Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lost coast is found

Last Fourth of July, I celebrated Independence day by wandering wild and free on California's Lost Coast. It is a hike in paradise. The rugged, wild and desolate beaches are part of the last remaining stretch of undeveloped coastline of the West Coast of the US. The hike is one long walk on the beach with waves singing to you and the wind caressing you. The blue ocean shimmers in the summer sun and you thank your stars for your chance to be in heaven.

The incredible beauty moves you to wonder, to believe in something deeper, something higher. There's something magical about staring into the blue ocean, smelling the salt and listening to the waves. There's something mysterious about the fog clinging to the hillside and settling over the ocean. There's something soothing about feeling the soft sand under your feet as you soak in a gorgeous sunset. Someday life will be perfect like this, but today I'll settle for this temporary perfection.

The hike from Mattole to Shelter Cove covers 25 miles of magnificent scenery. The Pacific, as blue as it can be, on your right and soaring cliffs and golden hills on your left. You hike to the rhythm of the waves with rocks crackling under your boots. You hike in the soft sand, leaving behind footprints soon to be wiped away by the tide. You hike on trails through open grasslands. You cross numerous creeks and streams which make great spots for snack breaks. The seagulls skim over ocean, wild and free. The sea lions lounge in the sun, grunting as you pass by. The otters glide smoothly over the waves, the hare looks at you out of curiosity and the snake slithers away as you reach for your camera. The beautiful driftwood littering the beaches is more forgiving to your slow reflexes with the camera. Your day starts with the mysterious fog clinging to everything around you until the sun blazes through. You day ends with a magnificent sunset over the Pacific. Camping on the beach is a dream come true. You end a perfect day of hiking with a dip in the ocean and a rinse in a stream. Chow down some delicious pasta on the beach and soak in a beautiful sunset. The waves lull you to sleep as you dream of another day in paradise.

Some useful tips on the logistics of the trip. Get a map to know the locations of the creeks. I purchased the map by Wilderness Press. The creeks are basically where you can camp at night. The map also shows the 'impassable at high tide zones'. Make sure you check the tide tables for the day of your hike. I'd say for safety, you should not be in those zones 4 hours on either side of the high tide time. Obviously the ideal situation is hiking in the zones when the tide is going out. But if you have a tight schedule and the high tide times are not at the opportune times, use my 4 hour rule of thumb. We camped at Spanish Creek on the first night and at Gitchell Creek on the second night. That was about 10.5 miles on day, 10 miles on day 2 and 4 miles on day 3. Most people hike in the north-south direction as the prevailing winds in the summer are from the north west. For that, you need to park your car at Shelter Cove and take a shuttle to Mattole. Blu with Lost Coast Adventures was our shuttle guy. Super nice and friendly. The shuttle schedule depends on the tides so you can cross those high-tide-impassable zones at low tides. Call Blu to discuss your trip. As for gear, in addition to the standard backpacking gear, you might also need water shoes as there are no bridges across the streams. But this year being a drought year, the streams were running pretty low and we could ford the streams by hopping on rocks. And bring a giant thrash bag for all your gear that you can't fit in your tent. The overnight fog will give everything that is exposed, a thorough soaking.

Hope you find yourself at the lost coast sometime. Life is a beach, go play in the sand.

More pictures can be found at