Great Western Loop: Day 154 - 161: Start of the California Coastal Trail to Arcata
I had spent the labor day weekend in Ashland to rest and recover and to develop a plan on how to move on.
(Smoke covered skies in Ashland)
My initial plan of roadwalking through central California wasn't feasible, as many roads lead through closed National Forest sections. These sections can be traveled by car, but you are not allowed to stop, or camp along the road. I therefore turned my attention to the California Coastal Trail (CCT).
The CCT seems to be a fairly new and incomplete trail, but it's my best option to move on. Resources are limited. The GPS data from the website can't be downloaded and I don't have reliable information on water sources. I spent the last days getting an overview, of what I might be facing there, but given the short amount of time available for planning, I'll hike that trail more or less blindfolded. Fortunately the coast in general is much more populated, which should allow for plenty resupply options and little food carries, which allow to carry a little bit more water. The very first section starts with hiking through the Redwood National Park, which requires me to obtain backcountry camping permits.
Hiking from Ashland to Crescent City isn't, as I would have to cross a closed National Forest and so I decided to take a series of busses to get to the Californian coastline.
My initial frustration is gone.
Sure, a lot of my initial planning was in vain and I can't complete my hike as planned, but on the other side, I do love these spontaneous challenges, where you have to quickly adapt to new situations.
This is what thru-hiking is all about. Staying true to your initial goals and not giving up. "Embracing the suck", developing a positive "can-do" attitude and finding ways to deal with the challenges at hand and to have the best possible experience. That's what makes thru-hiking unique and that's what differentiates a thru-hiker from a hiker. When life gives you lemons, ask for tequila and salt!
(Crescent City lighthouse, rainy day, no smoke this time)
In the book "the subtle art of not giving a fuck" the author claimed that happiness oftentimes results from solving problems and I totally agree.
I don't really mind not hiking some parts of the PCT, as I usually hate doing things twice. Hiking along the coast adds a completely new layer of scenery to my adventure.
I'm looking forward to whatever is ahead.
(Coastline near Crescent City)
Day 159: Foggy skies (32miles)
California! Epic beaches and sunshine, that's what comes to my mind, but the reality looked different. The day was rainy and foggy and didn't allow for great views.
After leaving Crescent City, I hiked on the beach for a short time and than climbed to a nice overlook point. From here the trail followed some cliffs, before it dropped down to sea level.
In the early afternoon I got to the mouth of the Klamath River (see picture above). My campsite, for which I had a permit was just on the other side, but I had to hike another 4 miles to the next bridge, efore climbing into the clouds and to my campsite.
Day 160: Sealions (30miles)
The campsite had seen some recent bear activity, so I stored my food properly. More interesting however, was the sound of a nearby colony of sealions, that made a lot of noise throughout the night.
The day had started with some promising sunshine, but when I hit the beach fog rolled in and stayed for most of the day.
Early on, I passed a WW2 radar station, disguised as a farmhouse that was used to track Japanese submarines operating off the coast.
In the late afternoon the weather improved and I hiked along some beautiful lagoons. Unfortunately my maps were incorrect. Areas that were marked as camping areas turned out to be only day-use areas, which forced me to hike on and stay at a private campground.
Day 161: Waves! (31miles)
The weather on day 160 was rather rough and created some solid waves, when I returned to beach. I had to hike some 3.5miles along the shoreline, including a pretty narrow spot between ocean and cliffs.
It started pretty easy. There were only a few feet between the cliffs and the ocean, but I could see the waves coming in and got a good feeling how close they came to me and the rocks. I usually waited for the water to return and than sprinted from one little bay to the next bay to keep my feet dry. That worked 4-5 times pretty well, but I than came to a spot where I couldn't see what was behind the next rock.
I again, waited for the water to receed and ran, hoped on some rocks and waited for the waves to return. At that moment I realised how bad the spot was, that I had picked. I looked at the ocean and saw a wave coming at me that was quite a bit taller than me and even though it was still a few yards away, I knew it would hit me pretty bad.
The rock I was standing on was slippery and my biggest concern was to get washed off that rock and being pulled into the ocean. Climbing up the cliff was impossible and so I decided to jump off that rock to a place where I had better footing and where I could hold on to another rock. I once again looked at the wave and than braced for the impact.
The wave got me good. Most of the impact was absorbed by a rock in front of me, but I was stilk waist-deep in the water and soaked from top to bottom. As soon as the water was gone, I sprinted out of that trap to the next beach section, where I had much more space between the cliffs and the ocean.
(Old Yurok tribe settlement. That "hole" is the entrance, just big enough for a human, but too small for a big bear)
After a short stop in Trinidad I followed the Scenic Drive towards McKinleyville. Here I had to hike along highway 101 to cross Little River. Hiking on that highway was almost scarier than, what I had experienced in the morning, as cars and trucks were going really fast.
In the late afternoon I crossed Mad River and stopped close to Arcata. My smartphone was still acting weird from all the water it had taken and so I decided to stay in a motel, to dry it out and charge it again.
Hiking along the coast might cause some headaches in the upcoming days and weeks. Most of the coastline is managed by one of many agencies and either allows no camping, or only camping with a permit. Those limited permits however, are long gone. I therefore have to carefully plan how far I can, or have to hike, to find places where I'm allowed to stay. This will probably force me to stay more often at private campgrounds, where I have to pay for a tentsite.