Thursday, August 28

Hiking Lost Coast, California with Photographer Kyle Frost

Truthfully, I don't have a lot of experience in rugged adventure travel - no week-long hikes or camping in the back country. (What is even the back country?) But a year in California has meant that I now know a few folks who live and breathe the adventurous outdoors. After the recent feature on Julian, I wanted to introduce Kyle Frost, another photographer whose work favors the outdoors. (Hot off the press: Kyle and Julian also recently started Hike Further.)

Words & Images by Kyle Frost

I’ve been thinking about hitting the Lost Coast trail for awhile now, so when my buddy Eric from Hipcamp shot me a text last week asking if I wanted to hit the trail, I jumped on the opportunity.

We decided to tackle the southern portion of the trail, which is less traveled than the more popular beach hiking on the northern section. The southern trail from Needle Rock to Usal beach is around 20 miles, with hiking mostly up on the ridge line and plenty of coastal views.

The typical way to hike Lost Coast is one way, so we shuttled from our car at Usal Beach up to Needle Rock visitor center in the morning. The amazing Sherri has run Lost Coast Shuttles since 1995, and provided conversation and witty banter regarding roadside attractions on the 2.5 hour drive up. If you’re headed to do some hiking on the Lost Coast, definitely give Sherri a call for your transportation needs! After reaching the Needle Rock visitor center, we finally hit the trail around 10am.

Around 8 miles in, after winding up and down along the coastline, the trail reaches Wheeler Camp. A couple of campsites dot the flats above a black sand beach and Jackass Creek. We managed to snag arguably the best campsite, with a picnic table, plenty of space and easy access to the water.
Thick fog stymied our coastal views for most of the afternoon and well into the evening. Typical northern California weather. This didn’t stop us from doing some exploring through (after a well deserved nap).

Lo and behold, the fog lifted just enough around sunset to give us a spectacular light show. We climbed a small ridge to the north of the beach for a better perspective. The fog and clouds and sunset combined for a beautiful array of color on the rocks and water.

Most people are familiar with the classic Lost Coast route up north, a 24 mile FLAT beach hike. The southern portion is not flat in any sense of the term. Where the north trail winds along the beach, the south goes up and over every ridge and back down to every stream and creek. I think we had around 5,000 ft of uphill elevation on our second day alone.

Regardless of the elevation changes, we still had a great time hiking through the varied terrain. Sometimes above the fog, sometimes in it. Sometimes on a coastal ridge, other times in thick forest. If you’re thinking about tackling the trail, beginners should know that the section of trail between Wheeler and Usal is not a cakewalk and the trail is not in the greatest condition. You also might want to wear pants, as I learned too late.

All in all, we had a fantastic time backpacking through the rugged and beautiful northern California coast.  I'll be back soon enough to tackle the northern section!

For more images from Kyle, check out Kyle's exposure page.

Tuesday, August 26

Find me in Beijing China

I have just returned from 1 month in China, but in truth, I could have stayed for another and it probably still wouldn’t be enough.  I make it a point to visit China every few years and each time I visit, I discover something about the motherland that I didn’t know before. With each trip, the country grows a little more foreign yet a little more intimate for me. Foreign because the landscape in China is constantly changing. It has been more than a decade since I lived in Beijing but with each visit, the city, in its real estate boom, becomes less recognizable to me.  More intimate because on each visit I now retain some more history and culture about a place I’ve been dying to understand thoroughly.

I started the journey in Beijing. As with each visit to the Chinese capital, I first must re-orientate myself with a city that’s ever changing. This time, I discovered the real estate boom had pushed all the way out of the city center. The road that used to run through villages on the outskirt of the city is now a highway zipping through high-rise condominiums.

As I’ve come to Beijing for several years now, I am much more selective about the places I visit when I’m in town. But forever on my list is the Great Wall. I always go in the early morning, usually leaving the city before 7am so I can finish my climb before high noon when the sun is blistering and tourists arrive by the bus load. My favorite stretch of the Wall is at Mu Tian Yue. It’s a bit further from the city than other parts of the wall, and a bit smaller, but the view here is the most scenic. In the June heat, the Great Wall looked as majestic as ever. I make a mental note to research options for overnight camping on the Great Wall for my next visit.

Next up on the list is the Temple of Heaven. I’d only been here once before, as a child when my grandpa took me and my cousins here. Safe for some old photographs, I have no memory of the historical site. The Temple of Heaven looked like something out of Travel & Leisure magazine. Though it has been reconstructed throughout history due to fire and damages, today, the perfect historical structure stands steady and serene in the city.

It’s sights like the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven that just makes me  absolutely in awe of this country. The rest of my time in Beijing went by quickly and was filled by lots of family dinners, usually before getting midnight dessert from street stalls and after walking the shopping districts in town. Somehow I also managed to visit the Art of Museum, Bird’s Nest, and go to the top of the TV tower. Stay tuned for more photos from my 1 month trip in China.

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