What do you mean I need a permit? Another lesson in preparation

I met a guy (an avid outdoorsman) a few months ago who told me the best place he had ever hiked was the Lost Coast in California. I had not heard of it before, but it’s one of the most rugged sections of the west coast located between Eureka and Fort Bragg. The Coastal Highway was actually diverted inland due to the terrain. I was excited for the challenge (and opportunity) since I was planning to drive up the coast, however I checked online and a few years ago the Bureau of Land Management instituted a permit requirement to hike the trail. Only 5 permits are issued per day, with a maximum of 60 people permitted to begin hiking the trail each day. On the 22nd, I checked the permit availability for hiking the Lost Coast Trail. There was one permit available the following day on the 23rd, and another available on…August 1st! Oh man, talk about lack of preparation on my part. I had heard that the trail is popular, but the scarcity of permits made it almost impossible for me to get on the trail in time (and it turned me off of the idea a little bit too). I had to be in Vegas on August 2nd so this wasn’t going to work unless I made the drive the following day to get the permit for the 23rd.

If I wanted to grab the single permit available for the next day (July 23rd) I would have to drive over 6 hours on Route 1 from Marin County and then take mountain roads for another hour or so just to get to the trailhead. I didn’t want to just breeze through the coastal highway and then start a super tough hike exhausted from driving (I would have to start hiking the same day due to the permit date). It crossed my mind, especially with how remote the area is: how much trouble would I get in if I hiked without a permit? Okay I wasn’t going to try that. The only other option I could think of was to drive to the trailhead and try to jump on another group’s permit, but I read that the permits are issued for specific group sizes. Ah Red Tape!

As hard as it was to forgo this opportunity, I will have to save this hike for the future. I think the Lost Coast would be a better hike with a group anyway; and as “hardcore” as I want to think I am, this would probably have been unsafe to hike alone.

So in lieu of a multi-day hike along the Lost Coast, I plan to return to Marin County for a multi-day hike around Point Reyes National Seashore. I am partial to the coast, and after taking a day hike at Point Reyes a few days ago, it’s my kind of place. But right now I have ventured north toward my northern terminus along the California coast: Redwood National Park.

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