Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail from Ryan Commons on Vimeo.
Send me a message on Facebook if you have questions about the trail or about planning a trip.

Best Map:

Best Book:

Transportation from Trail-head:

Q: Where is the Lost Coast Trail?
A: About 6 hours north of San Francisco and 1 hour south of the Oregon/California border.

Q: What should I expect if I hike the Lost Coast Trail?
A: The Lost Coast Trail offers backpackers 25 miles of rugged coastline, extreme coastal views, and timeless campsites. Mountains that shoot over 4,000 feet above the coast offer a dramatic scenery as a southward bound hiker sees the big waves of the Pacific Ocean to his right and the giants of the Kings Mountain Range to his left.

Q: Should I start in at Mattole Beach or at Shelter Cove?
A: Start in the north at Mattole Beach. There is a large parking space where you can self-issue a free backpacking permit. Starting in the north puts the wind on your back the whole hike. Hiking north with the wind in your face is unpleasant.

Q: Do I need a tide chart and a map if I'm just hiking the coast?
A: Yes! Before you head out, you will definitely want to get a tide chart and a map. There are sections of the trail that you cannot safely pass through during high tide and a tide chart will advise you as to when to hike these sections. Although it is nearly impossible to get lost on the trail, the map is critical for alerting you to areas that can only be passed at low tide and for giving you exit routes through the mountains if creek levels get too high.

Q: Do I need a bear can?
A: Yep, they are required and there are bears out there--I even saw bear paw prints on the coastline.

Q: How do I get back to my car?
A: You can either hire a driver to take you back from Shelter Cove to Mattole Beach or hike back via the Kings Mountain Range. If anyone has a recommendation for a driver or driving service, please let me know and I'll add the info here.

Q: What gear, clothing and food do you recommend for the trip?
A: Here is a summary of the gear, clothing and food we brought (four people):

Group Gear:
* 2 Tents
* Pot
* Pan
* 4 dishes
* 4 utensils
* Two White Gas Bottles
* 2 MSR compressed gas bottles
* Jet Boil Stove
* Dragon Fly Stove
* 2 Bear Cans
* Map
* Rope
* Big water bottle

* Floss
* Toothbrush
* Toothpaste
* Deodorant

* Sunglasses
* Warm Layer - big down or fleece or ski jacket
* External Shell Jacket and Pants - stop rain
* Soft-Shell Pants
* 2 Long Sleeve Shirts
* Warm Hat
* Cap
* 4 Socks
* 1 Underwear
* Gloves (Liner and Shell)
* Boots
* Running shoes or sandals

* Backpack
* Sleeping Pad
* Sleeping Bag - in garbage bag
* Rain cover or garbage bags to cover pack
* 3 Extra garbage bags
* Camera
* Knife & Hatchet
* Flashlight
* Headlamp
* 2 water bottles (1 liter each)

Food (95% complete):
* Cheetos - Crunchy - 2880 Calories
* M&M's - Peanut - 6160 Calories
* Red Vines - 3220 Calories
* Snickers - 1950 Calories
* Wheat Thins - Original - 2080 Calories

* Bagels - 1620 Calories
* Starburst - 4640 Calories
* Chips Ahoy - 1920 Calories
* Beef Summer Sausage - 1520 Calories
* Nature Valley - 2160 Calories
* Ramen Soup - 15 packs - 5700 Calories
* Nutter Butter - 2080 Calories
* Shells & Cheese - 6480 Calories
* Good Health Energy - 2250 Calories
* Oatmeal - 4980 Calories
* Poptarts - 6240 Calories
* Chicken Noodle Soup - 960 Calories
* Goldfish - Colors Cheddar - 840 Calories
* Mama Soup - 2 packs - 560 Calories
* Fruit Pack - 1200 Calories
* Peanut Butter - 3040 Calories
* Honey - 1320 Calories
* Popcorn - 980 Calories
* Chewy Bar - 1674 Calories
* Beef Jerky - Original - 480 Calories
* Trail Mix - 4200 Calories
* Drink Flavoring - - 300 Calories
* Tuna Meat - 360 Calories
* Cheez-it - 1950 Calories

Trip Report:
by David Bebb

We mapped out a loose, seven-day itinerary knowing that inclement weather would likely force us to change our plans. Early on a Thursday afternoon, our group of four left our car at the north end of the Lost Coast Trail (Mattole Beach) with the aim to head as far south on the trail as possible before an anticipated incoming storm flooded the creeks and cut off our coastal route. At that point (or at Shelter Cove, if we made it all the way to that end of the 25-mile trail), we would cut inland and return north along the ridge trails of the King Range.We had unexpectedly decent weather for two of the first four days, and we made the most of our good fortune by lingering on the coast's beautiful and desolate beaches.

On the first day, we made only three miles before finding an abandoned lighthouse whose roof deck proved too tempting as a potential campsite. After setting up tents atop the lighthouse, three of us spent the last two hours of daylight snapping photos and gathering a massive pile of driftwood, stacked carefully like Jenga blocks, for a bonfire on the beach. The fourth ran up a side-trail to enjoy the sunset from a bluff a thousand feet above the surf. When night came, we lit the driftwood pyre and watched, from a safe distance, the biggest bonfire any of us had ever made. The incoming tide doused and dispersed the embers before we retired.

Though we were alternately given sunshine and rain over the next two days, both days were similar to the first: leisurely mornings spent breaking down camp, unhurried afternoon hikes south along the beach and coastal bluffs, and evening fires to warm ourselves and dry our gear. In the afternoon on the fourth day, we encountered others on the coast for the first time -- surfers headed north to camp and surf near Big Flat. Later that afternoon, we arrived at Black Sands Beach, the southern terminus of the Lost Coast Trail.

On the fifth day, we set out on our return through the mountains, spending the first night at Horse Camp (approx. 3000 feet). We knew a storm was expected the next day, but we were surprised how wet the mountains already were: thick fog coated the conifers with moisture, which then rained down on us as nearly constant winds shook the tree branches above us. The difficulty of hiking the unexpectedly undulating ridge trails with our fully-loaded packs and the recollection of the relative warmth and dryness of the lower elevations coaxed us back to the beach. We decided to descend on Rattlesnake Trail the following day.

On the morning of the sixth day after a slight detour to summit King's Peak (4,088 feet, no view due to the fog, wicked winds that made the rain hitting our faces feel like hail), we headed down Rattlesnake Trail toward the beach. Because a storm was expected that day, we knew we were taking a chance by returning to the coast: flooded creeks might force us to backtrack through the mountains. After an afternoon of downhill switchbacks, we reached the creek at the bottom of a canyon two miles upstream from the beach (approx. 400 feet elevation). Sure enough, we found flows many times heavier than we had seen in the same stream three days prior. Navigating the canyon toward the beach required two crossings. The first we managed safely by shimmying across a thick tree trunk at a narrow point over the creek's roiling white water. After walking a mile toward the ocean, the daylight was fading and we could not find a safe way to make the second crossing.

We were exhausted, wet, cold, and discouraged, and we decided to make camp for the night. The only safe way to get home within our 7-night timeframe (as opposed to waiting indefinitely for flows in the coastal creeks to recede or attempting unsafe creek crossings) was to trek back over the King Range to the inland town of Honeydew the following day -- a prospect we did not relish.

The next morning we backtracked four miles and 3,500 feet up Rattlesnake Trail, then went north four miles along the ridge trails until we reached a jeep road. From there, we hiked 10 miles down the other side of the range, reaching Honeydew around 8 p.m. I was feeling very smug with this accomplishment and was ready to call it a day, but two in our party who are remarkably enthusiastic and obnoxiously fit decided, after a mere three hours of rest, to run/walk an additional eighteen miles down the road from Honeydew to pick up our car at the beach that night. They arrived around 4:45 a.m. with the car. Two hours later as we scarfed down omelets in a diner somewhere south of Garberville, I was not complaining.

The trip was a perfect mix of beauty, desolation, challenge, adventure and good company.


Ryan said...

Thanks for posting this video. Your blog is most excellent.

Jakuko said...

Thank you Ryan, your videos are awesome.