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Coyote Lake - Harvey Bear County Park

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Hiking the Coyote Bear

Clampers Monument at the Harvey Bear Ranch

Santa Clara County Parks

Friends of Santa Teresa Park

Pictures of the Park

Harvey Bear Ranch 3/10/07

Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch 3/20-21/09

Trail work Day on the Savannah Trail, 4/18/09

Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch 4/18/09

Mummy Mountain Trail Work Day/Trail Opening 4/24/10

Geocaching Class, Mummy Mountain Trail 5/15/10

Photography Class, Mummy Mountain Trail, 4/23/11

Willow Springs, Savannah, Rancho San Ysidro Trails, 12/22/11

Contact Ron Horii

Roop Pond and Rancho La Polka Trails, Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch, February 20, 2012

On January 20, 2012, I went to Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch County Park in Gilroy. I wanted to see the new Rancho La Polka Trail, which was opened in June of 2011.  Where does that name come from? The Clampers plaque at the Harvey Bear Ranch (see the link on the left) explains: "In the 1830s, most of what is now the park was located on the Rancho San Francisco de las Llagas granted to Carlos Castro. The reservoir is found on early public lands and also on the lesser Rancho La Polka granted to Isabel Ortega; her father, Ignacio Ortega, was granted the Rancho San Ysidro. Another of Ignacio's daughters, Clara Ortega, married John Gilroy for whom the City of Gilroy is named."

The Rancho La Polka Trail is a 1.4-mile loop trail that starts at the junction of the Mendoza and Mummy Mountain Trails. Like the Mummy Mountain Trail, it was designed and built as a recreational trail and is not a converted ranch or fire road. Also like the Mummy Mountain Trail, it is open to hikers only. Getting to it is easy, just a short distance from the Mendoza Ranch Staging Area up a gentle slope on the Mendoza Trail to the trailhead. It runs mostly level around a hill, with panoramic views. Part of the trail, mostly on the east side, is tree-shaded. It is a good hike for families.

I started at the Mendoza Ranch trailhead off of Roop Road. There are maps, water, and a restroom here. The Rancho La Polka Trail is not on the map yet. There was a herd of cattle grazing in the field beyond. Cattle eat non-native grasses, which helps reduce fire danger and promotes the growth of wildflowers. The day started out overcast, so it wasn't great for landscape photography, but it was good hiking weather.

A short distance from the trailhead, off the Mendoza Trail, is the start of the short Roop Pond Trail.

This is the Roop Pond, a long stock pond formed by a small earthen dam. The pond is right next to Roop Road, but there is no direct access from the road.

This is a view looking along the pond near the dam, towards the feet of Mummy Mountain.

There were cormorants looking for fish in the pond and a great egret perched in a tree at the head of the pond.

This is a view back on the wide Mendoza Trail, flanked by ancient oak trees, heading gradually uphill.

This is the Roop Pond as seen from the Mendoza Trail.

Up ahead, the Mendoza Trail continues off to the right to the Mummy Mountain Trail junction. The Rancho La Polka Trail branches off to the left.

This is the start of the Rancho La Polka Trail.

This cattle gate leads to the start of the Rancho La Polka Trail Loop. This is a hiking-only trail. At the time, there were no signs to that effect, but there probably will be in the future. Even though the trail is wide enough for bikes and horses, when new trails were being planned, the hiking community requested that some trails in the park be hiking-only. The agreement was to designate the Mummy Mountain, Rancho La Polka, and future Ed Wilson Trail as such.  The peripheral trails in this area, the Mendoza and Coyote Ridge Trails, are open to all users. You can bike or ride a horse up to this trailhead, then go on foot for a short hike on the loop trail.

This is the start of the trail going clockwise on the loop. The closed path on the right is not a trail. There are several old PGE maintenance roads, ranch roads, and temporary construction roads on this hill that will be closed off eventually. Note the gravel surface on the official trail.

This part of the trail goes past a pile of rocks.

Here is the pile of lichen-covered rocks, with live oak trees and fallen limbs. This is prime rattlesnake habitat, so don't let kids play in the rocks.

This is a view from the trail across rolling hills, grazed by cattle. Roop Road is in the background, with private ranches behind it.

The trail comes closer to Roop Road and the ranches beyond it.

Below the trail, parts of Roop Pond are visible.

An oak tree arches over the trail. There was plenty of headroom for me, but basketball players may have to duck.

The trail heads through more scattered coast live oak trees.

The hillsides get very steep here, so watch where you're going and stay on the trail.

These gnarly old trees are covered with lace lichens, commonly called Spanish moss.

The terrain on the other side of the valley gets steeper more rugged, with more woodlands and less grasslands.

Just before the trail makes a turn-around is a hill with a picnic table on top.

This is the picnic table and the view from it.

There is a short trail segment below the picnic table. The loose branches are a hint that it's not an official trail.

Above the picnic table is another road going over the hill, but it's not a trail.

Back on the trail, there's an overlook at the junction of Roop Road (bottom and left) and Leavesley Road (right).

As the trail rounds a bend, it leaves the shade of the oak forest and enters into a clearing with panoramic views of the valley to the south. The pictures below were taken in sequence from right to left.

This is the first picture in the panorama, looking at where the trail is going.

On the right is Roop Road heading towards New Avenue.

This is a view towards the south part of Gilroy. Far in the distance, left of center, Hwy 101 runs around the base of the hill and intersects Hwy 25 to Hollister.

This is a view looking south towards Hollister. There are large ranches in the hills adjacent to the park.

This is the last picture in the panorama, looking back along the trail.

Continuing on the trail, it runs through this rocky area.

A herd of deer grazes at the edge of an oak grove, next to a wide open grass-covered hill.

All this open hillside is part of the park. There are old ranch roads, but no official trails below.

There's another picnic table here, with a view of Gilroy.

The trail goes goes through another rocky oak grove.

From here on, the trail is wide open, with no trees and nothing to obstruct the views to the west. Far ahead on the left side of the hill is the Mendoza Trail. The trail branching off to the right is a construction road that will be closed eventually.

There's a rock here that looks like a bear.

This view shows how much undeveloped land there is here in the park. This big open hillside is part of the park. The road below is Via Del Cielo. It looks like a huge amount of land, but it is just a tiny corner of the 4,595-acre park.

Looking northwest, Morgan Hill and El Toro Mountain are on the right in the distance. Huge ranch estates are below the park.

This is the rest spot and future interpretive sign at the start of the Mummy Mountain Trail, overlooking the Rancho La Polka Trailhead. The cattle gate there is keeping the cattle out.

This is a view of the Rancho La Polka Trail from the Mendoza Trail.

The sun finally starts to peek out at the end of the hike. Back on the Mendoza Trail, the cattle gather to say good-bye.

For more information, see the links on the side. For copies of these and other pictures, contact Ron Horii (see links).

Page created by Ron Horii, 2/22/2012