Nov. 1-3, 2018
The Plan: Backpack the Lost Coast Trail in the King Range of northern California
Nearly three years ago, Shannon and I set off in the early morning hours from Reno for the Lost Coast Trail, a remote stretch of coastline in the King Range National Conversation Area in northern California. With us, friends Krista and Steph, and pup named Moose. It was January. We hadn’t done a ton of planning and were relying on Krista’s previous experience on the trail. We should have relied on the weather forecast.
The Lost Coast Trail is roughly 25 miles long from the mouth of the Mattole River moving south and culminating at Shelter Cove, just past Black Sands Beach, nestled on the California Coast between Eureka and Fort Bragg. The King Range is quite rugged and this terrain forced routing of Highway 101 some 30-40 miles inland, leaving a gorgeous stretch of coastline relatively untouched.
Most take on the trail from north to south, if only because the winds are generally at your back moving south and east down the coastline. Instead, we had a storm swirling up the coastline that just crushed us straight-on.
Because the there are no real exit points from the other than the start or the finish (this fact comes into play again), the four of us had a decision to make a couple miles in to day two: continue into the teeth of the storm having had two of our pack covers already blown away and a wet dog in tow? Or turn back – we were about eight miles in – and come back another time.
We made the right call at the time and turned around. Shannon and Krysta went back in 2017 and crushed the trail during two perfect days in October. For me, a return trip had been lingering in the back of my head ever since.
So, a few weeks ago, I went after it again. It was a unique trip, in a number of ways. Pictures are below. Normal post-hike stuff is below.
Finished it, but not without a hiccup. As fluky things go, this one was up there. For the details of the trip, read the account from my man Ryan Jerz here.
Gear: First off, I overpacked and had at least five pounds of unnecessary weight in my pack. I went through my checklist and packed in the car everything I could possibly need. But I didn’t do a very good job of cutting down from there once we got to the end of the trail and were waiting for the shuttle.
Some must-haves for this particular trip: bear can, rain gear (we were lucky), camp shoes, and a camp chair. First time on a trip that I brought a chair and this one worked just fine and fit well within my pack without adding too much weight.
I highly recommend hiking poles for this trip. Whether scrambling over rocks or simply striding along the beach, I think they help. And, make sure to bring boots, instead of hiking shoes or trail-running shoes. This is an ankle-turning trail and you don’t want a dumb mis-step in the wrong pair of shoes to mess you up.
Post-trip beer: We stumbled upon the excellent Gyppo Ale Mill in Shelter Cove after finishing the trail. Shelter Cove is a sneaky awesome little beach town that I probably never would have ever found without this trip.