Date Hiked: April 17, 2013
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)
Section: Cone Peak Road (at the site of the old Cone Peak Campground) to Tin Can Camp
I hiked from the Gamboa trail junction to the Cook Spring trail on Wednesday, April 17. After setting up at Cook Springs, I dayhiked out to Tin Can camp just before sunset. On Thursday, April 18, I hiked from the Carrizo Trail junction to the Cone Peak Road. I'll describe conditions south-to-north rather than in the order I encountered them.
The section from the Coast Ridge Road to the Gamboa Trail Junction has seen lots of recent attention. There is some impressive rockwork and cutting-and-filling. The trail is perched on what is sometimes a very steep hillside but, at least as of now, there is only minimal slumping and erosion. There is one very tight switchback – almost a 180 degree turn – that people have missed heading southbound. Missing the switchback means walking around a pile of brush that essentially says "not here" and then plunging straight down a steep hill, but there's a track showing folks have done just that. The Gamboa trail junction is not marked but it's an obvious junction of two big wide trails.
The section from the Gamboa Trail to the Cook Spring Trail is off the steepest slopes. The junction with the Carrizo trail is not marked and I walked right past it without noticing the stone steps that mark the junction. A few steps on, however, I did notice the Carrizo trail itself to east. It parallels the Coast Ridge Trail as it heads up a little rise. For a goodly ways, the trails are only a few feet apart. From the Carrizo Trail junction, the Coast Ridge Trail gently ascends the ridge that, to the east represents the divide between the San Antonio River drainage and the Arroyo Seco drainage. Toward the top, the trail gets just a little bit closed-in. It's not really brushy, but stray branches did bounce against me now and again. The top of that ridge was the point where the old dozer cut from Carrizo Trail came in. The cut is pretty well filled in: there no real trail junction anymore although a little tape marks the spot. Past the top, the exposure and vegetation changes. It's sugar pine forest to the north. There a big blown-over stump that requires hiking over a little mound on high side of the trail. The Cook Springs Camp Trail junction is just minutes north of that. It's not marked with a sign. However, at the junction there are 2 large logs, maybe 40' long and 2' in diameter along the east side of the Coast Ridge Trail. There is a 10' (or so) gap between them. That gap is the entry to the Cook Spring Camp Trail. It's a big, wide, and steep trail descending east.
North from the Cook Spring junction, the trail is almost a road. Easy, easy hiking. I was at Tin Can Camp near dusk. The low light on the rocks and long views over to other rocky ridges and farther to Pimkolam made it an astonishingly lovely, peaceful, even spiritual place. The camp is just a fire ring on a flat. No water.