May 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm #1290429
How well can two people time their arrival at a remote trailhead? Jacob and I nailed it within ten minutes of each other. Arriving at the overcast, misty somewhat foreboding feeling Saddle Mountain trailhead on Friday afternoon. Our destination for the evening, Maple Camp was about 6 miles before us. Best get moving since it was nearly 3 p.m. when we left.
Blowing mist and the thick canopy of the forest gave the hike atmosphere to say the least. The weather continued to deteriorate as we hiked. Glad to make the climb down into the somewhat protected little drainage where Maple Camp had little tent spots carved out of the hillside.
Not able to find a spot large enough for the both of us and as we had the whole place to ourselves, we spread out and took the best spots for ourselves. We could tell that this campsite sees little use. Firewood is abundant here. Too wet to have one that night I had Jacob over to my Unna for some evening conversation. A long day for the both of us and the not so easy hike to camp we hit the sack about 9 p.m.
Still crappy weather when we awoke Saturday. The forecast was for improving weather throughout the weekend. We were also camp high enough to be basically in the clouds so we hoped that it would lessen as we descended Rattlesnake Ridge to Miller Flat, our proposed destination for the night.
We took the time to bag King Peak as we were close by. No view, just a gray abyss.
The weather assumption proved correct. As we made our way to our next water spot, Bear Wallow camp, we got glimpses of a calm azure sea and a sunny beach below.. For us to get there we have to descend a seemingly endless series of swithcbacks, hike over and under dozens of blowdowns. Then cross, recross and hike down portions of Miller Creek to get to the beach.
Now when Jacob and I made plans for this hike we both forgot that the holiday weekend was also the same weekend. Seemed so early this year. Well plans were made and we went anyway. This is where it got a bit interesting. Getting closer to the beach I noticed a tent city built right up into the canyon itself. I have never in all the times that I have been out there seen so many people, Ugh.
So not a spot to be found at Miller Flat. The tide was with us and since we were heading to Buck Creek a few miles down the beach we hoped we could find a spot at any of the creeks. Really ready to stop by the time we arrived at Miller Flat we did not look forward to take our ever rubber feeling legs for a hike on the soft beach.
Passed a few camps along the way, all packed to overflowing. Onward and southward for us. About 5:30 we roll into Buck Creek. This is where we leave the beach to make our ascent up what is known to be one of the steepest trails in Northern California Sunday.
In hindsight being forced to go all the way to Buck Creek was a good choice. Sure we had to split up and horn our way into getting a place for each of us to set up. Too tired to care.
A lovely evening in camp and a big dinner and a couple of cocktails with some conversation rounded out our evening on Saturday.
I was out by 9:30 or so and slept like a rock with the noise of the surf in the background.
Sunday morning. Less than five mile to go today. We take our time and head out of camp about 8:45 after breakfast surfside.
The Buck Ridge trail was a road at one time. It takes no regard for human ability to propel oneself upward steadily for miles at a time. Just a steady up. A reputation well deserved,
Our hearts trying to jump out of our chests suggest that we take a little break from the joy of uphill and eat and recharge a bit.
Power restored thanks to sausage and a Hostess Lemon pie, we proceed.
Eventually getting to the sun exposed side of the ridge we get periods of sun and periods under the canopy. Very nice. We saw not a soul once we left camp on Sunday.
Finally topping out and then a brief descent we knew the end was near. A sign! Sooner than expected there was a junction sign. 20 minutes later the trailhead was before us.
Will it still be cold? Yes! Two tall boy Modelos that I left in the car we still ice cold. Never tasted better.
Jacob was a wonderful hiking companion. If you are looking for a hike that offers all that the Lost Coast has, this will do it. Not family friendly by any means. It is a steep one. But it has it's rewards.
I'll be back.
You can tell this is early on in the trip as Jacob is dry.
All the moss. Right around the next bend in the trail we were greeted with the stiff wind and mist.
Wham! Welcome to the Lost Coast.
With the color of the soil and all the Manzanita it reminded me a lot of hiking in the Lagunas in SoCal.
A lot of California looks likes this.
Wildfires are pretty common. But life goes on. With tons of blowdowns.
Maintenance and mealtime in my borrowed corner of a campsite. Thanks Tom.
What do you do when you overfill your alcohol stove? Use the excess heat output to preheat those damp, clammy shoes.
My new cone by Rand and crew worked awesome too! A real miser on fuel.
The weather was excellent on Sunday. A great vantage point along the Buck Ridge trail. Was really surprised to see so few boats out with as calm as it was.
As always I never take enough photos. Luckily Jacob came along. I know he has more…May 28, 2012 at 5:08 pm #1881818
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
I wish I could have made it for this trip…my Mountaingoat business is keeping me busy on the weekends lately.
Sounds like some workout!
I am looking forward to some pictures.May 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm #1881842
Great write up, Ken. Really sorry I missed it.May 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm #1881857
Great report, Ken.
I posted my photos below since they're wider than the white background. Here's my version of the trip :)
I had been wanting to do an inland hike in the Lost Coast area for some time now. Ken T. mentioned to me recently that he needed to get back out there, so I suggested this loop. I had heard there is "a lot of up and down inland" and had an idea we would get to experience it, but I figured with the low mileage it should be straight forward. Things don't always go exactly as planned, and I also have an uncanny knack for picking routes that force me to push a little… so it would be a memorable trip!
Ken and I set out separately for the Saddle Mountain trailhead where we would arrive, hours later, nearly simultaneously.
The forecast I had looked at earlier claimed something like "partly cloudy and mid 50's" with night time temps around 40. Actual conditions at the trailhead were more like gray-out mist clouds blowing by at 25 mph, everything soaking wet, temps already in the low 40's at 3:00 PM. Not exactly confidence inspiring, but hey… we both made it and were well supplied with food and drink, so what the heck.
Friday – Saddle Mountain to Maple Camp
Windy and wet was the theme. Visibility is like 50' in some places. As we passed over a ridgeline somewhere in the gray, it was a surreal feeling to see the mist quietly blowing by and no other sounds what so ever. We wandered into maple camp about 5.5 miles later, and nearly walked right through it. The camp blends into the forest well except for some lightly treaded foot paths leading to the individual sites. We had the haunted forest all to ourselves.
I wasn't carrying any warm base layers and would be sleeping under a 40* Revelation quilt from Enlightened Equipment. I was a little concerned about being cold and especially staying dry. I hadn't used the Lightheart Solo in any wet weather until now. Worries aside, I cruised over to Ken's Unna (or as I call it, the man palace) for some dinner, beers, and conversation. Retired back to my less plush accommodations after a bit and to my surprise, stayed dry and slept pretty good!
Saturday – Maple Camp to King Peak to Miller Flat
The weather was maybe looking better in the morning. I was trying to be optimistic. I enjoyed some fresh fruit, dates and cream cheese for breakfast in the hollow of a tree down by the drainage. We got out of camp a little later and made King Peak pretty quickly… still gray, but hints of blue sky appear once in a while. Discovered Adam C.'s sleeping spot under the observation deck… facing directly into the wind :) Then, Ken summons phantom hikers from the mist by hollering out "hello?"… magically two people appear.
Eventually we descend from the mist to blue skies and the Pacific in the distance. Then the real descent begins over a countless (I lost count after 30) number of switchbacks choked with downed trees on Rattlesnake Ridge trail. Multiple stream crossing at the bottom, followed by more up and down. A rock slide took out a section of trail, so we walked on the creek bed for the last mile or so… lots of rock hopping or loose gravel, pick your poison. Ken showed me how to land surf also, that was neat.
So, the flat (our destination) is completely full; tents, hammocks, and more tents everywhere. We head towards Big Creek a couple miles further down the beach then we had planned to walk… also full. Damn. Another mile point five to Buck Creek… and full! We had to make room, nowhere else to go but up from there. I thought my neighbors were friendlier than Ken's until I found out he was sharing the guy's Sun Shower ;)
Anyway, we had planned to walk that stretch of beach the next day, but it was done now and that turned out to be for the better anyway. ~13.5 miles in a day is usually fine for me; in this case my energy was ok, I just felt a little beat up. The terrain can be punishing to feet and muscles.
Nap time… then met up with Ken for some dinner. I threw down about 1200 calories plus a bunch of whiskey. Somehow the sun disappeared and I was ready to fall asleep outside Ken's tent in the weeds. Staggered back to my tent around 2200 hours and slept like a baby.
Sunday – Buck Creek to Saddle Mountain
Woke up to a cool damp sunrise. Strolled down to the beach for breakfast…. nobody else awake at 0600, Ken joins me after a short bit. We were both glad we had done the beach walk the day prior and now only had to climb out of here.
The climb out of Buck Creek was about what I expected. Mostly steep uphill with very few switchbacks or level ground. Reminded me of the trail out of Warner Valley to Juniper Lake (Lassen), which gains ~1500 feet in about 2 miles, except this one was gaining over 3000 feet in about 3.5 miles :) I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise how fast we got above the ocean, but it was still hard to believe. Just great views. When the trail finally levels off it's just about back to King's Crest trail, and not too far from Saddle Mountain trailhead at that point. Celebration included ice cold beers, snacks, clean clothes, and reflection on the trip.
This was a very legit hike. It had it's share of challenges, but nothing insurmountable. The landscape and views are rugged and inspiring, and the trails make you earn the experience. What a great hike which included just about everything the Lost Coast has to offer.
Wild life spotted included hawks, vultures, snakes (no rattlers), banana slugs, a sea otter, and a Monty Python bunny.
Ken is good people and I had a blast hiking with him. Would definitely do it all over again, and hope to some time down the road.May 29, 2012 at 11:50 am #1882025
Friday – Saddle Mountain to Maple Camp
Saturday – Maple Camp to King Peak to Miller Flat
Sunday – Buck Creek to Saddle Mountain
(edited to fix broken photo links)May 29, 2012 at 11:58 am #1882029
@creachenLocale: East Bay
Looks like a excellent trip! Wish I could of made it. Great pictures!May 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm #1882032
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
Badass gentlemen, badass.
The closing photograph of Jacob D. is a winner.May 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm #1882040
@jedi5150Locale: Central CA
Great report and awesome pictures guys! Ken, I thought I was a "true Hilleberg believer"…but then I saw your bumper sticker on your bear cannister. You put me to shame. HahahaMay 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm #1882081
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Great trip and pics gentlemen. The only time I did the Lost Coast was as a loop through the King Range (I parked on the Smith-Etter, and went counter clockwise), and frankly more people should do it that way. The hiking along the crest is awesome.May 29, 2012 at 9:55 pm #1882214
Thanks for the kind words all. It really was a wonderful, yet difficult trip. The best kind.May 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm #1882218
Fantastic pics, thanks.May 30, 2012 at 7:45 am #1882291
Thanks for all of the comments.
In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that there were only 2 of us. With the limited amount of camp space near the beach it would have been tough for anyone else to squeeze in.
Kat, good to hear the biz is keeping your busy, well upside/downside I guess. That's one of your hats I'm wearing, you probably knew that. I've been trying to wear it out, but no luck :)Jul 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm #1894966
I'm ready to go back and put a trip together along the ridge.Jul 16, 2012 at 7:00 pm #1895315
Nice work guys, and great stinkin' photos.
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