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With my son in the Santa Cruz Mtns for the week and my wife in Hermosa Beach reffing sand volleyball, Jackie and I were left at home to fend for ourselves. In such situations my first question is usually along the lines of, "Hey, do you wanna go somewhere?" Usually this gets rebuffed because she has school projects due, a clinic to attend, a friend's birthday party or something that would keep her tethered to the home area. Being summer and with no social commitments on the horizon, this time I got an enthusiastic, "Sure!" I asked what kind of outing she might like and after some back and forth we settled on "short hikes with trees." I generally have little trouble matching such descriptions with some new peaks, so I decided we'd pay a visit to the King Range. This stretch of coastal peaks in the north part of the state is more popular for the legendary Lost Coast Hike that travels some 24mi of undeveloped shoreline. The southern anchor point for this hike is at Shelter Cove, a tiny community of secluded homes with one of the crappiest general stores I've ever seen and, oddly, an airport surrounded by a golf course. There's also a southern 28mi section of the Lost Coast further down the coast, but appears to be less popular. I made arrangements for us to stay a night at the Beachcomber Inn (decent and cheap, about $100/night) and spend a few days hiking the peaks of the King Range. The highpoint, King Peak, is a P2K and one of five CC-listed summits in the range. We didn't manage to hit all of these because not all have trails nor qualify as "short hikes," but we had a good time with the ones we visited and I was happy to leave more work for a future visit.
It was after 9:30a by the time we had reached the trailhead and were ready to set out. Mosquitoes came out to pester us in the ten minutes or so it took us to get ready, leaving us each with half a dozen bites, but they left us alone the rest of the day. The Lightning Trail climbs 2,000ft to the summit in about 2.5mi, steep but manageable. The trail switchbacks to keep the gradient fairly steady for most of the ascent. Usually socked in with summer coastal fog, the range was all blue skies today, and warm to boot - it would be 85F by the early afternoon. We spent about an hour and a quarter hiking to the summit, mixed forest in the lower regions, becoming manzanita-covered chaparral at the top. A solo backpacker and a party of two with a dog were just leaving the open summit when we arrived. Because the trail approaches from the inland north side, the ocean doesn't come into view until one reaches the summit, and oh, what a view it is. I had expected it to be more forested, perhaps like the Santa Cruz Mtns, but it resembled the Ventana Wilderness views more with steep rugged canyons dropping 4,000ft down to the Pacific. Some fog could be seen 40mi to the north over Eureka, but for the most part it was hazy blue skies in all directions.
A wooden summit shelter has been erected just below the top, its roof making for a nice picnic platform from which to take in the views, the surface doubling as the summit register. We spent about 3/4hr at the summit chatting away and drinking in the scenery. Our descent off the top made use of a portion of the King Crest Trail to make a small loop before returning to the Lightning Trail which we took back to the start.
After checking into the Beachcomber Inn we took much-needed showers before exploring Shelter Cove some. There isn't much to this little community. We visited the decommissioned lighthouse (rescued from eroding cliffs further north years ago and placed on safer ground) and then the tidepools down at the shoreline. Jackie loves these little ecosystems teeming with crabs, anemones and other tidal creatures and can spend hours exploring them. I found things among the pools and shore rocks to amuse myself and after we'd both had our fill we returned to our room to make dinner (oh, and we got some Ben & Jerry's at the crappy general store) and rest up for the next day.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: King Peak
This page last updated: Sat Jul 18 21:52:05 2015
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