The van dream came to full fruition these past few weeks as I was lucky enough to get a big chunk of time off work to travel the west. After a week in Wyoming backpacking in the Winds, it was awesome getting back to the van (after a lucky 70 mile hitch) with no real plans for the remaining two weeks of our trip other than we knew we would be picking up Joe C for the final leg. Initially we had thought about heading back to Colorado to attempt a Sangre de Cristo traverse; but after the WRHR we were ready for a little r&r. We would have loved to explore the Greater Yellowstone area a bit, but the smokey conditions from the raging wildfires nearby weren't convincing us to stay. I had mentioned to Michele that I was craving the ocean, and she instantly agreed.
The drive to the coast was quite depressing really. Literally the whole Northwest portion of the US was being affected by the wildfires, and from The Tetons to Oregon we drove through a washed out, white haze. Idaho could be flat for all I know, and the volcanoes of the Cascades must have blown their tops because we sure couldn't see them. The saving grace of the drive was knowing that we would be passing through Bend, OR and stopping by what I believe to be the best bakery in the country. We first visited The Sparrow Bakery when we passed through Bend on the PCT back in 2013. I remember packing out an Ocean Roll, but wishing I had bought three more. Not only do all of their sweets look phenomenal, but their sandwiches are also out of this world. A serious must visit if you are in the area.
We hit the coast and Hwy 101 at Lincoln City, OR. A clear blue sky and cool ocean breeze greeted us. The next five days we slowly made our way down the coast, sticking to the winding, steep grades of Hwy 101/1 or whatever road kept us closest to the beach. We had lazy mornings/evenings (a rarity for us while traveling) cooking up fresh seafood overlooking the Pacific from the comforts of our home, all for free. The amount of ocean front "vamping", aka stealth camping, along the stretch of coast from Central Oregon to Point Arena, CA is amazing. Once comfortable with the idea, you realize there are numerous pull-offs and scenic vistas to call home for the night.
The real fun began when we left behind the crowds of Hwy 101, venturing onto SR 211 at Fortuna to head for Cape Mendicino and the Lost Coast. The path out there is a hidden gem; seriously, you get to Ferndale, CA and it appears as though that is the end of the road; it hardly even shows up on Google Maps. But SR 211 and the route to Petrolia (the nearest "town") is marked by an old archway, no road signs that we saw. The road sees very little maintenance, is steep, bumpy, and weaves its' way up and over the verdant yellow mountainsides of Cape Mendicino, eventually dropping you at the north end of the Lost Coast and the Kings Range.National Conservation Area. This is what makes the Lost Coast such an amazing place. On our only other visit to the area, we went to Sinkyone State Park in the southern section, and the only access point was 30 miles of dirt roads. This surprisingly remote section of the California Coast remains wild, untouched from development. We arrived at the beach just in time for sunset and parked the van for the night off the side of the road. Just us, and three surfers in the water who would later leave after sunset.
My only regret was not bringing the surfboard.