The Lost Coast: Places I've Never Been in Northern California

Allof75

Pathfinder
A close friend and I decided to make a trek to the far Northern coast of California, somewhere we'd never been. Having read about the "Lost Coast" on several travel logs and hiking guides, we decided that would be our first stop. What a great time it would be, as the Lost Coast is an area so tectonically active, no major highways or roads cut through the region up near Garberville, outside of Eureka by about an hour on 101. This activity, and general ruggedness required left only small family farms, and plenty of untouched, unlogged, and otherwise empty stretches of seashore and beautiful rolling hills. Taking a little over 11 hours to reach our campsite, we were greeted by a typically Pacific-Northwestern storm of pouring rain and intense winds, making tent setup quite difficult. The drive in on small and washed out muddy cliffside roads was not without its white knuckle moments, but a welcome change from the somewhat numbing cruise controlled I-5. Ourselves and one other person were the only people in the entire camp, making the rush of the ocean waves and the barking of seals that much more satisfying. In the morning we were exposed to a sprawling view of the coast, absolutely beautiful.

Our simple camp was within steps of the beach








A nearby school apparently erected this maypole, circling it much as kids have done in the States for years.


After a nutritious breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked in maple syrup, along with some spirits to lift our spirits, we decided on making a quick trek to a nearby lighthouse, about a 5 mile round trip along the water.


The black sand was the perfect contrast to the white water.


The recent rains had swelled some of the water crossings, but they remained entirely passable.




(Insert Jurassic Park Reference here)


Sometimes you have to ham it up for the camera


The tiny black dot on top of the hill was a grazing cow, it was amazing to us that they were able to navigate such rugged and steep terrain with such ease.


This was the lighthouse we'd been looking for.


Yet this stood in our way, about two feet of rushing water, compounded by a quickly rising tide that meant the sections of trail we took in would soon be inundated. We were soaked, but we didn't feel the need to have a broken ankle and get wet, so we turned around here.




Your beloved author


Some small homes which appeared to be abandoned, looked to me like a perfect getaway cottage. No access other than ATV, horseback, or foot though.


The hike back quickly brought a clearing sky, and some absolutely stunning views.










 

Allof75

Pathfinder
The setting sun brought along a steak dinner, some misguided bacon beans over a quickly disintegrating stove, plenty of booze, and time to play with the camera.




I must say I'm a fan of the ARB chairs




As soon as we went to bed, the skies opened it seemed, and it began to pour. Using my sleeping platform inside the pathy, and with my friend in the tent, we had no issues of getting soaked. We woke up to a beautiful morning.






We packed up and were on our way by about 7am, having some fun in a quick water crossing.






We began to climb slightly, passing some wonderfully wooded hills.




The pathy was eating it up, no problems so far, even with the defrosters working overtime.


We wound our way into Humboldt Redwoods State Park, surrounded on all sides by the tranquil giants.












We stopped at a Huell Howser favorite, Clendenen's Cider Works which used the same cider presses since 1911 or so, and continues as a family tradition in Humboldt county. All locally grown apples, and by far and away the best cider I've ever had.


We stopped at the Carson House, a victorian mansion designed for the Carson family, a logging magnate from the turn of the century.


We ate at the Lost Coast Brewery (Excellent) and made our way to the Samoan Cookhouse on Samoa, which was the exclusive feeding joint for logging employees from 1890 until the 1960s. It makes for an interesting mix with the rather small surrounding town, OHV park, and frequent flooding.




Next door was what appeared to be a steam engine restoration yard.


As well as a Maritime Museum
 
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Allof75

Pathfinder
Driving on through the island of Samoa, we ventured over to the OHV park to check out the surf and get in some much needed off roading. Here in California, it's rare to get to drive on the beach, outside of Pismo or a couple locations in San Diego, but to be this far North and so close to the water line and logging activity was really a treat.



The jetties brought us close to these huge waves, largely unimpeded from the Pacific, and thrusting upward as the bay becomes shallow. Several surfers ventured out, many on jetskis, and it looked like fun to me. Maybe another time.


The Pathy clamored its way around the deep sand just fine, though of course I locked the hubs and put it in 4-Hi for a couple of deep sand/mud runs. I even made a quick jaunt through a wide water crossing, did some donuts on the beach, and jumped back on the road leading in Dukes of Hazard style. It's fun to let loose on an open area when you've been contained to highways and other paved surfaces.


It was quickly time to head East towards our destination of Mt. Shasta. This led us along the Bigfoot Trail, and brought us up over the Cascades. Ancient mountains, which are much like the Swiss Alps, and the Appalachians in age. Truly spectacular, with specs of snow being visible in the distance finally.


Night descended quickly, and we wound and wound our way to Redding, where we hooked up with the 5 and pushed on to Mt. Shasta, staying in a quaint 50s-style hotel called "Finlandia!" obviously ribbing on the snow covered peaks nearby. It was forecast to snow, and the icy roads and low 20s conditions made the choice not to camp obvious. Call us wimps, but a hot shower was too good to pass up after three long days on the road.

The morning brought about eight inches of powdery snow on top of the Pathy, a drought-relieving blanket we had hoped for.


We went on to highway 89, and on to some fantastic little towns, usually with populations of 100 or less, and only passing other cars on the highway every half hour or so. We really were in a remote section of California, something which might not seem possible when in the middle of Los Angeles or San Francisco. But it's the variance that makes me love this state, and the people we met along the highway were as nice as could be.




We kept going, and made it to a favorite spot of President Teddy Roosevelt: MacArthur-Burney Falls. Plunging springwater makes the 127 foot falls an incredible sight, and the snow draping over the entire scene made it a truly breathtaking sight. Something you might see on a holiday card. This place is a National Landmark, and Teddy himself considered it a rival to Niagra Falls. It's beyond beautiful.




We lit our cigars and did our best Teddy impersonations.








We finished the small looping trail which brings you back to the top of the falls.




The top of the falls has another bridge.




Myself by a Civilian Conservation Corps cabin built in 1933. The program put thousands to work, my great grandfather included. It's great to see the work up close, and impressive that the largely original structure is still standing despite the tough conditions.


We saddled back up into the Pathy and continued on 89, passing by several ranches covered in snow. As we got closer to Lassen National Park, the volcanic rock became more and more apparent. Seeing road closure signs, and feeling hungry we stopped in Old Station, CA population 49, at JJ's Cafe. We ate the very grass fed cows we saw along the road, with excellent burgers, and chatted with the owner. Another extremely welcoming person, it was refreshing to be the only people in a restaurant, not because the food was bad, but because the town was so small.




We drove on, and as the snow became deeper and deeper, we made it to the *closed* Lassen National Park. We'll definitely make a return trip here, sometime when it isn't as frozen solid.






We drove South on highway 40, pushing towards our final destination of Nevada County. The emptiness of the road, combined with a few accidents closing the road briefly, allowed for plenty of photographic opportunities.




The route wound down in elevation, passing through even more small towns, and empty lakes, which were beautiful in their lack of people.
 
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Allof75

Pathfinder
Continuing down the grade, we passed one of the last gallows used in California. The unlucky recipient of its use could not have foreseen the outlaw of its use only two years after his execution.


After a rather long and winding white-knuckle drive through ice and quickly piling snow into town, we had finally made it to my once and always hometown of Nevada City, California. We were just in time to catch the end of their Victorian Christmas proceedings, and were lucky enough to stay with some close friends that night and the next. It was an excellent time had by all, to catch up, remember old times, and relax.


The next morning, seeking refuge on the slopes, my two friends attempted to tackle the incoming winter storm with their snowboard and skis in tow. Going up to Sugar Bowl, highway 80 was full of people chaining up, with the inexperienced providing quite a roadblock, and plenty of business for chain monkeys. The Pathy needed no such stops, and 4-hi with the Cooper AT3s got me through everything I needed to. We made it up to the lodge, I dropped them off, lacking the skill, or the back fortitude after a Jeep accident to adequately tackle the conditions. I decided to explore Lake Tahoe instead. On the way down the hill, I hit a patch of black ice and stuffed the Pathy right into a snowbank. I put it in 4-low and tried my luck, shifting from drive to reverse a few times to push the snow out of the way, and with some judicious throttle use in reverse it dug itself right out. Good thing I locked those hubs. Getting back on 80 I made it to Truckee with minimal incident, and inspected the Pathy, which turned out to be no worse for the wear. After stopping and gathering some maps and food at a local outfitter, I went down to the Lake, which was thankfully much fuller than the last visit I had made the prior April. Seeing the docks covered in snow, next to the many mansions was quite a treat.



After taking that picture, I got a call- the slopes were closed and my friends were waiting to be picked up on the mountain. Normally this would have been a fairly quick jaunt, but with absolute chaos on 80, with several sliding clear off the road, it was an absolute battle to get to the top. It took an hour and a half to move three miles, with CalTrans using pushing trucks to get moving vans out of the way. Finally making it to the exit, the Pathy clamored its way up the mountain, the only vehicle which never needed chains, I was completely in control the entire time.



We warmed up by the fire back at the house, and spent the evening telling tall tales.
 
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Allof75

Pathfinder
The next morning we went for a quick hike up to a tree farm, a misty morning awaited.





We said our goodbyes, and went through town one last time.


We went to the Empire Mine State Historic Park, which was the most producing mine in California during its years in operation. Providing work for the area, it left a lasting impact on culture too- the Cornish miners brought food, songs, and work ethic to the region. I always enjoy coming here.







The Family Mansion




The consistent rain made the area quite lush, feeding many of the original gardens.


The mining offices, responsible for first aid, rescue, bookkeeping, mapping, forging, among other activities.




The mine had a surprisingly clean track record, evidenced by the consistent safety drills.


Into the mine itself, the miners had a fascinating ride down hundreds of feet on a small cart.


The miner cart's superstructure is visible behind this ore cart.


Which was amazingly built in town


This blacksmithing building was charged, with the machine shop, to keep all carts or other machinery on the property in working order.


Near the mine is a fascinating boneyard of old steam and electric engines, along with several generations of ore cart and trains.






Having seen the end of this mine had ended our journey to find Californian Gold. We made it back to highway 5, and jetted on home. In total covering around 2500 miles, with plenty of stories, and places we'd love to explore further. It was truly an excellent journey.
 
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calicamper

Expedition Leader
I think that was the Skunk Train yard. Its still active. Froze by bits off taking it up the canyon newyrs a couple of yrs ago. Did the Elk come down to the beach? Thats always a tad freaky having one stumble into camp at night. Great picts!
 

Cobra_R

Adventurer
Dude...awesome report! I've been wanting to get that far north for awhile. I'll have to use your trip report as a template for a future trip haha
 

BCzuk

Observer
Thanks for sharing. I would really like to explore the area around Tahoe and also drive the Rubicon
 

coolfeet

Mark Keeler
I back packed the Lost Coast Last May with 2 good friends and 4 teenage boys. It was an amazing trip. We took our time-5 days and 4 nights. Nothing like going only 5 miles a day. We camped just outside the light house on the first night. It was cold and windy. Once we bundled up inside the tent, we stayed warm all night. One of my friends camped up in the light house and hardly slept because the wind was so strong.
lighthousewithboys.jpg
lostcoastfeatured.jpg
 

Allof75

Pathfinder
I think that was the Skunk Train yard. Its still active. Froze by bits off taking it up the canyon newyrs a couple of yrs ago. Did the Elk come down to the beach? Thats always a tad freaky having one stumble into camp at night. Great picts!
Sounds about right, on this trip we didn't meet any Tule Elk, but on a previous run up there, we definitely did. Met them coming down to the ocean as a matter of fact, which was strange at first.

Great report! Man, I miss California-
Thank you!

Dude...awesome report! I've been wanting to get that far north for awhile. I'll have to use your trip report as a template for a future trip haha
Thank you! I'm glad I could help.

Thanks for sharing. I would really like to explore the area around Tahoe and also drive the Rubicon
Thank you! For me being from somewhat near Tahoe, it's a fun mix to find new places to explore right near where I usually haunt.

Such a beautiful area in tbis great country of ours. Thanks for the pics!
Indeed, thank you!
 

Allof75

Pathfinder
I back packed the Lost Coast Last May with 2 good friends and 4 teenage boys. It was an amazing trip. We took our time-5 days and 4 nights. Nothing like going only 5 miles a day. We camped just outside the light house on the first night. It was cold and windy. Once we bundled up inside the tent, we stayed warm all night. One of my friends camped up in the light house and hardly slept because the wind was so strong.
Awesome! I'd love to go back and do the entire trail sometime, that sounds like a great trip you had. Such a beautiful area, the bad weather adds to the experience too I think.
 

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