Updated: Jan 3
Our pre-dawn ride begins in Shelter Cove, one of the most remote coastal towns in all of Northern California. Shelter Cove is one of our all-time favorite ‘finds’ and I’ve been taking Pashnit Tour groups to the Inn of the Lost Coast for many years.
There are several small boutique hotels, but Inn of the Lost Coast is far ahead of their neighbors, and we’ve tried them all. Shelter Cove is surrounded in steep mountainous ridge lines and one of the last untouched places on the Northern California Coastline. Fishing boats still launch every morning out of the cove and whales migrate down the shoreline. Shelter Cove lies at the bottom of a steep twisty section of pavement as you come down Shelter Cove Rd from Garberville.
The tiny alcove of 700 residents rests at the very edge of a bunt of land that juts out into the Pacific Ocean, the community is surrounded on three sides by the ocean. There is lodging, food, fishing, and camping here. And beer. A new brewery recently opened, The Gyppo Ale Mill, which claims to be the most remote brewery in California. Shelter Cove is also famous for shysters who sold off useless land to unsuspecting buyers in the 1960s to create Shelter Cove. The after effects of this land scam are felt even today many decades later.
Leaving our lodging behind at daybreak, the dim glow of the rising sun is muted by the marine layer that hangs over Shelter Cove.
The time is 5:45 am, but sun's up, we're up. Long summer days mean more daylight, which means we can squeeze more miles in the day during daylight hours. We're ready to set off on our day-ride journey. Those mountains to the north, that's The Lost Coast and also Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, one of the most remote regions along the Pacific Coastline no one has ever heard of.
Riding along the ocean. All these houses face the ocean.
Look up Vacation Rentals in Shelter Cove.
Anybody know Dave?
Cape Mendocino where this lighthouse was originally installed in 1868 is actually north of here along Mattole Rd - The Lost Coast.
Note the homes up on the bluff above the cove. What a view.
A tractor aids in the pre-dawn launching of the morning's fishing boats into the ocean.
There's only one paved road into Shelter Cove, it climbs over two steep ridgelines through a series of hairpin corners.
Portions of Shelter Cove Rd are in poor condition and they'll likely never improve the road into Shelter Cove.
Shelter Cove Rd is not a fast road, it's quite steep in some portions, and the smell of overworked brake pads often hangs in the air. Hairpins can hide potholes and heaves in the pavement.
Last view of the morning glow of the rising sun before bumping over the range.
Shelter Cove is also famous of its black sand beaches.
At the top of the ridgeline is Wilder Ridge Rd. This single lane backroad to Honeydew & Mattole Rd - The Lost Coast is paved, but has some short, very steep, gravel sections.
Wilder Ridge Rd is actually one of my favorite backroads. My buddy Tim rides it on his CBR1000RR.
Wilder Ridge is single-lane remote, but has some amazing views across The Lost Coast.
Roads like this are not for every rider. Wilder Ridge has some very steep sections. Oh, and the steep part is also a double hairpin. And gravel.
Near Honeydew, a recent landslide took out a huge slice of Wilder Ridge Rd. Rather than repair the slide, the county simply carved a new path into the collapsed hillside and poured down gravel over the top of the newly installed hairpins. Most of Wilder Ridge is single lane paved with no center line. Not for every rider, but it is very remote, and beautiful countryside.
As Shelter Cove Rd nears Redway, it narrows to single lane through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Across the Eel River, Shelter Cove Rd ends at Redway and joins with Highway 101. Options are head north into the Avenue of the Giants. Those who love the goat should head due east onto Alderpoint Rd & Zenia Bluff Rd to connect with Highway 36 at Ruth Lake. Zenia Bluff Rd is another road no one has ever heard of. Those who love fast curves should head south to Highway 1.
Today, we want fast curves. We're headed straight for the Highway 1 Leggett Section.
You'll never tire of the redwood forest, not ever. It's truly magnificent. Redwood trees may reach 370 feet in height, with historical reports suggesting some were reportedly over 400 feet. Yet coast redwoods lack a main tap root and their root systems may only be ten feet deep and as little as 5-6 feet deep. However, the root systems may extend out 100 feet laterally from the tree, often intertwining and even fusing together with other redwoods to create a giant inter-dependent organism.
By growing in groves, the trees support and promote one another’s growth and success. Redwood trees are said to be mature at 1000 years old, and don’t reach old age till 1500 years. And, that's not even old, that's barely a moody teenager compared to 4000 year old trees you can visit on the other side of the state.
Now, imagine riding this stretch of road with ZERO traffic. That's exactly what happened. All to myself. Everyone else is asleep.
The Leggett Section of Highway 1 is cut through a thick redwood forest, light-dark sections are the norm, but you can always see the next turn.
The morning sun bumping over the ridgelines, I had the curves all to myself.
Highway 1 - The Leggett Section wiggles like this for 22-miles up and over the Coast Range connecting Highway 101 with the ocean.
Fast curves, tight curves, knee-drag curves, hairpin curves, s-curves.
This stretch of Highway 1 has all that in rapid succession.
Can you see me now? Clearwater Lights are crazy bright.
We love these curves, and some of my favorite photos of California Motorcycle Roads have been taken here.
Including one I took a few years back that Sena used for their national ad campaign for their communicators & ran in all the national motorcycle magazines. I took this photo below using a GoPro taped to the mirror with the Pashnit Tour group behind me on this stretch of Highway 1.
Can it get any more perfect?
Actually, it can.
It's known as The Pacific Coast Highway 1.
In Westport, there's a sperm whale in this dude's front yard.
Watched the owner restore this home for years. Amazing view. Now, it's a vacation rental.
You can rent it.
And, next door...
And your view from the front porch...
...and along the way, this is your view.
Right on fella. He gets it.
The Golden Hour
See the tent? I stared at that for awhile, imagine waking up to this sound, zipping open the front of your tent, and this is the first thing you see.
Rolling in and out of fog banks as the sun comes up. The fog usually burns off by mid-day.
I have been using a Hayabusa to lead motorcycle tours for the last 20 years. This is my third Busa. They make excellent sport-touring machines. This one still looks good for a 15 year old machine.
Highway 1 is known for hairpins, lots & lots of them.
And tree tunnels
Detour into MacKerricher State Park north of Fort Bragg
I was once asked to plan a tour for the staff of Cycle World Magazine. We based in Fort Bragg and did the centerfold shot for the article here at the park with the ocean as our backdrop.
The big Venture in the back was mine, I got to be in Cycle World Magazine (August 2005) as part of the article about $1000 bikes on a 1000 mile ride. I only paid $1000 for the Venture & led several tours with it, until the brakes locked up, oh, and it had no second gear.
Have your picnic lunch here, this will be your view.
The Pudding Creek Trestle on the north end of Fort Bragg along the ocean has been repurposed as a walking path.
And a quick break at the Fort Bragg Harbor. This harbor always reminds me of the 1987 film, Overboard, with Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russell, which has segments filmed in Fort Bragg Harbor with the (original) bridge as a backdrop.
A few miles south of Fort Bragg, past Albion & Mendocino, is Highway 128. I'll stop by Albion and Mendocino on a future ride. Mendocino has a Joss House, a Chinese Temple that dates to 1854 that I'd like to check out. I've brought many motorcycle tour groups to Mendocino, but didn't know they had a Joss House right in the middle of the town.
Headed into the morning sun through fog banks and light dark sections.
The redwood sections of Highway 128 are like a ribbon of chocolate.
Notice anything unusual about the redwoods along Highway 128?
That's a water line on the redwoods from seasonal flooding from the nearby Navarro River. The flooding here can exceed 10 feet over the top of the road, and leaves the watermark behind on the bark of the redwood trees.
Brand new pavement on Highway 128 equals a hand-on-hip dreamy ride through the redwood forest.
The redwood forest is only found along a narrow band parallel to the ocean, moving further inland, and the entire ecosystem changes. Welcome to the Anderson Valley, and endless fields of vineyards.
At Boonville is Mountain View Rd, if you love the goat, you should ride Mountain View Rd. It's narrow and bumpy, but there may be views of mountains, and it pops back out at the ocean near Manchester, a tiny town known for its perfectly manicured trees.
Highway 128 starts at the ocean, and cuts across the Coast Range, and continues through the Napa Valley and along Lake Berryessa all the way to Davis.
One last hairpin ahead, and Highway 128 drops down to the 101 corridor.
This 1/2 day ride is about 200-miles of twisties along some of the most scenic roads on the West Coast of the United States.