/ Backpacking

The Lost Coast Trail

This was a trip to the Lost Coast I took nearly a year-and-a-half ago, but I'm just getting around to posting pictures:

For the uninitiated, the Lost Coast Trail is a not-quite 30 mile stretch of the California coastline where even the tenacious State Route 1 cedes the strand to the Pacific. Back in 1984, faced with abandoning the dream of an unbroken ribbon of tarmac along the coast, or moving literal mountains, Caltrans in its unbounded wisdom decided to leave the King Range to its business and build their road 25 miles inland.

We started the journey to Shelter Cove tired, on a Friday evening, with just under 250 miles of driving to look forward to. With the sun at our backs, we began carving a path from the Marin hills, on over the shoulders of the Mayacamas, and we were soon upon our true goal, Shelter Cove not long after midnight.

Deer grazing in the early-morning dew

The LCT is a poor choice for a novice backpacker. For one, it's a logistical challenge: the tides need to be tracked, it demands extra care with certain gear choices, and campsite selection is non-trivial.

At least half of our seven-member party was new to backpacking, and only two of us had experience with trips longer than a night, a fact we were remined of in the parking lot at the trail head, unloading the multiple paperback books from on companions pack.

A friendly ranger explaining pooping etiquette for the Lost Coast Trail

We were immediately greeted by the local fauna not 50 feet out of the trail head. Pituophis catenifer was our first encounter. Though not particular to the Lost Coast, the Pacific Gopher Snake thrives here, blending in excellently with the shifting dunes.

Leaving our new friend to their business we pushed over the dunes to the beach, and our introduction to the trials and tribulations of hiking on sand.

A Pacific Gopher Snake (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) making its way across the dunes

One of the few uneaten examples of the Purple Sea Urchin we saw on trail

The Lost Coast's signature dish – Greywacke-sand beaches. Despite resembling the igneous black-sand beaches found in Hawaii, Grawywacke is a sedimentary rock.

The first of many homesteads, some on which are still occupied

With no ferry in sight, we ford the first of LC's many streams; we didn't lose any oxen or food

Our reward for a successful river crossing – a very large dog and a very tiny lady

After a mile or so on the beach, we were already itching for a solid tract



An underwhelming shot of the Punta Gorda Lighthouse, 55 years after her retirement


The remains of an unlucky vessel's engine – one of the Lost Coast's victims?

A small colony of northern elephant seals, visible from the rusting engine hulk. A bull unleashes a roar at an uncaring universe for bestowing him with a nose larger than his head. Or maybe a yawn, I don't speak elephant seal.


Jinna and her spirit-propeller pose for a portrait

We stumbled upon half of an old propeller, and other than matching Jinna perfectly, I didn't think much of it. However, while writing this post, I dug into its history a bit more:

The Zeise company was founded in 1868, and was one of the largest producers of propellers in the world. Zeise propellers drove some of the largest ships of the 1950s, from supertankers to cruise ships.

They endured harder times in the 1970s during a lull in global shipping, resulting in their bankruptcy in 1979. You can still visit their old factory, Zeisehallen, in Hamburg-Ottensen, which has been transformed into a cultural center, and an art cinema.



One of the many waterfalls visible from the trail




Valentine trying to keep his weight down with the marvels of carbon fiber

Seward, avoiding dehydration like a boss