We have just returned home and shaken some black sand out of our boots. Time for a quiet reflection of all the awesome sights we encountered on our trip. After coffee this morning, it occurred to me that some people may want a fresh account of what to expect on the trail.
We are living the guide life, running trips for REI Adventures and backpacking one of the most unique trails in Northern California, the LCT. Sleeping under the stars and showing people all the hidden secrets of this trail is our favorite pastime.Northern California backpacking doesn’t get much better than a trip to the ocean where you can enjoy 26 miles of walking with elephant seals and otters. The LCT (Lost Coast Trail) may be the most unusual trail that I have ever hiked. There have been no two adventures on this long stretch of coastal beauty that have been quite the same. Terrain constantly changing at the hand of the big blue sea, manipulating different sections of the trail or ripping chunks away to create new landscapes. Directly West, (or for most hiking the trail north to south,) the Ocean on your right hand side can be a gentle giant or a raging beast.
Here’s what we came to expect on our trip last Thursday through Sunday. There are four types of terrain that you will encounter, sand, gravel, rocks ( & boulders) and hard packed dirt. The tidal zones are most likely to change so do take this account of the trip with a grain of, well…….sand.
We began the first day at 9:30am with the tide slowly dropping ( high tide was somewhere around 4am) and we planned to hit the tidal zone around 11am which was just before low tide. We trekked through deep, fine grained sand onto hard pack along Punta Gorda. There is one larger creek crossing between Mattole and the loneliest Lighthouse and several seasonal runoffs. When you finally drop into the tidal zone just beyond Sea Lion gulch, you may encounter large boulders and some rock hopping to the beach. This gradually turns into smaller rocks and sand, don’t miss the turnoff up the hill to your left to enjoy some of the bluffs versus walking on sand. Cooskie Creek will be the next impacted camping area, sitting in the middle of the tidal stretch. We decided to push all the way through, taking up camp at Randall Creek. We enjoyed burritos for dinner, complete with dehydrated rice, refried beans and the all important hot sauce, Siracha.
Day two began up the trail from Randall and along the hill above the beach towards the flats. This grassy section is beautifully decorated with poppies and wild radish right now. Just be sure to watch your step, rattlesnakes sometimes come out to sun themselves along the trail here, (and are sometimes even seen on the beach.) Our destination was Big Flat for lunch and Shipman’s Creek for camp tonight. There has been a lot of movement at Shipman’s this year, expect lots of log jam areas, less camping but beautiful creek and ocean views. At this point in the trip water crossings have been frequent, almost every two miles.
You will be hiking along the beach from here on out, sideways sand and lots of small to medium sized rocks that can be hard on the ankles. We had an early low tide again so our third day we made it to Buck Creek and went for a steep day hike. We came back for lunch and then continued on to Horse Creek for the night. Although a shorter trip to this spot, it is a long, hot stretch of the coast that you will guarantee to need lots of sunscreen and water . Saturday night dinner was well earned, we enjoyed a mixed cuisine of Miso soup, followed by a peanut sauce pasta. We read this quote below before dinner and wanted to share with you in the hopes to inspire an outdoor adventure.
Enjoy your trip, plan well and plan early. Don’t underestimate the tides and the weather and be safe.
Thanks for reading and if you need help with trip logistics, check out our website or call the office below
-Lost Coast Adventure Tours (a guide’s tale)
“None of your knowledge, your reading, your connections will be of any use here: two legs suffice, and big eyes to see with. Walk alone, across mountains or through forests. You are nobody to the hills or the thick boughs heavy with greenery. You are no longer a role, or a status, not even an individual, but a body, a body that feels sharp stones on the paths, the caress of long grass and the freshness of the wind. When you walk, the world has neither present nor future: nothing but the cycle of mornings and evenings. Always the same thing to do all day: walk. But the walker who marvels while walking (the blue of the rocks in a July evening light, the silvery green of olive leaves at noon, the violet morning hills) has no past, no plans, no experience. He has within him the eternal child. While walking I am but a simple gaze.”
― Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking