Gravel is always an adventure, but sometimes you dream bigger and biking the Lost Coast is as ambitious as it can get.
There’s a romantic quality riding along the coastline in Northern California that edges out Big Sur for me how it’s remoteness is balanced out with a number of communities rooted in the 19th century meaning you’re not as isolated.
Still, there has been this mystery along the 75 miles split between Humboldt and Mendocino counties as very little is known about the Lost Coast because access takes a real effort whether by bike or driving dealing with circuitous roads begging for maintenence.
It’s not trip you can physically break down in one day nor mentally will give it justice.
Travel is the toughest consideration as most cyclists ride the coast north to south to take advantage of the winds, so getting my gear up there was the biggest hurdle.
I shipped my bike out to Revolution Bicycles in Arcata meeting up after flying from Burbank into McKinleyville just a few miles north.
With my rig properly set up, I strolled ten miles south to Eureka for an early bedtime and launching point for my first big day of three of cycling.
Covering almost ninety miles, the over 10,000 ft of gain made it seem like a day at the Rock Cobbler only I was carrying an extra twenty pounds of gear and had to be fresh enough for two more efforts.
Start with the sun coming up at 6am, the first quarter of the ride was simple staying largely on the flatlands into the historically landmarked Ferndale which is probably the best example of Victorian architecture in a small town.
The climbing awaited right outside of town with Mattole Road favoring double digit grades as I tried spinning in the yellow to stay out of the orange and red zones.
While you’d think riding in summer would be an ideal time, it’s more likely to be foggier than other times of the year battling through layers and heavy efforts.
Around mile 40, you finally gaze eyes on the Lost Coast that while largely cloudy today is still an awesome sight to see as the five mile parallel is the longest stretch biking the Lost Coast.
From the halfway point, I largely followed the Mattole River into the towns of Petrolia and Honeydew with the clouds stepping back the further inland I approached.
The last quarter of the ride was the toughest with over 4k of vert within twenty five miles that was roughly half dirt not helping the cause.
It took me eleven hours total to cover the route as not only tempered my excersion, but also my downhill speeds being careful of avoiding crashes riding along.
While the descent into Shelter Cove would normally be fun, previewing what would be the climb out the next day made me hope to reach town sooner than later.
With only about 800 residents, definitely reaching this enclave felt remote with few restaurant choices, but of course my choice being the brewery.
Ending the day, I did feel worn not as badly as other big rides, but still taking a wait and see attitude to see how my body would respond tomorrow.
I reached my main goal in coming in at a decent hour without any problems though I know I’d eventually be processing this trip as a whole, but already I felt like I was in survival mode.