Expect and prepare to be wet and cold.
Leave No Trace principle #1 is to Plan Ahead and Prepare:
“Poor planning often results in miserable campers and damage to natural and cultural resources. Rangers often tell stories of campers they have encountered who, because of poor planning and unexpected conditions, degrade backcountry resources and put themselves at risk.”
General rule of thumb says not to attempt a creek crossing if it is deeper than your knees. It’s usually easier to cross at a wide spot, where the creek tends to be shallower, rather than where it is narrow and deeper. On the Lost Coast, at low tide, this means that it is often (but not always) easier to find a place to cross closer to the ocean where the creeks tend to widen. However, the closer you go towards the ocean the more you need to keep a close eye on wave behavior. Large waves with high energy can race far up the beach without warning. Unsuspecting hikers can be washed out to sea in an instant from these occurrences. Watch this short video I took about 45 minutes after low tide at Black Sands Beach last winter.
1. Punta Gorda (I personally have not had trouble passing this spot unless it is a very high tide and/or swell)
2. Sea Lion Gulch to Randall Creek
3. Miller Flat to about one mile south of Buck Creek
How high of a tide is too high to pass? It’s difficult to say exactly but, all other factors aside, somewhere between 3.5 to 4.5 feet. Watch the ocean condition predictions, especially during the winter months, because large waves can impede and make travel potentially dangerous - even during low tides.
Also, know that during high tide you can be camped at the major creeks (named on the map) that are in the middle of the “impassable at high tide” zones because the creek mouths give you plenty of space to move up off the beach.
With all of this, even though we still have warm weather predicted for the next week or so, you should be prepared for wet and cold conditions and have a backup plan.
As of now the creeks and trails are still very much passable since we have had very little rain. But, keep an eye on the weather and as conditions change I will post updated information on this blog. You can also call our office at 707-986-5400, which is open M-F 8:00-4:30.