interesting downed tree.

Cammy enjoying nature

We started to run into more people as we headed back along the Corral Trail. And then we were all done -- crossing the final bridge back to headquarters. This wasn't the most scenic hike, but it was one of the most remote. It had a lot of wildlife and a lot of subtle variety. And we only scratched the surface. The park is the largest state park in northern California -- 81,000 acres! It would make for a great backpacking trip.

Group shot at the end of a fun hike


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