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The Lost Coast
updated: Dec 19, 2009, 8:00 AM
by David Powdrell
If you think Big Sur is majestic and peaceful, the Lost Coast will knock your socks off.
It's a piece of California that I'd heard about in fragmented surfing and hiking conversations over the years. Roughly 24 miles of untouched, remote California coastline, it sits in quiet solitude just below Humboldt Bay. The magnificent California Redwoods march down to the ocean here. Black bears and elk stroll the black sand beaches.
In 1919, when Highway 1 was being built, the engineers tried desperately to keep the highway hugging the coastline, but eventually gave up and turned inland at the Lost Coast. The steep grades and undulations of building a road there were too insurmountable.
Getting to the Lost Coast is the wild part. Most folks hike in for a multi-day backpack trip. Some get dropped off by a fishing boat.
My compadres and I spent six days kayaking it. We covered 106 miles in six days, going from Humboldt Bay to Westport. I wish I could report that it was an easy, leisurely paddle but, in fact, we got hammered by two days of gale-force winds, thumped by six-foot surf, and the nights were typically cold and damp. This stretch of the California coastline is rugged, dynamic, and secluded.
It is among the most beautiful stretches of the California coastline that we paddled.
Here's a segment of my journal entry from this trip:
Monday, August 30: Up at 6:00 a.m. Everything's wet. Cereal for breakfast. Surf is a bit smaller - 4'-6', but still potentially damaging. Phil and Rob make it out without incident. I go next and get thumped by a set. Lifejacket webbing is shredded, and 2 hatch straps break. Long swim back to shore in the 55-degree water. Second attempt yields the same result. Bummer. 3rd try, and I'm out. Johnny gets worked too, but he's okay. Mark and Derek do fine getting out.
Timing is everything.
11:00 a.m.: The damn south winds hit again. 18 knots sustained, gusts to 35 knots. We round False Cape, but can't make Cape Mendocino at our current speed. Whereas we'd hoped to make Cape Mendocino the first day, it takes 3 days to get past it. Kayaking around the major points of California is not unlike mountain-climbing significant peaks. Mother Nature dictates when you'll pass, not the pre-scheduled, compass marked, itinerary of the trip.
We spend the night just past False Cape, but before Cape Mendocino. Smaller surf now. Bocce Ball time. Sun comes out, and it's super hot...Baja-like. We dry out the damp sleeping bags and gear. What a beautiful day.
If you're interested in seeing the Lost Coast for yourself, here are a few great websites to know about:
King Range Trails
National Recreation Trails
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