We nearly died this past weekend...or so the locals of California's remote Shelter Cove claim. Our near-death experience surprised us halfway through a week-long team bonding trip to NorCal, during which we'd already crossed biking across the Golden Gate from our bucket list. The scene of the crime? The famous Lost Coast Trail, an 80 mile stretch of undeveloped coastline that is only accessible on foot and has several 4-mile long segments that are completely inaccessible during high tide.
The 8-hour drive to Shelter Cove was extremely foreboding. As we got closer to our destination, smooth, straight roads quickly gave way to sharp curves and steep inclines. The towns became fewer and far between until all our eyes could see was a desolate mountainous landscape peppered with stretches of redwood forest. Cell service became nonexistent. When we made a pitstop at an empty freeway rest stop, the reality of our isolation hit us when we encountered a board listing over 100 missing persons from the area. The hair on the back of our necks was at high attention as we rushed back to the car and peeled out of the parking lot.
Our fear only continued to build as we trekked onward, especially when night began to fall. The tension in our rental car reached its apex when its headlights revealed a white-haired, wide-eyed hitchhiker who looked ghostly under the bright lights. The girls in the back seat screamed bloody murder as he walked slowly toward our car signaling for a ride. (One of them compared our encounter to this video posted on Radiohead's Instagram.) By the time we arrived at Shelter Cove, we were shaken up but greatly relieved. After all, the inn where we were spending the night was supposed to be our safe haven, right?
|At night, the inn where we rested our weary heads looks more like a haunted house than a safe haven, no?|
Wrong. We woke up the next morning to discover we were rooming next to a coffee shop that is the preferred hangout of souls permanently lost at the Lost Coast. We're talking locals with serious substance addictions, including an older, ragged woman who yelled at us about meth when we tried to sit on our balcony to enjoy our room's gorgeous ocean view.
We had a more "placid" encounter with her and the other locals when we popped into the coffee shop for quad-cappuccinos and breakfast sandwiches. But pleasant small talk quickly turned into nothing but warnings that our death was all but certain—that the Lost Coast Trail and the Pacific Ocean are no joke—a future also predicted by signage posted along the various trailheads. One older woman joked, "You are not in Miami anymore, Toto." "This ocean here is nothing like your Biscayne Bay," said another. Oh, and there were several reminders to keep our food in bear cans to avoid being mauled by bears. (We didn't even know bear cans were a "thing" before our trip.)
"But pleasant small talk quickly turned into nothing but warnings that our death was all but certain—that the Lost Coast Trail and the Pacific Ocean are no joke—a future also predicted by signage posted along the various trailheads."
Despite continued discouragement by the locals, we armed ourselves with plenty of water, a super bougie picnic of cheese, freshly baked bread, and wine, a map, tide charts, and a cheese knife (for eating and, you know, for "protection"). We set off after breakfast and completed an easy 2-mile hike to and from Black Sands Beach in the morning, followed by a 4-mile afternoon hike along the Chemise Mountain Trail. Not surprisingly, we "survived" which was an underwhelming pero very welcome turn of events. We attribute our success to surrounding ourselves with adventurous but smart friends, heeding local advise (but taking it with a grain of salt), and preparing properly albeit a little haphazardly. More importantly, we refused to be defined by the preconceived notions that Miami-ans are prissy and incapable of roughing it and, for that reason alone, we have a story to tell.
Our experience aside, if you want to hike the Lost Coast Trail overnight, it is an incredibly surreal experience but you definitely want to plan further in advance and prepare better than we did before embarking there. This how-to guide from Huckberry is a great place to start. (At a minimum, take our advice and Google bear cans because they're required in the King Range National Conservation Area.) Also, a warning that food options in the area are super scarce and they close early—something we're not used to coming from Miami—so arrive early and stock up on the general store's ample offerings. May the odds be ever in your favour.