Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lost Coast Trail

As Sam drove us up to the northern trailhead, a bobcat crossed paths with us. Sam was the last of a series of hitches that brought us all the way from Crescent City to the Lost Coast (about 140 miles), and now our packs (especially Freebird's) were loaded with more food than we've ever carried. I'm so grateful to all of our rides! The timing of our arrival at the trail was perfect too. After all the adventures of the day, from waking up at Big Al's apartment, to all the hitching, to spending hours at the county fair, to picking vegetables from Sam's garden, we arrived just in time to watch the first sunset of many that we would see for the next twelve days along the Lost Coast Trail.

After watching the magnificent sunset, we immediately found an area to set up camp near the beach. All night, we listened to the sound of the waves crashing ashore, happy and content to be there.

The morning sun peeking through the rugged landscape of the Lost Coast. The 60-mile strip 
(King Range National Conservation Area to the north and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park to 
the south) along the Pacific is named so because it's largest stretch of coast in California that is 
mostly untouched by human "progress." Major highways and roads are unable to be built through 
this section, leaving the area rather isolated from society. Highway 101, which follows the coast 
to the north, veers around the King Range to merge with Highway 1 to the south. The Lost Coast 
has little trace of human settlement with the exception of a few houses, a lighthouse, and the 
town of Shelter Cove. Unlike other trails on which I've hiked thus far, 
we never even heard any large aircraft flying overhead.

Not long into hiking that morning, we took a break and split a watermelon 
for a post-breakfast snack to lighten the load of Freebird's pack.

Just as before in the Redwoods, we would once again see harbor seals everywhere along the trail. This guy stopped his daily routine of fishing for a moment to watch us with amusement and curiosity.

The characteristic fog of the Lost Coast lifting for just a moment.

The northern half of the trail meanders through a mixture of black-sand beaches and grassy flats, with views of the King Range. It's much less rugged than the southern half, where you walk mainly through lush, redwood forests, with small black-sand beaches and arches tucked away in the troughs of the hills. Both areas are different but equally spectacular in beauty.

Soon we came across cabin in which John resides. This is the friend of Sam's who had built 
this cabin and is also a wood-carver, an avid reader, a climatologist, and a writer. Sam had told us 
to stop and introduce ourselves. John was outdoors, taking advantage of 
the sunny, warm day and doing some yard work when we arrived.

A view of the Punta Gorda Lighthouse from the edge of John's property.
We first met with John from opposite sides of the fence, shaking hands and telling him that Sam sent us. Once he learned that I am an artist as well, he enthusiastically invited us into his cabin.

John gave us a tour of his quaint cabin built back in the 70's, completely out of cedar and fir, and opened up to us about his way of life with no electricity or telephones. He only travels into town whenever he needs anything. The majority of his time is spent reading, recording his observations of the environment, and making art. While splitting a cantaloupe (given to us by Sam) with John, we looked over my sketchbook and at images of his wood-carvings and works-in-progress. For the story of John and his artwork as well as a chance to view his portfolio, visit his website.

A panorama of the Pacific, as seen from inside John's cabin.
After such a lovely encounter, we returned to the trail as John continued his yard work.

The Punta Gorda Lighthouse, which ceased to operate in 1951.

The fog rolling in again. The Lost Coast is often socked in, giving the trail a mystical feel.

One of many driftwood shelters that hikers have built in the northern half.

The interior of the shelter, lined with various collected treasures that the waves wash ashore. Hanging from the roof was a washcloth, one of the items that I needed! Several other items would be provided to us throughout the Lost Coast journey, leaving no doubt in my mind that if we truly need something, God will provide it somehow. 

This is the faith that Peace Pilgrim had as she ventured from coast to coast across the United States from 1953-1981, carrying nothing but a comb, a toothbrush, and a pen, and later, her free Steps to Inner Peace pamphlets. No way can I even compare myself with her, but I was beginning to understand how she could be so trusting and confident that everything would always be provided. 
I would be wonderfully surprised in the days to come.

Two backpackers admiring the views through the fog from atop a seaside bluff.

Speaking of being provided for, it didn't take long for another needed item to appear. We came to an area where the trail was so steep and the hillside was eroding, that we had no choice but to scramble over massive boulders along the beach. Lying on the top of one of these boulders was this hat, held in place by a stick. It had more coverage from the sun than the Robbie Naish baseball cap which Almost Awesome gave me in Seiad Valley, so I traded for this one.

We only had so long to make it through this stretch of the trail before high tide would close it down. We climbed and scrambled over boulders, trying to make it to Randall Creek in time. Then we reached what appeared to be a dead end! A cliff was jutting out in front of us, with the rising waves already slamming against it. Freebird scoped out the area and said that we could wade around the cliff for just a few feet and then be on dry land again. As it was too late to turn around, we had no other choice than to step into the turbulent ocean. We had to time the crossing with the waves, something with which I've had absolutely no experience. It was so nerve-wrecking, imagining myself losing my balance and being knocked into the jagged rocks or carried away into the waves. Freebird went around first with his pack and then returned to carry mine and guided me across. He quickly crossed without getting splashed, while I struggled not to fall on the slippery rocks. I didn't make it in time, and all I could do was brace myself as a huge wave slammed me up against the wall! 
I gripped on with all my might, and thankfully I held on and suffered no injury. 
I crossed over to the dry beach, drenched and cold but still alive.

Soon we reached Randall Creek and could begin to search for a place to camp. Thankfully I would be able to dry off soon. The shores of the creek were jammed with other backpackers who were settling down for the night, as the risen tide temporarily put our travels to a halt. We were all waiting until early in the morning to continue, when it would be low tide once again. Greeting us right at the mouth of the creek were Dave and Denise, two hikers that we met earlier that day. They sympathized with my situation; they arrived just before we did and also got splashed beside the same exact cliff. They were bundled in all of their dry clothes, trying to warm up again.

We set up camp further inland, nestled under some low branches to shelter ourselves from the cool ocean breeze. Freebird then went to watch the sunset over the ocean from a bluff beside the creek, while I slept until dinner and warmed up in my sleeping bag. He took the camera along with him.

We set an alarm for the next morning, something we hadn't done since probably the day we left the Rainbow Gathering for Truckee, California, over a month ago. We chose to wake up around 5 AM 
so that we could hike out when it was the lowest low tide, giving us plenty of time so as not to rush. Otherwise, we would probably be spending a second night along Randall Creek.

The cliffs along the beach were rich with springs. Even though it was a chilly morning before the sun rose, my body temperature was so warm that I found relief by dunking my head beneath their waters!

As we walked along, we enjoyed the pleasure of watching the sunrise.

We passed through that precarious area of the trail before the tides rose, and left the black-sand beaches behind temporarily. We then proceeded to walk through the golden Spanish Flat.

The rising sun had warmed us significantly as we walked through the flat with no shade. Soon we came to a patch of forest that would provide some relieving shade for us. We ate lunch on a rock overlooking this pool. Freebird quickly dipped into its cool waters. Then we returned to the beach to sunbathe and nap for part of the afternoon.

Here we spotted a mother otter and her two babies, trying to get inland.

They swam up this stream and took shelter in the forest. Freebird went for another swim in this pool, until we saw that the father had just come ashore. He was trying to take the same route to be with his family but was terrified of us. We moved aside so that he could reunite with them.

The father happily returned to his family once he realized that we wouldn't hurt him. With that poor guy's stress now alleviated, we rested along the beach a little longer before we continued forward.

We came across another driftwood shelter and dove into our trail mix bags here.
Hiking into the evening, we passed through many diverse landscapes, 
from streams to forests to beaches to grasslands.

All of a sudden, the trail widened and appeared to be a dirt road. Then from a distance we spotted this private plane sitting beside a lone house and realized we were walking on their runway.

We believe that this may be King Peak, the tallest mountain in the King Range.
We arrived at another pool with a few campsites nearby and swam right beside the sea gulls.

Meanwhile on a hill just above the pool, these black-tailed deer grazed.

We watched this man catching the waves and surfing as the sun was setting.

Once the surfer came ashore, we met him and realized that he was the pilot of that private plane parked on the trail. He was visiting his friends' house there, and when he needed anything, 
he told us that he could fly to the nearby town of Shelter Cove.

After watching another glorious sunset, we set up camp beneath a tree.

The following morning, the fog was heavy, masking and unveiling the forests and the ocean.

Signs on a beach of a black bear passing through, not long before we did.

Arrival at Gitchell Creek.

A giant piece of coral washed up on the shore.

This was awaiting us at our next campsite (Freebird formed the string into a heart).
We set up rather early, already at 9 AM! Shelter Cove was reachable that very day, but we weren't ready to walk into town just yet. We preferred to sleep with the soothing sounds of nature rather than in a noisy, stuffy motel. So we put hiking on hold and opted for a day of relaxation, reading the Gospels and Lost Coast brochures, drawing in my sketchbook, and napping.

The next morning, definitely feeling well-rested, we hiked toward the town of Shelter Cove.

A massive piece of driftwood.

Sea gulls congregating in between meals, with our first view of Shelter Cover in the background.
This gray whale followed us along the beach for 10 minutes, eyeing us every time it surfaced for air!

We've reached the terminus of the northern half of the Lost Coast Trail at the small town of Shelter Cove. We found some watercress growing in a stream here and picked some to take with us. We would resupply our food at the general store in town and then continue southbound on the less-traveled part of the trail that winds through Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

How ironic. Right next to the sign about how we're required to carry a bear-proof 
canister to secure our food, a "bear-proof" trash can has been ripped open!

Four miles of the Lost Coast Trail traverses through the town of Shelter Cove. We wandered 
down its streets in search of a restaurant, a place to do laundry and shower, and a general store.

We had been passing through on a Sunday, when the church service was ending. Cars were 
pulling out as we walked by the Chapel by the Sea, laughing over the name of their pastor. Some residents pulled over to meet us. Freebird flashed a smile and asked the driver, "Are you Bruce Willis?" He and his wife chuckled along with us. I'm sure such comments weren't unheard of by them before. They kindly extended an invitation to us to attend their next service, 
if we would happen to be in town the following week.

Next we came to small airstrip, which we were told by locals that we were allowed to walk through. That would save us so much time in getting to the restaurant. The hiker hunger was setting in!

Of course there's always time to pick some blackberries, even though the sign warned us to pass through the runway quickly!

A plane taking off.

We arrived at a cafe for lunch and found that they also offered showers. Everything was so expensive. Rather than paying $10 for a shower, we washed our hair in the bathroom sink.

Sea gulls watching us eat lunch, hopping closer and closer to our meals, plotting how to get some food from us.

While charging my camera batteries in the restaurant's dining area, I read through parts of the New Testament. Meanwhile, Freebird walked over to the lighthouse. Soon he returned with a local man named Bo and his dog Shorty, who offered to drive us uphill to the general store. Shorty sat in my lap the whole time. Feeling the temperature drop, Bo told us that the store was so far uphill from the beach that sometimes there was a ten to twenty degree difference. If the locals felt a little too warm during the summer, they would drive a few minutes to a place of higher elevation to find some relief.

Getting out of Bo's truck at the general store, several other dogs ran up to us for attention. They would wait outside for food and attention from the customers and employees. Soon a purring cat came up to us, brushing against our legs affectionately. The dogs backed away, showing who was boss around there. She came inside with us and curled up on the counter beside the cash register.

Freebird witnessed the cat playing with a 3-year-old girl later. Knowing that she had the girl's attention, she led her all around the store. They walked over to the candy bars, and put two lollipops in its mouth. The little girl giggled, "Kitty... lollipop!" A worker noticed what was going on and scolded the cat, putting the lollipops back. As he then reached for a bag of M&M's to give to a customer, the infuriated cat vengefully swatted at it!

While we packed the groceries away at the picnic table outside, the strong and energetic Gage came to play with us. He carried a wooden paddle with a metal handle over to us, begging to play fetch. I threw it, and when he retrieved it the first time, he ripped it in half! He tore it to shreds as we took turns playing with him. Sometimes, if no cars were coming, we would toss this piece of wood down a steep hill to the road. It was incredible to watch how quickly he could bolt down and back up that hill, kicking dust everywhere! He would return nearly as soon as he had left, setting the piece of wood on the picnic table seat and waiting patiently for one of us to throw it again.

The owner of the general store told us that Gage had been outside their doors all day, and they had no idea where he lived. They fed him some meat and gave him water, caring for him until he could return to his home. While we were playing with him, his family pulled in. They had been so worried about him. They had a joyous reunion, and then Gage rode back happily with them.

The sun was setting, and it came time that we leave Shelter Cove. We chose to hitch out of there rather than walk a long distance uphill. Since a couple was already waiting on a ride at the entrance to the general store, as a courtesy to them, we walked up the road to find a different spot. Minutes later they passed by in a car, waving us on from the backseat. As we waited for someone to pick us up, we watched the sun going down through the clouds.

Charlie was the one to stop for us, and he said that he could drop us off at the trailhead. We drove higher and higher, rising in elevation, looking below at a breathtaking sea of golden clouds that stretched beyond the far horizon. Then we descended through the clouds back down to the trail. As he dropped us off, Charlie gave us two ears of locally-grown corn and wished us happy travels.

The image of that carpet of clouds just wouldn't fade from my mind, and I was so eager to watch the sunset from above them. But first we would have to climb Mount Chemise, which was a steeper, more abrupt section of trail than the places I hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail. Before we ascended, Freebird pointed over to a meadow and suggested that maybe we should camp there. I responded, "No, let's watch the sunset!" As we walked up the mountain, I trailed behind Freebird as usual. Soon my enthusiasm was mixed with physical anguish, utterances of profane language under my breath. "What the f*** is wrong with me? Why the f*** did I do this to myself?" But still, I anticipated seeing the sunset and persisted with determination. And surprisingly, once reaching the top, I wasn't as far behind Freebird as I thought I would be!

We peered through the trees at this incredible vista. Somewhere 
below this blanket of clouds was the Pacific Ocean...

Not finding a campsite immediately, we night-hiked a ways. It was becoming difficult to determine where we could sleep. It didn't help that I left my headlamp on all day and the batteries were almost drained. All we knew was that it was way too windy on the very summit of Mount Chemise, so we continued until we found a protected, flat spot on the trail, where we could nestle in a bed of leaves.

In the morning, after packing all our belongings, we found an overlook from the mountain 
that faced due east. We missed sunrise, but the sights none-the-less were beautiful.

As the trail descended downhill through the clouds, we and all of 
the surrounding forest were enshrouded in a light mist.

Another hat awaiting us at the boundary of Sinkyone. I left it there and kept the sunhat instead.

Elevation continued to drop until we came to this bench overlooking 
our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean in the southern half of the trail.

We continued to lower in elevation through a lush forest arising from a bed of ferns.

While eating lunch beside a stream, the joyousness I had been feeling was soon replaced with despair when I slipped and dunked my whole shoe into the cold water. I felt so miserable and walked ahead of Freebird, trying to get to the park's visitor center. Perhaps they had a fireplace.

When I made it to a huge grassy field though, it felt significantly warmer and drier. As my foot began to warm up, my thoughts began to elevate. When I really felt uplifted was when I began to see wildlife everywhere. I became so excited and forgot that I had even been suffering!

My quick pace to get to the visitor center startled these black-tail deer, so I slowed down to admire them and to respect their space, forgetting about even having a destination.

Within minutes I saw some Roosevelt elk along the trail at a distance. I waited there to point them out to Freebird, but as they started to move away from me and vanish in the forest, I gave up and kept walking. Next I came across wild turkeys! I knew Freebird would love to see this, so I turned around to find him. Simultaneously, Freebird had spotted the elk and was calling me to go see them.

As I turned around, the herd of elk that I thought had left were suddenly much closer than I expected. In fact, a little too close! I glanced to the right and saw this female right beside me, only a couple feet off of the path. How beautiful! I took a few pictures, all the while wondering where the male could possibly be. I didn't want to stand near the female for very long and appear as a threat. During mating season, it might be a good idea to distance oneself from the bull elk and his harem!

Freebird and I went over to see the turkeys, who were still wandering through the fields of grass where I had found them before. Then we returned to the trail, wanting to visit Jones Beach. We would have to wait awhile, for someone was now grazing right in the middle of the path.

The bull elk and his harem had the same idea too. They went to the beach first, while we watched them from above. There was no way that we would bother to interfere with their feeding. Waiting patiently, Freebird snapped pictures of them and I curled up in the grass and took a nap.

After more than a half hour, the bull elk directed the herd onward to graze elsewhere. 
Freebird woke me up from my slumber, and we walked down to the beach.

What perfect timing! The clouds cleared away and the sun peeked out as we arrived, and we relaxed at Jones Beach for hours. We picked and collected more watercress from a nearby spring. And Freebird found some clean black socks, which replaced my other pair that were now in tatters!

Several people came and went while we lazed away on the black sands of Jones Beach. First came Andie, her husband Jack, and her sister Joan. Andie and Jack live in New York City and are involved respectively with art and music. Andie was rather fascinated with my sand-covered feet and took this picture. She sent it to me a few weeks later and permitted me to use it in this blog. Thank you, Andie!

Next we met Robin, her daughter Sheba, and her friend Sierra, as they walked along the shore. 
The small footprint in this picture is that of Sheba. They were visiting from Whale Gulch, 
a nearby commune. While we all conversed with each other, Sheba sat quietly on the beach, 
shaping the sand into some mounds. When asked what she was doing, 
she told us that she was making some cakes for us.

After they left, we met another group from Whale Gulch. The two women in the center were 
visiting; they are world-travelers from Europe who shared with us some of their adventures.

We left Jones Beach to this group of friends, so that they could enjoy it in peace 
and share with each other the beautiful experience of golden hour.

After setting up camp nearby, Freebird, who has lovingly become known as my 
"go-to photographer," took this awesome shot of the bull elk watching over his women.

From our camp beneath the eucalyptus trees, we watched the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean.

That night I slept soundly... but only for awhile. Soon I heard some rustling on my tarp and woke up. Something was sniffing all of my belongings and was right beside my face. Was it a mouse? It seemed to be a little larger. Tired, and not caring at all to find out who my 
visitor was, I brushed it aside and went back to sleep.

Not much later, I awoke once again to the same racket. What is going on here? Annoyed, I shooed this creature away yet again. Then I got a slight whiff of one of the foulest smells ever. Oh no! 
I turned on the head lamp and searched the dark to confirm what I thought it might be. At 
about a twenty-foot distance from me was a skunk who was staring directly at me!

All night long, until just before sunrise, the skunk would return to torment me. I knew that the little brat was only doing this out of sheer entertainment! If you had no predators, what lengths would you go to for personal amusement? I would cover my head completely and try not to move or freak out too much, while he was crawling all over my tarp. Sometimes I would whimper a pathetic "help" to Freebird, who would laugh and ask, "What do you want me to do?" Each time the skunk 
would leave, I'm sure he was giggling to himself!

Finally, once the frequent visitor bedded down somewhere at sunrise, I could now get some rest. 
But once again, this was only for awhile. In my slumber, I heard something that sounded like continuous thunder. As I slowly awoke, I motionlessly laid there and listened. Freebird was 
observing nearby, praying that I would just lay still!

Very groggy and unaware of what was happening or what I was doing, I suddenly sat up, throwing my sleeping bag off of my face. I popped out as if I were a jack-in-the-box! This sudden movement frightened a group of female elk that were trying to pass by, only about five feet away from me. 
They raced away, completely startled. I apologized to them (as if that would alleviate their fears) 
and laid back down, covering up my face once again. Thankfully I didn't see 
what was unfolding next, or else I would have really been frightened.

The male was trailing the herd, confused about all the commotion. Coming up to my campsite, he stopped and stared right at me, contemplating about how to handle the situation. Would he charge at me or run away? All of a sudden he lowered his head and put his rack down, plowing forward into the women and scattering them all about! He was so scared that he actually ran away!

On their return trip, the bull didn't want anything to do with me. He led his ladies back in a 
round-about way and bush-whacked through the forest, refusing to come anywhere near!

Needle Rock, which got its name when it used to appear sharp like a needle, before the top crumbled away. We looked down on it from above, watching the seabirds diving and catching their breakfast, and then shoving each other aside to find a place to rest on the rock.

Arriving at the Needle Rock Visitor Center, we met Doug and Barbara, the couple who were 
care-taking the state park for the month of August. They offered us a tour of the place.

Doug and Barbara permitted us to prepare our lunch on the picnic table nearby. While we cut of vegetables for our wraps, they kept bringing us packages of food, insisting that we take it with us.
We received some Indian dishes, vegetarian lasagna, Mexican rice, blueberries, and 
homemade cookies and brownies. Then they invited us to stay that evening 
for some dinner. We gladly accepted their offer.

All afternoon, we sat at the picnic table with Doug and Barbara and got to know each other more. I wasn't feeling well for days, believing myself to have some sort of water-borne illness. Barbara gave me some medicine. Noticing that I was a little cold and tired, she gave me her fleece to wear (which she would allow me to return it to her the following day) and let me take a nap on the couch. Later, while sitting on the porch with everyone, Doug and Barbara commented on my shoes that were very well-worn, the heels falling off. Doug offered to give me some duct tape.

Soon, dinner was ready. Barbara had prepared some tasty burritos for all of us, 
followed with a dessert of peaches dusted with cinnamon. But that wasn't all.
We finished our meal with some candlelight s'mores!

We shared wonderful conversation late into the night. Despite not feeling well, I was having 
such a great time. I had forgotten about needing to charge my camera battery. Doug plugged it 
in overnight and said that I could pick it up the next morning. After hours of talking and 
enjoying each other's company, we decided that it was time to get some rest. Freebird and I 
left the visitor center and camped outdoors that night.

The next morning we cooked oatmeal at this barn. Doug and Barbara, returning from performing some regular maintenance throughout the park, stopped by and returned the battery and its charger to me. Barbara was holding a shopping bag in her hand and said that she had something else to give me.

I was so pleasantly surprised to see that Barbara was giving me her gently-used pair of Asics running shoes! I just couldn't believe it. Everything that we needed was provided, in the most unexpected of ways. Barbara and Doug disposed of the old pair for me, which had carried me for over 700 miles. No more super-gluing the heels together! These new Asics would last for the rest of my western journey with Freebird until I would return to Fort Wayne, Indiana in December.

Leaving the barn, Freebird and I looked down upon Needle Rock, one last time.

At the visitor center we thanked Doug and Barbara for their immense kindness and sincere concern for our well-being. Carrying more food in our packs, wearing Barbara's new Asics, and treasuring all of our moments together, we said goodbye and continued our south-bound route.

It didn't take long to meet yet another new friend, who landed on my shirt.

On the way to Bear Harbor, our next stop, we walked through a patch of eucalyptus trees.

Arriving at Bear Harbor, we were greeted by a bull elk who wasn't too thrilled to see us. 
First we tried to pick berries at a distance and show him that we weren't interested in disturbing 
him and his harem. He wasn't buying it. He thrashed his antlers in the ground and threw dirt 
up over his head, a sign of aggression. So we backed away to read and nap 
for awhile until the herd would move elsewhere.

Eventually the herd left, and we were welcome to walk over to the beach.
We climbed up a bluff and surveyed the ocean all around us.

We loved Bear Harbor so much that we took our first ever "zero day" on the trail, hiker lingo for not walking any miles. Normally we have done this in towns. We certainly now had enough food 
to be able to stay another night here, thanks to Doug and Barbara!

With nowhere to go, I began a new sketch, keeping warm within my sleeping bag! 
Later I walked around the beach with Freebird.

A new day had come, and it was time to move on. But there was one issue. The trail that we needed to take was rather narrow, tucked in between two hills. The elk were grazing through here, and they seemed to be impassable. Lying at the entrance to this corridor was the bull elk, who now appeared to have a skull in his antlers. There was no way I wanted to walk anywhere near them! I suggested to Freebird that we wait again until they move. They had just gotten there though. Who knows how long we would have waited this time. If they would move further up the narrow section, there would be absolutely no chance of us passing them. At that moment, it was still possible to walk up one of the hills and try to go around them.

Other than seeing the male try to demonstrate his strength to us by breaking some tree branches with his rack, we never had an issue with him. He realized this time that all we were trying to do was pass, that we didn't want to cause him or the rest of the herd any harm.

We came across another black-sand beach, where again we napped and went swimming in a pool.

We ate dinner as the sun went down. We had considered camping around there, but some loud
campers and their dogs illicitly drove their 4WD truck down a closed road to this beach and set up their tents, not far from where we were sitting. Aside from that, there may have not been any places nearby to shelter ourselves from the wind. After watching the sunset, we would move on and find somewhere else to camp.

During twilight we walked uphill from the beach into some forest. Here we found excellent tree-cover and slept peacefully all night. The next morning, Freebird found a redwood swing not very 
far from us. Before beginning a series of switchbacks up the hill, we swung for a bit, trying to 
avoid slamming into the trunk of the tree.

Looking down upon the beach where we had watched the sunset the previous night.

We ventured onto a side trail to check out an overlook. We found various objects lying there - a sea shell, a feather, a white Buddhist scarf and Buddha figurine, and various stones. A shrine of some sorts. It seems that someone left some items behind, jumped off the cliff, and passed on.

As we walked downhill to Little Jackass Beach, we passed several hikers, more than we had seen in days. The southern end through Sinkyone is much less-known than the northern half and therefore usually more quiet. But it was Labor Day weekend, and backpackers were flooding in. 
Many of them, for one reason or another, had packed entirely too much food.

First we came across a group of four from Salt Lake City who had clearly stuffed too many belongings into their packs and were feeling miserable, carrying all of that weight uphill. One man, thrilled that we would accept some of his food, gave us a 20 oz can of clam chowder and some ramen noodles, glad to be rid of the weight! He had mentioned that some more friends were behind them. Soon we encountered the rest of them, a group of five. When they heard of what their friend had given us, they thought of their own burdens and exclaimed, "Please take some of our food too!" 
They set their packs on the ground and tore through them, handing us everything 
of which they could possibly afford to let go. Here is all that they gave us.

We quickly stopped along a stream to have lunch, eating the clam chowder. 
No way were we going to carry that weight any longer!

Soon we arrived at Little Jackass Beach and claimed a campsite (it filled up quickly). We 
wandered along the shore and explored its many spectacular arches while it was still low tide.

At sunset, we found a place away from the crowd where we would cook some dinner. Still being hungry, for the first time ever we were able to cook two meals. That wouldn't have been possible without those friends from Salt Lake City!

We watched the stars come out and listened to the sound of the waves as the moon was setting over the ocean.
The following morning, we packed up and began hiking once again, heading for the next beach.

Looking down upon Little Jackass Beach, one last time.

Along a stream in the forest, we met Jerry, his daughter Brooke, and his son Davis. They were camped there for the Labor Day weekend. Leftovers from breakfast were sitting in a skillet, and Brooke reheated it for us. Jerry's other son was going to join them for their annual camping trip, but he had to back out because of something school-related. Therefore, they had way more food than they needed. Brooke showered us with all sorts of fresh vegetables, oats, and various snacks. The longer we talked with them, the more she felt compelled to give us.

The family directed us how to get to the beach. There was no official path to get there, but rather 
a somewhat well-trodden path that involved some climbing over rocks and jumping the creek. 
Along the way, we found a potential site that was much closer to the beach than theirs.

Another beautiful black-sand beach! We explored its arches 
and then laid down on the sand to take a nap.

But with the midday sun just overhead, the sand started to feel like a stove top. Trying to return 
to the forest to set up camp and get some shade, I almost burnt my bare feet.

We napped at our campsite, and then returned to watch the sunset.

We created a fire pit in which to cook dinner, complete with 
ornamental feathers, crab claws, and a hairy kelp man.

Once again, we started to cook dinner at sunset. Jerry, Brooke, and Davis came over 
to visit and were happy to see that we were using their gift and that we appreciated it.

Next goal - to burn the kelp man's hair.

That mission was unsuccessful. Oh well!
The following day, we bush-whacked back to the trail and found that Jerry, Brooke, 
and Davis had already packed up and left. Some men at a nearby campsite offered us 
over one pound of oatmeal, but we refused because we just couldn't carry any more food!

This would be our last day to hike the trail, the 12th day of the Lost Coast. On average, most people complete it in 6-8 days. It wouldn't have been possible without all of the gifts of food from everyone. Because of that, we could move slowly and have more time to be fully immersed in the experience. Also, for the most part, this made the hiking aspect of the trail much less strenuous, especially noticeable in the rugged southern half. There was more time to rest, rather than push through everything so quickly. John from Crescent City was right about all of the ups and downs.

Even though we now had less distance to hike to Usal Beach, at the southern-most tip, I still suffered tremendously. This area was more rugged than anywhere else on the trail, as far as I can recall. It was a very warm day and so my body heat was very elevated as we went up many switchbacks. I would have thought going down would be easier, but no, it wasn't. The trails were poorly maintained and eroding. Through the dirt was dry, I kept slipping and falling. At one point I fell into some prickers that lodged themselves in my hand and arm. I didn't even want to think how much more difficult it would be during the Lost Coast's wet seasons. I tried to lift my spirits by appreciating the beauty and reminding myself that we could have been hiking a longer distance on the way out, had it 
not been for acts of generosity. But all I could do was cry.

Ah, the ups and downs of the trail.

Several hours later, we reached the Lost Coast Trail's terminus and viewed the panorama of Usal Beach. We walked to the road with all the other hikers who were leaving. It didn't take us long to hitch out of there. The first car that stopped for us was none other than Jerry, Brooke, and Davis. We rode in their Jeep down a 6-mile, 4WD road, probably the bumpiest that I've ever experienced. Since it was all uphill, I found some relief in the fact that we weren't walking it. 

Happy to take a break from hiking and to ride in an air-conditioned Jeep, I began to forget how miserable I had been feeling. This family, once again, reached out to us to help. In fact, so many people along the Lost Coast took care of us, either directly or indirectly (such as finding the hat, socks, and washcloth deserted along the trail). Images and thoughts replayed in my mind of all the amazing moments of generosity, friendship, suffering, ecstatic joy, and of course all of the breathtaking scenery. I had suffered so much along the trail, but it was all part of the glorious experience, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I've come to appreciate suffering more as part of 
the spiritual growing-up process. I'm thankful for everything that occurred and everyone we met along the way, making this the most perfect journey I could ever imagine along the Lost Coast Trail.

Jerry, Brooke, and Davis brought us to Highway 101, from where we would hitch back to Crescent City. After two months in northern California, we were almost ready to move on into Oregon.

Roosevelt bull elk beneath eucalyptus tree. 8/26-28/2014.

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