Posts Tagged ‘lost coast’

fire at usal

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

I just posted a video on YouTube. It’s old and new at the same time. While I just barely did the video editting, I took the footage in July of 2006.

Andi and I were walking up the bed of Usal Creek, on Calfornia’s Lost Coast. We heard an odd crackling sound. We looked around… was it water gurgling over rocks? Was it… we looked up at the ridge above us. It was a wildfire! We walked through the nearby campground, making sure people knew what was happening. One group had a cell phone, and knew where the nearest place with reception was. They hopped in their truck and sped off to report the fire. Other groups started rounding up their people so they could evacuate quickly if they needed to. Andi and I got in our car and started to leave.

Usal Creek and the campground are in the bottom of a canyon. The fire was on the ridge to the north. The road back to civilization goes south, over another ridge. From about halfway up that ridge there is a large clearing with a view across the canyon. Here, at a safe distance from the fire, I set up my tripod and shot some video and some stills.

You can view the video here.

Here’s one of the stills:

A Cal Fire helicopter battles a wildfire on the Lost Coast

the lost coast: an overview

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Note: This is a rough draft of content for my future Lost Coast website. I’ll do research and stuff later.

California Highway 1 runs along the Pacific Coast from the border with Mexico northward. A few miles north of the tiny town of Westport—roughly 180 miles north of San Francisco—Hwy. 1 suddenly veers inland, intersects with US 101 at the town of Leggett, and ends. Hwy 101 doesn’t hit the coast until near the Humboldt Bay, leaving an 80 mile stretch of the California Coast highway-free. This no-highway zone is the Lost Coast.

From a viewpoint near Juan Creek, just before Hwy. 1 turns inland, you can get a view to the north which explains why the highway builders opted not to continue along the coast: mountains rise abruptly from the ocean two, or even three, thousand feet high. If you look to the south from this point, you’ll see a considerably gentler coast; it’s still fairly rugged, but there’s a flat terrace about a hundred feet above sea level which makes a great place to put a highway. To the north, there’s no sign of terraces, only cliffs, and high cliffs made of crumbly stuff at that.

This photo doesn’t really do justice to the cliffs or the abrupt change of geology, but it’s kinda pretty, so I’ll use it for now:

view north from juan creek

The Loast Coast is divisible into three regions: in the south, there’s public access through the Sinkyone Widerness State Park; in the central zone the Bureau of Land Management owns most of the land, and administers it as the King Range Natural Conservation Area; the northern section is nearly all privately owned, but there is some public access to beaches near Cape Mendocino.

To a purist, the Lost Coast is not truly wilderness. Europeans have been logging tanoak, douglas fir, and redwood in the region since the late nineteenth century. There are only a few groves remaining of the original forest. There are old mill sites, and even old town sites, scattered throughout the region. Still, the remoteness, the ruggedness, the current land use practices, and the low human population of the area make it feel pretty gosh darned wild. And if you get injured out here, help is a long, long ways away.

There are only two towns of any significance in the Lost Coast region. Shelter Cove is a resort community at the end of a thirty-mile paved—but narrow, steep, and twisty—road from Hwy 101 at Garberville. It can also be reached by air or sea. Petrolia, near the mouth of the Mattole River, is a more traditional town servicing the local farmers and ranchers.

The view from one of the rooms at an inn in Shelter Cove:

shelter cove deck view

For hikers, there are many places to explore in the region. The most popular backpacking trip in the area is a forty-mile beach stretch of the California Coastal Trail, from the mouth of the Mattole to Shelter Cove.

The beach near the mouth of the Mattole:

beach near mouth of mattole river

The other end of the great wilderness beach backpack, Black Sands Beach:

black sands beach

South from the Shelter Cove Road, there’s another excellent stretch of the Coastal Trail, running over Chamise Mountain, down steeply into the Sinkyone at Whale Gulch, and then up and down and up and down through a series of gulches to Usal Campground. There are also plentiful options for day hikes in the region.

Needle Rock in the Sinkyone:

needle rock

Looking down to Usal Beach from the Coastal Trail:

usal beach from coastal trail

lost coast site

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

A couple of years ago, on a camping trip to the Needle Rock area, I was ruminating on my various trips to the Lost Coast region. I realized that it was the twentieth anniversary of my first trip to the area, give or take a week or two. Over the years, I’ve done a fairly thorough job of exploring and photographing the place.

Today, I registered a new domain, Eventually, I’ll create a substantial site for that domain, with a trail guide, information about the natural and human history of the area, my photos, user-submitted photos, links to web resources about the area, etc.

In the short term, I’m planning to use this blog to post drafts of content for the long-term project. The discipline of creating regular blog posts should help me actually get this thing done.

Here’s a photo taken from the Coastal Trail looking south (and down) to Usal Beach:

Lost Coast Evening

fourth of july on the lost coast

Monday, July 7th, 2008

California’s Lost Coast is a fifty-or-so mile stretch of the northern Mendocino and southern Humboldt coast which has no highway near it. It’s a remote and rugged region, and one of my favorite places for hiking, photography, and exploration. While I usually stay home during the major Summer holidaze, this year my girlfriend and I found ourselves at Wailaki Campground, near the Shelter Cove Road.

The drive up was my first trip away from the Mendocino Village-Fort Bragg coastal zone since the fires began. Many of those fires are out or controlled now, so the conditions were not bad. The only place we were close to a recent fire was near the “town” of Rockport. There, a ground fire had burned right next to Highway 1. The larger trees appeared to be unharmed. There were a few fires still burning on nearby hills and the smoke was pretty bad in this area.

Our camp was about ten miles from the Paradise Ridge Fire in southern Humboldt County. That fire appeared to be out, although we did see a helicopter making repeated passes over the site, presumably looking for hot spots.

One local we talked to in the area relayed a tale from the week before of just how bizarre the priorities of our current federal government are. During the height of the fire, with the local volunteer fire department toiling away to protect their homes, in comes the feds. Four hundred feds in a caravan of black vehicles. Were they there to help? Nope. They were there to bust pot farms. Many of the firefighters had to leave the lines to make sure their partners hadn’t gotten busted.

The air was pretty clear during our stay, and the weather was fabulous. While there were quite a few people in our camp, the trails were remarkably free from crowds. In fact, in three days of hiking we saw exactly eight other people on the trails. I did a little, not-so-serious photography on this trip, but wound up getting a few ok shots.

Here’s the Coast Trail through the Smeaton Chase Grove:

Trail through Smeaton Chase Gove

Here I am in the same grove (photo by Andi Corsick)

Garth at Smeaton Chase Grove

Here’s Momma Elk and Junior at the end of the road near Bear Harbor:

elk at bear harbor

The Smeaton Chase Grove:

smeaton chase grove

From the top of King’s Peak, looking south toward Chmise Mountain:

south from kings peak

The ridges north of King’s Peak:

ridges north from king\'s peak

A distant fire in the east, probably the Kettenpom Fire:

kettenpom fire

Fog creeping up a gulch NW of King’s Peak:

fog and ridges from King\'s Peak

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