Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a 30 minute video of the Lost Coast Trail in Northern California.
FULL VIDEO: Lost Coast Trail
This is all from a seven day trip on the Lost Coast in December. Pictures and video describe the place the best. It is indescribable.
Here is a link to the video on my blog with my group gear list, food list, and a trip report:
Searching for Adventure on the Lost Coast Trail
Trip Report: This is all in the video version.
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 omlettes 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.