The Lost Coast Trail with Eric Nakano

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Recently, Dogpatch Desk Staffer, Eric Nakano stepped away from running the kids after school camps for an amazing hiking trip along the Lost Coast trail from Usal Camp to Nadelos Camp. He wrote about his adventure for the Touchstone Blog.

Distance: 29.19 miles

Elevation gain: 10,475 ft.

Elevation loss: 8,699 ft.

Climbing: didn’t find too much.

It was 11:45 PM when we pulled into Garberville. I slowed to a nice 35 MPH pace to avoid any chance of a speeding ticket, and to ensure we wouldn’t accidentally drive past our rendezvous point and end up back on the 101. The last text I received from my friend Matt read, “…Should be in Garberville in about an hour and a half. Gonna check out the local scene…I’m at the Blue Room. It’s towards the north of town.” – Thur, Mar 20, 7:11 PM. As I had imagined, the Blue Room turned out to be the quintessential small town bar, and the only establishment open at that hour. Matt wasn’t hard to spot, even from outside of the bar looking through the front window. He was seated at the center of the bar, staring off into space, with a lowball glass of whiskey on the rocks, and the only other person I could see inside was the bartender shuffling around behind the bar. It was late, so we chose to forgo grabbing a drink, and instead spent the next two hours lost on backcountry roads with no cell reception before finally reaching Nadelos Camp (the northern trailhead) where we spent our first night.

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Trip Tip: If a friend is renting a car for the trip, make sure you are the leader of the caravan. Something about that $9 damage insurance will turn an average driver into the Jeff Gordon of the Hyundai Veloster.

Because we chose not to shell out $400 on a shuttle service, the next morning required us to all pile in my car and drive down to Usal Camp (the southern trailhead) to begin our trek.

elk copy

The stretch of trail from Usal Camp to Wheeler camp features a good amount of hiking along the cliffs of the coast and winds through a number of forest areas with beautifully lush fern growth. We arrived at the first of a handful of beach access trails around midday and were immediately greeted by a nude man who brought us to the rest of his group on the beach. This group will henceforth be referred to as Pasty White and the Seven Nudes (and yes, there was only one female in the group). We spent some time resting, snacking, exploring the beach for any good bouldering, and decided to get back on the trail just as the Greek wrestling was winding down. It was pretty clear we were not in the same state of consciousness as Pasty White’s group. There was a substantial presence of poison oak along the thin sections of exposed trail and upon arrival at Wheeler Camp we all felt it appropriate to take a dive in the ocean. This is where things started to get a little weird. Brett (an avid surfer) came walking up the beach after taking his turn in the water and called up to us asking Jeff whether he was going in. There was no one named Jeff in our group…So either it was a combination of exhaustion and freezing water scrambling up his brain, or he took whatever our nude friends on the beach were indulging in that day.

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The next day we hiked from Wheeler Camp along a portion of the trail featuring almost entirely dense forest and fern undergrowth until the trail opened up into wide bluffs upon reaching our camping destination at Jones Beach. The terrain was much more mellow than the first day, and we had the opportunity to hang out with a herd of elk as the trail cut through a meadow leading down to Bear Harbor and we were to witness part of the herd playing chicken with the waves coming in on the beach. This was the day that sparked the quote, “You went from Elmer’s Glue to bedroom wall.” – Brett regarding Wolf’s tan, and when we learned that Matt had been keeping track of how many people we had seen since we parked the car at Usal Camp. The total for the trip was 48.

bluffs above jones beach copy

The third and final day of the trip included dark, foggy, sinister forest to sunny coastal desert with Manzanita. Additional highlights of the day include: Ice cold Eye of the Hawk at the end of the trail, and somehow fulfilling everyone’s insatiable craving for Taco Bell on the drive home. Honestly, aside from the natural beauty of the trail, that’s all I can really remember of this day.

Trip Tip: Always keep beer and salami in a cooler at the end of the trail for motivation.

This happened to be a first time backpacking trip for my friend Wolf, and I believe this would be a great trip for anyone who is fairly new to backpacking and looking for a nice challenging three day trip just about four hours north of San Francisco.