MoJo Coastwalk has officially launched! We are en route on the California Coastal Trail.
We hit the trail on Sunday May 1, 2016 with perfect sunny weather in Del Norte County. The sand was radiating warmth, the waves were crashing into bright white foam, and we were ready to get some miles behind us.
We started our journey at the California Coastal Trail’s northern terminus at Crissy Field State Park at the Oregon-California border. Boots hit sand and we pointed them south toward their destination, 1,230 miles away at the California-Mexico border. With the Pacific Ocean on our right, and all of California before us, we marched onward along the CCT.
Approaching Pyramid Point on our first day
After a few short miles, we arrived at the crystal clear waters of the Smith River, California’s largest undammed river and one of its cleanest (#2 or #3 depending on who you talk to). Residents along the Smith draw their drinking water directly from the river, a testament to its purity. Mike of Mike Coopman’s Guide Service was waiting with his boat at the river, ready to ferry us across our first river crossing. Thank you Mike! Reach out to Mike if you are considering hiking this section and need to find a way across the Smith.
We did not want to leave the Smith River–it was so beautiful and clear!
On the other side of the river, we walked several miles down a sandspit sprinkled with sanddollars, and entered Tolowa Dunes State Park. The Tolowa Dunes were idyllic; a perfect ending point for our first day on the trail. We took off our packs, leaned against a driftwood log to soak it all in, and high-fived in the golden light when a mom and baby whale sighed puffs of breath from their blowholes, which hung in the air, illuminated against the setting sun.
The next morning we awoke near Yontocket, the spiritual center for the Tolowa Dee-Ni’ tribe. We said a few words of respect and gratitude before starting our trek down the broad sandy beach again. With heavy packs on our backs, we noticed the slanting beach slope in our tight left hips. Hope we don’t end up lopsided!
We were so thankful for our incredibly stylish gaiters, keeping sand out of our boots.
Most of the day was beach walking past dunes covered with European beachgrass, a nonnative plant that changes the naturally shifting dune dynamics and native dune plant communities. We ended our day at Point St. George near Crescent City with a view of the St. George Reef Lighthouse, six miles offshore.
Tolowa Dunes State Park is such a special place in Del Norte county. The sand dunes and wetlands are biodiversity hotspots, featuring over 1,250 plant, animal, and fungus species. This coastal area is recognized as a “Global Important Bird Area” and is a critical stopover on the Pacific flyway for migrating ducks, geese, and swan.
On our third day, we had our first hike-along in Crescent City. Folks came out to meet us at Point St. George in the morning, and we were overwhelmed by their kindness and positive support. Thanks to our first newspaper article in the Del Norte Triplicate, word got around that MoJo Coastwalk was coming through town. Thank you to all of our new coastal trail friends in Crescent City: Candace, Jeff, Martha, Martha, Nancy, Nancy, Jim, Kathy, and others we met along the way! We were especially touched by Jim Holmes and his wife, who generously donated to our cause. As we walked with our new crew, we were excited to see our first CCT sign on Pebble Beach Drive, and many more to follow through the harbor and out of town. County Supervisor Martha McClure even put up a MoJo Coastwalk banner for us along the trail–thanks Martha! We had a delicious seafood lunch at the Chart Room in Crescent City Harbor: crab, scallops, and fish. Yum! Big thanks to Jeff Parmer for showing us around town.
We loved the first crew to join us on the trail in Crescent City!
Our first CCT sign, spotted in Crescent City.
As we walked out of town, the view to the south perfectly illustrated Crescent City’s motto: where the redwoods meet the sea. Redwood National and State Parks lay before us–we were heading into the wilderness. For the next two days, we walked through virgin redwood forests and camped in backcountry sites in the park. The coastal fog blew silently through the redwoods, providing the trees with an essential source of water. Even when the ocean was out of sight, we could hear waves crashing far below, and occasionally the trees would part and offer sweeping views of the rugged coastline.
Where the redwoods meet the sea
Backpacking in a temperate rainforest–happy to have our rain gear!
Part of our path was on the Old Redwood Highway, which was once a thoroughfare for Model Ts, and is now a single-track hiking path. In places, the old pavement peeks through the forest floor and we imagined the automobiles of the 1920s bumbling over the coastal mountains. We want all highways to become trails. 🙂
During our journey we passed into the ancestral lands of the Yuroks, California’s largest tribe. Their culture is centered around the Klamath River and its abundant fisheries. One of our favorite paths was an ancient Yurok trail that guided us to a special hidden beach.
When we came upon the Klamath River on our fifth day, we were struck by its beauty. So thankful to be welcomed at the quaint and historic Requa Inn, we soaked our tired limbs in the hot tub and enjoyed our last night in Del Norte County.
Del Norte County is definitely delightful–we will be back!