The Cook and Green Loop is one of the more challenging (i.e., character-building) hikes in Northern California’s Red Buttes Wilderness (a wilderness more readily accessible from the Oregon side). The loop consists of the Cook and Green Trail (USFS #959), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Horse Camp Trail (USFS #958). It can be done in either direction. Clockwise it is a gradual 11-mile, 3,600 foot climb up the Cook and Green Trail and the PCT to the Horse Camp Trail junction, and then a steep 4 mile descent down that trail to the trailhead on Forest Road 1040. The other way is a stiff 3,600 foot ascent followed by a gradual 11-mile descent. I’d done the loop clockwise in January 2015, when there was only a miniscule amount of snow along the Siskiyou Crest (post). Plans for doing it counter-clockwise languished until the desire to see how much snow the very snowy winter of 2016-17 had left on the Crest overcame my reluctance to climb 3,600 feet (the LovedOne opted to garden instead). So a bright, sunny, and destined to be very warm, day found me starting up the Horse Camp Trail at an absurdly early hour.
For our sixth, and last, hike during our week wandering the Golden State, we decided it would be interesting to visit a waterfall. After consulting Soares’ 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California (2014 edition), we picked Feather Falls as our goal. It was low altitude (so no snow issues), had paved access, and was described (at 410 feet) as the sixth highest waterfall in the United States. In this wet year, we also figured it might be a more spectacular water feature than usual (and we were right). So, bidding a fond farewell to the Garlic Capital of the World, to drove to much less fragrant Yuba City, California, and, after a night there, on to Feather Falls. We arrived to find one of the largest paved parking lots we’ve ever seen at a trailhead (it would be overflowing when we got back). What the guidebook failed to mention is that this is likely one of the most popular dayhikes in the Plumas National Forest. Fortunately, our habit of arriving early and hiking steadily kept us ahead of the crowds for the whole day.
In the early 1970s, I was a frequent visitor to the west side of Pinnacles National Park (it was a national monument then) both for rock climbing and to spend time with friends who were then rangers at Chaparral. Some of my earliest rock climbs were done on the loose, crackless, downward sloping volcanic breccia that dubiously passes for “rock” at Pinnacles. I never made it over to the east side then and haven’t been back since. The LovedOne had never been there. So, after another night in Gilroy, California (“The Garlic Capital of the World”), we drove south to explore – for the fifth hike in our week of wandering the Golden State – the east side of Pinnacles. Thanks to the efforts of an early homesteader, Schuyler Hain, Pinnacles was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 as a 2,500 acre national monument. Since then, the monument has increased in bits and pieces to its present size of about 26,000 acres. In 2013 President Barack Obama signed legislation passed by Congress that redesignated the monument as a National Park.
After saying good-bye to Ken and Julie, we stayed one more night in Calistoga and then spent the next day driving further south to Gilroy, California, visiting bookstores along the way. From Gilroy (“The Garlic Capital of the World”), we would explore – for the fourth hike in our week of wandering the Golden State – the southwest side of Henry W. Coe State Park. At 87,000 acres (35,000 hectares), Coe is the largest state park in northern California and the second-largest in the state after Anza-Borrego Desert State Park east of San Diego. Yet, despite all the years we lived and hiked in California, including time spent in San Francisco, we never once visted Coe. So sad.
One of the goals for this visit to the Golden State was to catch-up with my old friend Ken (and his partner Julie) when his energies weren’t being given totally to the grape harvest. So after we finished our hike of Oat Hill, we went over to Ken and Julie’s for an excellent dinner, some of Ken’s wine, and a discussion of which hike to do together the next day. The weather forecast looked excellent – finally sunshine! – so we decided to hike the Moore Creek Trail from the Las Posadas trailhead down to the Moore Creek trailhead (brochure). This was the third hike in our week of wandering the Golden State.
This was the second hike in our week of wandering the Golden State. We spent the night in Calistoga, California – a nice little town toward the northern end of California’s Napa Valley. We were there last summer, when it was swarming with wine tasters. It’s a whole lot more mellow experience in the off-season. It rained overnight but, by morning, while the clouds persisted, the rain had stopped. Unsure of the width of our weather window, we didn’t want to sacrifice hiking time on a lengthy drive to a trailhead. Thus we decided to hike the Oat Hill Mine Trail because it literally starts right outside Calistoga. So, after an arduous two minute drive to the trailhead, we were on the trail and away.
Months ago, when we made plans to do some Spring hiking in northern and central California, our one (small) concern was that we might miss some great Southern Oregon hiking weather while we were away wandering the Golden State. But this concern dissipated (or was washed away, so to speak) as winter here refused to end and continued to shower its wet bounty upon us with storm after storm after storm. So, as our planned departure date approached, and the weather forecasts for California started including unfamiliar terms like “sunshine” and “warmth” and “gentle breezes,” our need to drive south in search of this meteorological nirvana took on a lemming-like intensity. So, after the LovedOne finished her Saturday volunteer stint at the library, we jumped in the car and lit out for Redding, California.