If a Tree Falls in The Dark…

Since moving to California, I have been immersed in a seemingly endless supply of local wine and craft beers to tickle my tastebuds. Having been to Napa and Sonoma several times, this trip took us up to Mendocino and Anderson Valley to explore the tastes of the coast.

Half of our group headed up to Van Damme State Park on Friday afternoon to camp at the Fern Canyon Trail camp, a short two mile hike in. These spots were nestled in a valley under the canopy of the Redwoods towering high above, and, unlike the park’n pitch sites at the entrance of the state park, were private and available!

Baking pizza using a Fry-Bake from Banks Fry-Bake Company

The sun set quickly as we got a campfire going and started making dinner. It was a two-part meal, starting with some excellent chicken and bean fajitas, and finishing up with a pepperoni pizza.

I baked the pizza in my new Fry-Bake that I had brought along to start practicing with for future trips. While it took about an hour to bake my pizza to perfection, it was well worth the wait!

Goldeneye Vineyard

The next morning we left camp a little after 9am, but not before baking some cinnamon rolls. I cheated a little here in that I used some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls since we had brought along  a cooler, though I’m sure they would be fine in a backpack for a day or two.

We met up with the rest of the group at Goldeneye Winery. Known for their Pinot Noir, they offered a very nice seated tasting on their back patio.

We visited a couple more wineries before heading over to the Anderson Valley Brewery. They had a great selection of beers on tap, many of which are only available at the brewery. By this time it was about 4pm, and the temperature was approaching 100°F, so sipping on some cool beer was just what we needed.

From here, we made our way back to the campground to make some dinner.

The real excitement of the trip came after dinner. The sun was down and it was pitch black under the cover of the trees. We were the only ones in the camp this night, and were trading stories around the campfire when we heard a loud crack come from the dark. It was close, and it was followed by a second, then a third. Somewhere, out in the dark abyss, there was a tree coming down, and we had no way to see where it was. So we froze, looking at each other across the campfire.


We heard the tree land and it sounded big. Relieved that it hadn’t landed on us, we began to joke about our ‘deer-in-headlights’ response and raised the question:

If a tree falls in the dark, and no one is able to see it, does it land on you?

Flickr Album

Banks Fry-Bake Co

Lost Coast Trail Part II

Check out the 1st part of this trip HERE

Saturday, May 19, 2012 – Spanish Flat to Big Flat

Sunrise over Spanish Flat

Saturday was going to be an easy day. We were only going 7.5 miles to Big Flat and didn’t have to cross any sections that were dependent on the tide. I woke up at 7am as the sun was starting to show over the ridge. The morning was cool, but the night had been warmer than the previous one.

I wandered down to the beach to watch the sunrise and snap a few pictures. On the way back to camp I grabbed the bear canister to make some breakfast. Paul and Charles had yet to emerge from their tent, but it wasn’t long after I started fumbling with the stove that they crawled out.

Bear Tracks!

The low morning tide had revealed some large rocks covered in mussels. After a trip to the beach, Paul returned to camp with a half dozen of the little guys filling his pockets ready to cook up for breakfast. They weren’t gourmet restaurant style, but they weren’t half bad…

We rolled out of camp at about 9:30am taking an easy pace down the beach. It wasn’t long before we realized we were following the tracks of a bear, and since the tracks were below high tide line, we figured we must not be far behind!

We stopped for lunch by Kinsey Creek, where we were passed by a couple, also on their way towards Big Flat. After lunch, the trail took us slightly inland over a ridge giving us a spectacular view of the trail stretching down the coast.

Walking down the dirt landing strip towards Big Flat

As we neared Big Flat, the trail took us down the middle of a dirt runway that was the access for a small cabin. It was a good thing no one was trying to land, because it would have had us diving off into the grass!

We got to Big Flat camp about 2PM. The couple that had passed us during lunch was sitting across the stream behind some bushes. We made camp a short ways up stream, just above high tide line.

Camp overlooking Big Flat Creek

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the surroundings and working on our tans.

Throughout the afternoon, several groups strolled by, but none stopped for the night, even the couple that had been there when we arrived eventually moved on, leaving the whole area to us.

After dinner we took in another amazing sunset, followed by some  stargazing by the camp fire.

Sunday, May 20, 2012 – Big Flat to Shelter Cove

Looking down the beach at low tide

I woke up at 6am. Low tide had peaked at 5:55am, and we had 6 miles to cover before high tide. Based on how quickly we had been moving, we planned on leaving camp by 7:30am.

The first hour of hiking was well out of reach of the tide, but after 2 miles, we climbed down a short cliff onto a stretch of beach that would definitely be underwater at high tide… 20ft cliff to the left, ocean to the right, and not a lot of room in between.

This stretch continued a ways before opening up a bit were we crossed two streams where the other groups had set up camp. They were all just starting to break down their camps, having opted for the hike farther-sleep later plan…

Fog over takes us

By 10am we had cleared the high tide section. We were well ahead of schedule, so we stopped for an early lunch with only two miles to go.

On the final stretch the fog rolled in giving the beach an erie feel. This was definitely Bigfoot weather!

By the time we reached the car, the fog had cleared and we headed back north to retrieve my car. This time we avoided King Peak Rd.

Back at the Mattole River, we hung out on the beach for a bit waiting on a very special show… This afternoon was the annular eclipse! As the moon moved into position, and the light from the sun dimmed, a thin layer of clouds moved in providing the perfect filter for viewing the eclipse, and allowing Paul to take some pretty awesome pictures! What a treat!

Composite image of the annular eclipse (Photo Cred: Paul)

Check out more photos from the trip on Flickr!