Not long after turning off of CA 101 onto Redwood Drive in Garberville, driving the 15 miles of narrow winding road toward the ranger station, I began to wonder what the hell I’d gotten myself into. I was excited to be spending a week on the coast, but I was quickly realizing that I didn’t know much more about the trip than that. It was a service project. It was backpacking. It was beach. That’s all I’d really given any thought to. I’d signed up for the project almost on a whim – it was going to fill a blank spot on the calendar and give me some much desired backpacking experience. Besides that, it was a chance to be “just” a volunteer and not have any leadership responsibilities- something I think is valuable to all outdoor leaders.
Had I done any of my usual planning and research I probably wouldn’t have done it. I would have been intimidated by the strenuous nature of the hiking and work. The impassable tidal zones would have freaked me out. The bear-factor would have concerned me. I would have allowed the unknown-ness to get the best of me. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t follow my usual plan. But two hours into the experience on Monday morning, with a 46lb pack on my back, 30mph winds whipping my hat off my head, and surf sneaking into my field of vision on one side with a wall of earth on the other, I was already calling “Mercy!”
But I did it. And I found a few things:
I found out that I CAN hike 20 miles through sand and over rocks with a full pack for five days.
I found a new respect for my body. I pushed physical limits and my body responded with little complaint (but did require a lot of ibuprofen!)
I found goodness in the kindness of relative strangers that checked in with me to make sure I was okay as I lagged behind the group.
I found out that I can poop on the beach (hint – never turn your back to the surf!)
I found reverence in impermanence. Almost every sight I saw along the 20 miles will never be seen again as the tide changes the landscape twice daily.
I found that I will never tire of watching the waves and wind battle each other.
I found strength I didn’t know I had. Both emotional and physical.
Too find yourself on the Lost Coast Trail, read more about it here http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/arcata/kingrange/krncatrails.html. There’s still much more to be said about the work, the food, the people…and the whole experience, so stay tuned!