Bucket list item #4: Ride down the Pacific coast on a bike exploring hidden treasures off the beaten path.
The "Lost Coast"
Things have been pretty busy around here. It's never easy to find the time to take off work and life, transport yourself, your bike, and all your gear for a 7-day 750mi one-way bike trip. Where to sleep, what route to take, how to shuttle gear, can I pedal that far? There is always time in the future for this... Right? A couple of weeks before my 35th birthday, I realized there is no better time for this adventure than now. I would leave immediately to drive north, and sort out the details on the 14-hour drive. Realizing this ride would be a lot more fun if I had friends come along, I blasted out a quick email to the short list of people I thought might have the right mix of mega-endurance, adventurous spirit, free time, and crazy. Only one person took the bait: Dylan. On Sep 26th 2015, Dylan and I started pedaling from Florence, Oregon on a one-way bike trip to San Francisco. We were fortunate to have my wife Charity and son Hayden join us via car to meet up at at the start, mid-point and end of each day.
- 7 Days
- 730 miles
- 53,078 ft of climbing
- Moving time: 47 hrs
Day 1: Florence to Humbug Mountain - 114 miles The start of our journey began in the perpetually green and densely forested rolling hills right in the middle of the Oregon Coast. We were greeted with cool temperatures and friendly roads (smooth quiet roads with wide shoulders), which proved to be the norm for our time in Oregon. The first 40 miles were in a shaded forest that rolled up and down and turned left and right. Water was everywhere: there was never a mile ridden without seeing creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes. It was hard to tell how close we were to the Pacific with such a dense forest, but every so often we would catch a view and see the massive sand dunes that spanned most of the first 50 miles we rode. We stopped for lunch in an amazing cove in Charleston just south of Coos Bay. Continuing south, we embarked on the infamous 7 Devils climb(s). These 7 climbs turned out to be pretty easy and hardly noteworthy. It was unclear, at the time, why the notoriety. A Google search later revealed its history of paranormal activity, buried treasure and unexplained accidents. A couple hours farther south we took a detour through the town of Bandon where we took in epic vistas of the rock studded ocean.
Coast near Bandon
Rolling along the coast, we easily cruised past the 100-mile mark with the aid of a 10 mph tail wind into Port Orford. One last stretch of friendly road led us to our camping spot on Humbug mountain.
Port Orford Views
Day 2: Humbug Mountain to Klamath - 116 miles This day presented more amazing ocean vistas before our first detour of the day. We explored the Rogue river from its mouth for a 20 mile loop upstream.
At the mid-point of our day, we crossed into California just after dodging a pack of elk. We left the coast behind and headed inland up some steep mountain roads. Our route snaked though thick redwood forests with a canopy so dense it seemed like the day was ending. The cool, dark and damp climate allowed moss to grow on the side of the road where were were supposed to be riding. Not too many bikers get a chance to ride here.
A final descent took us into a valley carved in the mountains by the mighty Klamath river. We stopped for the night in the town of Klamath.
Day 3: Klamath to Ferndale - 88 miles We kicked off the day by leaving all roads and traveling through the heart of the Redwood National Park and the Murrelet Wilderness on narrow dirt trails. These trails were fairly smooth and climbed up through the forest showing us the the remote coast, dense river valleys, oak forests, and miles of old growth redwoods.
Redwood National Park
After leaving the National Park, we continued on south skirting the obstacles nature placed in our path including huge sand dunes, expansive bays, and wide open coastline. After many hours of awesome countryside exploration, the fun was coming to an end. At rush hour, we rolled right through the middle of Eureka, which was filled with lots of traffic and sketchy characters on the roadside. We got through as quick as possible and found our way south to the quiet farm-lined town of Ferndale.
Day 4 Ferndale to Garberville - 98 miles Ferndale sits just north of the most remote part of the California coast, the "Lost Coast", a stretch of rugged coast lined with mountains that is extremely hard to access. Only the northern and southern boundaries are reachable by car and it is a several hour drive off the highway. We climbed over several mountain passes to reach the Northern tip of the lost coast. We explored south until the only route farther south was on the sandy shoreline.
Northern Boundary of the Lost Coast
We climbed over several more mountains to escape the coast and headed into the one of the most expansive old growth redwood forests around. This incredible forest is home to the true giants of California, trees over 1000 years old, 200 ft tall and more than 50 ft in circumference. We rode for 15 miles though Humboldt Redwood State Park and the Avenue of Giants weaving through these redwoods on narrow winding roads.
Humboldt Redwood State Park
We stopped for the night at a friends house in Garberville. This small mountain town was nice, though strangely we saw dozens of hitchhikers on the road here. We later found these visitors were "Trimmigrants".
Day 5 Garberville to Mendocino - 79 miles Smooth, quiet, and curvy mountain roads led us to the ocean just south of the Lost Coast. These are the roads cyclists live for: perfectly banked turns, smooth as ice, no cars, cool shade, fast descents, and picturesque climbs for miles. The last 30 miles were on the beautiful coastline of Mendocino County.
Road to Mendocino Coastline
Coastal creature sniffing out top secret prototypes
Day 6 Mendocino to Bodega Bay - 121 miles Heading south from Mendocino, the coast is very hilly. We were either going up or down hills, but rarely going up for more than a couple minutes. The road winds around many rock coves home to sea otters, abalone, jellyfish, crabs and more. We stopped for a quick dive to see all of these in the chilly waters.
Coves on Mendocino County
With such a rough coastline, many lighthouses were spotted en route.
Pt. Arena Lighthouse
After riding south for 100 miles, we turned off the main road, and went up a dirt road into the mountains at Willow Creek. This detour provided a big loop up onto some high mountains through the dense forests on the empty dirt fire roads of Sonoma Coast State Park before finishing the day in Bodega Bay.
Off the beaten path
Day 7 Bodega Bay to San Francisco - 87 miles The last day of our adventure took us by Tomales Bay, Stinson Beach, the summit of Mt. Tam, and finally over the Golden Gate Bridge. We met up with our friends Daniel, Chester and Ben en route to San Francisco. We were expecting a easy social cruise this day much like the final day of the Tour de France. It all started out that way until at mile 40, we were passed by a Lycra-clad biker hammering the roads. We realized this was the first day-trip biker we have seen on the entire trip. (we saw about 12 "bike-packers" in 700 miles) It was also the only time we were passed by another biker. We had no plans of this being a race, but it seemed easy enough to re-pass this guy and and maintain our streak of never being passed. An informal race unfolded with us coming out ahead just before the start of the long climb up Mt. Tam. Here we met up with Daniel. He kept a high pace and made sure we did not have an easy time on the climb. Near the summit of Tam, we connected with Ben "the hammer" and the heavily sponsored pro champ Chester. Chester decided to made it a mission to turn the final 20 miles into an all-out gloves off race to the bridge. We arrived at the foot of the bridge in record time. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco was a ceremonial welcoming back to the real world. As we travel back to our lives, the adventures left in our wake remain etched in our minds and souls. We are thankful for the experiences and those that helped us along the way. I hope we inspire a few others to get out and explore the coast..