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Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

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Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:17 am

It was time for my annual early season 6-day “conditioning” backpack. Obsessively watching weather forecasts, I decided the last minute on the Lost Coast instead of Desolation Wilderness. I had hiked the Lost Coast in 2006 the week before Memorial Day and it rained every day- nearly 10 inches in all and I did not have a camera. This time I was hoping for less rain and sunshine for photos. It did not rain but conditions were foggy and overcast most of the time making photos less than perfect. In 2006 my husband met me on his motorcycle at Hwy 1 –this time he drove his new pickup, so I did not have to walk the Usal Road. Although there is a commercial shuttle, the $400 price is not practical for a solo hiker. Whatever mode of transportation, it is 95 miles of winding roads back to the starting trailhead.

On Sunday I left home at about 9:30 AM and reached the BLM Mattole campground about 4PM. The road was lined with cars several hundred feet from the campground. As I drove in I was surprised to find Site #1 empty. I nabbed it, paid my $4 and settled in with a beer and sandwich. It was sunny but the wind was howling so I only walked to the beach for a few photos. Most of the cars were south-to-north Memorial Day weekend hikers and by 7PM there were even empty parking spots up by the trailhead.

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Looking north on the beach near the trailhead.

May 25: Lighthouse Road TH to Kinsey Creek. 12 miles/8 hours, beach walking.
I was up at 6:00 and ate a quick breakfast, packed up and moved my car to a parking spot across from the outhouse. Learning from my last trip, this time I carried detailed tide tables and trekking poles. It was chilly. At 7:30 I pulled a thin wool sweater over my hiking shirt and wore my rain jacket and headed out to the beach. In 2006 it was so wet that I walked barefoot for several miles because all little side creeks required wading. This time only the major creeks were running and they could be hopped over on rocks. Tides were adequate to get around key points but not low enough for the easiest intertidal beach walking. Low tide was +0.5 at noon. In 2006 I had some -2 tides working for me! After Randall Creek at 8 miles, tides would not be critical.
The +2 foot tide was sufficient to get around Punta Gorda at 8:30 but not low enough to get into the easy firm walking. Shortly I spied a sea otter with prey in its mouth running towards the surf but was not quick enough to get a photo. The wind died down and I took off my rain parka. Stuffing it into my pack I realized that I forget I had already packed a rain jacket and fleece hiking layer, so now I had two of each! No wonder my pack seemed heavy. Just south of Punta Gorda the old lighthouse came into view where another hiker was taking a break and the elephant seals were congregated on the beach. I reached Sea Lion Gulch at 10AM and ate lunch on a point while watching seals and birds on the rocks off shore.

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Lighthouse south of Punta Gorda

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Elephant seals

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Seals and birds on rocks at Sea Lion Gulch

Walking was on a mix of soft sand, firm sand and rocky beach. As I progressed south the shoreline became all pebbles and cobbles and slowed me down to 1 mph. I reached Cooksie Creek about noon. This is a very popular campsite for the first day if taking 3 days to reach Shelter Cove; I was trying to do it in 2 days, so chugged along. For the next 3 hours tides would be less than one foot, good because the 2 miles to Randall Creek was tide-dependent. Back to walking on inter-tidal firm sand I was making good time. Where the trail starts on Spanish Creek flat, I remained on the beach and enjoyed the flowers. I climbed back up on the flat when the shore became rocky. In 2006 I camped at Spanish Creek; this time I wanted to continue as far as I could. I steadily slowed down, ran out of gas at 3:15 and set up on an established beach campsite on Kinsey Creek. I stood in the creek just before it entered the ocean and scooped water over me for a “shower”. It was great to get all the sticky salty sweat off. The tide was rising; I began to worry if my campsite were high enough. Ended up it was but I moved up onto the bluff so I would not worry about it all night.

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Pebble and cobble beach, looking north

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Cooksie Creek

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Flowers on the beach below Spanish Flat.

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Looking north while on Spanish Flat

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Kinsey Creek beach campsite



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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:24 am

May 26: Kinesy Creek to Horse Mountain Creek. 11.5 miles/ 7.5 hours, beach walking.

I left at 7:45 walking on a road on the bluff until it washed out and I was forced back to the beach. At Big Creek (Hadley Creek) shore walking became rocky and difficult. As the beach become rocky, I chose a trail that climbed above a landslide. Big mistake! It abruptly ended and I climbed down a hideously steep slippery dirt slope to regain the beach. Soon I again had to take a trail up over a hill; this time it was a good trail and dropped to Big Flat where there is a house and old landing strip. I turned towards the breach, waded across the creek and rested at Miller Flat where two other groups just left, one going north and the other going south. It was 10:30. Just right timing as the next 3-4 miles was highly tide-dependent and the window of tides less than +2 feet was from 10AM to 3PM. The shoreline at Miller Flat is very rocky. A road stays on the bluff above until it abruptly ends at a huge landslide. The trail dropped to a short cliff. I scouted for a while and decided that I would have to lower my pack down the cliff and then climb down myself. Once on the rocky beach walking became very tedious, expanding much energy to go only a bit more than a mile an hour. I reached Shipman Creek, with its most scenic campsite, at noon. Someone was already camped there. No problem since I had much more to go. At 1PM I ran into the group ahead of me at Buck Creek, a beautiful beach location but submerged at high tide. I made better time on the next two miles to Gitchell Creek by staying very close to the surf in the intertidal zone. At 2PM I was done with the tide-dependent sections so took a long break. Another group was also sitting there trying to decide if to camp or continue. There is no water until you reach Horse Mountain Creek two more miles south. I continued but was lethargic, reaching the campsite at 3:20. The upstream forested campsite was taken. I set up on a small grassy terrace/sand dune above the beach. I wanted to take a bath but people kept coming by! I walked around taking photos and then cooked and ate dinner. I was exhausted and jumped into my sleeping bag at 7PM.

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Rocky shoreline at Miller Flat

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Shipmen Creek

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Buck Creek

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Gitchell Creek campsite

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Camp on Kinsey Creek

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Upstream forested Kinsey Creek

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Flowers on the sand dune
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:31 am

May 27: Horse Mountain Creek to Jones Environmental Camp. 14 miles/9.5 hours/+3300 feet/ -3200 feet, beach, road and trails.
The “plan” was for a short day and camping at the BLM Nagolas Campsite, thus I had no need to get up early. But with my early bedtimes, I was wide awake at 6AM. As I left camp at about 7:30 I ran into a baby sea lion, which looked dead, but I then noticed it breathing. I fear it was sick and abandoned. I could see the houses at Shelter Cove two miles in the distance. Soon I was there and stupidly walked right past the trail from the beach, instead going around the point to the south. It was sketchy and I soon realized that I had gone too far so went back. At 9:30 I stepped onto the streets of Shelter Cove.

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Baby sea lion

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Looking south towards Shelter Cove

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South past the Black Sands Beach parking area

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Looking north from Black Sands Beach

In 2006 I walked the several miles to northern “Point No Pass”, showered and walked around the lower roads of Shelter Cove. This time I quickly walked up the 4 3/8- mile, 2,460-foot elevation gain road to the Hidden Valley trailhead. I never stuck out my thumb; never got a ride. There were few vehicles anyway- a good thing since the road is very narrow. I stopped at the General Store and bought a quart of Gateraid and a Fig Newton. At 11:30 I reached the Hidden Valley trailhead, a mile and half north of the Nogalas Campground.

I decided to continue, a bit of a commitment since there is no water for 6.5 miles and no legal camping for 7.5miles. Thankfully the Chamisal Mountain Trail was in excellent condition and I made great time. As I walked south the somewhat dry forest became progressively more lush and coastal. I spooked several deer in grassy meadows and met a couple hiking northward. At 3:15 I reached the Sinkyone State Park boundary where there is an old building. After a traverse to Red Hill 2 the trail drops steeply to Whale Gulch. My legs were wobbly so I waded across instead of trying to jump the rocks. I was tired but glad that I had made it by 4:30. As I neared Jones Environmental Camp I was stopped by a herd of 18 elk. They surrounded the trail, munching grass and were not moving. I circled below them and back up to the campsites. A couple approached from the south. The elk just kept on munching grass between our tents. After dinner I walked out onto the bluff and looked down at Jones Beach and north towards the southern “Point no Pass”. Once in my tent, the elk came closer but thankfully kept munching grass and slowly moved down the trail.

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Old building at Sinkyone State Park Boundary

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Forest near “Red Hill 2”, a survey point

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Ferns near Whale Gulch

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Whale Gulch

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Elk at Jones Camp

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Campsite

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Looking north towards the Southern “Point no Pass”
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:36 am

May 28: Jones Camp to Wheeler Camp. 8 miles/ 5.5 hours/ +1900 feet/ -2000 feet, road and trail
I was now ahead of schedule so could slow down. In 2006 the “trails” in Sinkyone Park were highly damaged, muddy and with all the rain, I was continually soaked and took more than four miserable days to reach Usal Campground. There were so many banana slugs on the trail hidden under wet grass that I would slip on them and fall down! This time I only saw two banana slugs total! Previously, the trail was nearly overgrown, difficult to find and incredibly washed out. This time, either more use or some actual trail maintenance has kept it in better shape, at least until Little Jackass.

I left shortly before 8AM and picked up a permit at the Sinkyone Headquarters at Needle Rock. The place was crowded with a trail crew setting up camp. The “host” offered me a cup of coffee, which I did not refuse! We had an interesting visit. An old road continues to Bear Harbor, where I checked out the campsites which were very nice, somewhat regretting that I would not stay there. As the trail steeply climbed the ridge to the south, it was like entering a jungle. The rollercoaster began! Up 1100 feet and down 540 to Duffy Gulch, and then up another 460 feet before dropping 1000 feet to Wheeler, an old town site no longer with buildings. I arrived at 1PM first setting up in a meadow, then moving to the beach campsite which had a picnic table and better views. As the afternoon progressed the fog lifted and I enjoyed the sunshine. The stream was very shallow and scooping water for a bath was challenging, but it felt good to be clean again. Unfortunately, the fog still hung over the ocean and lighting was wrong for photos. Nevertheless it was a delightful afternoon. Two other groups passed through.

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Flowers at Bear Harbor

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In the jungle near Duffy Gulch

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More flowers on the way to Wheeler

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Creek at Wheeler

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Beach camp at Wheeler

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Ocean view at Wheeler

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View south
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 04, 2015 10:43 am

May 29: Wheeler Camp to Dark Gulch. 6.5 miles/6 hours/+2900 feet/ -2700 feet, trails

I could have gone all the way to Usal Campground, but preferred to stop short for another day in the wilderness versus a campground accessed by a road. I left Wheeler at 8AM. A morning mist/fog had soaked everything, so I immediately got wet in the tall grass along the trail. After 1400 feet up and 450 down I reached the Little Jackass camp. I needed a wool sweater and rain jacket to stay warm in the cold foggy wind blowing off the ocean. After a side-trip to the beach it was up 900 feet and down 800 feet to Anderson Camp, which has no beach access. The “trail” steadily deteriorated southward. For about half a mile the overgrown trail traversed through grasses with thistle that towered over my head. Thankfully it was dry, but I got pricked often. I met one fellow heading north as I started to climb out of Anderson. Several deer crossed my path as I dropped on the washed-out trail to Dark Gulch. The fog lifted enough for a small view from the ridge north of Dark Gulch. I set up camp deep in the forest at Dark Gulch at 2:15. The creek flowed more than the other creeks and I washed myself and clothes. Soon a large group reached the crossing at my campsite. Good thing I was done with my “scoop bath”! The motley crew of hikers was very ill prepared but enthusiastic. At the late hour of 4:30 they hoped to reach Jackass before dark! One shirtless fellow had only canvas tennis shoes. They looked more suited for a Woodstock festival than the Lost Coast. Later another fellow passed, who obviously knew what he was doing. I had solitude the remainder of the evening. The sun shone, but I was in shadow. My intentions of walking back up to the lookout point on the ridge were never realized as I became very lazy.

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Beautiful flowers on the trail south of Wheeler

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Tall grasses

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Climbing out of Anderson Camp

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View of ocean from the ridge north of Dark Gulch

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Dark Gulch camp


May 30: Dark Gulch to Usal Campground. 4 miles, 4.5 hours (including 1 hour waiting for fog to lift)/ +1000 feet/ -1200 feet


I left camp shortly before 9AM and climbed the 900 feet to Timber Point. Partway up are nice campsites with great ocean views, but lack water. I regretted not hauling water up here the night before. As it was, my hiking shirt I washed never dried so I had to put on a cold wet shirt in the morning. It now was mostly a downhill traverse on slopes that turned more grassy and dry. The fog persisted and the section of the trail with the best views remained socked in. I ran into a group (probably scouts) who had enough gear for an expedition and huge packs yet were just as clueless as to what they were encountering as the group of “new-agers” I met the day before. Just before dropping to Usal campground, I sat on a viewpoint for an hour hoping that the fog would lift. No luck. Several well maintained switchbacks dropped to the trailhead. I found a campsite near the road. I had no idea what vehicle I was looking for as my husband failed to tell me what he bought for a new truck! Good thing I recognized our dog as a bright red truck neared! We spent the afternoon walking the beach (still foggy), watching a herd of elk and relaxing with wine and crackers. On Sunday, May 31, we spent the entire day retrieving my car and driving home. From Hwy 101 we used the road full of pot holes through the redwoods on the way in to Honeydew and the smoother but one-lane Smith-Ettersburg road on the way back. Both were 10-20-mph roads, the latter longer but in better shape.

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Prickly thistle along the trail

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Forest near Usal trailhead

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Elk on the road

Lessons learned. Always check the pack before leaving! Although luxurious to have more clothes it was unnecessary. Because of the abundant poison oak I took off my hiking clothes at the end of each day and packed them in a separate stuff sack, and put on my camp clothes: base layer underwear and rain pants and wind shirt. With all the prickly vegetation, do not take expensive new outer layers – your clothes will get trashed. And wash everything when you get home- salt and poison oak oils need to be removed from gear and clothes. If reactive to poison oak avoid this trail or take” Technu” and wash every night. I never used sunglasses or sunscreen, only take small amounts. I did not take camp shoes and regretted that. Although temperatures rarely go below 50F, it is chilly because of the fog, mist and wind. Sturdy hiking shoes are still needed, particularly for the cobble hopping. Gaiters for me were an essential. Tides are important! The best walking is at the lowest tides, preferably negative 1-2 foot tides. Many cobbles can be avoided at these very low tides. If you take a dog, be sure to have dog booties. Weather makes a huge difference. In good weather 5 days is sufficient; in poor weather you may need 6-7 days for the same trip. For me, days off made no sense, because the thick vegetation precludes much “exploring” off the beach or trails. Better to simply slow down and observe more as you hike. Logistically, two cars, one parked at each trailhead, are the best. That way, you are not dependent on reaching the trailhead at a specific time. Plan on an entire day to drive and shuttle cars, both before and after the trip. Walking up the road from Black Sand Beach to Hidden Valley trailhead is not that hard- paying a commercial shuttle for this is ridiculously expensive. Although easier the second time around, the Lost Coast is still a tough hike!
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 04, 2015 12:00 pm

Thank you for delightful TR and pretty pictures. Overcast and foggy weather make for great defused lighting, perfect for flowers and other macro work, it also works well for intimate forest sceneries.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby TahoeJeff » Thu Jun 04, 2015 12:25 pm

Awesome TR! I've been only as far as Punta Gorda from Mattole, but your TR makes me want to do the whole trail. Great photos and tips at the end too.
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby Tom_H » Thu Jun 04, 2015 12:58 pm

Thank you, WD for such an enjoyable TR. Your prose and photography together give the reader a truly vicarious experience.
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby ofuros » Thu Jun 04, 2015 1:01 pm

Great trip report Wandering Daisy....lovely looking coastal walk.
Was already on the ever expanding 'to do' list...because of your post, now it's a little bit higher. 8-)
Out 'n about....looking for trout.
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jun 04, 2015 3:55 pm

Quite a marathon adventure, well done. Enjoy reading your usual well written sequential trip narratives. Thanks for taking the time to do so which of course takes time and effort. But like this person you have learned wisdom in, what one records soon after an adventure while fresh won't be lost as decaying memories as years pass.

Spent the holiday period at Lassen that was quite productive. Then Monday afternoon drove west to Eureka and north to Humboldt and Del Norte County redwood parks so was looking at similar scenery to what you experienced as those areas are black sand beaches and temperate jungle forests too. The foggy, cloudy, overcast weather was however exactly what I wanted for my understory forest photography that turned out nicely productive. Later during the weekend I'd moved down to Mendocino coastal areas and like you wanted but did not get any sun.

http://www.davidsenesac.com/Spring_2015 ... 015-1.html
David
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby SweetSierra » Thu Jun 04, 2015 4:55 pm

I was looking forward to your trip report. I did the southern section with a few friends in the 90s and it's still one of my favorite hikes. We went in October and lucked out with sunny days and clear nights on all but the last day. What struck me was how many people you saw. We saw only a father and son heading south and a couple of shady-looking guys in camouflage clothing. I know it's a more well-known trail now. Your photos of the camps and the understory are beautiful. Thank you for posting!
I think we may have climbed the same sketchy trail as you---it was off the beach and on a bluff. We thought we could take it to get around one of the points where surf could be an issue. It became very steep and we retreated.
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Re: Lost Coast 5/24-5/31 2015

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:06 pm

Unfortunately, the Lost Coast has been put on a list of "top 10" backpacks in the USA by Backpacker Magazine. Currently permits are required (self register) with no quotas. I doubt that will last if it keeps getting swarmed by backpackers. The north part is BLM and there are no restrictions on camping and the permit is free. The south part is Sinkyone State Park, and the permit is free but you pay $5 a night for backpack campsites, and $25 a night for a campground that is within a mile of the headquarters at Needle Rock. Dogs are allowed on the BLM land; not on the Sinkyone trails. The BLM nearby car-camping campgrounds range from $8 - $16 a night and the federal Golden Age Pass applies (half price). Sinkyone has no senior discount. The BLM requires hard sided bear canisters; Sinkyone does not. I just carried my bear can all the way. EVERYTHING in Shelter Cove is really expensive. And the commercial shuttle service is outrageously expensive for a solo hiker- but a bit more reasonable for a larger groups. I would guess that much less than half the hikers do the entire route. Most do only the north part from Mattole River to Shelter Cove. This part was actually featured in Sunset Magazine about 10 years ago and became very popular after that.
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