Henry Coe Park: Mustang Pond, Paradise Lake, Jackrabbit Lake

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Trip Mileage: approximately 20 miles

We took this trip during the Coe Park Back Country Weekend, allowing us to drive to the Orestimba Corral via the Kaiser Aetna Road. We parked and registered for backpacking with park staff at around 9:00 AM on Saturday Morning. We set out on Orestimba Creek Road at a quick pace, trying to leave the other backpackers in our dust. We reached the trail head for Mustang Pond before long. Besides there being a trail head marker, there was no other indication that there was a trail. By the remoteness of this pond, I don’t think anyone had been there in a long time. After wondering about a bit and frequent correspondence with our map, we reached Mustang Pond at around 10:50 AM. The water was clear; the shoreline was a bright green for just a few feet beyond the water’s grasp and then the golden brown so familiar to this park. We were the first ones to arrive to Mustang Pond on this April morning. We quickly unpacked our fishing gear and almost immediately began to pull in fish. All fish we saw in this lake were bass, typically about 14” in length, and a few just a bit smaller or larger. The fish didn’t seem to be stunted and fought hard.

We were shortly joined by a few other groups of campers and fishers. We fished this lake, ate lunch and headed for the next stop, Paradise Lake at about 2:00 pm. We followed the Mustang Pond drainage creek back out the Orestimba Creek Road where the creek was all but dry. Only isolated pockets and pools harbored stream life of minnows, turtles and snakes. As we walked in the hot sun, we saw several more groups of campers and hikers, some taking breaks in the cool water holes along the creek bed. We hiked down the Orestimba Creek Road for only another mile. When we passed the trail head for Long Ridge Road and Jackrabbit Lake we knew we were getting close to Red Creek Road. Red Creek Road gives a nice break from elevation change as it stretches along Paradise Flat. This part of the park was probably named Paradise Flat because it is so flat, a virtual paradise for those who have a hard time hiking up the steep terrain that composes most of this park. Flat it was, but there was no shade and it was a hot day. In the heat it seemed like it took a very long time to reach the not-so-far away Paradise Lake. We arrived at the lake at 3:00 pm and there were already several groups of campers set up at their campsites. We decided not to camp down by the lake because there were so many people. Instead we set up camp in the long grass up on the ridge that overlooks the lake.

We fished during the afternoon, but the real bite started when dusk fell on the lake. Nearly every cast brought in a bass. Most of the fish were about 12” in length, their growth probably stunted by so many fish and not enough food sources for them. It got chilly that night; a slight mist was on the lake in the morning. We fished for a bit in the morning and packed up our gear for the next stop, Jackrabbit Lake. We hiked back through Paradise Flat around 8:45am; it seemed shorter in the cool morning. We spotted a few deer on the way out to Orestimba Creek Road. Then a short hike to Long Ridge Road that leads to Jackrabbit Lake. Long Ridge Road has a few ups and downs with some quite steep grades. We came across a group of boy-scouts and their leader; some pushing mountain bikes up the steep hills. We came up on the calm clear waters of Jackrabbit Lake at about 9:50 am. There were only a few other people around, I think most of them had already started their journey back to the Orestimba Corral.

We fished Jackrabbit Lake for a while; keeping track of the time to be sure we could make it back to the corral ourselves in time. We had lunch at the lake and fished some more. The fishing here was again awesome. Nearly every cast resulted in a strike or fish. All you had to do was toss the lure into the water and the fish did the rest. You didn’t even have to move the lure or jig it. Just let it sit and a fish would come up to the surface and smack it! At this lake the fish were mostly in the 12-14” range although we did see the largest fish of any we’d encountered in the entire park. It must have been a 5 lb bass, lurking on its nest in the weeds. No bait could entice that pond queen to strike although many people tried. By this time it had become a very hot day for April. I decided to go for a swim in the cool waters of Jackrabbit Lake before we headed back to the corral.

After a quick swim and a fill-up on all our water bottles we headed back for the corral. The day was hot; I think the staff said 95 for this April afternoon. By the time we reached the corral we were definitely beat. We slammed down 3 or 4 glasses of lemonade and headed down the dusty road towards home.

Some things I learned from this trip:

  • Inflatable insulmat is great
  • This park can be very hot during the day, yet surprisingly chilly at night
  • If you can't catch fish in these lakes, time to sell the rods

    Last updated: 03/27/05
    Copyright 2005, Greg Miller