decline magazine May 2013 : Page 84
084 feature lost coast The area’ s rich logging littered throughout history is the woods. Following photographer Fraser Britton down one of the many fast, super- owy descents of the week.
Feature Sacred Rides – Exploring The Lost Coast
ONE OF THE BEST PARTS OF BEING A MOUNTAIN BIKER IS THE NEVERENDING QUEST FOR NEW ADVENTURES AND BEAUTIFUL LOCATIONS. WHILE THERE IS A TIME AND A PLACE FOR AIMLESS WANDERING, TIME IS USUALLY SHORT AND SOMETIMES WE NEED TO GET THE MOST FROM EACH FREE DAY WE HAVE. LUCKILY, THERE ARE MOUNTAIN BIKE TOUR COMPANIES LIKE SACRED RIDES WHO ARE HAPPY TO DO ALL THE LEG WORK FOR US. WELL, OFF THE BIKE THAT IS. ONCE YOU SIGN UP FOR A TRIP, YOU’LL HAVE PLENTY OF YOUR OWN WORK, BUT LUCKILY IT’S RESTRICTED TO THE SEAT OF YOUR BIKE. LAST FALL, I HEADED NORTH TO EXPERIENCE A PRE-PLANNED, SUPPORTED TRIP THROUGH CALIFORNIA’S LOST COAST, COURTESY OF MARK BAEDER AND SACRED RIDES.
While Sacred Rides offers plenty of trips to far away places, I was excited to visit my northern backyard. For many, this is a seldom-explored part of California, where our group stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the dreadlocked transienttypes who were hitchhiking around looking for rides to local farms. We happened to be around during picking season, which added to the stereotypical NorCal marijuana experience. It made for lots of warnings from locals about wandering off trail into the woods, but we never once had a run-in while exploring the ominous redwood forests.
Sacred Ride’s Lost Coast trip is an eight-day adventure that begins in the little college town of Arcata. Guests can either ride up with their guide from San Francisco, or they can catch a commuter plane to a nearby airport. I highly recommend the latter option, as the drive is winding and arduous. One of the benefits of traveling with a company is the ability to relax and enjoy. The toughest decisions our group had to make were which line to take, or what to order for dinner. Having a tour guide and planned trip allow you to make the most out of a short vacation. No searching for trails, restaurants or bike shops. All the research is done, and guests have the benefit of showing up for the fun part: riding.
After a nice welcoming and bike build, the first day in Arcata started off with a quick skills assessment before heading to the trails. As with other days, zealous riders were offered a post lunch ride option if they didn’t get enough in the morning. With a special dinner waiting ahead, I went for it. Arcata has a rich history in the logging world, so we headed out to an historical lumber camp cook house. Loggers had lined up and refueled at the same red-checkered tables a hundred years before tourism was a part of the local economy. In fact, outsiders weren’t even allowed into the cook house until about 25 years ago. After wandering the town square in a food coma, hopping from bar to bar, we wandered back to our turn-of-the-century hotel and crashed out so we could be ready for our next day on the trails.
We headed out of Arcata and got some quality trail time, roaming the mountains where the first Bigfoot footage was ever filmed. After a long climb, we were treated to some rooty descents that had us whooping like a Sasquatch looking for beef jerky. Berms and lips were built in the middle of nowhere. Before heading back to Arcata, we stopped at a local Bigfoot museum to pick up a couple of souvenirs. This area embraces the Bigfoot phenomena, with devout groups of believers and skeptics.
Once back in town, we ate well and packed our gear in preparation for the next morning’s departure. As the sun began to warm the air, our group was up and loading the van before heading south towards the redwood empire. The scenic car ride ended in the Humboldt Redwoods, where we geared up for one of the prettiest climbs of the trip. Just as my legs started resisting, a rolling ridgeline fire road came into view, giving me just enough rest to continue on. From here on out, gravity was my friend on the fast, flowy, tree-filled singletrack. As with any first descent, we overcooked blind corners and blew switchbacks. It was here Fraser ended up on his ass and slid across the damp ground as we all laughed. I quickly forgot about the lactic acid in my legs and focused on drifting over the leaves that littered the soil beneath me. After a downhill long enough to draw the lactic acid from my legs into my forearms, we joined the Park’s meandering road and pedaled through a grove of redwood trees that are the oldest and tallest in the world.
That night we spent in a bed and breakfast run by the same family for generations, and the bar just across the street had the kind of stuff you can’t make up. The proprietor, an old Merchant Marine, was sitting in an EZ Boy recliner watching television with slippers on while a toothless bartender laughed with locals. While most of the guests ended up going to bed after one drink, I decided to stay with one of the Canadian journalists to enjoy the local flavor, which in this case involved helping the aforementioned bartender and his friend throw a tarp over his leaking trailer. The rains in NorCal are sporadic, and he wanted to preserve the interior of his run-down home before the next storm moved in. I laughed my ass off, looking around for a hidden camera, thinking I was on a prank show. The comedy hour had me crying, as these real-deal backwoods types made fun of the Canadian for every stereotypical reason you could think, then started calling each other names as they tied soup cans to the rope and tossed the tarp from one side to the other. If only I had a GoPro.
The next morning, we packed up the van and hit the road for the Lost Coast. Our destination was Shelter Cove, an airport community with a small runway that sits just above the shoreline, and wild animals eating grass at the pavement’s end. Oddly, IMBA built one of their certified Epic trails on the peak just above Shelter Cove, but we didn’t see tire tracks for hours in every direction. IMBA treated the woods to one hell of a trail, and while some of us were a bit skeptical about the “IMBA-ed out dirt sidewalk” trail, we were quickly put in our place. This is definitely one of the most memorable rides I’ve ever done. The descent had multiple line choices, each of which made us want to turn around to ride all of our options. The trail also had long climbs in the quietest woods I’ve ever been in. Since IMBA had constructed a top-notch trail, they decided to throw in a pumptrack and three jump lines to complete the bike park-esque experience. Ripping berms and floating tabletops deep in the forest was one of the highlights on Day 5. With everything from beginner-friendly rollers to sizeable tables, IMBA really impressed the pessimistic riders on board.
After the ride, we fired up the BBQ at our cliff-side hotel and played ping-pong before jumping in the hot tub to soothe our aching muscles. We were presented with the opportunity to plan our next day’s adventure: ride some more at IMBA’s Paradise Royal network, or take in the sights of a black sand beach while hiking up the coast. As we sat in the hot tub and watched the sun set over the Pacific, we contemplated our decision. It wasn’t a hard choice. Why walk when you can ride?
After two days in Shelter Cove, we headed back over the mountains towards Route 1. Here, the Pacific Coast Highway diverts inland, since the rugged coastline once overpowered the adventurous road builders. The drive from Shelter Cove to Mendocino covers some of the prettiest territory on the trip. Guests were invited to stop the driver along the way for photo opportunities or skinny-dipping in the ocean. We completed the drive and unloaded in Mendocino, a former logging community of roughly 900 people with a love for the arts. The final two days in this village were a great way to wind down the trip.
After a pleasant night cruising the town, we woke early, ate our breakfast, and prepared for some purpose-built single track. Mendocino has a variety of trails, from century-old hiking paths to freshly cut mountain bike lines. Our first-day ride was a bit shorter, which gave us a chance to have lunch on the rugged bluffs overlooking the ocean. From there guests were allowed to do some more sightseeing, or take advantage of a river kayak tour before heading to one of the local restaurants for dinner.
Day two in Mendo was epic. The ride was the long set of the trip, but the biker-built singel track kept us motivated for more. The long day on the bike led guests back into old growth, meandering through old logging areas where boilers from the early Twentieth Century were abandoned to gather moss. Mendocino has a small, devout bike scene, but they have been hard at work. On the trip, we had riders from Europe, Canada and the U.S., and we were all grinning as we felt the rich soil spray from beneath our tires.
Sacred Rides took great care of our group during the trip. The scenery, trails and people along the way created memories for the rest of my life. National Geographic’s Adventure magazine rated Sacred Rides number 1 for a reason. Mark Baeder, our guide, was friendly, full of energy, and always willing to go back out for more.
Trips from Sacred Rides are available all over the world, at all times of the year. Trips to the Lost Coast are available in May, June and August. If you’re short on time and want to maximize your trip by letting knowledgeable guides show you the local treasures, a trip like this is a solid bet. While this isn’t a gravity oriented trip, it wasn’t designed to be. If you love nature, adventure, and aren’t afraid to pedal deep into the woods for some epic descents, you will definitely have a great time. Be warned though, not any slouch can sign up and show up. Over the course of our trip, we rode over 100 miles and climbed close to 20,000 feet, or 15.5 miles and 2,600 feet per day. All that up does mean down, so before you wuss out, just think about how much of a bad ass you’d be if you came home and told your friends how you climbed and descended 20,000 vertical feet in one week – all under your own power.