California’s Lost Coast A Rare Beauty of a Hike

Punta GordaKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA PICT0111 KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Note: click on photos to make them larger and smaller.

Backpacker Magazine recently featured a article about backpacking the Lost Coast, a 30-mile stretch of beauty sandwiched between Northern California’s King Range Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Three companions and I completed the entire 30 miles in two days and one night on the first trip. Two more times, friends and I hiked 10-mile sections from the north and south.

There are at least two 4+-mile sections impassable at high tide, which encompass at least three campsites where you are pretty much on an island unless you want to climb steep trails up the mountainsides. At Buck Creek, we camped on a specular cliff site, high above the beach with incredible sunset views.

The Trail

The Lost Coast Trail leads you to wide sandy beaches (like Spanish Flat and Big Flat), which are ideal for camping. We found several wonderful campsite / shelters made (by previous campers) from driftwood with seats and fire pits. Although isolated, surfers manage to come to these flat expanses for great waves.

The trail takes you on the beach (walking in the sand and over small boulders in some places) and up on hard pack cliff trails and through meadows.

Water and Toilets

There are several creeks that flow into the trail so there is no problem with fresh water (however, drought conditions may have had an impact so check in at the ranger station). Paper and poo go in the sand (dig a hole) below the high tide water line. Seems counterintuitive to the “pack-it-in, pack-it-out” philosophy, but those are the rules).

Highlights

The abandoned Punta Gordon Lighthouse is a wonderful ruin to explore. No lens or glass in the lighthouse, but you can climb up into the former lens room and get a spectacular view. The abandoned light keeper houses were burned down 40 years ago to keep squatters out.

Getting There

Check you maps. But there are several ways to do this. On our trip several years ago, we discovered that a local woman would pick you up in Shelter Cove (leave your car) and drive you to the Mattole River to begin the 30+ miles trip south to Shelter Cove. An alternative is to have two cars — one at each end. But the roads, in and out and along the ridge of the King Range are really windy and unpaved in places.  Two cars is not a great option.

Check with the store at Shelter Cove or King Range Conservation Area Office (Call ahead for hours. (707) 986-5400. 768 Shelter Cove Road, Whitethorn, CA 95589) to see what other options might be available. The shuttle was a great way to go. But not check (like $50 / person). Of course, another option is to hike half way or more from either end for an out and back.

Pre-Backpack Camping

You can tent camp at Shelter Cove and at the Mattole River before you hit the trail. There are no services at Mattole, but Shelter Cove is a regular little community with a general store ((707) 986-7733), restaurant, RV Park, campground ((707) 986-7474), etc.

Bear Canisters

Last time I checked, canisters were required. Read the regulations. I guess bears come down the creeks from the mountains for food and water. We never saw any. Rules are rules — and for a reason.

Warning

If you go, DO NOT try to be brave running through even shallow surf to get around points impassable at high tide. You will be risking your life. Currents are strong and sneaker Ray P at Lost Coastwaves can surprise and carry you out to sea in a moment. Do like we did: have lunch, relax, take it easy, take a nap until the next tide change. On one hiking day, BECAUSE of the high tides and because we were feeling good, we raced passed “impassable” areas while the tide was low and made 16 miles. That is a slog when you consider you walk through a fair amount of sand. We were really energized, but what’s the point if you are just trying to enjoy nature. Take your time.

As Always: Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Map:  http://www.mappery.com/map-of/King-Range-National-Conservation-Area-Trail-Map

 

Let There Be Light … On the Trail and in the Tent

I recently attended a presentation about Luci, a “solar justice” solution for those who live in “energy poverty” (they have little or no electricity for basic living).
Created by Mpowerd, Luci lights are inflatable, waterproof, solar-powered lanterns that recharge indoors or out and will reportedly last for 12 hours of continuous use. They stay charged for months when not in use. 

 

 

The best part: they weigh just 2.5 ounces (about 70 grams) and fold flat to about a half inch by about 5 inches.

As a ultralight backpacker, I couldn’t resist buying one. It solves the problem of carrying batteries, especially on extended backpacks.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Forget the Tooth Brush: Chew Your Way to Clean Teeth

Archtech Toothpaste TabletsWe all know the sure way to creating an ultralight backpack is to start light with minimalist pack, mat, bag and tent (under 10 pounds). Beyond that, the little things can add up; an ounce here and an ounce there can quickly become pounds on your back.

One of my recent finds for good trail oral hygiene and pack weight reduction, which eliminates the need for a tube of toothpaste, is the Archtech Toothpaste Tablet. See photo for size of a single tablet. You can buy 60 tablets from Amazon for $6.74. Maybe you even leave behind the brush and use your finger, further cutting your weight.

I bought a pack and tried them. They taste good. And, they seem to work.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

 

Light as Air … Almost: The Thermarest NeoAir XLite

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but no matter. I’m back at it and today I saw a sleeping mat that packs down to almost nothing, is full-length, has a barrier against cold ground, is comfortable and weighs only 12 oz or 340 grams.
There is a patent pending on it’s heat capturing technology. What I like is that it meets two of my essential ultralight backpacking criteria (it’s light, of course), but is also adds comfort with almost no weight.

Near weightlessness comes at a price, but even though I love my Exped Goose down at about 2 pounds, this is something worth looking at. With this weight reduction, I could carry my heavy (2 pound, 4 ounce Osprey Atmos 35 pack) and still have my essentials under 8 pounds (tent, bag, pack, sleeping pad). Or I could go with my Osprey Ather at 1.5 pounds and get under 7 pounds.

I’m thinking the investment will be worth it.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink just 1.5 Ounces, But holds 2.64 Gallons

Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink for websiteAlthough I often just use my finger and a little water to clean my bowl and mug after breakfast or dinner on the trail, having a “wash pot” is nice. But too much weight and bulk, right? I recently discovered the Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink (1.5 inches thick and 4.5 inches wide) as a great alternative. Packs down really small in its own case and is feather light. Best of all you can fill it with water, move away from the lake or stream to avoid contamination and use a small amount of biodegradable soap. Check it out.

In the meantime, be light. Be Safe. Be one with the pack.

In California, the Snow is Nearly Gone: Time to Go Backpacking

The drought in California is both good and bad.

Bad: we need the snowpack for a good supply of water for city and rural needs.

Good: you can get up in the higher mountain elevations right now where there is little snow left.

So, you’re ready to go. But are you ready to go light?

On my first of 50+ backpacks (back in 1998), I carried 55 pounds. In those days everything was big and heavy. That was just part of the deal. The words Ultralight Backpacking or Light Backpacking were not part of the trail lexicon. You had to build your own gear to go light. Now, light gear is everywhere.

For those of you just starting out, remember that the way to lightness is not cutting off the handle of your toothbrush. Rather,  you want the basics (pack, tent, bag, mat) to be light.

I have three basic configurations.

1. Osprey Pack – Atmos 35: 2.25 pounds; Sierra Design Light Year Tent: 3 pounds; Western Mountaineering Down Bag: 1 pound; Downmat 7 (a new, lighter version is available): 2.25 pounds. Total: 8.5. The Downmat, which is filled with down, makes up for the bag thinness (38 degrees). I love the extra comfort without too much extra weight.

2. Replace the Downmat with full-length Therma-Rest: 1 pound. Total reduced to 7.25.

3. Replace the Atmos 35 with a Osprey Ather Pack (or something similar since this model is no longer available): 1 pound, 6 ounces. Reduce total to 6 pounds, 6 ounces.

You can be crazy and get your mat down to 3/4 length to cut another .25 pounds. By leaving the tent body at home and using the fly-only configuration you can cut another  2 pounds. That would bring it all down to 4.5 or so. However, a little comfort goes a long ways.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

 

The Perfect Backpacking Holiday Present: The Jetboil Stove System


My desire to have presents under the tree, no doubt, is a leftover from when I was a kid. As a kid, the sky was the limit. Now, I will be content to see just one: the Jetboil Sol Advanced Cooking System.

I’ve had my eye on the Jetboil for several years, but felt the original version was was just too big and heavy; not quit perfected.  The newer models are improved versions of the all-in-one concept of fuel, stand, stove, cup and cover nicely integrated into one lightweight unit.

The Sol is 10.5 oz. (300g) according to the specs, will hold 27 ounces (0.8 liters), and will bring the whole thing to a boil in 4 minutes, 30 seconds. You can even see through the side so you know when the water is boiling–a nice feature. Check it out.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Ray Jardin: Father of Modern Lightweight Backpacking

It was 1998 and I had just finished my first year of backpacking with a pack that weighed in at 45+ pounds. Then I read the book, the Ray Way, a guide to ultralight backpacking, and instantly became a devotee. His wisdom lead to my quest for ultralight backpacking and ultimately this blog.  He and his wife were able to get their packs to 9 pounds on a PCT trip while the rest of us where still hauling 5 times that much.

Without doing a lot of history research, I figured Jardin was the father of modern lightweight backpacking, since legends like John Muir, who carried a rucksack with a few hard biscuits, must have been the original “father” back at the turn of the 20th century.

In any case, Jardin published a book in 2009 I just discovered: “Trail Life, Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking” with the subtitle: 25,000 miles of trail-tested know-how.

Seems like a no-brainer as a must-read for anyone who wants to lighten their load.

A interesting note: Jardine was age 50 when his original book came out. He is now pushing 70. No doubt he is still on the move.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Super Ultra light Esbit Titanium Stove … Not New, but Worth Repeating

A few years ago, I posted a review of my Esbit Pocket Stove, a small metal box that weighs 3 oz and burns a single Esbit hexamine tablet.

In culling 14 years of backpacking equipment, I came across my Esbit Titanium Folding Stove ($12.28 at Amazon), which weighs a mere 0.40 ounces (on a very accurate electronic scale); less than 1/2 ounce (11.3 grams). The esbit fuel tablet that powers it weighs 0.45. Together, they add up to a mere 0.85 of 1oz (24 grams)! Does it actually work? I thought I would do a 2013 re-test for you super ultra lighters who like their trail food hot.

Test Results
I fired up the tiny Esbit, added one cup of water (enough for a single serving of oatmeal or a cup tea or coffee) and got a rolling boil in about 3 1/2 minutes. A neat feature: you can blow out the flame and save what’s left of the fuel tablet for another meal. This test left more than a half tablet.


For two cups of water (enough for your oatmeal AND tea or coffee), it took about 8 minutes and used about 3/4ths of one fuel tab. Note: these tests were done at sea level.

If you are rehydrating food with water for dinner, you can figure 3 tablets per day (2 for dinner and one for breakfast). That adds up to 9 tablets for a three-night trip. Tablet weight: 4.5 ounces (9 @ 0.45); stove weight: 0.4. Total for three days: 4.9 ounces. Add a couple of more tabs for backup (less than 1 oz). You can buy a box of 12 Esbit 1400 Degree Smokeless Solid Fuel Cubes for just $4.99.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

 

The Perfect Lightweight Camp Cup

When I began my ultralight backpacking quest in 1998, manufacturers were producing big, heavy everything — tents, packs, pads and accessories. Backpackers had to be part pack mule to haul all the stuff around. Fast forward to 2013 and the focus on ultralight with lighter materials and lots of innovative minds churning out ever lighter gadgets. Like many others, my initial guide was “Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine’s Guide to Light Hiking.”

I’ve long since slimmed down my pack (and occasionally fattened it back up with comfort items). Now, I just look for interesting stuff to write about.

I bought a titanium sierra cup in the ultralight tradition. Pros: it’s light and when the contents get cold, you can just put it on the campstove and heat it up. Cons: everything gets cold fast.

Something New
Frankly, I don’t like my coffee going lukewarm and then cold just a few minutes after pouring it. So, I’ve been looking around and stumbled onto a cup selling at REI. It’s plastic with non-slip handle and non-skip bottom to prevent it from sliding off an uneven surface. A tight-fitting cover keeps liquid in and helps maintain warmth.

The bottom line: it’s $7.50. And, it weighs only 4.0 ounces — about the same as my titanium version which cost at least $30 when I purchased it. Check it out.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.