According to the almanac, there are 12,383 miles of coastline in the continental United States. Thanks to the unexplainable and unrelenting efficiency of various governmental organizations, virtually every mile of this coastline is traced by some kind of road, scenic cement walkway, cart path, superhighway, or trail designed to maximize scenery and minimize inconvenience.
But in northern California, there is one exception to the rule, one ZTC place where the highway builders couldn't go. It's a small stretch of shoreline that goes by the suitably dramatic moniker of the Lost Coast, and it goes a ways toward proving that the best roads might be the ones you make for yourself.
The coast gets its name from its lack of roads, since the formidable team of engineers who strung California's coastal Highway 1 got within 300 miles of the Oregon border, then found themselves stymied by the 4,000-foot peaks of the King Range. At the logging town of Leggett, the engineers called it quits and turned inward, leaving a triangle of coast empty and opening the door for the government to create the King Range National Conservation Area.
But the road-builders might have tried a bit harder had they realized what they were missing. Namely, 35 miles of some of the most dramatic, wildlife-filled, whale-frequented, unspeakably deserted shoreline in the country.
Although the Lost Coast is off the beaten track, there are several ways to get there. Either hike south from the town of Mattole River, or north from the town of Shelter Cove, or take one of the several jeep tracks that cuts to the heart of the Lost Coast. No matter which is chosen, it would be best to take along "The Hiker's Hip Pocket Guide to the Humboldt Coast," by Bob Lorentzen (Bored Feet Publications, Mendocino, Calif., 1988).
If you go . . .
For general information on the King Range National Conservation Area, contact the district office, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, 555 Leslie St., Ukiah, Calif. 95482; (707) 462-3873.