We found the sunshine on the Spring Equinox

green afternoon on the Spring EquinoxThere 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.

backlit hills from Coyote Ridge TrailOur 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.

the campground is open and today completely emptyWe 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.

another good spot for a breakThe 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. 

Is that our trail all the way over there? There are 28.5 miles of trails in this parkThe 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.

Coyote Lake from the Valley Oak TrailThe 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.

Coyote Ridge to the topPS: 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!

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

13 thoughts on “We found the sunshine on the Spring Equinox”

  1. Good for you!!! There is a certain color of white here today. Snowed about 4 inches this morning. Stopped now, so will probably be gone by afternoon. Glad you found the sunshine!


  2. What a gorgeous header photo. Perfect place for Equinox you are so right.

    My guess on the swimming is that they will allow boats to pollute the water but since it is in some way polluted, health department won't allow anyone to swim in it. SIGH………why don't we clean things up and keep them that way. Electric motors only I say or maybe even NO motors. Wouldn't that be a concept? I'll be stoned by the fisherment, waterskiers, jetskiers, et al. 🙂


  3. Beautiful header photo. Love all that green grass. My favorite picture is the backlit one of Mo and Abby – great shot. It's evening now as I write this and 34 degrees. Snow is still on the ground with the promise of more tomorrow. You two enjoy the sunshine and please bring some back with you!!


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