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Come celebrate California Wildlife Day at Henry W. Coe State Park

Wander the countryside alone or tag along with volunteer docents

Published in the March 15 – 28, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Mike Hundt

Hikers traverse a trail near Rooster Comb in Henry W. Coe State Park’s Orestimba Wilderness. The park is a hidden gem in Santa Clara County.
Photo courtesy Ron Erskine

A few miles east of Gilroy lies nearly 90,000 acres of breath-taking wilderness beauty available for the public to explore and enjoy. Henry W. Coe State Park welcomes visitors every day of the year, but we especially want to invite the public the weekend of March 18 and 19 to celebrate California Wildlife Day. Come just to wander and wonder or tag along with any of the special events put on by the park and its volunteer docents.

In February, the California Senate passed a resolution to recognize the state’s diverse and unique ecosystem through the establishment of California Wildlife Day to be held annually at the spring equinox, which this year is March 20.

Coe Park, with its diverse flora and fauna, provides an ideal setting to celebrate this event. Bursting with colorful wildflowers after the winter rains, the park is also home to a variety of ecosystems including riparian and oak woodland. The size of the park coupled with its adjacency to other protected lands provides an ideal environment for ranging animals such as deer, elk, bobcats, fox, coyote, and the ultimate North American predator, the mountain lion. In all, the park provides as close to a pristine environment as you’ll find anywhere in the greater Bay Area.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, March 18, bring your lunch and take a leisurely hike among the trees of Henry W. Coe State Park and learn to identify the evergreen and deciduous species. Compare the leaves, acorns, bark, shape and habitat of different oaks. Learn which animals depend on the acorns, which oaks have leaves that change color, which oaks lose their leaves and which don’t. Learn about oak galls, and which acorns were most valued by Native Americans.

Even if you’re not an early riser, you’ll be glad you made an exception Sunday, March 19 to gather at 7 a.m. at the Coe Park headquarters and take some spectacular photographs of sunrise over Pine Ridge. After sunrise and over coffee and bagels, you’ll be treated to a 30-minute presentation about mountain lions, elk, and other park wildlife. After the presentation, we’ll head off to experience some wonderful spring flowers, lovely singing birds, and hopefully some deer on our way to Frog Lake. We might even spot a mountain lion track, or catch the morning dew on a funnel spider web.

Stop by the visitor center or the white barn any time over the weekend to watch one of the wildlife videos or catch a presentation. You might learn about the park’s raptors and owls, its predators, or find out what an ungulate is.

Visit www.meetup.com/Henry-Coe-State-Park-Outdoors-Meetup for additional details of these and other exciting events taking place at Coe Park in celebration of California Wildlife Day.

Coe Park headquarters and visitor center is located at the end of East Dunne Avenue, 13 miles east from U.S. 101 at Morgan Hill. Allow at least 30 minutes to drive the winding road through the mountain range.

Michael Hundt volunteers with the Pine Ridge Association that supports Henry W. Coe State Park. Fellow volunteer David Cartwright helped him write this column.