Best of Member Monday #5: The Wonders of the Lost Coast by Jen Higley

A Note from the Webmaster: It’s summertime, the glorious season of swimming, sunblock and sinking your teeth into a fat stack of books.  Alas, it’s also the sad season when Writers Forum goes dark for two months.  Never fear, dear reader, because for the next eight Mondays, Writers Forum will be featuring the Best of Member Monday.  The top eight Member Monday pieces were determined by the number of views each piece received on our website.  We’ll count them down beginning from #8 and ending with our #1 most viewed piece of the 2013-2014 Writers Forum year.  Congratulations to the top eight!  Taking the #5 slot is a piece by Writers Forum Membership Director Jen Higley.

The Wonders of the Lost Coast

by Jen Higley

View from Kinsey Ridge TrailSummer in northern California marks the beginning of travel season for many, and few places are more refreshing than the coast.  Cool breezes, frequent moisture and lush green growth are just a few of the things that make the coast the opposite of the rest of California in summertime.  But for those craving adventure this summer, you needn’t look further than the Lost Coast in the King Range Wilderness.

The Lost Coast is a beach-loving camper’s paradise, with campsites for those in motor vehicles, on horse-back, or those adventure lovers who strap all their supplies on their backs and set out for those patches of coastline accessible only on foot.  Hike along the beach, watch seals play in the surf, set up your tent with a view of the ocean and listen to its tales all through the night.

Idyllic as it is, the importance of having a travel plan must not be understated.  There are a few things to keep in mind when on the trail to coastal camping bliss.

The Lost Coast Trail moves to and away from the beach at appropriate intervals, for the safety of hikers.  Enjoy the soothing sound of the powerful Pacific when hiking on the beach as you push through deep, silky soft sand with only everything you need to survive four days in the wilderness to weigh you down.  You’ll have plenty of time to absorb that marvelous maritime air when traversing miles of sand moving a foot and a half per step.  Plenty of time.

Moving inland, you get the beautiful ocean view from a shore bird’s perspective, as parts of the trail climb quite high with no obstacles such as railings, stout shrubs or anything else you could hold on to blocking your view.  And while you’re up there, with those magnificent shore breezes, take care to lean in to the hillside being traversed, as only the ocean and its accompanying sharp rocks and rip-tide would be there to stop a stumble.

There is no shortage of wildlife on the Lost Coast.  You will be living for a time in that mystical habitat where ocean life meets terrestrial, the sea lions and otters sharing the beach with bobcats, coyotes and bear alike.  While one must take care to watch out for potentially harmful wildlife when camping miles from the nearest town and well out of wireless range, most campers are spared unpleasant animal encounters by taking simple precautions, such as storing their food in bear-safe canisters and not stepping on the rattlesnakes.  The bother of insects is reduced by the exfoliating winds, but you’d be prudent to check your gear and body for ticks at the end of each day.  If you take along a faithful canine companion, check him also, as full-body fur can harbor a few dozen more ticks than you’d think.

Plant life along the Lost Coast is a sight to behold for botanists and common flora enthusiasts alike.  In early summer, you’ll pass wildflowers, century plants, and herbs such as mint, all equally obscured by the vast swatches of poison oak.  Trailhead signs encourage hikers to learn to recognize and avoid poison oak, but if you fail to dodge the fresh, oily growth that narrows the path to four inches wide in places, just rinse any exposed and most certainly contaminated skin at one of the many creeks and streams along the trail—and pray.

Weather on the Lost Coast can be breathtakingly perfect.  However, in a climate known to accumulate 200 or more inches of rain in a year, it is not uncommon for a hiker to experience some moisture.  Take care to pack your sleeping gear in water safe bags, as this will help you avoid a night of obligatory insomnia to stave off hypothermia.  Another reason to protect your gear from moisture is the grand ocean itself.  Some sections of this twenty-five mile trail are impassible at high tides, so one must carry a map and plan the day’s hiking accordingly.  At times, a hiker will neglect to consult a tide chart and be quite surprised when a pristine wave suddenly bashes her against the rocks, which is particularly distressing when there is no possible way to leave the beach for a mile or two in either direction.  Should you find yourself in such a predicament, you can hike to the safety of the nearest creek drainage, or perch on any high rocks in the area while waiting for the tide to recede, as it always does eventually.

As I’m sure I have conveyed, backpacking on the Lost Coast is a unique and amazing experience for the novice and seasoned backpacker alike, and can be enchanting fun for the whole family.  Knowing your route and packing conscientiously are the keys to a safe and grand adventure in this wilderness like no other.  On a personal note, I have never returned from the Lost Coast without longing to return.  It’s true.

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Member Monday: The Wonders of the Lost Coast by Jen Higley

Welcome back to Member Monday!  We continue our theme on “Summer” with a piece from Writers Forum board member, Jen Higley.  Jen recently backpacked the lost coast in the good company of her mother and their dogs.  Today she writes of the wonders they beheld.  Welcome, Jen!

The Wonders of the Lost Coast

by Jen Higley

View from Kinsey Ridge TrailSummer in northern California marks the beginning of travel season for many, and few places are more refreshing than the coast.  Cool breezes, frequent moisture and lush green growth are just a few of the things that make the coast the opposite of the rest of California in summertime.  But for those craving adventure this summer, you needn’t look further than the Lost Coast in the King Range Wilderness.

The Lost Coast is a beach-loving camper’s paradise, with campsites for those in motor vehicles, on horse-back, or those adventure lovers who strap all their supplies on their backs and set out for those patches of coastline accessible only on foot.  Hike along the beach, watch seals play in the surf, set up your tent with a view of the ocean and listen to its tales all through the night.

Idyllic as it is, the importance of having a travel plan must not be understated.  There are a few things to keep in mind when on the trail to coastal camping bliss.

The Lost Coast Trail moves to and away from the beach at appropriate intervals, for the safety of hikers.  Enjoy the soothing sound of the powerful Pacific when hiking on the beach as you push through deep, silky soft sand with only everything you need to survive four days in the wilderness to weigh you down.  You’ll have plenty of time to absorb that marvelous maritime air when traversing miles of sand moving a foot and a half per step.  Plenty of time.

Moving inland, you get the beautiful ocean view from a shore bird’s perspective, as parts of the trail climb quite high with no obstacles such as railings, stout shrubs or anything else you could hold on to blocking your view.  And while you’re up there, with those magnificent shore breezes, take care to lean in to the hillside being traversed, as only the ocean and its accompanying sharp rocks and rip-tide would be there to stop a stumble.

There is no shortage of wildlife on the Lost Coast.  You will be living for a time in that mystical habitat where ocean life meets terrestrial, the sea lions and otters sharing the beach with bobcats, coyotes and bear alike.  While one must take care to watch out for potentially harmful wildlife when camping miles from the nearest town and well out of wireless range, most campers are spared unpleasant animal encounters by taking simple precautions, such as storing their food in bear-safe canisters and not stepping on the rattlesnakes.  The bother of insects is reduced by the exfoliating winds, but you’d be prudent to check your gear and body for ticks at the end of each day.  If you take along a faithful canine companion, check him also, as full-body fur can harbor a few dozen more ticks than you’d think.

Plant life along the Lost Coast is a sight to behold for botanists and common flora enthusiasts alike.  In early summer, you’ll pass wildflowers, century plants, and herbs such as mint, all equally obscured by the vast swatches of poison oak.  Trailhead signs encourage hikers to learn to recognize and avoid poison oak, but if you fail to dodge the fresh, oily growth that narrows the path to four inches wide in places, just rinse any exposed and most certainly contaminated skin at one of the many creeks and streams along the trail—and pray.

Weather on the Lost Coast can be breathtakingly perfect.  However, in a climate known to accumulate 200 or more inches of rain in a year, it is not uncommon for a hiker to experience some moisture.  Take care to pack your sleeping gear in water safe bags, as this will help you avoid a night of obligatory insomnia to stave off hypothermia.  Another reason to protect your gear from moisture is the grand ocean itself.  Some sections of this twenty-five mile trail are impassible at high tides, so one must carry a map and plan the day’s hiking accordingly.  At times, a hiker will neglect to consult a tide chart and be quite surprised when a pristine wave suddenly bashes her against the rocks, which is particularly distressing when there is no possible way to leave the beach for a mile or two in either direction.  Should you find yourself in such a predicament, you can hike to the safety of the nearest creek drainage, or perch on any high rocks in the area while waiting for the tide to recede, as it always does eventually.

As I’m sure I have conveyed, backpacking on the Lost Coast is a unique and amazing experience for the novice and seasoned backpacker alike, and can be enchanting fun for the whole family.  Knowing your route and packing conscientiously are the keys to a safe and grand adventure in this wilderness like no other.  On a personal note, I have never returned from the Lost Coast without longing to return.  It’s true.

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Speaking of Speaking by Jen Higley

Today membership coordinator Jen Higley give us a recap on the October meeting paired with a boost for December’s meeting.  Welcome, Jen.

With November’s Authors Fair taking the place of our general meeting, our next meeting is December’s read-around potluck.  That means speaking…in front of people.

Thus, October’s meeting was the perfect time for Writers Forum to welcome Shasta College speech instructor Robb Lightfoot.  In “Talking Up What You’ve Written Down,” Lightfoot presented information on speaking to inform or entertain, to persuade or engage, and even offered tips for impromptu conversations.  But the core advice given for nearly every speaking scenario is represented in The Gold Standard: combine preparation with a natural speaking style.  By keeping a speech conversational, you can keep your audience involved and have greater opportunity to fulfill your own speaking goals.  Lightfoot also recommends keeping organization simple and easy to follow, reminding us, “Listeners can’t scroll back.”

Whether your audience be friendly, neutral, hostile, or even uninterested, a tip to engage is to find out what interests them, and adapt your speech to fit your audience. Have a middle school crowd? Member Linda Boyden recommends you include “humor…and something gross!”

Leading by example, Lightfoot asked us our goals for public speaking.  When it became clear that overcoming speech anxiety was a high priority for this crowd, Lightfoot tailored his presentation to include many tips for remaining calm and organized.  He recommends using tools—notes, props, etc.—over memorization, as nerves can cause you to lose your place or repeat sections.  Good preparation before a speech can keep even a nerve-rattled brain more organized, and warming up your voice and practicing out loud will help you get in “the zone” to speak confidently and clearly. Focus on what you would like to accomplish (positives) over what you hope not to do (negatives).  Still a little nervous?  Before you head out, envision the crowd applauding and smiling, and you can even bring your own cheering section for added support.

Many thanks to Robb Lightfoot, who reminded us that everyone gets nervous sometimes, and shared a quote from Edward R. Murrow:

   “The only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained their butterflies to fly in formation.”

So breathe deeply, and let the butterfly show begin!

Member Monday: Just Me and My Dog by Jen Higley

Welcome back to Member Monday!  It’s a delight to feature my long time friend and fellow Writers Forum board member, Jen Higley.  She’s the woman responsible for managing the details of our ever-increasing membership as well as the purveyor of the delicious and healthy treats at our meetings.  Anyone who can make a cookie delicious AND healthy deserves a medal in my book.  Welcome, Jen!

Just Me and My Dog by Jen Higley

What does it mean to grow up?

To finish growing physically?  To take on complete responsibility for your own life and actions?

I am quite responsible, and plenty old, but I needed to grow up—to truly mature, be strong, depend on no one but God for my well-being, body and soul.  Then, I could take on the life that was meant for me.  So I had a thought.  I would head into the wild, by myself, and discover the person I am meant to be.  Many cultures practice rites of passage when their children transition to adulthood.  This would be a rite of passage for me, and if I passed this, I knew I would forever be stronger.  But I didn’t want to die in the process, so I took my dog with me.

We found the trailhead free of cars.  We were alone.  There was one trail to take us to one destination, and it went up.  And up, and up, and up.  Over two miles of up, with no reprieve.  Test number one: be willing to work hard without complaining.  There’d be no one to hear it anyway.  As we hiked, I felt very aware of the potential for wildlife encounters, and though I was looking for solitude, I found myself not minding the thought of someone else hiking in while we were there.  But we came across no one.

We got to the small alpine lake which was our destination, and it was beautiful.  All settled in camp, we turned in early.  We awoke at one in the morning to the sound of loud coughing.  Coughing, loud running, large things running on the rocks above our camp.  I remembered what I had heard about mountain lions, and was pretty sure this was one.  I went rigid, barely even lifting my head.  I glanced at my dog, and he was doing the exact same thing.  Didn’t bark, didn’t whine, didn’t move.  It was as if he was telling me, ‘You don’t move when predators are hunting something else, you just be still.’  In the moment, the thought passed fleetingly through my mind to break camp at the crack of dawn and run screaming down the mountain to my car.  But that would do me no good right now.  Test number two: do not let fear control you.  I prayed, knowing I was safe, and forcing myself to believe it.  We heard no further sounds. An entire hour passed before I again fell asleep, but I did.

My Dog in the Wild

The next day we headed up and over a butte to find the little lakes on the other side of it.  We made good time to the top of the ridge, and following deer trails down the other side we soon arrived at a small lake.  Very small.  I wanted to pump water from a bigger, cleaner source.  I hiked past the little lake, and around it, and above it, at times literally dragging my dog behind me.  There are some things even wolves weren’t built to climb.  I finally told my dog to stay put while I looked for a different water source.  He did stay put, and when I returned ten minutes later, he was exactly where I had left him, in the sun as there was no shade, and unconcerned.  My dog was perfectly calm, waiting alone in the wilderness because I had told him to.  I felt swept clean of the concern for water, and washed over with the joy of being so trusted, and the peace of being trustworthy.  I had spied a larger lake nearby.  ‘Found some more water.  Let’s go.’

Back on top of the ridge, we began the return descent.  At one point, my dog stopped to sniff and failed to notice I had headed down through some trees.  Seeing me below him, and anxious to catch up, he raced to the edge of a sheer ten-foot cliff, convinced I must have gone that way.  ‘No! Stop!’  He paused, inches from the edge, and looked at me expectantly.  I didn’t move, just stood there with my hand in the air like I was keeping him from falling by using “the force.”  I finally commanded, ‘Stay,’ then backtracked, moving the direction I wanted him to move.  When I called ‘come,’ he ran away from the edge and down through the trees, happy to be again at my feet.  Test number three: do not panic. Ever.  You can’t help others, or yourself, when you’re panicking.  We both made it back to camp alive.

The next day we rested, and the following morning, I packed up and we headed home.  I had been reflecting on all we had experienced, and what I had learned, when my dog stopped behind me, sniffing toward the nearby creek.  I scanned for movement, but saw none.  We continued, but ten seconds later he stopped again, sniffing the air.  I looked toward the creek again.  Mama Bear and I saw each other at the same moment, and we both froze.  She and her beautiful cub glowed black against the forest growth, and I was both terrified and thrilled by the sight.  What was it people say about bears?  That they run away from you, unless they feel the need to protect their cubs.  ‘God, what do I do?’  Then she was off.  Within three seconds, she had huffed and grunted away from us as fast as she could while not one, but two little cubs scaled two enormous pine trees near us.  I grabbed my dog, who hadn’t moved, and proceeded at a steady pace down the trail, determined to look neither threat nor prey to the no doubt not-far-off mama.  Test number two again: do not let fear control you.  That’s an important one, which I got the opportunity to pass twice.  I knew she was not coming after us.  I knew we would be a safe distance away by the time she came back for her cubs.  That knowledge did not stop me from inadvertently sending my dog the signal that we flee for our lives when we see bears.  After a good half mile, I stopped, calmed myself, and told him out loud that we are not afraid of bears, we are not running for our lives, and stop tripping me trying to blaze past me down the mountain.  It worked.  We were both calm again.  Calmish.

Our rite of passage now felt complete.  We had passed the tests, and we emerged from the wilderness stronger, unafraid, grown up.

Sunrise on the Last Morning

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