Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Henry Coe

It's partly the sheer scale of northern California's largest state park that sets the place apart. From your trailhead at the civilized western edge, your calves burn as you ascend to the closest major ridge– in my case, Willson Peak. The views open up, first westward, then north and south, and finally eastward, where the park extends, rolling ridge beyond rolling ridge, as far as the eye can see. It's little wonder that you encounter more backpackers than day hikers: it's a place to get lost for a few days, especially on a temperate overcast spring weekend, with the deciduous oaks leafing out and wildflowers competing with the emerald European grasses.

Oaks and grass dominate... and what oaks! Blue, black, valley, and live oaks, some of them commingling and presumably hybridizing. Atop Willson Peak, the bluegreen serpentine outcropping is a striking dead zone, surrounded at the margins by the hardy native flowers that have evolved to handle the chemicals. There are also some nice lichens.

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