Sandwiched between the Mendocino Coast on the South and Lost Coast to the North, King Peak, via the Lightning Trail, in California’s King Mountain Range is a worthy goal for a hike. The trail is 5.2 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1800 feet.
We camped out near the trailhead with the peak our goal for a top-of-the-world lunch.
After our return to camp, we took my friend’s SUV down a very rugged road to Bear Harbor where we spotted a group of elk walking on the road. We ended up at a small visitor center on the beach.
What to take: the usual backcountry supplies (tent, sleeping bag, pad, fire), plus a daypack (stuffed with lunch), water, hat, sunglasses, a camera, and binoculars.
The Lost Coast Trail, to the north, is a buck list backpack. Some 2 miles long, from the mouth of the Mattole River to Black Sand Beach in Shelter Cove, you can complete it in one overnight (a real butt-kicker) or a more related two night trip with overnight stays in Big Flat and Spanish Flat, wide open spaces with fresh waters, wood and great beach campsites.
Me, center with hiking companions Bruce, left, and Al, right at Rainbow Falls.
Getting there — from Portland, Oregon to Mammoth, California — took some doing.
Keeping an eye on the weather, seeing nothing but sunshine and 65 degrees days at 8,000 feet in the Eastern Sierra, two friends and I booked a flight to Reno where we met a fourth friend and then drove three and a half hours to Mammoth, then down into wilderness.
Logistics and lateness in the season didn’t allow for a backpack, even though before and after the weather turned out to be gorgeous. Instead, we booked a cabin at Red’s Meadow Resort.
For those not familiar with the area, Red’s is a pack station that runs horses and mules to take people into the backcountry. But the resort includes a cafe and store with a nearby backpacker campground and hot, geothermal fed showers. Red’s is right on the PCT and JMT, so a favorite refueling spot for thru and section hikers.
Red’s has closed for the season, despite the beautiful weather (60’s and sunshine). But no doubt the wilderness will close down soon as winter creeps in. Maybe it’s too late to backpack there this year, but it is a definite bucket list trip for next year.
The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse is one of the few working lighthouses left in America. It was built in 1909 and restored and relighted in 1999 as a federal aid to navigation. Located between Mendocino Village (Cabot Cove, Maine in ‘Murder She Wrote’) and Fort Bragg, California, about 150 miles north of San Francisco, the 300 acres, now a state historic park, is chriss-crossed with trails and great spots to watch migrating grays, blues and humpback whales. I am one of its lightkeepers, once a month going up into the lantern room where we wash windows and clean the brass. It also is one of my favorite places for taking photos. Surrounded by about dozen other state parks, hiking in the forest or along beaches is fantastic.
I’ve completed many point-to-point backpacks but have come to prefer trips where we set up a basecamp, then day hike each day in different directions. But where do you find an ultralight day pack when every ounce counts. Check out the Kiva Tote. Be light. Be safe. Be one with the Pack.
The Mendocino Coast of Northern California has some of the rarest hikes anywhere. At Jug Handle State Reserve, a California State Parks property, you can walk about 2.5 miles from the ocean, through giant redwoods to a pygmy forest, one of only three (from what I understand) in the U.S. The out and back is a mere 1.5-hour hike that is amazing in that it takes you through about 300,000 years of geological history in such a short distance. Bishop pines that grow over a 100-feet tall in normal soil, only grow about 5 feet in this thin, highly acidic soil of the pygmy forest. One of nature’s wonders.