20-Jan-2001 -- 40N 124W turned out to be much more than a
confluence of degrees, but more on that in a moment.
This particular intersection is located in the far northwest corner
of California's incredible Lost Coast about 220 miles north of San
Francisco. The Lost Coast is an almost roadless tract of dense forest
in the King Range National Conservation Area. Mountains here are
thick with redwoods, douglas fir, oaks and madrone. Ridge tops are
covered with almost impenetrable stands of manzanita and scrub oak.
The region is truly wild and home to mountain lions, black bears, elk,
deer, foxes and spotted owls. The mountains tumble into the Pacific
along a spectacular coastline that looks surprisingly like Kauai's Na'Pali
The good news for confluence seekers is that 40N124W is in a very
accessable part of the mountains. From San Francisco we drove north
on Highway 101 about five hours to the town of Garberville. From there
we headed west on Shelter Cove Road about 20 miles to Chamisal
Road. We drove south on Chamisal about a mile and a half to the trail
head at Nadelos Campground. We puffed our way up the first mile of trail
which is steep but well-marked and maintained. In no time we were on
top of Chamisal Ridge with views of the Pacific to our west and the King
Range to the east. The altitude here is about 2,600ft, an 800ft climb from
the campground. We followed the trail south along the ridge for about
another mile until our GPS pointed us down the west side of the mountain
and into the oak and manzanita. About fifty yards off-trail we knew we were
very close. The ground is steep, the flora is cramped like a MUNI bus and
the canopy is so thick our GPS couldn't get a grip. At one point we crawled
on our hands and knees into a manzanita thicket just so we could stand-up
in the middle and get an unobstructed view of the sky. A solid reading there
sent us out of the thicket and into a crowded stand of oaks where we
narrowed our search to within about 30 feet. Huzzah! We have conquered
our first confluence!
We wallowed in our success for about 45 minutes, eating apples, taking
pictures and trying to get the best possible reading on our GPS. Suddenly,
we hear voices from the trail above. How can this be? We're in the middle of
nowhere, in the off-season no less! Nobody comes here in the dead of winter!
We went dead silent, listening to to the muffled conversation through the trees.
Two people. A man and a woman. They sound lost, or maybe like they're
looking for something. They walk by, then turn around. They stop directly
above us and the man says "I think it's down there." I couldn't
believe it. I started to laugh. Then my co-explorer Beth
started to laugh. Then the people up on the trail started to laugh. It was a
confluence of confluence seekers! Jeff and Jules (also from San Francisco,
see adjoining entry) had made the five hour trip that morning for the sole
purpose of finding 40N 124W. The only reason we got there first was that we
had to get up at 8:30 for the free continental breakfast at our B&B in Shelter Cove.
We made introductions all around, took group photos and enjoyed an excellent
geek moment in the wilderness.