The Lost Coast Experience 


What is isolation? That is, in the physical sense. My friend Vince told me of the Lost Coast before I departed on this expedition and that it was well worth the experience. He rode it a couple years ago as a destination bike trip. He however missed the extension of this route which continues out of Honeydew on the Kings Peak and Usal roads for another sixty miles. We were curious what this whole thing was about. So, as a common phrase Alexia and I pass back and forth, “Gotta go to know.” 

The “Lost Coast” was named after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and related geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. This sounded very intriguing to us and with a bit of grit (literally and figuratively) we would reap the rewards. 

Day One: Being sent off with Snickerdoodles from Marc and Leah Daniels of the Mind’s Eye Coffee Lounge and Manufactory in Ferndale, we hit the ‘Wildcat’ (Mattole) Rd. For six miles up and around and switch-backed until it seemed like we summited only with one, maybe two more miles of meandering. It was, at this point, the most grueling hill I’ve ridden. It’s a real real mindbender when coming upon a turn with the thought of it leveling out for just a bit but seeing the road serpentine 2-3 more switchbacks. After viewing a mountain lion, petting horses, and enjoying lunch by Bear River, we were greeted with the worst hill right outa Capetown. Not long, but steeper than before. The descent to the coast put the brakes into hyper-over-use; gravity and weight put the heat on. The creek at the bottom of the hill was on private property and access would have been a long walk back from the beach. As we road along the Coast, we came upon Jesse, a surfer and grower. I asked if he had another board, which he did back in Petrolia. He was coming back in a couple hours and would bring it. He also mentioned that the Driftwood Shack we were standing by was built by his buddy, was secure, breaks the wind, and is seldomly used. “Feel free to stay in it.” So, Alexia and I filtered water from a nearby stream and set up camp. Jesse showed later with a 7’6″ and we surfed the slow and heavy waves next to Old Man Rock. He invited us to see his grow operation the next day if we crossed paths in town. Alexia and I were so beat we crawled into our bags around 7:30. As the clouds cleared the stars came out in force and the Milky Way spread from the horizon of the Pacific Ocean across the night’s sky.


Day Two: The coast road from the shack was lovely but short lived. The hills began to Petrolia. Although we didn’t run into Jesse, the cool little town with it’s Post Office/ General store, Fire Dept and little cottages reminded me of Ward, CO. One road in, and out. Tie-dyed sheets hanging in windows, worn out vans, stray dogs, and the ever-present scent of ripe bud in the air. More hills on to Honeydew with the thought of camp and rest in the very near future. Once there, the general store had thirty+ people hanging out to get on trimming jobs. A few provisions in tote, we biked to Honeydew Creek campground which resembled a run down gypsy village. There were people from Spain, Germany, Wales, England, US, Czech Republic, Argentina, France and quite a few dogs. When the money to be made trimming bud is so great the calling for this work ripples across international currents. 



Day Three: After we spoke with a group of trimmers about wages, work conditions, their homes, pinky was filled with Mr. Nice and we were on our way up, yet again, another gnarly set of hills for six miles. We took the right on to Kings Peak road for another twelve miles. This decision was the beginning of the treat; it was unpaved, rutted, dirty, dusty, steep switchbacks, and loose gravel. It was an everlasting twelve miles of the smell of pot! If only technology could capture smells. We made it to the top of the junction at Shelter Cove Rd when a local guy said “if we haven’t been there we should stay for the beauty, but be careful on the road down, it’s steep and traffic doesn’t expect cyclists.” You could light his breath on fire from the alcohol. He then passed us on the way down honking his horn. The brakes took a beating again in the near two mile, 1900ft descent. Another man, Tom Kopf, stopped us and said, “Holy shit, now that is an adventure!” He offered his yard for us to set our tent, but after chatting for a short while he offered his spare bedroom and shower. 

Day Four: In Shelter Cove and giving ourselves a Day Off. Although we rode through town to a couple of the natural attractions, we chilled for the most part. We had coffee and croissants at the Fish Tank. Here, I read an article in The Surfers Journal about one of the last great watermen, Bud Hendricks. During one of his escapades he was asked by a guru, “Who are you?” His response, “I’m an Abolone hunter, shaper, Marine, Schooner pilot, Matador, bronze sculptor, bird photographer. “The guru stated, “That’s what you are!” Bud thought for a moment and said, “I’m a human being.” I’ve been intrigued with old guys like him. I also pondered what is it to be a human being? I often ‘do’ and seldomly ‘be’ so does that make me a human doer? This has been an ongoing thought and struggle of mine for years. 

This town is isolated. It’s a long shot from Highway 1 and down a crazy steep road. The locals are fishermen, growers, trimmers, painters, construction workers, laborers. Most everyone has done, or still does a mix of all. For the Cali coast the homes are actually affordable, and they’re good sized, most with an ocean view. There is one bar, a Brewery being built, one coffee shop, two to three dining options, a well stocked but pricy general store, and a block from the ocean cliffs an airstrip. It’s quite the thing to park your Cessna walking distance from your front door. 


Day Five: Having coffee on Tom’s porch and contemplating our next step, his neighbors stopped by with more coffee and muffins. They were giving us the scoop on local topics and work in the area. Tom showed and offered us a ride to the top of the hill. Considering the 2.3 miles up, no shoulder, fast driving locals, and not safe conditions to let Fitzroy out of the trailer, we were more than accepting of his offer. We said our “see-ya-laters” and rode to Wailaki CG for a peaceful nights rest. 

Day Six: The four and half miles to Usal Rd was cool, smooth and shrouded in redwoods. Then our world as we knew it changed dramatically. Sure, we could have stayed on the pavement and loop around to Redway, but that was way too long. Instead,  we took the metaphorical ‘Bull by the horns’ and went for a ride. As with anything challenging and worth doing there is usually some glimmer of accomplishment. Yes, when it’s all over, but we just began. And there wasn’t a glimmer of anything but pure grueling, thigh-grinding, body-pounding ruts, rocks, ravines, branches, hills, switchbacks for the next solid twenty miles…and it was enjoyable. Even Fitzroy gave a slight expression of joy while trottting with us. This is isolation, or at least  what our bodily senses were experiencing. Space, cool breezes among giant redwoods, sabres of light, sea and forest scents wafting, sweat, muscle pulses and strains, all moving through a lost and beautiful environment. 




Day Seven: The first seven hundred and fifty feet were a rude “good-morning!” So steep and unconsolidated there was no more pedaling. Pushing, slowly advancing foot by foot, no purchase between Chaco tread and loose aggregate it seemed a relentless attempt. Finally,  a crest in the road. The payoff were nice rollers to the seamlessly never ending down to Highway 1. Here we were met with dump trucks coming and going posing a problem being there was no shoulder. Although nicely paved this is a coastal road along a dramatic geologic divergent zone. There are hills and vistas and views north where we were, and south to where we are going. The Lost Coast is isolated, so much it makes the adventure of the mind, body, and soul worth the challenge, to look deeper inside, push beyond physical limits, and discover some latent mental stamina. 

Oregon


I could probably count how many times I asked Alexia, “Do you want to move here?” but that would be every time we stopped on a vista, shore break, or quaint beach town with a mountain backdrop, which was often, maybe countless times. There is a special kind of intimacy felt here. 


At the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria is a welcome mat with more than one direction to head into the heart of Oregon, whatever that means to you; east along the Columbia River Valley toward Portland, diagonally meandering southeast among swift rivers and hilly forests, or tuck along the Pacific coast heading south with the scent of sea air, pine, fir and spruce, and estuarian richness. We started diagonally with the intention of taking a break at our friend’s Mangalitsa pig compound. However, that meandering route would first introduce us to white-knuckle-pedaling skinny-road logtruck-jousting and crazy-local drivers. 

During our time at the Doss Family Farm, an enjoyable seventeen days, we were able to resupply with necessary items, work a few farmers market, take pigs to market, tend to pigs, put up fencing, taste some fine beers from Kaiser Brewing, and help clean and organize the ‘compound.’ We all enjoyed a departing meal and beer at the Pelican Brewery in Pacific City. And just like that, we were off to continue our ride tucking the Pacific coast south. 

Mangalitsa

Kaiser brewmeister

Kaiser brewmeister



With a new trailer for Fitz, and panniers donated from Ortlieb, we were off but still heavy. I chock it up to living on the road and out of our bikes for the next twenty months. Despite the sacrificial objects left behind, we still like the creature comforts that add weight like small binoculars, tenkara rod w/ flies, camp pillow, books, sketching pencils and pad, wetsuit, and a few extra electronic goodies. 


Once on the road it appeared to be a highway of cyclists and PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) through hikers transplanted due to the Oregon fires. Coastal riders going from Vancouver to San Fran or San Diego, transcontinental cyclists going east to west or vice-versa, long-distance folks going from Alaska to Bolivia, and the diversity of characters hiking over 2600 miles on the PCT starting on the Mexican border heading north, or starting on the US – Canada border letting gravity pull them down were all festering along the Oregon Coast along with us. 

Another beauty of Oregon are the state parks. Five bucks per person and free unlimited hot showers. Well needed and deserved as the days were not necessarily long in mileage, but this time of year it was hot and the hills steep and long. 

Back to this intimacy I/ we have with Oregon. I have passed through my daily thoughts while riding and that is there are few places – States – that really get me jazzed about what they offer in combination of outdoor activities, outdoor work, community, local  and statewide vibe, government policies, cultural diversity, progressive and sustainable methods in craftwork/ farming/ ranching/ closed-circle food systems, healthy and diverse ecosystems, fresh water resources, and  access to land. Oregon, Minnesota, and Vermont are these states. No state is perfect in everything, that would be unnatural, but without getting deep these are the places I have come to enjoy, appreciate, respect, understand, and get lost in. Having spent over two months of the past year in Oregon the thorn of intimacy is deeply set. 

Of ocean and forest

The road west out of Port Angeles was little indication of what our experience riding through the Olympic peninsula would be. Most of the road for the first ten to fifteen miles was somewhat smooth with a wide enough shoulder and without much up and down serpentine motion. However, past Joyce on Highway 112 the landscape changed and was to stay this way. What we did not know were the extra challenges in riding this section, as well as the pleasant surprises. 

This had been day six of pulling Fitzroy and it was really becoming a strain; hills are longer and steeper, he is restless and figits a lot with the slight shoulder, bumps, heat, and fast traffic. We are taking more frequent stops for us to adjust to the hills but also let Fitz out to stretch and run. I’m finding though he gets out sniffs, pees then finds a shady spot to rest. One of these rest spots was a long the Juan de Fuca Straight with the enjoyable scent of sea air and sounds of waves rolling in on the shore. Here I met Mark Ramiro, an Elwha elder who was crabbing off the west Twin River. He described, in his words and feelings, the removal of the Elwha dams in that they were making money and supplying energy to Port Angeles. He said the Kings would come up the river and get worms in their gills and kill them because the water was too warm, but the humpies, pinks, and Steelhead would return in the winter months but not in any great number. The Federal gov’t was pressured to remove the upper dam, they then met with the tribal gov’t and pressured them to remove the lower dam. This all happened and now the river flows freely and salmon have returned. 


At the fishing town of Seiku we were told by a couple local hippies of a secret beach if we took a trail for a mile and half. They said we would have a mile in each direction without many people, if any walking the stretch. And so this is what we found. 

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A hell of a hill greeted us soon after Clallam Bay – six miles of up! Miles and days with no shoulder and logging trucks. Seeing and hearing logging trucks, and chain saws continued to remind me what Melvinjohn of the HOH Nation said in our meeting. His grandmother, and her ancestors, who subsisted on the Olympic peninsula, said ” there is no old growth here anymore, it has all been forested and what we have is, in many places, second and third growth forest.” I cannot be naïve in that we need timber and wood products in our lives. However, we need to drive, or at least encourage the Forest Service, logging companies, and people in general to practice sustainable practices so the long term doesn’t possess such negative results. The mountains around us were completely clearcut without replanting in maany areas. Forestry Policy states that within two years after harvest the area needs to be replanted. We came across clearcut areas that have been devoid of vegetation for at least seven years.



The escape of 160,000 farmed salmon from their pen within Puget Sound was the headline in the paper. Apparently, it “was caused by the Solar Eclipse which caused the tides to shift.” I found that interseting in that no other pens, which there are thousands of, did not experience an escape or collapse due to the eclipse. The facts behind farmed salmon, or “fresh Atlantic Salmon” as it’s sold in stores across the county are; they are fed pellets made from by-catch fish that have a higher nutritional value for humans (anchovies, sardines, mackerel), fed antibiotics because they are confined in a pen with the excrement of all the other fish, that excrement pollutes the environment exceeding the radius of the pens as well as migrates upstream, the meat is grey – dyed, color chosen from a color wheel, to look like a wild salmon, and they are omega 6 and 12 deficient, something natural in the wild variety. You choose. But be mindful and purchase in the lightest form of moderation, as either choice has an impact, one of course less than the other.


As we continued south we did the touch and go with the shoreline. At times there were stretches with great views of the ocean, other times we would contend with the fast and heavy traffic either heading to the coast for the holiday or pounding the rush hour grind. All the while, the thoughts of the impact I, We, have on the resources we think are renewable. Clearcutting forests impacts the watershed, riparian habitat, and the spawning streams of salmon. Farmed and even commercail fishing impact our waterways as well as the cultural heritage of the People who have relied on salmon for their food. As with all things, once its gone, its gone for good. Never to come back, and really nothing to replace it.