Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Lost Coast

The second weekend in May, Jenny and I managed to sneak off campus to go hike the famous Lost Coast Trail in Northern California. For those who don't know, the trail is 27 miles point to point along beaches and through meadows under huge cliffs. California Highway 1 hugs the coast for its entire length (even through Big Sur), except for 60 miles in Northern California, where the engineers decided it was too difficult to build. So Jenny and I left campus at 1 PM on a Friday and we made it to the southern trailhead in Shelter Cove, CA about 9:30- traffic was pretty bad. We hiked about an hour on Friday night, which was eerie considering we could here the ocean, but couldn't see it in the dark. After cooking dinner and setting up the tent in the highest spot we could find, we headed to bed. We awoke to a surprising and awesome view on Saturday morning:

We started hiking as fast as we could, eager to get past the 6 mile stretch of the trail that isn't passable at high tide. Along the way we saw tons of tide pools, birds, and seals!

The hiking was tough, since so much of it was sand, but after passing 6 or 7 streams falling down into the ocean, we made it the meadows that mark the middle stretch of the Lost Coast Trail. There were certainly lots of stream crossings. Here's a nice action shot:

The meadows were a nice change:

After the meadows, we dropped back down onto the beach and hiked to our campsite, up a little ways from the mouth of one of the creeks.

After setting up camp, it was only about 2:30, so we continued hiking up the trail with just daypacks. We made all the way to the next place only passable at high tide just as the tide was receding, but it was about 5, so we turned around and headed back for camp. Our guide recommends 3 days for the whole trail, but we hiked 3/4 before 5 PM!

Back at camp we cooked some dinner (aside: a little couscous goes a long way...), had a little fire and then headed to bed. Our campsite was lovely and quaint.

The next morning we started early to backtrack back to the car and although we got drizzled on a bit, we got to see a nice rainbow. Afterwards we said bye to our seal friends and then made it back to the car about 1.

Walking back we saw mountain lion and bear tracks on the beach! The terrain is rugged that even the animals have to walk along the beaches... I wouldn't want to run into a bear walking down the beach myself. After we got back to the car, we took a brief tour of Shelter Cove (not too much to see) and then headed back to campus via Highway 1. Mendocino looks like an awesome town, but sadly we didn't have the time to stop. We stopped for dinner at the Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa- I highly recommend. Though beware: the sampler is 2oz of everything on tap!

The Lost Coast was one of my favorite hikes. Hiking on the beach was a unique experience, and the isolation and diversity of the terrain along the Lost Coast was truly awesome. The typical way of doing the trail is to hike it through and then shuttle back, so it was a bummer to miss the last 7 miles, but maybe another day. We did still make it pretty far- all the way around the point in this picture!

On a side note: a special shout to my father today on Father's Day, without whom I wouldn't have a love of the outdoors- consequently this blog would be a lot more boring. Thanks dad!!!

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