WARNING- If you don’t like the smell of the ocean breeze, long walks along the beach, stunning sunrises and even better sunsets then this little journey is not for you.
Backpacking the Lost Coast Trail
Starting Point: Shelter Cove
We began our adventures in Shelter Cove where we car camped for the night. We had a dang amazing meal at the Venezuelan Restaurant, I split the meat sampler platter and it was one of the few times in history I was almost unable to finish the plate. But I dug deep and got’er done. Then our crew joined the locals for an epic night of Karaoke… I think that happens every Friday night. The next morning we took the earliest shuttle north to begin the trek.
We got out of the shuttle after two hours of gut turning roads, and a quick stop for amazing blackberries, the time was around 10:30 am. We threw our packs on and headed to the shore where we were rewarded with stunning views, an ocean breeze, and taxing sand (gators are a MUST).
We strolled slowly watching our watches and the tide chart, for this is our first experience doing a hike that is dictated by the tide. We really had no agenda on how far we wanted to go.
Our first landmark on the map was a lighthouse. When we arrived there we saw a bunch of elephant seals directly in front of it. Elephant seals make a sound similar to a flooded 2-stroke dirt bird that you are trying to kick start (for all you motor lovers out there). This was the perfect spot for lunch.
After refueling and getting our fill of watching the locals we rolled on. Our next stop was a small creek called Sea Lion Gulch where we waited out the high tide skipping stones and swimming in a shallow freshwater inlet. Two hours after high tide we entered our first impassible zone. About half way through we found an amazing inlet, Randall Creek, this was going to be our home for the night. It’s pretty amazing when the tide rolls in and locks you into your own little private community. I always wanted to know what it was like living in a gated community.
Again, we enjoyed a clean water rinse in the inlet while the sun was still high. Then we set up camp, cooked dinner and watched the sunset over breaking waves. Our whole crew had a rather sleepless night while we watched the tide rise and hoped that we didn’t judge the water incorrectly and bring our ocean front property into the drink (we could have just moved our tents back a couple feet, but what’s the fun in that!) We stayed dry by about 12 inches. We decided to be a little less aggressive with our epic tent placements from here on out.
We got up before the sun and watched it rise while eating breakfast then quickly broke down camp and took advantage of some low tide firm sand. We spent the morning bouncing back and forth from the soft sand and loose rocks on the beach and the trails above.
On the trail you need to keep your eyes peeled and use a bit of fancy footwork to avoid poison oak. We travelled across Big Flat where there is one private residence with a landing strip, the owner was out front waiting for his plane. I hear this is a good surf spot and people will hike their boards in here. Just past this is a nice creek and a perfect spot for lunch. We had a bit of a wait for the tide to drop so we took the opportunity for a siesta.
After we woke and entered the next impassable section, having fun hoping along rocks and dodging waves as the tide slowly receded. this was a very fun section of the hike.
We enjoyed the gated community feel from the night before so we decided to find a little inlet to call home on this impassible section and the first one we came to was perfect. We set up camp at Shipman Creek, making sure to keep our tents plenty far from the high tide line. Our new site was perfect with a little creek, another fresh water pool for drinking and swimming and plenty of down logs to furnish however we choose.
We woke up and the fog had rolled in. It gave the whole area a bit of an eerie feel. It would keep us nice and cool for the walk and change the mood a little. None of our hiking days were super long so we chose to take our time and enjoy our final stroll out. I say stroll loosely since the whole final day seemed to be in loose sand and more of a slog than a simple walk in the woods but it was incredible none the less.
There were plenty of colorful starfish to look at in the low tide pools as we hiked the final stretch along the water on a beautiful black sand beach. We made it across the calve burning soft sand and up to the car in time to make it to town for lunch and an americano.
Recommended Gear for Backpacking
Sleeping Bag – If you are still using the mummy bag your dad bought you 25 years ago, well… guess what? The game has changed! I bought the Nemo Riff down bag and it’s AMAZING! The spoon shape gives you plenty of leg room, it has a little pocket to stash your phone or other things, and it’s easy to dump excess heat.
Water Filter – Okay, this is going to be a wish list review. I currently have a MSR water filter that you pump with your hands down near a water source and it works great. A few years ago it’s what all my friends had. We would sit near the water, bullshit and pump… now I’m the last man standing. Everyone swoops in with these giant bags, scoop a bunch of water, and hang it up letting gravity do the work. I’m left to my lonesome creekside pumping. I’d say it’s not a huge deal since mine works just fine but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous of how fast and convenient the Platypus Gravity Filter works.
Gators – I would not do this trail without them. Five out of six of us used them and five out of six of us didn’t need to dump sand out of our shoes every half mile. I used the Dirty Girls Gators, they come in super fun colors and prints and you don’t even know you are wearing them.
Poles – I highly recommend trekking poles, they help with efficiency in the deep sand and it is real nice for stability across some of the endless basketball size rock sections. I recently purchased the Black Diamond Carbon Cork poles and am very pleased with them. Not that trekking poles are a huge fashion statement but these are real strong, feel sturdy when my 195 lb. frame leans on them and yes, most importantly, they look pretty sweet too.
Tent – In an attempt to lighten up my pack and save room I started traveling with the Nemo Hornet Elite 2P. It’s pretty ridiculous how light and compact it is and it sets up in a snap. I’m very happy with this purchase. I also strap it on my motorcycle for dual sport adventures.
Growing up on Lake Tahoe, Kyle spent his formative years outside with his father – running, climbing, building, playing. Echoing the words of John F. Kennedy, his father taught him to be an athlete, not a spectator. “We don’t watch sports,” he would say, “we play them.”
This perspective stuck with Kyle, and fitness became a natural part of his lifestyle. But as it happens so often, when hard times came, fitness was one of the first things to fall by the wayside. After losing his father to cancer in 2003, Kyle found himself on a downward trajectory that lasted for years. Most days Kyle found himself not running and climbing, but sitting and drinking. Feeling depressed and adrift, the energy he had once felt seemed a world away.
His journey back to a healthy lifestyle started in 2008, with a snowmobile. Speeding around the mountains of Tahoe, he began to feel that spark of energy and drive again. Next he traded his snowmobile for a dirtbike, and his passion grew. As he began racing, he realized he’d be a lot more successful if he got his body back in shape, which led him to CrossFit. Passion built on passion, and he became not only a CrossFit athlete but a Certified Trainer (Level 1), with additional certifications in Endurance, Olympic Lifting, Strongman, and Kettlebell.
Once again living a fitness-focused lifestyle – and feeling healthier and happier than ever before – signing up for Tough Mudder NorCal 2010 was an easy choice. Since then, Kyle has become a Legionnaire, a Warm-Up MC, and a Tough Mudder Training expert.
Follow him @coachtmud
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