Joshua Tree

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Get outside! Camping and Hiking

Deciding to camp in Joshua tree in late December was a tough one.  The park is beautiful, but the temperatures drop below freezing regularly, and you might only see highs of in the 40’s.  Having an adventurous side has its perks, so off we went.  There are lot’s of camping sites in the park itself.  White Tanks was one of my favorite and the most beautiful.  The campsites inside the park have no access to water, but do (most) have bathrooms.

This campsite has access to Arch rock, a pretty short but popular hike.  A lot of rock climbing to do around here.

Another great campsite is Jumbo Rock.  A well organized, great place for scrambling, a perfect place to camp.

Skull rock is right next to this campsite, and you could either walk to it, or drive as it’s located right off the road.  A unique pattern of wind and water erosion has lead this rock to look like a human skull.

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There are also campsites outside of the park, for those who didn’t book far enough ahead of time, or if you like knowing there is comfort of food and grocery stores 5 miles away.  We stayed at Black Rock Campground, near Yucca Valley, which 20 miles north of I10 on the 62.  This really was a beautiful campground, well maintained, a couple potholes, but most have been paved over since the reviews I have read.

With easy access to town, and firewood (and trust me, when camping in December in Joshua Tree, you will need A LOT), this was the perfect campsite.

If you are looking to camp in Joshua Tree in the winter, pack warm clothes, the wind will make it feel colder than it reads, make sure you bring enough water into the park, and bring a camera, there are quite a bit of stars to see out there!  :)

It also doesn’t hurt to have a guide.
-Joshua Tree: the complete guide

Next upcoming adventure – Joshua Tree for New Years

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My girl friend and I have decided to venture away from the crowded bars and streets of the cities, and into the wilderness of Joshua Tree, which (by the way) has some of the BEST stargazing in the world.  Just take a gander.MilkyWayParkEntrance_LLaw_688x400The-Milky-Way-Stargazing-in-California-Joshua-Tree-national-Park

We are excited to explore the hikes and the rocks and look at the stars.  We will, of course, be sharing our experience through this blog.  The nights WILL be cold so it is important to bring the right gear.

I bought (for my road trips and sharing with my gf and her 6 year old) a Marmot Unisex Tungsten 4p Tent.  I’ve used it to camp the entire Pacific Coast Highway and various other adventures in Sedona etc.  This tent has TONS of room, I can literally stand up in it.  The rain fly that comes down, has a ton of capacity for items to place under the vestibule to prevent from getting wet, and it can keep you warm.  I think it could comfortably sleep 4 full adults, maybe even 5!

I have a very warm sleeping bag from Western Mountaineering sleeping bags.  They have the best quality for warmth, they are expensive, but worth it.  If you are planning on camping somewhere freezing, it will be worth your while.

We are also planning on bringing tons of food with us.  A cooler full of items to cook and what not!  I know they have tons of stoves out there for backpacking, but what I never had was a car camping stove.  It’s a totally new idea to me!  So I went out and did some research and found an awesome one that has been working well.  Coleman Triton Series 2 burner works great, and its pretty cheap comparatively.  We cooked quesadillas and pancakes and eggs mostly, but you can use it for anything.  Better believe I’m bringing this with me!  Including my kitchen I’ve purchased mostly from the dollar store.  This is where you can completely skimp.  Plates, cups, forks, shredders, cutting boards etc, can all be bought at the dollar store.

One last purchase was a 5 gallon water container to have some water to last us days.  Its a pain to get water every morning and night when camping so its good to tow around.  Coleman water jug (5 gallon)Pretty cheap!  We will see how it works coming up!

Can’t wait to ring in the new year in a beautiful setting, with fires and stargazing!  I am excited to share it with you all.  Set the date, we set off December 29.

Oh, and I can’t forget my glow in the dark frisbee ;)

 

Joshua Tree, here we come!

 

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The Lost Coast Trail, an afterward

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The Lost Coast definitely left its impressions on me, and wanted me coming back for another adventure.  Just as any real adventure should.  Gandalf still calls me asking me where and when the next one is… We will know soon.

One thing you will definitely need, and this is a great help, is a map of the Lost Coast Trail.  There are a couple others out there with specific landmarks and such, but this makes use of the drinkable water coming up and whatnot.  Another thing to survive the Lost Coast is going to be a Sawyer Squeeze system.  This is a water purifier as not all water can be trusted.  This specific system is the favorite of Appalachian Trail hikers, it got me through the whole trail and so I used it on this trek.  One recommendation.  DO NOT GET THE MINI.  I know it costs less, but it is not worth the extra minutes getting water ready when everyone else is ready to go.

Add some sunblock, a backpack and all that gear I have from my  gear page

Well just the essentials, and you will be all set!

Bring a camera! If you don’t already have one, here are some great ones.
Best Point and Shoot Cameras

I brought a 16MP camera and am currently blowing some up into canvas for Christmas.  So spend the $$ on the good camera, it will be worth it in the long run.

I will recommend this trip for everyone, families included, as long as you stick to the northern section (which is all beach).  Bring 2 cars if you can, the shuttle is costly ($300+).

If you have no other reason to go and see a new place, just go for the views!

This was easily the most rewarding and visually stunning trip I have been on.  Since the first section is only 24 miles, families with young children can and should venture out into this wilderness.  You won’t regret it!

Gear

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My 2014 Appalachian Trail Gear List.  This is also a good way for all of you 2016’ers to double check that you have everything!  I have successfully hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in 152 days!!!  I won’t say I know everything there is to know about gear, but I can say this.  What I had, worked for me, and I finished.  That, in itself, should say a lot.

 

EDIT – Pack Base weight – 20.2 lbs.  This will change by the end of the week.

Base weight packed bag (no food,water) 20.2 lbs

Unpacked bag (no food)

Packed bag (no food,water) base weight - 20.2 lbs.

Packed bag (no food,water) base weight – 20.2 lbs.

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Tent/pack/sleep

Backpack + Raincover
-I used the ULA Circuit 2.2 lbs, however I ended up switching to this

Osprey Exos 58 at 2.7 pounds, it’s still lightweight, and can fit A LOT more in it.

Raincover  Osprey Ultralight Raincover
3.7 oz (seriously ultralight)

Tent and groundclothMSR HUBBA 1P Tent2 lb 7 oz, down to 1 lb. 10 oz.  This lasted me the entire trip, I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS TENT!

MSR Hubba Footprint (for under tent)7 oz.

Sleeping bag (winter)Western Mountaineering Sycamore$480 – expensive is worth is when you are camping in the cold!  I hiked in 2.5 ft of snow, and the temps hit downwards of 13 degrees.  (25*) Regular – 2 lbs w/ stuff sack

Sleeping bag linerSea To Summit Thermolite Reactor Plus  $65.  (adds 20* warmth) 9.3 oz

PadThermarest NeoAir Xlite (regular) 12 0z. (Lightest for long trips, mine lasted the entire AT)

What I’m wearing

Shoes + InsolesSaloman Xa 3d Pro Ultra II Trail Running Shoes  /Insoles –Superfeet Green 1.76 lbs (both trail runners and insoles)  Now that is light.  Superfeet saved my life, and I believe I hiked the entire trail because of them.  They are worth checking out.  They have a couple options, but Green are the toughest.

Socks – Darn Tough  3 0z.   Best socks with life time warranty.  Get them.

UnderwearExofficio give and go mesh briefsPrevent the chafe.  You will thank me later.  Exofficio are THE BEST underwear to hike in.  I started off with regular briefs and barely survived.  I switched to these and they were a life changer.

SS Shirt – Patagonia Mens Merino Silkweight T-shirt 4.8 oz.

LS Shirt – Smartwool Midweight Zip Top 8 oz.

ShortsNylon running shorts 3.8 oz.

Trekking poles – Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork 1 lb 2 oz. I cannot stress this enough, trekking poles will save your knees and joints on long distance hikes.  This specific type of trekking poles were the MOST popular on the trail, as they left no blisters on your hands.  The price is worth it.  Black diamond is a great company.

Wallet – small ziploc bag will hold wallet/phone/headphones – will replace as needed

Watch – High Gear Alti-Xt (records temp/altitude among other things I don’t need)  :) Overall just looks awesome.

Bandana – 1 oz.

Clothing

Stuff sack8 L Sea to Summit stuff sack 2 0z.

Cold weather jacket/pillowPatagonia New Nano Puff Hooded Jacket12.6 oz.  Yes, this doubled as my pillow during the night while inside a stuff sack.  All you need.

Underwear – extra pair (1)

Long UnderwearIcebreaker Mens Long Underwear7 0z.  Necessary if traveling in cold.  (It hit 13 at night on the Appalachian Trail, and some days were below freezing as well)

Short Sleeve Shirt – polyester T shirt for camp – 4 oz.

GlovesSmartwool Liner Gloves2.3 oz.

Socks – 2 pairs Darn Tough 6 oz.

Rain JacketPatagonia Mens Torrentshell Jacket14 oz.  Used for an entire 5 months on trail, kept me dry :)

Eating and Drinking

Water containers – 1 L water bottle and Osprey Hydraulics 2Liter Resevoir11.2 oz.

Water TreatmentAquamira drops 1 oz.

StoveJetboil Minimo14.6 oz – comes with it’s own pot.

Pot – I recently switched over to the Jetboil Minimo It has not disappointed!  It cooks meals quicker than the snowpeak, and comes with it’s own pot.

Bear line50 ft paracord 4 oz.

Spork – .64 oz.

Miscellaneous

Bag liner – Compactor trash bag 2 oz.

Duct Tape + lighters – 2 oz.

HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm Headlamp3.9 oz.  (I night hiked A LOT)

Camera + chargerNikon Coolpix AW120Waterproof, shockproof, Appalachian Trail proof – 9 oz.

Cell phone/charger/case/battery – Iphone 5s / New Trent (USB capable, charges 2-3 times they say)

Anker Dual USB Charger – Can charge 2 items simultaneously with 1 wall plug in.  (Handy for the phone/kindle, as well as when other people need to share the same outlet)

Glasses + case – Glasses/case/contacts/solution 6 oz.  I will be bringing contacts as well as glasses.

Hygiene – (toothbrush/paste/floss/nail clippers/soap (Dr Bronners peppermint)/germ-x)

Towel – bandana 1 0z.

First aid – (alcohol swabs/ibuprophen (lots)/benadryl/duct tape/bandaids/gauze/tweezers/safety pins) *Thanks Redditors!

Trail Guide/JournalAWOL 2014 NOBO Guide 8 oz.

Kindle– 10.5 oz.(I read countless books on the Appalachian Trail, I use the kindle on every trip.  Worth the less than a lb. of weight in my opinion)

KnifeSmith & Wesson extreme ops knife   3.2 oz.

Body Glide Anti Chafe – 1.5 oz.

Gear – The most important part of any adventure

I have been on quite a few adventures now.  Having thru hiked the 2185.3 mile Appalachian Trail in 5 months, taking some time to do a completely different hike on the west coast in a more remote and rugged section of the Lost Coast Trail, etc.  I have had time to evaluate and reevaluate hiking gear.  I have made a detailed list of the gear I have used on my page under the subsection gear.  Or here.

This can be used for long and short trips alike.  I picked out the best gear that worked for me, and I would like to share that information with you.  Please refer to my gear page here, and if you have questions, feel free to contact me directly!

Best,

-Stretch

Lost Coast Trail – Day 6

Little Jackass Creek to Usal Beach Campground – 7.5 miles

Total Trip – 56.40 miles

The last 7 miles were treacherous!  So if you are planning on hiking north and starting from USAL Beach Campground, tune in.  Waking up on the beach, for the last time, was a little depressing, but happy at the same time.  I knew I would be camping on my way back to Phoenix, wherever I wanted, but I also knew this was the last day of our journey.  I was kind of in a rush, because I needed to use the privy, and got lost coming out of Little Jackass Creek for a good 30 minutes.  I found the privy and realized I had left my TP at the campsite.  I was covered in burrs and thorn scratches from going off the trail accidentally so I decided I could hike 7.5 miles in 2-3 hours and be fine.  The first half mile was all uphill in a jungle, it was beautiful and I got some amazing views.    DSCN1169 DSCN1170

So after that really steep uphill, it was a really steep downhill, coming down the other side.  The trail was pretty much straight bushwacking at this point.  There was no maintenance and the brush that grows there grows really fast and thorny.  I felt like I got lost 7-8 times in this day.  Luckily, on my descent I ran into 2 hikers heading north.  I thought they were crazy for hiking this path uphill, which was a weird thought as I was doing pretty much the same thing as they were.  This section didn’t feel like the Lost Coast Trail to me.  There were some good views, but altogether it was a hot mess.

I made it down to the next campsite, where I had another uphill awaiting me.  I rested at the river and pushed on.  The foliage was dense jungle, I had to keep my trekking poles in front of me so that my face would not get all scratched up, my arms and legs were both bleeding, and I smelled.  Sound like fun?  The trail ended up on this desert terrain that went up and around mountains, very rocky, and switch backed a couple times.  I thought I was going the wrong way again.  There was one section, in particular, where the trail turned and went back the direction I Was coming from, and decided to take me all the way back down to the beach, before turning around and going back up.  I was devastated for about 45 minutes until I found that I was indeed, on the trail again.  Hiking this alone was a mental challenge.  So FYI, most of the pretty stuff is NORTH of Little Jackass Creek.  There are a couple good views before, but not much.

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All of a sudden, I was done, and it was about 11 am.  My beautiful car was sitting right where I left it, with clean clothes in it, and PBR that magically stayed cold!  I drank a couple before Roc Doc and Goat meandered out of the woods.  I saved them each one beer.  We all chilled and decided to camp out near Leggett so we could get some beer and food.  We had a fire, got trail drunk, and had ourselves a nice little evening.

All around, I recommend hiking just the Northern section of the Lost Coast Trail if you are with a large group and don’t have a lot of time.  If you aren’t with the kids, and have some extra time, feel free to get lost on the Lost Coast Trail, and hike the whole thing.  It’s worth it!

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Lost Coast Trail – Day 5

Jones Beach Camp to Little Jackass Creek – 13 miles

Total trip thus far – 48.9 miles
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First of all, I had a rough night sleep.  It was amazing going to bed on the ocean again.  It was really really windy though.  There was also a constant fear of a bear attack.  I woke up around 1:30 in the morning to a terrified person screaming.  Then another scream very close by.  Holy shit!  All of a sudden my tent was literally being pressed sideways, things were very loud, and it looked like 2 hands or paws pressing my tent inwards.   I screamed out loud OH HOLY SHIT!  Then it stopped, my tent was put upright, and everyone was shouting to eachother – What happened?!  Well, it turns out it got so windy, that a gust of wind had blown kamikazes tent pole into his tent, and pushed his tent over so he was almost flipped over.  He thought it was a bear attack so he screamed.  His screaming had woken me up, and in the dreamy daze I was in, noticed my tent going nuts and thought we were all under attack by a pack of bears.  (I didn’t realize a pack of bears wasn’t a thing).  It was friggin wind.  WIND.  So we ragged on Kamikaze for the rest of the trip.  AHHHHHHH AAAAAHHHHHHH!

So I started my day very early, with not a lot of sleep.  I had chosen to walk out by myself again.  I loved the mornings, and being alone for a short period of time during my favorite time of day is like heaven.  Also, my hip was bothering me again (IT band I believe) and I needed a longer time to go the same distance.  The first mile, as you can see above, was beautiful shoreline and cliff walking, gentle slopes, no real hard work at all.  And beautiful, did I say that?

I came to a visitor center which had free toilet paper, and spent some quality time there.  Apparently I was supposed to check in and pay, but I thought my visit was pretty productive.  The trail turned into a dirty road for a couple miles, and then into a very iffy trail, with lots of ups and downs!  Elevation GAINS!

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The views were beautiful!  Awe inspiring.  The scenery looked fake.  Roc Doc and Goat had caught up to me at one of the campsites.  There was a swimming hole, and we decided to wait for the others.  This was the first campsite we were supposed to stay at, but it was like noon.  We were flying.  Roc Doc set up his tarp to protect us from the sun (we were in the sun every day all day, and our laundry was dirty and there was no gym).  We took a very productive and long nap.  An hour later, Gandalf shows up, says the rest of them are just behind him.  It was HOT out.  DSCN1158 DSCN1159

We took off after a couple hours, and climbed the 1200 ft mountain that was in between us and our next campsite on the beach.  Stupid mountain.  Maybe it was because it was 90 degrees out, or maybe it was the sun that was bearing down on us, but that last climb was the most treacherous.  Blackberry plants just ripping your shins apart.  Burrs everywhere.  I managed to somehow lose the trail and went down a wicked steep mountain, with Roc Doc and Goat behind me.  They found the trail for me later on.  Sketchy.

We finally made it to the next campsite – which was literally called little jackass creek.  But it looked like THIS.  DSCN1163

I mean, holy shit right?  This trail is legit.  The camping at little jackass is very peculiar.  there are only enough spots for 5-6 people.  We were 5-6 people, and a group ahead of us had set up camp at like noon because they were selfish and lazy.  The only place to camp was on the beach, right about at high tide line.  We talked amongst ourselves about where the high tide could come, as you could see debris from it, and where a potential high tide COULD go.  Also, high tide wasn’t until 2-3 am.  So we set up camp and went to bed with the fear of God in us.  I must have woken up like 6 times when I heard waves crashing and looked outside.  The water came up and over the sand a couple times, but never hit our tents.

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Also it got super windy again in the middle of the night and Gandalfs tent stakes flew out.  He was basically sleeping in the sand with a tarp over his face.  Haha.  Another good day on the Lost Coast!

Lost Coast Trail – Day 4

Shelter Cove to Jones Beach Camp – 7.5 miles

Total trip thus far – 35.9 miles

Part of why I loved this trip so much was because we were doing very short mileage days.  Anything less than 10 is a nero in my book.  We actually planned this trip as to NOT crush miles, like we accidentally did on the Appalachian Trail.  Crushing miles is mentally fun, physically exhausting, and all around a euphoric feeling.  The opposite of that, is quite relaxing and partially boring.

We spent too much time in Shelter Cove, I got very restless.  There was only so many beers I could drink, and it started getting hot.  We had arranged to hang out until 3 pm and have the shuttle take us to the trail head and do almost no miles.  But we decided to leave an hour earlier and do a couple extra miles.

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This side of the trail (southern section) was completely different!  Talk about going up and down repetitively.  Add into the equation we started around the hottest time of day (2pm), and the fact that half of us blacked out the night before (I didn’t, suckers), the trail hit us HARD.  This trail is like part jungle, part desert.  The ocean side of the mountains are just straight up desert, hot, thorny, burrs everywhere, blackberry plants just ripping your shins apart, and the interior aspect of the mountains were a jungle you could only dream of, unless you have visited the Redwoods.  I liked the interior, although the views of the beach were on the ocean side.

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There is the ocean! FogDSCN1129 DSCN1131

Giant Redwood TreesDSCN1132The interior sections were all jungle.  Everything green, ferns up to your chest.  Jurassic World! DSCN1133 DSCN1135Ocean Fog would follow us for the rest of the trail DSCN1137 DSCN1138

Eventually we made it 5 miles in to where the trail made sense again.  It flattened out, and gave us some amazing views of the ocean.  I loved my traverse through the jungle, and felt like I was suddenly in Bend, Oregon when we came to the top of the mountains.  Pine trees and dry dirt, if you know what I mean.

Some of the views were awesome.  When we finally got to Jones Beach campsite, we were so impressed.  This was one of the best campsites!  Privy and everything!  Picnic tables?  Don’t mind if I do.  The beach is a 20 ft wide rocky slope, so no reason to go down there.  But the grassy cliffs we slept on were the best.

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Once everything was set up, we watched yet another amazing sunset.  Seems to be the theme of this trip.  Every day waking up on the ocean, and every night watching the sun set over the ocean.  Amazing.  It was tranquil, got cold quickly, and I was in bed at 9:30 ish.  This was probably my best night of sleep.  I was close enough to the beach to hear the crashing of the waves lull me to sleep, yet far enough away to not worry about getting swept away during a random high tide.

We slept under giant beautiful eucalyptus trees.  Jones Beach Campsite is worth the trip.

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This photo is awesomeIMG_5641

Lost Coast Trail – Day 3

Buck Creek to Black Sands Beach (Shelter Cove) – 7.2 miles

Total trip – 28.4 miles

I could have hiked this entire section in one long and arduous day, but I’m glad I didn’t!  The views were too amazing.  This hike to shelter cove was easy.  I was up early admiring the ocean yet again.  This time I got a little antsy and left before everyone else.  I probably left around 8 am, and arrived at shelter cove around 11:30 am.  I really had to poop, so that propelled me into town.  Options for the ol #2 are going where the high tide will sweep it away, or up the creek which was probably everyones water source, and poison oak was everywhere.  I chose to make it to town.

The first thing I realized when I left camp was… I was completely isolated.  There was no one around.  We had been seeing people, a lot of people, over the last couple days.  This morning I felt completely alone, and I loved it.  DSCN1100 DSCN1101 DSCN1102 DSCN1103 DSCN1105

Water sources are a plenty on the Lost Coast Trail, as many streams flow down from the mountains, as the ocean fog will keep replenishing.  At times, this section of the trail was quite rocky.  At other times, you could walk barefoot.  Oh man, I love walking (sorry, “hiking”) barefoot on the beach.

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Barefoot prints

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Time to relax.  No rush, only 7 miles to town, and I am pretty much done by 11 am.

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Roc Doc caught me on the last mile, and we hiked together into Black Sands Beach parking lot with pizza on our mind.  We noticed Shelter Cove was 2 miles up “the hill” as the locals called it.  Screw that, it’s like a 3000 ft mountain.  We hitched a ride into town from one of the local caretakers of the recreation areas and had some lunch at the cash only (only place open) deli.

Everyone else rolled in around 2-3 pm and we paid for a stupid campsite next to the cash only (only place open) deli.  Beer in shelter cove costs $15 for a 6 pack.  This town is not very hiker friendly at all.  So we ignored the weird stares, put up with the grumpy old guy that owns the only wifi in town, and drank as much as we could.

All in all, a good day.

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Lost Coast Trail – Day 2

Spanish Flats Campsite  to Buck Creek – 12.8 miles

Total Trip thus far – 21.8 miles

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Wow.  Falling asleep on the beach is just like you imagined it would be like.  Or just like you have done before.  Just like that time you spent in Mexico with your windows wide open, listening to the waves crash, softer and softer until…

6:30 am, and here I am!  It wasn’t a dream!  I am hiking the lost coast trail with some of my best friends from the Appalachian Trail northbound group from 2014.  I woke up early from habit, or the fact that I am doing something awesome and don’t want to sleep through it.  We lounged for about 3 hours, breaking down camp, having breakfast, just being on the beach.  It wasn’t windy today, the sun rose, the air had a slight breeze, it was beautiful.  We hiked for about 3 hours on the beach, real easy hiking, until we hit Millers Flat.  We decided that since the next mile was impassible at high tide, which was in a couple hours, that we would take a lunch nap.

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Morning hike!

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Stopping for some much needed water

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From whence we cameDSCN1067

Stopping for some water

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Lunch nap

As you notice, I am in the shade.  There is really no escaping the sun on the first part of the Lost Coast Trail.  While that’s not a bad thing, I was getting pretty red, and needed a nap in the shade.  We hung out here for about 2-3 hours, swimming in the small pond, combing the beach.  It was chill.

When we moved on, we came upon a bunch of hikers that were waiting for the high tide to roll out.  The waves were just crushing the cliffs and we would not be able to walk for another hour.  So we hung out some more on the beach…

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Once the tide rolled out, we meandered on.  We left a little too early, and had to run between wave sets, sometimes having to climb up the cliff to get out of the way.  I could see how this could become hazardous (especially at night).

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Pretty soon I stumbled upon this group of birds, and the smell was.. well, ominous.  I feared something dead.

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Yarrr, t’was a beached whale!  We found out from talking to people later in shelter cove, that it had been a floater for a couple months and then had been beached on the Lost Coast.

We arrived at another one of the BEST CAMPSITES EVER, seriously.  Camping on the beach is awesome.  I set up my tent, took pictures of my tent set up to prove that I had indeed set up my tent, and then murdered my dinner.  The whale far from my mind, my mind soaking in the view.  We all hung out til around 9 (sun sets at 8:40pm up there) and it got a little chilly.  Another perfect sunset.  More beautiful stars to look up at.  Who’s idea was this?!  Mine.

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Watching the sunset with the gangDSCN1079

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And then take a pictureDSCN1087

Sunset!

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My favorite picture

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I eventually fell asleep just staring out at that sky, feeling so blessed to be able to do something this amazing.

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