Don’t let the rain wash away your plans

Don't let the rain wash away your plans

Getting out in winter’s dicey weather can be difficult. If we
get the rain we need this winter, a weekend field trip you plan on
Wednesday might get washed out.
Getting out in winter’s dicey weather can be difficult. If we get the rain we need this winter, a weekend field trip you plan on Wednesday might get washed out.

That’s why it’s nice to know somewhere close by that you can dash to and return before the next downpour.

Coyote Creek Parkway is a 15 mile multiuse paved path that follows Coyote Creek from Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill to Hellyer Park in San Jose. It follows the thread of trees that accompany you along U.S. Highway 101 as you drive from Morgan Hill to San Jose. If you can ignore the constant sound of freeway traffic roaring past, this strip of riparian habitat has treats for the curious rambler.

In summer, when our landscape is parched, it is always a revelation to me to watch the steady generous flow of Coyote Creek. It refreshes the soul in the same way that autumn’s first rain washes away the dreary summer dust that collects on our local landscape. But it’s winter time now, and, during a lull in our recent spate of storms, I went to see what the fall season has brought to this stream basin.

Coyote Creek is a classic riparian habitat and a great place to meet some of the flora and fauna that typically reside there. I parked my car at the parking lot in the very northeast corner of Morgan Hill and began my approach to the creek.

After a five-minute walk, I reached the bridge that crosses the creek. Halfway across this bridge is a great perch to look into the heart of a riparian thicket. Massive, elegantly trunk-twisted western sycamores steal the show. Their smooth gray and white mottled trunks hold up bright yellow-brown leaves creating a striking bright counterpoint in an otherwise dark and shaded forest.

Cottonwood trees certainly held a special place in the hearts of early western settlers. Drive past any old and remote farm in the west, or open any picture book of lonely prairie cabins, and, if there is nothing else in the stark and dreary scene, there is likely to be a cottonwood or two nearby marking this lonely outpost as home. As the path approached the freeway, I saw the first of the large Fremont cottonwoods that, along with the sycamores, give us a little fall color and trace Coyote Creek’s trip north to the bay.

Coming back, I decided to leave the path and the creek and venture toward the hills on the east side of the valley. I saw two white-tailed kites roosting in an old snag there and wanted to get closer. From your car, you can see these large white raptors hunting in the fields along this section Highway 101. They rapidly flap their wings and hover in place, then drop down 20 feet or so and begin hovering again until, if they’re lucky, they drop to the ground to snag unwary prey.

I came away from this walk resolved to bring my binoculars and a bird field guide and investigate the other access points on this pathway. Google “Coyote Creek Parkway” and you are a couple of clicks away from a map of the path and its access points, all of which are close enough to visit during a break in winter weather.

NOTE: Don’t forget our New Year’s morning hike. Rain or shine, meet at 9 a.m. Jan. 1 at the Rancho Cañada del Oro staging area at the end of the paved portion of Casa Loma Road. There is a 4-mile loop and an 8-mile loop, each with great views. Bring your own water and food. It’s a great way to start the new year.