Steve and I drive into Sinkyone State Park on the Monday before Memorial Day weekend, both new to the Lost Coast. Sinkyone is named after the Sinkyone people who used to inhabit the land and continue to steward the surrounding area.
The road is far worse than I expect for a state park, and I posit that the Needle Rock “Visitor Center” is a euphemism for “bulletin board” as we bump down the tiny dirt road in Zygote, my Honda Fit (R.I.P. Old Goat). Happily, I’m wrong and we pull up to a stately old house and two friendly camp hosts eager to share their knowledge of the local flora and fauna.
Ticks are in season and can carry Lyme disease here, so they give us a sprig of pennyroyal to rub on our skin and clothes as a natural tick repellent. We smear it all over and take the sprig to help us identify more on the trail.
We’re to watch out for escaped domesticated pigs that wreak havoc on the meadows, and rumored to be in the area. They also tell us about an elk who will be guarding her calf from a distance, and warn us to allow a wide berth.
The camp hosts reassure us that the Lost Coast bears aren’t like Sierra bears and we can leave food in the car (with reasonable precautions like keeping it out of sight) and hang the food that won’t fit in the Ursack, big no-nos in places like Yosemite. They even lend us a bit of rope to that end. Bear canisters are not required, unlike in neighboring King Range National Conservation Area, the north stretch of Lost Coast.
The 3 mile hike from Needle Rock to Bear Harbor along the recently closed road is easy and peaceful with wonderful ocean views and a taste of wildflowers to come. We see no one and are awed at the splendor of Bear Harbor.
As we snack on a huge driftwood log a river otter comes down the river and we watch it flop its way into the ocean. Lucky. We make dinner and play rummy and then stay up watching the fire flame.
Lost Coast Logistics
The fee is $5 per person per night at the trail camps. You can self-register at the kiosk outside of the visitor center or go inside where there is a little station and you can get change from the camp hosts.
There are currently no quotas, although with the new implementation of quotas on the Northern section, they are expecting even more crowds this Memorial Day Weekend (up to 50 parties camped at Wheeler) so there may be quotas in the future. We were told that summer weekends are variable - it could be mobbed or mostly empty. In any case, we feel grateful for our weekday vacation schedules.
There is a faucet with running potable water outside of the visitor center - the camp hosts say that although the sign says it is not officially fit for drinking that it is triple-filtered and they have never had any problems, so we fill up.
There are free state park maps at the visitor center in addition to the Wilderness Press Lost Coast map for $10.
There are outhouses at each of the trail camps - the one at Bear Harbor is even equipped with toilet paper! (Don’t count on it).
Fires are allowed as long as you either hike in bought firewood or collect driftwood. No other collecting of firewood is allowed. We found enough driftwood to have fires but I imagine after Memorial Day weekend the beaches will be picked dry.
We’d considered a shuttle so that we could hike down the coast to Usal without returning but quickly ruled that out due to the added time and expense, which are considerable with the difficult road access. Nothing wrong with a good old out and back!