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  • Writer's pictureMike Mahoney

Jeff & The Lost Coast

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

The Lost Coast of California. I don't think I had ever heard of "the lost coast" before my friend Tom mentioned it. I haven't spent much time on the far northern California coast. Still, I know it's beautiful with the giant redwoods and cliff beaches that begin on the central coast and continue up to Canada. But nothing like this you'd expect would still exist on any coast, let alone California. The sight of it took me aback once I could finally breathe after that drive through the twisted tree-covered roads of King Range.

The twenty-something miles of arduous and contorted road canopied by even more abundant greenery thanks to the winter rains is daunting. I had to gear down the transmission as low as possible, desperately trying not to push my foot and brake peddle through the truck floor. It had me very focused and Portia very quiet. But we arrived in one piece. The entire way down the steep decline, the Airstream and its payload had their way with me pushing us down these rough, sketchy hairpin turns, which are scary in a car, and unnerving with a truck and trailer. But you know what...I'd do it again tomorrow.

When you arrive and gaze out at the ridiculously spectacular view of the Pacific you understand. And I hadn't burned up my brakes or hit anything! To quote my friend, Jeff, "OMG!" Lol. What a sight! I could now let loose of the death grip I had on my steering wheel and take in the breathtaking beauty, It felt like I was in Brigadoon.

Jeff is another one of Tom's friends from La Canada he highly recommended I meet and visit. Jeff Hildreth resides with his wife on the lost coast and has been a close friend of Tom's since they were kids. They moved to Shelter Cove several years ago. They have several acres of land there and are currently building a home. When he and his wife first visited some 25 years ago, he immediately went on the hunt for land to buy. And now he's building their home on it.

Shelter Cove RV Campground Store & Deli - is really the only campground that puts you a block from the beach with incredible views. The other campgrounds are truly dispersed camping at their finest. It was really early in the season so I was practically the only trailer which allowed me to keep extending my stay, I didn't want to leave.

Jeff was kind enough to show me around the area including where he is building his home. It's framed and ready to roof and nail up siding. He's been working on the land and the house for 5 years now. In addition to the house and various other structures, he has started a vineyard of Pinot Noir grapes. In addition to being a builder and viticulturist, Jeff is also an artist and painter and has painted various beaches extensively. A few of his paintings are included in the pictures below.

This area is special for a lot of reasons such as its remoteness and natural beauty but also it's history. It got its name from seaman and fisherman over many years using the natural protective coastline to take cover and wait out storms.

Why it's so remote is due in part to state highway planners. Evidently, when the state was building Highway 1, they intended to stay along the coast but when the engineers encountered King Range and the coastline to the west they decided there was no way without some major engineering, capital, and time could they build a highway along the coast, so they didn't. To get there you have to take the 101 and then ultimately Shelter Cove road to the coast. You won't get there by accident and stumble upon it as you cruise along the coast.

When I checked into the Shelter Cove campground they mentioned the sights around the area including a craft brewery right next door called Gyppo's. How lucky am I? Gyppo's is named after some logging term and is the only one in town with some creative and tasty craft beers and food. Portia and I enjoyed every day exploring the coastline and the black sand beaches. The beach is so serene and secluded that you truly feel like you're in a place that not many people see. And it's a place where if you wanted to be lost you could.

I could have stayed much longer but I did have a place I needed to be so I reluctantly planned our departure from this Shangri la. I actually needed to be somewhere to meet my dear friends from Dallas, Bill, and Debi Kruder, in Jackson Hole, WY. They were on their own road trip and thought it would be fun to rendezvous in Jackson. My plan was to go through Oregon and meander my way east through Bend, OR where my high school friend Len and his wife Sandi lived. Then through Idaho and up into Jackson.

So on Sunday, April 30, we left for Oregon. After making my way out of Shelter Cove and through the familiar twists and turns through King Range I merged onto Highway 101 North and decided to make a stop in Eureka, for something I needed. Upon pulling into a large parking lot to park the Airstream I look down in the usual spot for my trailer keys. They weren't there. Oh shit. Where are my keys? In my mind, I began to retrace my steps and I remember during my pre-trip preparations and trailer hook-up, I had pants on with no pockets, that was my first mistake. With no pockets, I had to keep setting my keys down on the picnic table or truck bumper or propane tank cover. Well, that must have been where I left them, but I wasn't exactly sure, all I knew was that they weren't in my non-existent pocket or in their proper place.

So I quickly decided to call the campground and tell them what happened and asked if they would look around and see if they could find them. Darn, it! No luck. What an idiot I am. Pants with no pockets, what was I thinking? Then I had a brief but convincing thought, I bet if I call Jeff he'd find them. I don't why I thought that, but I was confident if anyone could find them it would be Jeff. Anyway, I didn't call Jeff right away but I did call the closest Airstream dealer to me that is on my way which was Eugene Oregon thinking they could get me another set of keys. It was Sunday so a sales guy answered, he was nice enough and told me parts and service are closed and took a message, and suggested calling the parts department first thing Monday morning. The good news was that I did have a spare set of trailer door keys in the truck. I just didn't have keys to my storage compartments on the trailer which are very important but I can at least get in the trailer.

So Portia and I got back on the road and got as far as Grant Pass, Or, where we spent the night in the Grants Pass Elks Club parking lot. Thank you Elks Club! After arriving I texted Jeff. And when I did I noticed he had already texted me and he thinks he has my keys! What? So I called Jeff. He said he was with a friend by the golf course which is near the craft brewery, airport, and campground. He said his friend found some keys on the road. Jeff looked at them and thought those look like special keys and hoped they were not his friend's keys! He was right, they were mine. Incredible. Portia and I continued to Eugene in the morning, bought a spare set of keys from the dealer, and had Jeff mail the lost keys from the lost coast, to my daughter in Montana which is where we are now. Thank you, Jeff!

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May 26, 2023

The key finding made for a great end to the story! Sharon and I drove that area years ago in the Boxster. Our time there was great and we actually stayed overnight in Eureka.

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