Sunday, September 25, 2011

Henry Coe Vasquez Peak hike

Yesterday I went on a 13 mile hike almost to Vasquez Peak at Henry Coe State park with the gay and lesbian Sierrans. After three weeks of resting my right ankle which I sprained on Sept 4, I felt ready for a long challenging hike. I discovered two things: resting for three weeks and not exercising much at all erases some of the conditioning I built up with all that training for the Whitney hike in the summer and my ankle was not as healed as I thought.

We started our hike on a nice flat section of the park in Hunting Hollow. We crossed three bone dry creeks till we reached the Lyman Wilson trail junction. We then pealed off to start the long uphill 2 miles up the Lyman Wilson trail. It was on this uphill climb that I realized how much conditioning I had lost due to the three weeks of resting the ankle and getting very little exercise. I was puffing on the steep hills but it wasn't as bad as the puffing on Whitney! I enjoyed all that wonderful oxygen at altitudes below 3000 feet! The ankle seemed to be holding up really well on the up hill hike. Lyman Wilson ended at the junction with Steer Ridge road. We then had a short flattish bit on the ridge trail head to a nice looking lunch stop under a big tree with a nice view of Hunting Hollow way down below. Lunch was uneventful except for an aggressive squirrel that ran past our packs hoping for a snack. It ran into the back of one of the hike participants and gave her a small fright. I saw it dashing off after she cried out.

After lunch we headed down the Steer Ridge trail to Vasquez Road which we took to the Long Dam Trail. At that junction we were about 1/8 of a mile away from Vasquez Peak but we decided to skip seeing the 2210 feet peak as the hike leader, R., said it was just a boring flat peak with not much more of a view than we already had. On this section of trail I discovered that my ankle was not as healed as I thought. Going downhill was hard on it and the Vasquez Road and Long Dam trails were not very well maintained. Lots of grass was growing on the trail and it hid little gullies. I nearly tweaked it about three times before I figured out I needed to slow down and set my right foot down carefully in the long grass. The ankle didn't hurt at all but it did feel weak and my lower leg muscles were complaining with the compensating they were doing to protect the weak ankle. When I wasn't staring at the ground on these trails, I did enjoy the views of Edith and Long Dam ponds. And because I was staring at the ground I spotted a praying mantis bug. I had never seen that a Henry Coe before. It was cool!

At the end of Long Dam trail we got on to the Wagon Road trail and much better maintained old ranch road. I didn't have to watch where I set my right foot down any longer. That was a relief. We descended down the Wagon Road trail to yet another bone dry creek crossing. Then we headed up a mile to the Phegley Ridge trail. We took a rest at the intersection and saw some other hikers who asked about water. They had not brought quite as much as they thought. Unfortunately I don't think they were going to find any water on the trail. I hope they got back OK and were not too dehydrated. Its a hot dusty park in the fall. I drank all my water (2.5 liters) on the hike. After a rest we headed off on the Phegley Ridge trail. It started with a mild uphill section and then it started to go down down down to Hunting Hollow. There were several really steep descents and this was just killer on my ankle. I had to go at a snails pace to maintain control so I didn't lose balance and have to land hard on my right foot. My right ankle and leg started to ache a bit. I was very relieved when we finally reached Hunting Hollow and only had 2 miles of flat hiking on a well maintained ranch dirt road.

I was running on fumes those last two miles. It reminded me remotely of the end of the Whitney hike. There is something weird in my personality that likes to push my body like this and meet hiking challenges. I am glad that my ankle came through OK but realize that next time I probably should choose a slightly less challenging hike only three weeks after spraining an ankle! It was good to finally reach the cars and be able to rest. We drove back to our car pool location and then I had to drive myself home. Much to my chagrin I got stuck in traffic on the way home. There was a concert at Shoreline that I didn't know about and I did not get off the freeway in time to avoid the backup at the Shoreline exit. I managed to get off at the exit before Shoreline but I was stuck in stop and go traffic for about 20 minutes. Arg. It was good to finally get home and have a hot shower and then sit down to a nice dinner of Mac-n-Cheese!

Pictures from the hike are at

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