Hiking the Lost Coast Trail….A Truly WILD Coast

IMG_3714WILDCOAST- the name itself implies that we work in some of the most beautiful and remote places in the world. This last week, however, I had a life-changing experience that brings a whole new meaning to wild coast. Do you like a story with bears, close calls with mother nature, and downright adventure? If you answered yes, then read on…

My job at WILDCOAST is to coordinate MPA Watch, a statewide network of organizations that trains volunteers to collect data on how humans are using coastal and marine resources. In other words, I get to take long walks on the beach for science. Sometimes, very long walks.

I recently received an offer from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Humboldt County to establish data collection sites along the 25 mile stretch of beach known as the Lost Coast. Excited to explore one of the most remote places in California, I grabbed our Conservation Coordinator Cory Pukini, Mexico Director Eduardo Nájera, and Wildlands Coordinator Francisco Martínez Vázquez and we set off for the adventure of a lifetime. The weather forecast looked wet but we thought nothing that our team couldn’t handle…working in the remote parts of California and the Baja California Peninsula like we do.

Two flights and seven hours later our team of intrepid explorers landed at the Arcata airport and met with the charismatic and knowledgeable Justin Robbins, an outdoor recreation planner for BLM. We geared up, filled ourselves with warm pho, and got a good night sleep at the Mattole campground where we would start our journey at sunrise the next morning.

At the first hint of dawn we set out equipped with everything we would need to survive three days in the wilderness including new gear generously donated to our team by Eagle Creek and Patagonia, bear canisters to save our trail mix from impending doom, and many supposedly waterproof products that proved not to be so after several inches of rain.

That first day we hiked along eight miles of coastal terraces and black sand beaches. We passed the abandoned Punta Gorda lighthouse known as the “Alcatraz” of lighthouses for how remote it was and encountered a colony of elephant seals which Cory deemed “adorable.” We finally sheltered up river just in time for mother nature to drop about four times the amount of rain as was originally forecasted.

Much of this coast is protected by the Sea Lion Gulch State Marine Reserve, one of California’s 124  marine protected areas, or MPAs. Named for the two large rocks covered with belching sea lions at its northern boundary, Sea Lion Gulch is one of the most remote and difficult MPAs to access MPAs in California. It is, however, one of the most rewarding for those adventurous enough to make the hike.

The next morning, fearing the watery worst, I cracked my eyes open to see the most gorgeous sunrise and blue skies I have ever experienced, a welcome surprise after all the rain the day and night before. Upon exiting the tent I was met with yet another surprise…a goose snuggled up against Cory through the thin fabric of his tent! He told me later he had thought it was his backpack and had been wondering why when he pushed it away in the middle of the night it kept coming back. “WILDCOAST…conserving wildlife one wet goose at a time!”

That day’s hike was probably one of the most unforgettable of my life – eight miles along coastal terrace overlooking the Big Flat State Marine Conservation Area (another MPA), rolling trail through pine forest, babbling brooks, and a herd of deer. We even ran into some surfers who claimed the waves were so good here that they hiked 12 miles with their surfboards to reach it. We stayed the night in a little driftwood shelter other hikers had left behind near the beach.

On day three we woke up before dawn to try to beat the high tide through a four mile stretch of narrow beach and sheer cliffs. An unexpected storm moved in drenching us yet again, and adding to an already high surf that made hiking the beach an adventure to say the least. We literally hopped, skipped, and jumped our way through eight and a half miles of beach, a warm shower and delicious pizza beckoning us at the end of the trail. Cory and Eduardo saw a fairly nonchalant black bear meandering along the beach (which is normal behavior in response to humans as long as you do not try to feed them). I napped in the rain and contemplated the almost complete lack of trash on the beach or the trail (recycling, using reusable bags, bottles, and containers, and disposing of your trash properly is one of the best things you can do to protect the beach!). Francisco donned a trash bag like a poncho in an effort to take some amazing pictures. Then, finally, after three days we made it.

Hiking the Lost Coast was an amazing experience that really brought home the reason why we at WILDCOAST do what we do, but more than that after rock hopping and timing waves for 25 miles I gained a whole new respect for the majesty and power of the coast. It truly is a wild place that deserves both our admiration and protection.

The WILDCOAST team was able to set up four MPA Watch transects in two MPAs (our first MPA Watch sites in the North Coast!), offer advice on interpretation and enforcement, and make some great new partners and friends. While not for the faint of heart (or slight of ankle strength), the Lost Coast offers an amazing experience for anyone with an adventurous spirit and love of the ocean.

By Angela Kemsley, MPA Watch Program Coordinator

New oil spill in Salina Cruz, Mexico, threatens sea turtle nesting sites along Oaxaca’s coast.

Earlier this week, a crude oil spill was spotted by fishermen on the banks of Salinas del Marqués on the coast of Oaxaca, approximately 4.3 miles from the port of Salina Cruz.

Area fishermen observed a black slick in the ocean allegedly coming from Mexican Petroleum (PEMEX), near the same area that  PEMEX vessels come to load oil before exporting it to other countries or states in Mexico.  

[Read more…]

Get to know your neighbors: Western Sand Dollar

Photo courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium

I am the western sand dollar, scientifically known as Dendraster excentricus. Contrary to popular belief, I am neither a rock nor a shell but an actual living animal! I am probably what comes to mind when you picture a sand dollar but just like many organisms, we come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. My fish friends never believe me when I say that I am a flattened sea urchin. I know that my spines are not as big but we are both echinoids!

[Read more…]

Stand Up for Clean Water Now!

ACTION ALERT!

Calling All San Diego County Residents, Stand Up for Water Quality and Working Families!

For decades, South San Diego beaches have been pummeled by cross-border sewage infested pollution, causing hard working families and children to get sick from playing in dirty water. For many, the beach is one of very few free recreational opportunities available.

For years, federal agencies like the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) has stood by and done next to nothing. Meanwhile, the problem keeps getting worse and kids keep getting sick. The City of Imperial Beach, California has had enough and they are taking legal action against International Boundary and Water Commission. We need the rest of San Diego County’s cities to come together in support of working families and we need YOU to help get them on board.

CALL your Port Commissioner and County Supervisor and demand they join the fight for clean water. Ask them to join City of IB’s lawsuit!

Sample talking points:

“Hi my name is ________, I live in San Diego County, I’d like to ask the Port Commissioner to join City of IB’s lawsuit against IBWC, thank you for your time.”

“Hi my name is ________, I live in San Diego County, I’d like to ask the County Supervisor to join City of IB’s lawsuit against IBWC, thank you for your time.”

Port Commissioner Robert Valderrama 619-686-7296

County Board of Supervisors
District 1 Supervisor Cox: 619.531.5511
District 2 Supervisor Jacobs 619.531.5522
District 3 Supervisor Gaspar 619.531.5533
District 4 Supervisor Roberts 619.531.5544
District 5 Supervisor Horn 858.694.3900

To learn more about this ongoing issue, check out this latest news story: http://www.foxnews.com/…/millions-gallons-mexican-waste-thr…

#CleanWaterNow!

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Responsible Whale Shark Tourism in Mexico

Ralph Lee Hopkins

The whale shark (Rhinocodon typus) is an extremely large, slow-moving, filter feeding, carpet shark and the world’s second largest fish. Despite their size (equivalent to a school bus when fully mature), whale sharks’ diet consists mainly of planktonic organisms, to which they open their large mouths and filter the tiny organisms floating through the water column.

The whale shark is listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The most significant threat to whale sharks is human activity particularly hunting.

Whale sharks are found in the open waters of tropical oceans and prefer water temperatures above 72°F.  They spend a majority of their time swimming at the ocean’s surface, make them vulnerable to poor fishing practices, boat-strikes and greater susceptibility to plastics ingestion.

[Read more…]

Learning About Marine Ecology First-Hand.

By Allie Welch, student from Mar Vista High School’s Poseidon Academy.

Earlier this month, I was part of a small group from Mar Vista’s Poseidon Academy, that took part in WILDCOAST’s Floating Laboratories off the coast of La Jolla.  Upon arrival, students are broken up into three groups; water, plankton, and fish identification. Once we were split off into separate groups we began taking data and analyzing the species and environment they inhabit.

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Meet the New WILDCOAST Team Members!

We are excited to announce that the WILDCOAST family is growing! We introduce you to our newest team members that will be working to conserve some of the most beautiful places in Mexico and the United States.  

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5 Reasons to Protect Coral Reef Ecosystems

Coral reefs, also known as “the rainforests of the sea”, are well known for their beauty and vibrant colors, but apart from that, they are extremely important, both ecologically and economically. However, coral reefs are deteriorating and dying at an alarming rate due to human and natural pressures that range from overfishing and degradation to ocean acidification and climate change. Scientists have estimated that 75% of the world’s corals are at risk and at least 10% have already died.

So why are coral reefs so important?

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Casa Puesta del Sol, a Piece of Paradise.

BAJA BASH is around the corner, and we have some really cool items for our auction! Now imagine you, your friends/family, a margarita and THAT VIEW! Join us for the BAJA BASH, Saturday, June 10 to help us conserve Mexico’s beautiful natural resources, and for a chance to vacation in paradise as well.

Casa Puesta del Sol, a Piece of Paradise:

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Help Save Our Valuable Wetlands!

Coastal lagoon, Cabo Pulmo National Park, Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California), Mexico, November

Wetlands are ecosystems that are partially or permanently flooded with fresh, saline or brackish water. They provide us with a number of important services such as sources for food and water security, as well as for adaptation and mitigation for the impacts of climate change.

Wetlands act as natural sponges, absorbing and storing excess water and thus reducing flooding caused by rain, storms, hurricanes, or tsunamis. During the dry season they release stored water, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages.


Its great economic importance is also due to its high productivity and biological diversity. Wetlands provide a refuge and nursery habitat to many marine species, especially migratory birds. [Read more…]