Hiking Stats as of 11/20/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Feb 1, 2014 - Sizer, Mount


Partners: (None)

Distance: 15.79 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,452 feet

Trip Time: 5:58

Maps and Stats:
As February rolled in, I began to realize that I hadn't been doing as much local hiking as I normally would during the winter months, and while going to the Sierra in winter is a rare treat, the fact remains that summer is prime Sierra time while the hot summers restrict my access to the local peaks. Basically, if I plan to get any Bay Area vicinity peaks, I needed to get started. Although I am working on the CC (California Coastal) Peak list, a hiking buddy told me about the "Everest by the Bay" list - a collection of 9 peaks scattered across the Bay Area and for the most part represented some good challenges. When told about this list, I discovered I had already summitted 5 of the 9, with Loma Prieta, Mt. Sizer, El Sombroso and Black Mountain (all in the South Bay) the missing 4. Over Christmas Break I bagged Loma Prieta, and today's plan was to pay my first ever visit to Henry Coe State Park, the home of Mt. Sizer. Sizer would also be my 24th CC summit, giving me a nice double check mark target on the day.

Henry Coe Park is the largest State Park in northern California, its vast expanse reaching from the hills southeast of San Jose nearly to Interstate 5 in the Central Valley. I had Sizer on my to-do list for quite awhile, having heard of its challenging and steep trails and this was a visit long overdue. After walking the dogs for their standard weekend 6 mile jaunt on yet another warm winter morning I set off, taking the 680 south through San Jose and then the 101 another 10 miles south to the town of Morgan Hill, where a windy road let up to the park entrance at 2600 feet. From here, Sizer was only about 600 vertical feet higher, although it was 2 ridgelines over which would require nearly 4,500 feet of elevation gain for the day's journey. Upon arrival I went into the park visitor center to pay the parking fee ($6 if I remember correctly) and talked with a ranger for a few minutes about my plans for the day. He seemed overly impressed with the goal, which was kind of funny since this would be on well maintained trails and fireroads. This was nothing more than another typical weekend dayhike - challenging for sure, but not anything over the top.

Having checked out and downloaded the new Lincoln Lawyer audiobook "The Gods of Guilt" from the library, I set off in good spirits and with good entertainment around 11 AM. With the starting elevation being so high I did not have to work to have some nice views from the beginning. The plan was to complete a clockwise loop, going up a bit to the top of the ridge I was currently on to a height of about 3,000 feet, then dropping down under 2,500 feet, back up the next ridge to over 2,800 feet, then down across a stream under 1,700 feet. From here, I would take on the infamous "Shortcut" that would climb back up to over 3,000 feet in barely over a mile. The return would be less dramatic, trading some extra distance to avoid having to climb up one of the ridges, although still dropping back down to about 1,250 feet at its low point before having to regain the starting elevation of 2,600 at the end. Basically lots of ups and downs!

The thing that stood out the most along the early portion of the trail was the size of the park and vast areas available for hiking and backpacking. I made quick work of the relatively easy first 2 ridges, following well marked trail signs and working to keep up a good pace to avoid another descent by headlamp. A little over an hour into the trip I saw what I had been fearing - I was looking across a steep gulch, and on the other side was the steep slopes leading to the final ridgeline where Mt. Sizer is located. I could also make out the trail that I would follow, the infamous The Shortcut. I dropped down to the stream that marks the beginning of the Shortcut, and was surprised to see water flowing in it. I had heard that following storms this would require knee deep wading to get across, but with our dry winter I had no trouble rock hopping across. Once across, I started up the Shortcut. I expected some sort of Half Dome like steepness, and having such a mindset really helped me get through it quite quickly and easily. It seems that an unexpected 500 foot climb can be a killer, but if you know you are facing 1500 feet of steep gain and prep your mind, it can be accomplished with less effort than the 500 foot ascent. I only stopped to rest a few times, and took advantage of the breather to enjoy the view back towards my original starting location.

It took a total of 42 minutes to ascend the distance from the creek under 1,700 feet to the top of the ridge over 3,000 feet high, where a well placed bench was located. I was in a hurry though, so not time to rest. Although the peak of Mt. Sizer was not visible from this location, it was an easy mile hike along relatively flat ground to get there. These views were probably the best of the day, with no trees or obstacles blocking the view. At around mile 7 on the journey I was on the final easy walk up to the summit, and once on top was a bit disappointed with the views. Trees were blocking the views in basically all directions. I spotted a small radio tower with a solar panel just off the summit, and spent a few minutes poking around but there was nothing interesting over there either. I decided to get moving, and once back on trail had great views again once the trees were out of the way. Of particular interest was Loma Prieta, way off in the Santa Cruz Mountains. AS the trail descended on to the east side of the ridge to make the long circle back, the views towards more distant peaks and across the rugged Henry Coe terrain were enjoyable indeed. The trail also wound through the remnants of a long-ago burn, with the charred remains of several trees standing over new growth underneath.

This part of the trip was somewhat repetitive - just a downhill slog towards Poverty Flat, where the Park would make me do one final 1,400 foot gain to get back to the trailhead. Or at least that is what I had thought, until I was startled by the sight of what looked to be a giant cat (or medium sized dog) which jumped out on the trail in front of me and ran about 50 yards away. I turned off my audiobook (I probably would have heard it sooner if not for the book) and fumbled around for my camera. I zoomed in and got a shot of him, then zoomed in again and saw what looked like a bobcat. The tail was a bit longer than I would have expected, but what else could it be? So after seeing my first bobcat, I was re-energized as I crossed the stream and got started on the long, winding uphill climb back up. I was a bit tired at this point, but was making excellent time, and as the sun lowered in the sky I knew I would be back to the trailhead well before darkness. Soon I could see the park buildings ahead, and arrived back up a few minutes before 5 PM. The ranger I spoke to 6 hours earlier was just locking up, but he let me in to buy a couple of energy bars. I showed him my picture of the bobcat, and he agreed that it was likely a bobcat but that maybe it had crossbred with something. Looking at the small LCD screen on my camera it was hard to tell. I thanked him for the food and set off for the 90 minute drive back to Tracy, arriving a bit too late to give the dogs an evening walk, but still I could get used to these shorter driving days!

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