Lost Coast Trail April 2015

Ravialdo

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Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
29
I know its California and not Utah, but thought I'd share a recent trip. Its so enjoyable reading all the TR's here from other folks while sweltering in the South Florida heat so I thought I'd pay it forward.

The Lost Coast Trail (http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/arcata/kingrange/krncatrails.html) runs along the Pacific Coast in Northern California. I had my eye on it for a while (its also been written up in Backpacker magazine). Had made plans last year but torrential rains coincided with my planned flight out there, making many of the creeks impassable and the wilderness office advised people to stay away. This year however there were no such warnings.

Flew into SFO. My buddy Jenkins flew in from Chicago (boy were his arms tired). After grabbing our luggage and the rental car, began the 4.5 hr drive up to Shelter Cove. We got delayed in SF city traffic (on a SUNDAY afternoon, no less) and had to stop at REI for fuel but eventually made it up to Shelter Cove by 7pm.

Sherry from the Lost Coast Shuttle (http://www.lostcoastshuttle.com) was waiting for us at the trail head. Now another 2 hr shuttle to the start of the hike at Mattole Campground put us in at around 9pm.

We began the next morning. Mattole Campground is remote and gorgeous. In the morning light we got to see how beautiful the area was:


The trail starts off on soft sand which can be a slog. However, with the waves crashing from the Pacific to our right, and hills descending to our right, who can complain?


After a while we passed the lighthouse and beyond that, Sealion Gulch. Dropped our packs here and watched the sea lions bark and sun themselves.


Eventually we put in at Spanish Flat and made camp on the sand at the beach. The sky was beautiful when we got there but over the next 1 or so, became darker and darker near sunset. It started to drizzle then flat out rain. We sat in a miserable camp with a pitiful fire until the winds really picked up and kept tossing my tent. My gear became damp including my sleeping bag. Decided to bail sleeping on the beach and moved camp upland about 200 yards. Found a clump of trees that made a small 'tree cave' which had ZERO wind. Funny how that happens. Retired to bed early. All night I heard the storm smashing waves against the beach.

Woke up the next morning to calm clear skies. Broke camp and back on the trail.

There are several sections of the trial that are impassable at high tide so you need to consult your tide chart. Some of these sections are long (several miles) so you don't want to get stuck in the middle of them during high tide. In the past, hikers had to be rescued after being trapped between the cliffs and the sea.
These sections are usually very very rocky.


This should give an indication of HOW rocky. Imagine scrambling over this stuff for 2 miles.
Well, my hiking boots agreed. During one of these traverses I noticed that my right boot started to fall apart. The sole of the boot came completely detached from my boot. I had to hobble miles over these rocks with 1 boot, and 1 'slipper'. I stopped several times to try and jury-rig my sole back onto my booth with rope, etc. but nothing worked. It would hold for 5-10 minutes before smaller rocks would work their way between the sole and the boot and rip it back open.


Eventually my left boot didn't want to be left out and IT also ripped open at the sole. I appreciated the symmetry.
Luckily for me, although the trail does traverse beach and rocks, it also spends a great deal of time on the flats above the ocean, which make for easy hiking in my new "slippers".


Eventually we hiked to Randall Creek and made camp. Of course, after setting up camp I realized that I couldn't find my sleeping pad. Searched all around before I realized to my horror that it must have come loose on the last impassable section and fallen off my pack (I didn't have it secured properly). The prospect of sleeping on the cold ground made me RUN as fast as I can. I found my pack .5 mile back on the beach, partially in the surf. It was about 2 minutes away from being swept out to sea before I plucked it from the water. I high-tailed it back to camp before I got stuck out there as the tide was coming in fast.
Although my boots were junk, I had a wet sleeping bag and blisters on my feet, I had a view like this:


The next day we hiked out. For most part, the hike from Randall's creek to the Shelter Cove was flat and on the beach:

Hiking in soft black sand with a heavy pack isn't fun so we'd try to hike on the hard pack near the water before the surf would roll in and chase us back up the beach. Rinse and repeat.

All in all one of my favorite hikes. I've been very hesitant to hike in California given how nervous I am about bears which are habituated to humans; this hike REQUIRES a bear canister. But we didn't see a single bruin although we saw plenty of tracks in the sand. It really is a remote hike and you get a real sense of wilderness despite being next to the ocean. Highly recommend. If I ever go ultra-light, it would be a really relaxing and easy trail.

EDIT: It appears none of my pics are showing. I have them on Drop-Box, don't know if that's an issue. I'll upload them when I get a chance. Sorry!!

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Vegan.Hiker

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Jul 5, 2014
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2,094
Thanks. Just read this with excitement as I've been planning this same trip. I was supposed to do it this year but my plans changed. Maybe next year. Can't wait to see the pictures once you can get them to work. My plan was the same as yours, fly into SFO, pay for a shuttle from Shelter Cove to Mattole and hike to the car. Having done it, would you recommend that was the best way of doing it? I absolutely love the ocean, the sound of the waves at night, looking out into the vastness and imagining what lays beneath. Thanks for posting this.
 

mak1277

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May 2, 2014
Messages
106
Not sure if anyone here follows walkingwithwired.com, but she recently finished the LCT also. She didn't give it such rave reviews though. But I can't tell from your report (since there aren't pics)...did you do just the northern (beach) piece or did you do the full 48 miles including the southern (forest/mountain) part?
 

Ravialdo

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Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
29
Thanks. Just read this with excitement as I've been planning this same trip. I was supposed to do it this year but my plans changed. Maybe next year. Can't wait to see the pictures once you can get them to work. My plan was the same as yours, fly into SFO, pay for a shuttle from Shelter Cove to Mattole and hike to the car. Having done it, would you recommend that was the best way of doing it? I absolutely love the ocean, the sound of the waves at night, looking out into the vastness and imagining what lays beneath. Thanks for posting this.

Yes I would. We also hiked to the car, which is better because its nice to have some wiggle room given the impassable sections and possibility of weather. But keep in mind the drive from SFO to Shelter Cove takes a good 4-5 hrs. Factor in the shuttle to Mattole (another 2 hrs) and its about 7 hours of driving. So a good chuck of a day is eaten up travelling to GET to the start but its worth it. I would absolutely do this hike again in the future.
And the waves are amazing to listen to at night. Even when we camped far from the shore, you could still hear them crashing on the beach. Part of that had to do with the 'storm' but still its a great lullaby.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Jul 5, 2014
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Good to know. I also considered flying into Medford, OR. It's a little more expensive and isn't closer than flying into SFO but I have a friend nearby in Ashland OR who was considering joining me. Would be able to sneak a peak at Crater Lake that way too.

You mentioned the rough going on the soft sand. I did a little backpacking along the ocean on the east coast this winter and it was easy going since the sand was still frozen. I wonder if there's a way to time the LCT to get the same effect?
 

Ravialdo

Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
29
Not sure if anyone here follows walkingwithwired.com, but she recently finished the LCT also. She didn't give it such rave reviews though. But I can't tell from your report (since there aren't pics)...did you do just the northern (beach) piece or did you do the full 48 miles including the southern (forest/mountain) part?

We just did the northern 25 miles, from Mattole to Shelter Cove. The southern part goes through the Sinkyone Wilderness and apparently has an entirely different character.
I read her review of the trail and she's not wrong about the issues on the trail. The biggest gripe she has (indeed, anyone who's hiked it) is the terrain; those impassable sections have MILES of loose rock which can slow you down and be a PAIN. Also she's right about the beach walking; there is enough of a slant that your uphill ankle is at more of an angle that the downhill one and that can be difficult to adjust too.

My more enthusiastic take is likely due the fact that I just don't get out much at all. I'm stuck in the flat lands of Florida and get ONE backcountry trip a year due to family issues. So any time outdoors is amazing to me. Add to the fact that I'm used to 'hiking in the ditches' (as some call canyon hiking in Utah), and the novelty of seeing mountains, ocean and trees during my trip masked any physical discomfort. For God's sake, I was walking in essentially slippers during the hike because the terrain destroyed my boots (which were old and to be fair, not well maintained due to the fact I wear them literally once a year) and I still had a smile on my face. I'm just a dumb idiot!
 

Ravialdo

Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
29
Good to know. I also considered flying into Medford, OR. It's a little more expensive and isn't closer than flying into SFO but I have a friend nearby in Ashland OR who was considering joining me. Would be able to sneak a peak at Crater Lake that way too.

You mentioned the rough going on the soft sand. I did a little backpacking along the ocean on the east coast this winter and it was easy going since the sand was still frozen. I wonder if there's a way to time the LCT to get the same effect?

Well, I don't think they ever get temps below freezing on the LCT. What we found worked was to walk on the hard pack at the edge of the surf.
I'm in the process of converting to an ultra-light hiking philosophy. This trip is perfect for it. Given the abundance of fresh water, your 'consumable' weight should be very low. Really you don't need to carry any water as there is ample fresh water via the numerous creeks, named and unnamed. With an ultra-light pack and trail runners (not clunky boots), I suspect there would be less stress on your ankles on the hard pack. There are many places were the trail alternatively climbs above the beach and onto a bluffs paralleling the ocean. Whenever possible, we took those alternates as opposed to beach hiking. Keep an eye out for the cairns marking these alternatives to the beach; they can be easy to miss!
 

mak1277

Member
Joined
May 2, 2014
Messages
106
We just did the northern 25 miles, from Mattole to Shelter Cove. The southern part goes through the Sinkyone Wilderness and apparently has an entirely different character.
I read her review of the trail and she's not wrong about the issues on the trail. The biggest gripe she has (indeed, anyone who's hiked it) is the terrain; those impassable sections have MILES of loose rock which can slow you down and be a PAIN. Also she's right about the beach walking; there is enough of a slant that your uphill ankle is at more of an angle that the downhill one and that can be difficult to adjust too.

My more enthusiastic take is likely due the fact that I just don't get out much at all. I'm stuck in the flat lands of Florida and get ONE backcountry trip a year due to family issues. So any time outdoors is amazing to me. Add to the fact that I'm used to 'hiking in the ditches' (as some call canyon hiking in Utah), and the novelty of seeing mountains, ocean and trees during my trip masked any physical discomfort. For God's sake, I was walking in essentially slippers during the hike because the terrain destroyed my boots (which were old and to be fair, not well maintained due to the fact I wear them literally once a year) and I still had a smile on my face. I'm just a dumb idiot!

Good deal. I think her main complaints were about the lower half too. The pics you posted are beautiful.
 
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