Worrying Whispers On The Approach To Northern California’s Lost Coast

If the northern half of the U.S. Pacific Coast had been one of timber trucks, small towns and persistent rains, the southern half would tell a very different tale.

Flora on the Lost Coast shoreline

Ben and I rode south into California, the second largest of the ‘lower 48’ and with the highest population by a wide margin. There was more coastline between here and Mexico than all we’d so far covered in Washington and Oregon. Several of the nation’s most iconic cities lay ahead of us — San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles. But the geographic diversity of the state is immense, and before the cities appeared on the horizon we would encounter one of the state’s most underpopulated and inaccessible regions: the infamous Lost Coast.

This region, bypassed inland by all of the main traffic routes and the Pacific Coast bicycle route, had been suggested to me a couple of weeks previously by Leon, who was at the time winding up an epic 6‑month trek from Mongolia to Hong Kong. He’d ridden through it a couple of years before. I was always up for taking recommendations and seeing where they led.

So we’d started mentioning our plan to locals on the way south through tracts of coastal forest and pastureland and laid-back little settlements along the rocky and surf-battered coast of Northern California. No roads, we were told. More bears… ridiculous hills! Impassable terrain! And paranoid pot-farmers with shotguns behind every tree? “Good luck!”, they wished us, with a chuckle and a wave.

By that point, I was well and truly looking forward to some riding worth writing about. It would be a lie to say that anything about the riding so far had been challenging. I’d never expected it to be; it wasn’t the reason for the trip. Everything that had come our way I had seen far worse of before. Would the Lost Coast give any of these previous experiences a run for their money?

Fog on Usal Road

I doubted it. And I hoped to be proved wrong.

My U.S. Pacific Coast ride is kindly supported by Kona Bikes, Cascade Designs and Schwalbe. Read more about the gear they’ve supplied.