October 4, 2011

The Lost Coast

Two roads lead into an area of Northern California known as the Lost Coast. Matolle road snakes in from the north, leaving the small picturesque town of Ferndale and cutting through the region’s infamous rugged hills. Turning off 101 and heading through the Redwoods, a filming location for Jurassic Park,  Briceland Thorn road is the “mellow way in.”  Due to these vehicle constraints and constant erosion, roughly 50 miles of coastline and the surrounding hills have not been developed beyond the occasional house and ranch.

After driving through central Oregon with a quick stop at Elk Lake,  Dan and I met up in Arcata and headed towards the Lost Coast.  Despite its relative proximity to the Bay Area and the Northern California cities of Eureka and Arcata, the area remains unknown to most outside of the hippy, backpacking, and libertarian communities.  At a gas station in Eureka, a little more than an hour north of the Lost Coast,  an inquisitive clerk asked where we were headed with our “Bajaing Rig.”  “The Lost Coast,” we respond, prompting a dumbfounding look on his face and another question, “Where is that.”  After a brief explanation, we topped off our tanks and headed south.

Crashing with a friend of Dan’s in Petrolia, we spent three days surfing, exploring the rugged coast line and photographing locals for The Burning House Book.  Think of Big Sur without route 1 and one road going in and out.

Anyone know what kind of cattle these are?

Dan in the distance observing the coast.  No one for miles.

According to the 2010 census,  roughly half of the residence in the largest town in the region, Petrolia, are off the grid.  Harvesting solar in the summer and hydroelectric the rest of the year,  people live an isolated, community based life.  Because the nearest police station is an hour from town,  people in Petrolia use a community based phone tree as opposed to 911.  As for the economy,  lets just say that a marijuana leaf graces one side of a Petol coin, the local currency.


Travel magazine refers to the area as, “too lovely to be believed, perhaps too beautiful to last.” Based on its remoteness and difficulty to navigate, I think it will be around for awhile.  Its one of the wildest places I have been on the West Coast.  I will be back soon.


Here are some more links,

The Lost Coast (Picasa),

The Lost Coast (Wikipedia).


  • October 4 , 2011

    Great post, sounds intriguing.
    Curious what a phone tree is and how it works.

  • October 4 , 2011

    Amazing what Google can do…

    “a list of phone numbers provided to a group and notification by phone is started by the first person and continued consecutively; a telephone campaign to offer reminders or poll the respondents and also ask the respondents to contact others by phone”

    Like school did for snow days

  • jason lam
    October 4 , 2011

    i went to school in arcata, and what a beautiful place. so many hidden jems up there.

  • October 4 , 2011

    its a pretty wild system of support. everyone waves to each other when they drive by. cell phones dont work and the only internet is done through satellites.

    that part of norcal is great. its really special.


  • Dave
    October 4 , 2011

    The cattle look like longhorns. Quite a few characters living down there so longhorns would fit right in.

  • October 5 , 2011

    [Last Photo] Looks as though you fall off the earth driving over the edge.

  • October 5 , 2011

    incredible. i’m envious of your travels and am itching to do the same.

  • October 5 , 2011

    Wow! I am so glad this HOME of ours still has places like that!

  • October 5 , 2011

    The cattle above look like small Longhorns. Love the site by the way. Looking forward to the book.

  • October 5 , 2011

    the cattle had spots and shit on them. the same couple that owned the cows also had zebras and a giraffe.

    thanks for the kind words,


  • October 5 , 2011

    Those would be tasty cattle. My favorite kind.