You’re viewing a version of this story optimized for slow connections. To see the full story click here.

The Lost Coast

500 miles on a Fat Bike

Story by Glenn Charles January 19th, 2014

And so it begins

Packing, eating, more eating, and more packing as I transit from Maine to San Francisco where Erik, Andrew and Myself set out to bike the California Lost Cost. The trip would span 500 or so miles from Crescent City Oregon down to San Francisco. While most people travel the ACA Pacific Coast Route, we had other plans. The goal was to string together a series of roads, trails, and jeep tracks to take us off the beaten path and get us out into areas of the coastline that have been largely abandoned since the building of route 1.
001_20130918071127_0001.jpg
002_20130919121448_0055-Edit.jpg
003_20130921001625_0123-Edit.jpg
004_20130921111401_0135-Edit.jpg
005_20130921115049_0143-Edit.jpg

San Francisco to Crescent City

Coffee would become a central theme as we traveled the coast

006_20130921131548_0154-Edit.jpg

Bike Reconstruction

We flew into Crescent City where we planned on putting the bikes together and then making the short trip into town for supplies and a good nights rest. We never could have anticipated what the airline would do to my bike box!
009_20130921161833_0214-Edit.jpg
010_20130921170541_0036-Edit.jpg
008_20130921160300_0209-Edit.jpg

A motley Crew

Nobody told me skinny tires were allowed. Each of us came with uniquely different bikes. Erik on his Salsa Vaya was perhaps best suited to the trip as planned. Andrew on his skinny tired steed would be at a distinct disadvantage on any of the rough stuff, while I, on my Salsa Mukluk would be thrilled when it got rough but left in the dust on all other terrain. The hills and my 4 inch tires would prove to be an extreme personal and physical challenge
011_20130921171745_0052-Edit.jpg

the trip begins

Despite the airlines best attempt at destroying my bike, we managed to get everything put together with no 'known' issues, something we would later discover to not be entirely the case. The first ride out saw clearing skies and bright spirits, the kind of excitement that each and every trip begins with.
012_20130921172505_0079.jpg
013_20130921172812_0228-Edit.jpg
014_20130921173323_0240-Edit.jpg
015_20130921184011_0253-Edit.jpg
016_20130921184648_0096-Edit.jpg
017_20130921200143_0046-Edit.jpg

Speechless

018_20130921214603_0303-Edit-Edit.jpg

Day 1

We left the hotel with such positive thoughts about what we were attempting to accomplish. A self supported trek along the lost coast, made up of old trails, broken roads, and the occasional beat of pavement. That was our intention, but like all good trips, reality struck hard and fast. The route, up and into a section of forest, proved to be wet and difficult from the start. Working our way through the wet overgrowth we were eventually treated to a trail that followed an old road, giving us our first taste of the beauty and solitude we craved.
019_20130921223558_0054-Edit.jpg
020_20130922111623_0120-Edit.jpg
021_20130922112255_0129.jpg
023_20130922120216_0167.jpg
024_20130922125610_0175.jpg
025_20130922134305_0113-Edit.jpg
026_20130922134527_0372-Edit.jpg
027_20130922134956_0121-Edit.jpg

Oh the view

A view that would set the stage for all views to come
022_20130922112550_0144-Edit.jpg

Up, up, up

Themes begin to arise from the first moment. Most of the coast is up, then down, then up again... Food would be critical and consumed in massive amounts. Nothing would be as planned.
028_20130922140827_0147-Edit.jpg
029_20130922152147_0162-Edit.jpg
030_20130922162606_0438-Edit.jpg
031_20130922173214_0168-Edit.jpg
032_20130922173339_0454-Edit.jpg
033_20130923084514_0317-Edit.jpg

Walking

Having traveled thousands and thousands of miles on my bike, I was sad to say, this hill was the first that ever caused me to walk. A moment that I won't soon forget.
035_20130923105602_0177-Edit.jpg
036_20130923121020_0182-Edit.jpg
037_20130923132021_0414.jpg
039_20130923144328_0192-Edit.jpg
040_20130923144558_0196-Edit.jpg
041_20130923145323_0568-Edit.jpg
038_20130923133517_0544-Edit.jpg

Barns for Jason

Erik and I both felt compelled to shoot barns along the way as we searched for the perfect shot, an ode to our good friend JB. Note the increasing size of Erik's rear camera pack. As the trip progressed, Erik found the need to stuff more and more into the ever expanding bag.
042_20130923145832_0475-Edit.jpg

repairs, food, food, food

Yep, that little hint that all was not well with my Muk turned out to be true. The damaged box had bent my derailleur hangar necessitating a bike store stop. Not that there is ever anything wrong with stopping at bike shops on any given tour. In this instance, the Universe proved how we are all connected with the shop mechanic being an old friend of Andrews.
043_20130923150333_0501-Edit.jpg
044_20130923154333_0576-Edit.jpg
045_20130923155722_0586-Edit.jpg
047_20130923172535_0536.jpg
048_20130923190856_0628-Edit.jpg
049_20130923210503_0213-Edit.jpg

words not required

Why is Mexican food and beer so important to any good and epic, bike tour?
046_20130923160408_0592-Edit-2.jpg

From down under

Camped at the fairgrounds just outside of town, we had Mexican that night and then an opportunity for a huge breakfast the following morning. Little did we know that the art of making friends and finding traveling companions was just now beginning.

050_20130923212653_0644-Edit.jpg
051_20130923232709_0223-Edit.jpg
052_20130924103325_0225-Edit.jpg
053_20130924104711_0566.jpg
054_20130924111358_0579-Edit.jpg

skinny tires and hills

The pure elevation grade combined with my fat tires and Erik & Andrew's skinny tires, left me at an extreme disadvantage. Needless to say, I brought up the rear the entire time, but always found the energy to catch up, proving that sometimes slow ain't so bad after all.

055_20130924135952_0622.jpg
056_20130924140231_0686-Edit.jpg
057_20130924140936_0639-Edit.jpg
058_20130924142124_0675-Edit.jpg
060_20130924143434_0714-Edit-2.jpg
061_20130924153014_0722-Edit-2.jpg

brutal climb

It was one of the most challenging climbs of the entire trip. Cresting the summit, we were greeted with broken asphalt and a view of the coast as far as the eye could see. This was what we were searching for.

062_20130924153136_0730-Edit.jpg

long way down

063_20130924153923_0738-Edit.jpg

the lost coast

"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.[1] 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.[2] 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

064_20130924154042_0245-Edit.jpg

all to ourselves

This stretch of coast, barren and undeveloped, represented the peacefulness and the solitude we were looking for. The coastal range on our left and the Pacific on our right guaranteed that we would be alone for miles and miles of pristine sea shore, nothing more than the warm sun on our faces and cool sea breeze on our shoulders.
065_20130924154703_0703-Edit.jpg

surf

066_20130924154713_0717-Edit-3.jpg

finally some flat ground

The need for flat ground is profound when all you are doing is climbing and descending. That type of terrain never allows for rest, both physical and mental rest. Finally reaching a stretch of coastline, we all took a deep breath and soaked in the cool sea breeze paired with warm sun and the lightly rolling road ahead.

067_20130924155841_0254-Edit.jpg

three becomes five

As we cruised along the coast we saw a pair of bikes, parked on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. We all looked, but did not really give it a second thought. We were tired and lost in our own sense of peace as we cruised along the broken coast. That afternoon we found a small cafe where we could fill our water bottles and our bellies. As we sat, smelly, dirty, ravenously eating our food, a young couple pulled in on their own bikes. We quick realized that these were the two from back on the coast. As all good cyclists do, we invited them to join us and relished in meeting other cyclists in this remote area. After lunch, we roughly laid out where we were headed and what our camping intentions were, but in reality never imagined that we would see them again. Later that evening, already settled into camp, Ryan and Elisha rolled in and joined us, forever changing the shape and dynamics of our little adventure. Three had now become five, life long friends in the making.
068_20130924213016_0744-Edit.jpg
069_20130924214836_0760-Edit.jpg
070_20130924215443_0766-Edit.jpg
071_20130925100322_0780-Edit.jpg
072_20130925104344_0806-Edit.jpg
073_20130925112606_0272-Edit.jpg
074_20130925120502_0819-Edit.jpg

always, always last

I swear, it really did not bother me, well, at least most of the time. Ok, honestly, traveling with a group, being last all the time just sucked. Always made it, but dang, just to be in the front one time!
075_20130925125028_0280-Edit.jpg

up then down

We had no idea that the entire trip would be a constant ebb and flow of climbing and then descending with very little opportunity to recover.
078_20130925142341_0842.jpg

A gaggle of five into the redwoods

076_20130925140114_0286-Edit.jpg
077_20130925142037_0823-Edit.jpg
079_20130925150026_0300-Edit.jpg
080_20130925174017_0942-Edit.jpg
081_20130925182922_0320-Edit.jpg
082_20130925183410_0324-Edit.jpg
083_20130925192408_0952-Edit.jpg

camped in the redwoods

One of the most amazing privileges that you can ever experience. This is now the second time I have had the joy and the honor of sleeping beneath these giants and I can say with the utmost conviction, there are no words to describe the energy that is emitted from these living breathing giants.
084_20130925203733_0968-Edit.jpg
085_20130925230017_0844-Edit.jpg
086_20130926102128_0862-Edit.jpg
087_20130926102218_0866-Edit.jpg
089_20130926140650_1040-Edit.jpg

stunning coastline

090_20130926172202_1065-Edit.jpg

more skinny tires

They were traveling as a pair, lightly loaded, doing the little CC touring thing. We met them at the top of a pass, one of those spots where everyone stops because you are simply spent from the brutal grinding climb. The type of climb with a steep grade and a series of twists and turns, each of which you are convinced is the last, the top must be there, right around that next bend. After introductions, some small talk and the much needed snack, we agreed to meet up down the road for lunch and possibly a beer. We caught up with them a little while later at one of the few outposts on this stretch of coast, a sort of deli, wine, and supply shop that all cyclists dream of finding. Again, food, bikes and new found friends were the order of the day.

091_20130926174208_0347-Edit.jpg
092_20130926174222_0350-Edit.jpg
093_20130926183454_0364-Edit.jpg
094_20130926184028_1080-Edit.jpg

down

Descending back down to the Pacific, Erik leads the way.

095_20130926190215_1090-Edit.jpg

fastest

It did not take long before Andrew, his skinny tires, and 'Calves of Doom' took over to constantly lead the pace. Having made the switch to a road based tour, Andrew now had the bike of choice. I was again doomed to bring up the rear.

096_20130926190226_1110-Edit.jpg

comforts

The tourist season was effectively over which meant closed campgrounds. Having cycled all day with the intent of camping at the park, only to find out it was closed, we were forced to grab a small room and make the best of it. A local market provided true California comforts, wine, bourbon, cheese, meats, good coffee and an evening fire.
097_20130926205117_0904-Edit.jpg
098_20130927115845_1178-Edit.jpg
099_20130927213713_0948-Edit.jpg
100_20130927220622_0976-Edit.jpg
101_20130927222110_0986-Edit.jpg
102_20130928112805_0420-Edit.jpg

flats, englishmen, campgrounds

Poor Ryan just could not get his flat tire to hold a patch, and yet, he still kept staying ahead of me. Along the way, we ran into this lovely English couple who were stopped on the roadside taking in Tea. We saw them a bit later on what was one of the most challenging stretches of road. A long series of steep climbs that repeated themselves one after another. You could imagine this stretch of road as a massive roller coaster built by some engineer who despised cyclists.

103_20130928144111_1216-Edit.jpg
104_20130928153128_1234-Edit.jpg
106_20130928212602_0432-Edit.jpg
107_20130929095554_1314-Edit.jpg
105_20130928173728_0430-Edit.jpg

needing a little help

To say that none of us wanted to pedal out of the bay, up and over the pass and then back down, just to start our final day of riding, well, that is an understatement. Instead, we relied on the kindness of strangers as we bummed a ride up, over, and down to the local bakery. This allowed us to fuel up with coffee and pastries before starting the final push to the city.
108_20130929111407_1328-Edit.jpg
109_20130929111505_1334-Edit.jpg
110_20130929112259_1348-Edit.jpg

So close

The natural tension that can build during a trip, as each person experiences a range of emotions, rapidly fades away as the thought of home, showers, more food, and the warm embrace of loved ones begins to take center stage in the weary traveling soul.
111_20130929143216_1110-Edit.jpg

the final push

After getting that much needed lift out of the campground, up over the pass, Andrew took over and led us home.
112_20130929153033_1480-Edit.jpg
113_20130929154038_1490-Edit.jpg
114_20130929160527_1506-Edit.jpg
116_20130929182119_1542-Edit.jpg

friends forever

Never before has a coke tasted so good. We arrived in San Francisco as a group of five dear friends. The power of the bike to connect humans is still, to this day, one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced.

115_20130929182116_1536-Edit.jpg

one bike to rule them all

It is my sincere belief, that as an adventurer by bike, if I could only own a single bike, it would be the Salsa Ti Mukluk. While I love the Salsa Fargo for what it does, the fact remains that if your goal is to go wherever you please using only two wheels, the Mukluk is the only bike that will take you everywhere. It may not be the fastest or the lightest, but it will take you wherever your heart and legs desire.
117_20130929185720_1554-Edit.jpg
Footnote: Three bikes, three friends, set out on a week long adventure to discover the Lost Coast of California