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Many are familiar with California’s iconic Pacific Coast Highway also know as the PCH or Highway 1.  The PCH hugs California’s coast giving spectacular coastal views and access to coastal towns and beaches.  In Northern Mendocino County, the coastal terrain is too rugged and steep for a highway so the PCH leaves the coast and goes inland leaving an 80 mile stretch of highwayless coast.  This 80 mile stretch in Northern Mendocino County and Southern Humboldt is referred to as the Lost Coast.

The Lost Coast is a popular destination for backpackers, surfers, mountain bikers, and occasionally kayakers.  Its steep topography makes it challenging and potentially punishing for any who venture into it.  Mountain bikers are familiar with the Prince of Pain – a 1200′ climb with 19 switchbacks.  Hikers know the challenge of miles of hiking through sand and traversing up and down the steep ridges and gulches.  Surfers deal with the challenge of getting boards to remote breaks for ever changing conditions.  Kayaking on the Lost Coast is probably even more challenging.  Steep dumpy beach breaks are always hazardous but the weather is quite variable and extreme with high winds, surf, and fog.   However; for those who have the skill and fortitude, the scenery of the Lost Coast is spectacular.

Each fall, Jeff and I retreat into the Lost Coast to enjoy its rugged beauty and wilderness.  This year, our goal wasn’t to explore miles and miles but to kayak in and set up base camp(s) and rest, relax, and play.  We chose the Karma RG because of its ability to haul a lot of gear and because it would be fun and playful for rock gardening and surfing.

We are continually amazed at how much we can fit into the RG’s and were stoked to find out that our bear canisters fit through the back hatch and into the stern compartment of our RG’s. It felt luxurious to be able to pack hiking boots, books, solar panels, extra fleece, beverages, fresh fruit and vegetables.  After packing all of our gear, I was still finding nooks in the stern where I could stow more tasty beverages.

The downfall of taking the kitchen sink is a lot of weight to launch and land through surf.  Fortunately our trip started with small seas and our plan wasn’t to paddle lots of miles loaded.  We planned to paddle in, unload and set up base camp, and then go play.  Typically, we don’t use the RG’s skeg but with the RG heavily loaded, we both found using the skeg essential.

We were surprised by the number of hikers that we came across on our trip – making us think that the Lost Coast isn’t so “Lost”.  The hikers seemed equally surprised to come across us.  We were definitely an item of curiosity and envy as they came to visit us in camp.  They asked us about how we got there, how easy would it be for an average person to kayak on the Lost Coast, and if we paddled through the sea caves and arches.

Despite seeing humans, we quickly immersed ourselves into nature.  We were treated to quiet hikes through fern and mossy canyons of old growth trees into groves of giant coastal redwoods.

Listening to the trickle of streams, cries of sea birds, and the thundering of the surf, we watched dolphins feast and frolic, an otter family return from a hunting excursion in the kelp beds, and Roosevelt elk resting and grazing.

Small swell conditions allowed us to meander among the sea stacks and through arches and sea caves.


Despite the small swell, launching and landing on the steep beaches required timing and boat control skills.

On the third day of our trip, we were planning to do some paddling and exploring a little further up the coast.  The swell was building and a wave was starting to break just off the beach where we were camped.  Plans to explore were nixed as clean waves started to break.  It was the perfect angle wave for the RG’s.  We had a blast carving on the face and working bottom and top turns.

That night, we could hear the surf building.  The next day, exploration plans were not even discussed as waves were peeling just 50 yards away from our tent.  We surfed and surfed and surfed.


The waves were the front runners of a coming storm front.  That night we were treated to spectacular skies but also knew that it was time to start heading for home.

We just beat the storm into our final campsite for the trip.  It was a relief to have landed and have our tent set up as the storm blew in.

The rain was beautiful and a great ending to our trip.

So long for now – Lost Coast – we will return again soon.