19 August, 2016

Seeking Adventure: The Lost Coast (California)

That was how the terrain of the Lost Coast was described to us by a friendly, elderly woman on the plane as we flew into the small but accessible airport in Eureka, CA. Rugged has since come to describe, and define, not only this trip and this terrain, but this team. The plan was simple: put the squad together for the first time and explore The Lost Coast of California.

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!

Excerpt from the 1785 poem “To A Mouse” by Robert Burns.

That’s right, throw 5 guys—well, 4 and 1 vegan—without maps or cell service, in a rental van, with 3 bikes, 15 cameras, and 20 lbs. of meat, and you know you are in for one hell of a Rugged Adventure.

Day 1

The climbing started immediately, and within minutes we would lose one cyclist, while adding one badass photographer to the ground team. The climb up Mattole Road—which led us out of Ferndale en route to Petrolia—was hot, muggy, and steep. It was already a crushing day and we had only been pedaling for 25 minutes. Over the crest of the ridge we would enjoy our last taste of warm sunshine for what turned out to be days. The next few hours weaving through the fog and “straight up” and down Mattole Road felt like a dream, like riding through a fairy tale. Rolling in and out of the clouds we were met with waves of colorful wildflowers and edibles around every turn; the smell of wild fennel wafted in from the fields.

Day 2

The setting for the day’s ride was almost mystical, with moss-covered trees and dark hillsides blanketed with ferns. Descending and climbing the rocky Briceland Thorn Road was like winding through a rainforest shrouded in clouds. Mind you, we did watch Planet of the Apes prior to this ride.

The day and the experience would only improve…as we descended to the cliffs above the sea, the road opened we were treated to a pretty amazing view of the ocean and a meadow filled with a herd of elk…being watched by eagles, no joke! Riding single-track among the elk while overlooking Needle Rock in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park will always be remembered as a highlight of not only this adventure but a highlight of life on 2 wheels. The confident power of these beautiful animals was on show as they quietly gazed in our direction.

As the squad regrouped, enjoyed a beer, a sandwich, and a whisky, we collectively decided we could not finish the day without a trip to see the Giants. The Redwoods of Humboldt county rise like towers from the loamy fern-covered soil, stealing the light from all other vegetation. To ride through the narrow roads lined with these monsters makes one realize how truly small we are.

Day 3

The Wall. I have seen it referred to by others online as “The Wall of Champions.” Ok, every damn road on the Lost Coast is a wall, but where Mattole Road meets the coastline there is one climb that is extra deserving of the moniker. A straight, 500 meter 20+ gradient takes you above Sugarloaf Island then switches back right and continues to climb for miles.

We had ridden through the marine layer and low clouds for days. While the feeling was moody and beautiful, the squad was on the hunt for sunshine! Beginning on Horse Mountain Road, we would journey over Saddle Mountain to Wilder Ridge Road. However, one stretch of King Mountain Road proved nearly too rugged for the rental van to handle. One water crossing was so deep and off camber that we were forced to build a makeshift bridge and verbally, emotionally, and physically push our driver {Steve, aka The Triathlete} over it. Shortly after, we realized this shortcut that promised us high elevation, views, and sunshine, was in fact an adventure-filled scenic route.

To finish off our day and bring our adventure to a close, we spent the last moments of daylight enjoying the sunset from one of the last remaining gravel sections of the original Highway 1, just above one of the most beautiful farms you can ever imagine, with an appropriately rugged coastline in view. The Lost Coast offered everything we had been searching for, and perhaps a bit more. While 3 days of riding gave us ample time to explore, the seemingly endless and rugged roads of the Lost Coast proved to be a true paradise for those looking for a challenging and memorable 2 wheel escape.

Up next: John wayne pioneer trail

The Squadra Avventura heads to the state of Washington to explore the great stretch of abandoned rail-line running across the state, and seeks to add greater depth of meaning to the word “rugged.”