It is amazing how easy it is to find solitude close to a metro area with 8.4 million people! Other than Lombard Street, I am not sure that people around here like hills a whole lot, as this is my second straight day of driving a few miles up into the mountains and being almost totally alone. I like being around people (almost) as much as the next guy, but I also love a bit of alone time here and there. Yesterday, during my hike at Castle Rock, I may have run across 10 other hikers near the trailhead, mostly on the Castle Rock loop, but only two hikers during the rest of my 3-4 hours. Today, I headed out to Henry Coe State Park, the second largest state park in California, and during my entire hike, I saw three other people, all in one group. The rest of the day was full of peaceful wanderings through this great park free of all human created sounds. You cannot hear cars, or anything else during almost all of the hike. That is near impossible to find at home and was much appreciated.
Today I hiked a loop of about 4.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 650 feet. The hike is described in better detail than I will accomplish here: Henry Coe Hike
I am very thankful to the park ranger at the headquarters, as I had intended to hike the hike counter-clockwise, as was suggested in the book I was using to locate hikes. The rangers suggested I do it in the other direction, and oh how I was happy with that suggestion. I am not one for hiking on roads, and what would have been near the end of my hike would have been a long hike up a steep forest road, fully exposed to the hot sun (I did not start my hike until noon). Pretty much all of the elevation gain would have come on a hot, sunny road. Instead, I began my hike with a decent uphill trail climb, then onto that road for a steep downhill and enjoyed a steady elevation gain over the remainder of my hike. That hill was steep enough that my trekking poles would have been handy.
The hike began with many beautiful views along rolling hills covered with golden grasses. before moving into mixed oak woodlands, snaking around the hillsides of Coyote Creek Canyon, before ending again with more great grassland views. What amazed me the most, again, was the solitude. The Bay Area has such a great park within a short distance and so few people take advantage of it. I barely scratched the surface in my few hours here and I would love to make it back for a late winter backpacking trip. Here are few pictures from the hike: