Ten Lessons from the Lost Coast

Every year I organize an adventure trip into wilderness. The trip is like a prophet’s journey for me — I go off in the wilderness and come back “lessons”. Sometimes profound. Often not so profound.

This year we went to the Lost Coast of California. It’s a part of the northern California coast that is so rugged that they couldn’t build Highway 1 along it. It still a total wilderness with no roads and difficult access. We did the classic through hike from Mattole Point through to Shelter Cove. We left our car at Shelter Cove and got the excellent Lost Coast Adventures to shuttle us to the beginning of the hike at Mattole Point (a 2.5 hour drive on some torn up backroads).

TL;DR: The Lost Coast is amazeballs and you should do this hike. You may learn some life lessons, but even better you will have three days of seeing this everyday:

Breakfast with a view.

The Google Map below documents our hike (and where we stayed). We had originally allocated three nights and four days to do the hike — because we were going to hit up Kings Peak — but we ended up coming out in three days and two nights. More on that below. The weather is hit or miss typically — with many foggy and rainy days — but we got lucky and got three gloriously sunny California days on the trail.

But this is not a detailed trip report. This is a report about what I learned on the trail.

#1 Don’t be a stupid millennial

Multiple times on the trail we met dudes (young white guys all of them) that were like:

Dude: “Have you guys seen my friends?” [Use the surfer dude voice here to get the effect].
Me (in my head): Who the f**k are you friends? I don’t know you. Why did you lose them in the middle of a wilderness with no cell phone reception?

The best was the guy that we met that had dropped his friends off at Mattole Point, drove back to Shelter Cove, hiked in 15 miles, failed to find them, camped by himself, and was now hiking in the opposite direction back to the car looking for them. We talked to him for awhile — trying to help him out — but the whole time I was thinking “How could you possibly think this was a good idea?”. Is this what white privilege is? Just thinking your invincible and doing really dumb shit thinking it’s gonna be ok?

Or have I just lost that feeling of youthful invincibility in my mid-thirties?

#2 Don’t run out of food

I accidentally didn’t pack one of our meals because I was trying to aggressively cut weight. We figured this out on the first night when we were super hungry and wanted to eat all of our food. After that point, the potential for running out of food was a real source of anxiety on this trip. This was the main reason we booked it the last day and left the trail a day early. The fear of running out of food.

The problem is that I’ve trained myself to curb my food intake because I’m constantly bombarded by calories in modern American life. Those instincts are wrong in the wilderness after hiking 10 miles though. There you just want to eat ALL THE THINGS.

Next time I know, I gotta go back to my immigrant roots. There is a reason why my parents have 100 days worth of food in their house from Costco. You never know when the food will stop showing up — stock up when you can. And carry that shi* on your back.

Also, I’m pretty sure the unspoken agreement between Kevin and Amit was that I would get eaten first if it came to that.

I’m definitely going to be the first to get eaten if things go wrong.

#3 You can convince most anyone by sounding really confident

If that doesn’t work, use a cigarette. The nicotine will get them amped up and in their mania you can convince them that hiking an extra 10 miles and 4000 vertical feet is a great idea.

#4 But when things go wrong, don’t be afraid to turn back

When you have to cross icy streams three times and the trail disappears into the woods — be smart and turn back. Life, like hiking on BLM land, is one big experiment — some work out, and some don’t. Don’t be afraid to hit Ctrl-Z sometimes.

Crossing Creek #3 and not finding the trail.

#5 Know your bearings

On the Lost Coast Trail you just have to keep the ocean on your right and you’ll be fine. I don’t know what the equivalent is in life more broadly. If someone figures that out, please let me know.

Ocean on the Right, We’re All right.

#6 Dead whale smells really fuc*ing bad

Seriously, you can smell decaying whale flesh from a half mile away.

Huge decaying beached whale.

#7 California is beautiful

It’s basically the best state. I mean look at this:

Level 11 Experience

#8 Suffering builds character

I organize these adventure trips every year to suffer. Because I like suffering. Suffering is the key to growth. If you’re not suffering, you’re not pushing yourself.

Measured by that metric, the Lost Coast was too nice. The weather was good, the campsites were gorgeous, and the trail was flat. Basically it was amazing… it’s just that I wanted more suffering. I wanted to have altitude sickness at 14K feet. Or wade through waist deep mud for 23 miles. Or have to poop on a glacier in the middle of the night in a snowstorm. These are all things that have happened on previous trips, by the way.

Walking on these rocks was some suffering. But I wanted more.
This is how I want to feel at the end of a good adventure trip.

So yeah. More suffering. Maybe I’m just messed up.

#9 Take time to play

Don’t just hike through. Take time to pick up that starfish you see. Take time to make weird seal sounds and get the elephant seals to look at you. Take time to pretend to eat some crabs. Take time to go check out that stinking whale carcass on the beach. Take time to hike barefoot through the ocean. That was the best part of this trip — I felt like a little boy again playing at the beach.

Freshly washed up crab.
Starfish, anyone?

#10 Formula for a good adventure trip

Great Adventure Trip = Sense of Play + Good Dose of Suffering
Glorious sunset on the Lost Coast