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

Inspired by the Our Ocean Conference

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Serge Dedina, WILDCOAST’s Executive Director

Last week, the U.S. State Department issued a last minute invitation for me to attend the Our Ocean Conference in Washington D.C. hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. According to Secretary Kerry, the purpose of the conference was, “To catalyze actions to protect our ocean from these threats and to empower a new generation to lead the way toward a healthy and sustainable ocean.” As the Executive Director of WILDCOAST, I have worked tirelessly with my amazing team and fishing communities, governments, and the private sector to establish safe havens in the ocean to protect key ecosystems and ocean wildlife. Areas such as Cabo Pulmo National Park are now global models for ocean conservation, with fish stocks rebounding at an incredible pace after banning fishing. And in California, our advanced and extensive system of MPAs are recovering fish populations up and down the coast. So it was great to see global leaders come together to announce new measures for ocean conservation and funding initiatives to further on the ground marine protection initiatives.

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Thank You for Another Successful BAJA BASH!

2016 WildCoast Baja Bash

WILDCOAST’s 4th Annual Baja Bash was again a huge success thanks to many people, volunteers, sponsor companies, organizations and foundations that support our work to conserve our coasts and oceans.

Special thanks to all our wonderful chefs, Javier Plascencia, Drew Deckman, Flor Franco, Bianca Castro-Cerio, and Luiciano Scagliarini for making it a truly unique and delicious experience, and to Baja Food and Wine, Don Ramon Tequila and Firestone Walker Brewery for providing us amazing drinks.

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How ocean pollution affects humans [Infographic]

Our returning guest blogger Andrew Dilevics from DIVE.in, a scuba diving online magazine, recently created a powerful infographic that shows the effects that ocean pollution has on humans. 

“The world is covered up to 72% in Ocean and it is these oceans that are the reason for life on earth. They provide over 70% of the oxygen that we breathe as well as 97% of the world’s water supply. Without them, we would not exist.

However, everyday the oceans come under attack from pollution, which is causing severe damage to the biggest ecosystem on the planet. Did you know that every year, over 8 million tons of plastic is being dumped into the ocean on purpose? Plastic is one of the largest factors of pollution and is threatening to wipe out many marine species. It is frightening to think that 50% of the plastics that we buy only get used once, such as plastic carrier bags and water bottles, which inevitably end up in the ocean once we dispose of them.

If you would like to know more about ocean pollution and how it affects marine life as well as life on earth, take a look at the fascinating infographic below, created by the team at divein.com.

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WILDCOAST INAUGURATES “TREASURES OF MEXICAN CONSERVATION” PHOTO EXHIBIT IN CUBA AND LAUNCHES CONSERVATION INITIATIVE

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In July, WILDCOAST partnered with the Embassy of Mexico in Cuba and Patrimonio Comunidad y Medio Ambiente to inaugurate a photo exhibit at the Sala de Diversidad in Havana. The exhibit, which will run through September, highlights the conservation success stories of WILDCOAST in Mexico featuring stunning images by Claudio Contreras, Dr. Octavio Aburto of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Miguel Angel de la Cueva and Ralph Lee Hopkins. Photos featured globally significant sites that WILDCOAST works to conserve including Morro Ayuta in Oaxaca, and Cabo Pulmo, Bahia Magdalena and Valle de los Cirios on the Baja California Peninsula. On hand to open the exhibit were WILDCOAST’s Executive Director Serge Dedina, Mexico Director Eduardo Najera, and Communications and Policy Director Fay Crevoshay.

“We are grateful to the Embassy of Mexico in Cuba for sponsoring this exhibit and their role in fostering international cooperation to help preserve the coastal and marine ecosystems in Mexico and to partner with the Cuban National Park Service to assist in the preservation of world-class coral reefs and mangrove lagoons,” said Dedina. “This was an incredible opportunity to highlight our work and we were so pleased that Ana Lourdes Soto Perez, President of Patrimonio Comunidad y Medio Ambiente agreed to host the exhibit in the Sala de Diversidad in Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

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2013 YEAR IN REVIEW

As the year comes to an end, WILDCOAST is proud to announce our accomplishments from 2013. We couldn’t have done it without those who support us in our conservation endeavors. Take a moment to look over our accomplishments from 2013, and please continue to support our work through 2014 by donating today: https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/WildCoast/OnlineDonation.html

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