Finding the Lost Coast
Posted on January 9, 2012
In the fall of 2009, I walked with a group of friends along California’s Lost Coast with boards strapped to our backpacks that were full of food and gear to sustain us for 4 days. As usual, things didn’t go according the plan. With the swell growing quickly and the tide rising, two of our troop were caught by a wave and ended up floating around in 8 ft shore break in their packs and boots; my brother tweaked his knee so that he couldn’t walk properly for days; and we ran out of whiskey on the second day. However, we did find some great waves that with only a couple other surfers to share them with: one of which flew in on a plane and the other had ridden a wave runner for ten miles to get there. Since that trip, I‘d been itching to get back onto the lost coast, but hadn’t gotten the timing right to get away from work during the right swell to do the hike.
There’s a network of dirt roads criss-crossing the Kings Range above the Lost Coast and I reckoned that I could ride up into the range adjacent to the surf spot that may be just a few miles away. I would hike down to the coast, surf, camp, and hike back up the next morning. After that a couple days surfing, miles of dirt and rough tarmac roads awaited heading north out of the King’s range.
My first stop was San Francisco at my friend Mike’s place where I’d spend the night before heading north the next morning. Outside on the sidewalk of his apartment I lashed down my last bits and made ready to launch in the sea of fog that had descended on the city during the night. Crossing the Golden Gate bridge on a bike, the exposure made me feel as enamored of the structure as the throngs of tourists flanking the railings, cameras at the ready.
I rode north all day, barely to make it to Shelter Cove by the sunset. I was surprised at how exhausted I was after riding for only a few hours and really wanted to stop for a break every hour or so. Honestly, it does not seem that sitting on a bike with a motor turning and twisting my wrist should be tiring me out, but it was. I pressed on to find Shelter Cove completely deserted by nightfall. The swell was good size all day and when I went down to the harbor at dusk, there were folks just finishing up surfing there. With waves big enough to break outside the harbor in Shelter Cove I was hopeful that I would be in store for waves further north the next morning. Without a soul stirring, I just rolled in to the campsite and picked my favorite spot.
I rode out of Shelter Cove and turned north onto the Kings Range dirt road. Just as I left the pavement, Dyna began to sputter, sounding like she was starving for gas and apprehension gripped me. I’d been a diligent student of motorcycle mechanics since I’d gotten my bike and had managed to cover many of the basics, but I’d been yet to tear apart the carburetor to diagnose any problems. Just as I was deciding whether to turn around or carry on along this dirt road with my bike sputtering, Dyna seemed to right herself and perked right up and off I went into the lush forest of the King’s Range.
Unfortunately, I when I managed to find a map with actual trail distances marked, I found that a hike down to the place that I’d hoped to find some waves was 7 miles rather than the 2-3 that I’d hoped. Since I didn’t quite have the time to get down to the coast and back up, I rode on and exited the King’s Range to the north, and rode down the Mattole River Valley towards the town of Petrolia.
After rejoining the 101 near Ferndale I blasted back to the Mendocino coast and managed to find some waves. At this spot, there were friends and family walking and hanging about in the grassy bluff above the beach that gave the place a truly rich sense of a community connected by the ocean. The place had a fantastic vibe and made me wish to find more days and connections like this at my home.
I motored up the banks of little river on the Mendocino Coast and wound along the craggy coastline southward.