Lost Coast Trail Backpacking Day 4

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Next morning when I woke up, the light rain was still coming down. The dry spot under the tree kept me dry enough not to worry about being soaking wet, but it was wet all around me. And last night when I was kind of half awake while shifting, I noticed an arrival of someone or a group due to their headlamps, and I suspected that maybe it was the college graduates who decided to look for dry spots at Wheeler. It wasn’t them, but a group of two guys who made a late arrival at the campground on their southbound trip on the trail.

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These two young guys who appeared to be in their late 20s or maybe early 30s said that they were still deciding whether or not they would want to continue their trip to reach Usal Beach by the nightfall. However, based on what they told me, it was obvious that they were not that experienced, and to my surprise, one of them actually smoked. I shed light on what they might be up against, and the rain might have played a role for them to decide to head back to Needle Rock, where they started from. On my watch, by the way, this smoker consumed two cigarettes, and the question that most of my hiking friends asked in the past popped into my head. Why?

My morning ritual was nothing but a slow and relaxing one, as I wished. But also, part of me was waiting for the constant shower to stop, but it never did. It was kind of light rain that never stops coming down but is constant enough to get you wet without proper rain gear. Once I packed up my gear and was ready to go, I was once again found myself wearing my rain jacket that I have now returned to REI due to its lack of breathability. The jacket is ultralight but doesn’t breathe well, so I ended up feeling too warm inside. Besides, I couldn’t imagine wearing it when I  deal with the kind of snow, rain and strong winds near and at the top of Mt. Whitney.

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Probably after a couple of miles up another hill, I was actually caught up by one of the college graduates. His name was Dan, only male member of the group who were all from Upstate New Work, and he hiked fast. He and I sort of hiked together all the way to Needle Rock, enjoying each other’s company. Otherwise, he would’ve hiked all by himself, and I am sure he would not have minded. As for me, it was quite entertaining actually learning about some new parts of the country where he explored, and one of them was Denali National Park in Alaska. Him actually worked there for the past summer, actually previous summer and this past summer, provided me interesting tidbits about how to go about backpacking around Anchorage. It was quite educational, such as the limited number of hikers allowed per day (just like at the Wave), no backpacking/camping is allowed due to wild animals (like wolves), and bird watching stuff. Based on all the peak bagging stuff that he did along with his friend in the past, it was quite exciting to talk about that too. He seemed like capable of Class 4 climbing.

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Somewhere between Wheeler and Bear Harbor, a few days ago I had a very close encounter with an agitated male elk because of me being too close to him and his herd, and Dan and I were walking through the same area and spotted another herd, which appeared to the same herd that we saw separately. This time it was nice to have quite a distance between these gorgeous and majestic creatures and us and to see they were just going about another day in Paradise.

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According to California Department of Parks and Recreation, these Roosevelt elk were not originally from here. Unfortunately, the original roaming elk across the Sinkyone and King Range parks were exterminated in the last century, and a new set of elk was introduced from Prairie Creek (Redwoods) State Park, which is 50 miles north of Eureka.

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Once we reached Needle Rock, it was before 1 pm. Dan and I said good bye to each other, and I continued my trekking for Nadelos.

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The rainy and foggy views along the coast were just as breathtaking as they were in the sunny days.

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It was quite fascinating how drastically they changed.

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The overwhelming joy of just being there took over me again, such quite extraordinary scenery made me stop frequently to soak it all in.

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I knew I wouldn’t be able to be back here any time soon.

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“The groves and thickets of smaller trees are full of blooming evergreen vines. These vines are not arranged in separate groups, or in delicate wreaths, but in bossy walls and heavy, mound-like heaps and banks. Am made to feel that I am now in a strange land. I know hardly any of the plants, but few of the birds, and I am unable to see the country for the solemn, dark, mysterious cypress woods which cover everything.”
― John Muir

Once I reached the bottom of Chamise Mountain, the forest got dense, and with the mists that permeated throughout the entire park, it felt very mystical. Or I was walking through an enchanted land of mists. Very magical.

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“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!”
― John Muir

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As if some trees would come alive as I walked them by. Like in the Lord of the Rings. These redwood trees were just amazing to look at, and it was something that I will mull over for a long time to come. Unless I make another trip to the area, of course. And I want to do the northern section of the Lost Coast Trail one day, and it’ll be unbelievable.

“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun,—a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal.”
― John MuirMy First Summer in the Sierra

Part of me was so glad that I did it as a solo trip because I was able to pay my full attention to every part of the forest that I laid my eyes on.

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Somehow my ascent to the top of Chamise Mountain seemed rather longer than how I remembered it a few days ago when I came down, but it probably had to do with the fact that I was going up the hill via many straight up trails rather than gradual switchbacks. These parts of the trail were quite steep and simply straight up, meaning they definitely make your leg work for it, and for some, I bet it would not be pleasant parts of the trail. However, once I reached the top and started my descent toward Nadelos Campground on the other side of the mountain, I thought it was also quite long.

At last I reached the campground around 4 pm and found campers occupying my campsite. It was a rather large group and they probably didn’t know that I already paid for the spot anyway, so I decided to leave the campground, instead of my initial idea of spending the night there, and to check out Shelter Cove while having daylights, which turned out to be an excellent decision.

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At the end of more windy road that I drove on, I found this little town nestled in a remote cove, which is not far from Cape Mendocino, with still a plenty of deer roaming in and through the town as if the entire town is a deer zoo.

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Even a homemade sign at the front yard of one of the homes read along the ling of ‘Slow down. Deer crossing.’ I felt like it is one of those sleepy hollow towns that are easily forgotten, till summer hits. That’s when they would see the flux of city folks who make long distance road trips to get here for their sanity.

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I wanted to catch the sunset from the beach, so I drove further in and found myself at a King Range waterfront picnic area by a historic lighthouse, which began its service back in 1868. Such a long time to last it has been, and according to the description found near the lighthouse, it was built to last amidst of frequent earthquakes and landslides, let alone storms.

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I decided to have my last dinner backpacking meal of the trip there since I had everything ready to go anyway while waiting for the sunset. Another yummy rehydrated spaghetti meal.

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All of a sudden, a blonde showed up and plopped down at the edge of the ledge and started soaking in the view, as if she missed it so much for so long that she didn’t even care who was around her.

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I was already taking photos of the gorgeous ocean views that were painted in yellow and orange as the sun was setting, so I thought somehow having her in the shots seemed to be appropriate to portray the lonesome lighthouse that has stood there (after once it was relocated from San Francisco) for such a long time.

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I engaged a brief conversation with this unnamed blonde about the incredible views while taking photos. One thing that still lingers even after I came back to my daily lives is that she seemed very proud of being the 5th generation of a family who has never left Shelter Cove, which only so fitting with the history of the lighthouse that began its service almost 150 years ago.

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The sunset was beyond what I was anticipating, and these photos don’t do justice, but it was so gorgeous, so I couldn’t stop taking photos.

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The way that the colored clouds was decorated in the sky seemed all magical, and when they were all paint brushed in red, the sky truly was on fire, as if the fireworks reached their peak. In front of the awe-inspiring sunset, I was reminded again that my simple plan worked out without major problems. I was just grateful and humble for everything that led me to the point.

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Next day, I decided to drive home on Highway 1 to soak in our gorgeous coastline, and also compare this lost coast and the found and developed coast, which I would have a new degree of appreciation, including the 17 Mile Drive and Big Sur.

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About H Peter Ji Photography

I am a photographer. My photos have been sold on EyeEm, Adobe Stock and ShutterStock and also featured on ViewBug and G+ Landscape Photography Community, and via Death Valley National Park Instagram and Facebook. My work is the natural byproduct of my love for outdoors - backpacking, hiking and camping in nature.

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