by, 04-28-2012 at 20:56 (522 Views)
I just returned from a wonderful week with friends on California's Lost Coast Trail. It was my spring break and also a fantastic way to warm-up for my upcoming thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I couldn't have asked for a better trip to get me psyched and confident for the AT.
The landscape was magical. Grey whales escorted us just offshore our entire time on the beach. The majority of the whales appeared to be mothers and calves on their return trip from Baja. There was also a plethora of tracks on the beach. Bear, coyote, bobcat, deer, skunk, shorebirds, egrets, ravens and otters were among the numerous species identified in the sand. In addition to tracks we also discovered hundreds of urchins and gumboot chiton washed up on the beach. There were even a few antlers and fragmented sea lion skulls to be found.
Our trip began and ended at the Mattole trailhead. In the middle of this out and back hike, we decided to embark on the challenging and rewarding loop of King's Peak. This 4088 ft. mountain rises quickly from the ocean. I felt good; pushing, sweating and breathing my way to the top. At the summit we were enveloped by a cloud that soaked us during our entire stay atop the peak. It was very cold and wet. Winds must have reached 50 mph and my gear was certainly put to the test. My hammock skills didn't quite hold up to this kind of onslaught but I was able to stay warm enough.
The return from the summit down the rattlesnake ridge trail was a definite highlight. We slowly came out of the cold as we dropped elevation, eventually landing in a lush steamy valley. The wild flowers were stunning (as they were much of the time on the coast itself) and the creek was pumping clear cool water down the mountain to the ocean. The creek crossings in this section were the most challenging of the trip but we were in great spirits having warmed up quite a bit.
That night we built a nice large bonfire and dried out. There would be more storms to come but nothing as trying as our experience on King's Peak.
Overall, the 6 day 5 night trip left me inspired, confident with my gear choices, and optimistic about the health of my body. I have been concerned about the lower back pain I've experienced over the last couple of years. Fortunately, on this trip, I felt strong and without pain.
In just a little more than a month I'll be flying from my home in California back to my birth home in Baltimore. My plan is to leave from Harpers Ferry the first week of June and head north. After I reach Katahdin I'll return to Harpers Ferry and head south to Springer. I can't wait!