“The Lost Coast is a mostly natural and development-free area of the California North Coast in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, which includes the King Range. It was named the “Lost Coast” after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and related geo-technical 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. Without any major highways, communities in the Lost Coast region such as Petrolia, Shelter Cove, and Whitethorn remain secluded from the rest of California”—Wikipedia
Our goal was to string together a route that encompassed paved roads, singletrack, and 4WD tracks and explore this remote region by bike. I would be riding my Mukluk Ti, Erik would ride his Vaya, and Andrew would captain his trusty Schwinn, complete with really, really skinny tires. We flew from San Francisco up to Crescent City where we would unpack the bikes, get supplies in town, and then hit the trail the following day. You could make the argument that from the get go, our selection of bikes would seal our fate, but hey, we are cyclists, eternally optimistic to the end.
With all trips of this nature, curve balls are thrown your way, often from the beginning…but also at the most surprising of times. As the ground crew unloaded the bikes from the airplane it was clear that my bike box had suffered a catastrophic failure, most likely due to sitting on the tarmac in San Francisco in a torrential rainstorm. It was with great fear that I slowly unpacked the box, took inventory, and slowly built the bike into riding form. Upon initial inspection everything seemed in working order, but the truth would be revealed later, in the most inopportune of times. Bent derailleur hangers in the middle of the woods are never ever a good thing.
Bikes built and boxes set aside, we began what was to be a journey of great discovery and intense physical effort. While none of us knew what lay ahead, for me, the opportunity to meet new people, explore new regions and discover more of who I am are all reasons that keep me exploring. I knew from the outset that riding a Salsa Mukluk with two guys that were younger than me and who would be pedaling rigs with skinny tires, would put me at an extreme disadvantage on all but the worst of terrains.
Erik, riding his Vaya had perhaps the best rig of the three for the route taken. A very capable road machine, it would perform perfectly well on all the terrain we encountered. Andrew, at a disadvantage on the first day of trail riding due to his incredibly skinny wheels, would find himself the fastest of the group as our route changed to mostly paved and very hilly roads. Myself, well, on the Muk, I can go anywhere, never the fastest, but always able to pedal. My only hope of keeping up with everyone relied on encountering a mixture of terrain that would balance out our ages, strengths, and bikes.
Within a matter of days, we had decided that there was simply no way we could manage our planned route. A combination of rough trails, lack of support, a group that was not on the same page with regards to bike abilities, and word on the street of violence in the woods, all conspired to alter our path. For some this was difficult, but for me, I simply looked at it as the path we were meant to follow. Not knowing what lay ahead, we ditched the plan for rough trails and instead began the process of stringing together old paved roads and highways that would at a minimum get us to the remote coastal range we longed to see. The decision to follow this path would seal our fate of now following an all-paved route, save for the last day, and would see me struggle to keep pace with Andrew and Erik for the entirety.
The steep grades and constant up and down of the terrain would make for a slow and grueling route. I struggled to keep pace as the skinny tired bikes were simply faster going up the hills than I was. A fact of life when touring on a fatbike is that you will rarely be the fastest, but you will always, eventually, get there and most of the time, with a smile on your face.
By day three, we had worked our way up and over the range and dropped down onto the Lost Coast of the Pacific. A pristine and remote stretch of coastline that with its vast Pacific views and rugged isolation rewarded our climbing efforts with its grace and beauty.
As we finished this stretch of coast, we passed two bikes on the side of the road, a very strange place to see such a thing. Riding past them, none of us saw signs of people, but focused on the task at hand, we assumed all was well and we simply pushed on. Later that afternoon as we sat in a diner, we were greeted by the appearance of two cyclists rolling into the parking lot. Doing what all good bikers do, we greeted them with welcoming smiles and inquiries into who they were and where were they travelling.
Ryan and Elisha were from Colorado out touring the Pacific coast. Like us, they had a lust for the more remote stretches of the route, which brought them to this same bit of coastline. Talking a bit, it was apparent that we had actually camped in the same town as them the night before. Their final destination was San Francisco and they seemed to be on roughly the same schedule as us. This chance encounter, which apparently was not chance at all, would set the stage for the remainder of our trip.
We loosely described where we intended to camp that night and hoped to see them somewhere down the road. Later that evening, having just thrown our beers into the stream for chilling, in rolled Ryan and Elisha. They had stopped at a campground to take showers and then decided to put in a few more miles before making camp. It was now apparent that our little group of three was going to become a gaggle of five. We would collectively ride the remainder of the route together, eating and camping and sharing as if we had know each other for years.
Rolling through the redwoods and the remainder of the now populated and well-traveled coastline, the story would continue. The constant up and down of this stretch is not for the weak of heart. Riding a Mukluk, while not fast, did always prove to be the central point of conversation no matter where we traveled. We managed to meet more cyclists, all skinny-tired, who never ceased to comment on my sanity for riding this stretch of road with a bike wearing four-inch tires. I admit, not the smartest of choices, but the Mukluk never disappoints. It takes you wherever you wish to go, and it effortlessly breaks down barriers between the people you meet along the way.
The trip did not work out exactly the way we planned. But then again, they rarely do. Instead of spending seven days by ourselves, mired in the muck and grime of the backwoods, we met and traveled with two of the most beautiful people I have ever met. Ryan and Elisha, with their joy for life and her constant, never-ending smile, left a lasting impression on the three of us that we won't soon forget.
The lesson, I think as always, it is to simply follow the path wherever it takes you. Yes, set goals and create plans, but recognize that those are simply objects of the mind, not necessarily of reality. Allowing yourself to deviate from the pre-planned and follow the path that unfolds with a smile on your face and an open heart will rarely, if ever, disappoint.
See the Glenn’s full Lost Coast story with many additional photographs at: http://stories.glenncharles.pro/the-lost-coast
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Glenn Charles spent his first 40 years living what he thought was the American Dream; he now says he’s living life. Traveling by bike and kayak, he finds new ways to explore the world, meet new people and grow as a person. As he travels 50,000+ miles by human power, he hopes to inspire others to reconnect with nature and lead simpler, happier lives. thetravelingvagabond.com