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Shelter Cove To Honeydew To Petrolia To The Coast To Mattole Trailhead To Shelter Cove June 3, 2021

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Miranda, California

June 5, 2021

Yesterday I ventured into the King Range Conservation Area; I am staying in Shelter Cove is at the southern end of the area.

It was a magnificent drive in mountains, by the sea — a bit of everything. I started out poorly by taking an “unimproved” (dirt with ruts) road for 20 miles into the mountains. Things got better when I hit the pavement, although most of my 100 mile drive was on roads no wider than Garth Road. At the apex of the drive I was by the ocean in an area that was both surreal and in ways reminded me of Scotland (rough sea and dunes). But no doubt, the highlight of my day happened in Honeydew.

Honeydew, California is a crossroad with a wonderful old country store and a popular short-order takeout diner. The country store had so much character, from the worn wooden floor to the tiny post office in the corner. I happened to be at the store when the owner was sitting on a bench in front. A big man with weathered features he looked to be in his early 70s. I asked him about the building. It was built in 1928 and the post office is the oldest one in California (operating in one place). He proceeded to tell me how his family came to the area from West Virginia in 1848, “looking for minerals.” (Can you imagine crossing this country by wagon and walking, through Native American land, down rivers — and no roads!). How they eventually got in the Apple and strawberry businesses. He said he’d been in the wheat growing business for 50 years. That struck me as odd - the surrounding area is mountainous and I think of wheat growing in the Great Plains. He said he had only been busted twice in those 50 years and he had gotten started growing it in the Ys of trees so the”drug dogs” couldn’t smell it. Whoa Nellie! He’s not in the wheat business; he’s in the weed business! He’s been growing marijuana for 50 years! Said he’s made “better than a good living especially when it was worth $6500 per pound.”

That explained the large number of hot houses I saw while driving through the area. It is now a capital intensive for profit business.

This Lost Coast area is special. It is remote and rugged — just the way the folks who live here like it. They live simple lives at a slow pace. Their greatest fear is that they will be discovered. I made such a comment to a man I was talking with and he agreed. But he gave me a pass - perhaps due to my long hair and sleeping in my truck.

Here is some information about the Lost Coast and places in it.

Lost Coast

The Lost Coast is a mostly natural and undeveloped area of the California North Coast in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, which includes the King Range. It was named the "Lost Coast" after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and related geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. Without any major highways, communities in the Lost Coast region such as Petrolia, Shelter Cove, and Whitethorn are isolated from the rest of California.

The region lies roughly between Rockport and Ferndale. At the south end, State Route 1, which runs very close along the coast for most of its length, suddenly turns inland at Rockport before merging with U.S. Route 101 at Leggett. At the north end, State Route 211 begins its journey at Ferndale, heading towards Highway 101 in Fernbridge. Section 511 of the California Streets and Highways Code still says that "Route 211 is from Route 1 near Rockport to Route 101 near Fernbridge", but it is unlikely that the portion south of Ferndale will be built. Most of the region's coastline is now part of either Sinkyone Wilderness State Park or King Range National Conservation Area.

Geology and climate

The Lost Coast consists of undivided Cretaceous marine metasedimentary and sedimentary rocks of the North American Plate steeply uplifted by Mendocino Triple Junction interactions with the Pacific Plate and Gorda Plate. The Lost Coast includes Tertiary marine sedimentary formations north of the Mattole River and a portion of the Franciscan Assemblage called Point Delgada at Shelter Cove. The steepness of uplift has created a coastal ridge forming a drainage divide parallel to the coast. The drainage pattern between Usal Creek and the Mattole River is a series of short streams with steep channel gradients.

Like the surrounding coast, the Lost Coast experiences a wet season and a dry season. The wet season ranges from October to April. The King Range mountains collect significant moisture from storms coming in from the Pacific Ocean, making it one of the wettest sections of the California coastline. Local weather stations typically record over 100 in annually of rainfall, and during wet years, over 200 in can fall along the Lost Coast. Snow can blanket the higher peaks after storms, but will melt quickly.

From May to September, the mountain areas are mostly warm and dry with temperatures reaching 80–90 °F in mid-summer, but the weather is still highly variable, with some days of fog and light rain.

Humboldt County

Much of the land in the area is owned by the federal government, and in 1970, more than 60,000 acres were designated the King Range National Conservation Area.

Because of the rugged and remote location, the small towns of Shelter Cove, Whitethorn and Petrolia are popular with those looking for quiet respite. The area is known for its black sand beaches, which get their color from dark colored sandstone called greywacke and an older compressed shale produced by tectonic activity of one continental and two oceanic plates meeting just offshore.

Mendocino County

Early European settlers of this area began harvesting bark of the tanoak tree for tanning hides into leather. Bark collectors formed the small community of Kenny around springs at the headwaters of the north fork of Usal Creek. A wharf was built at Bear Harbor in 1884 for loading bark onto ships. The Bear Harbor and Eel River Railroad incorporated in 1896 to connect the wharf to a sawmill being built on the South Fork Eel River at Andersonia, California. The location of the railroad shops was named Moody for the proprietor (Louis Alton Moody) of a nearby hotel and saloon. The community of Andersonia, Anderson Gulch, and the Anderson Cliffs of the Lost Coast are named for sawmill owner Henry Neff Anderson, who was killed in a construction accident in 1905. Sawmill and railroad operation languished after Anderson's death, and the facilities were dismantled in 1921.

Usal Redwood Company built a sawmill and 1,600-foot wharf at the mouth of Usal Creek in 1889. The company town of Usal was built around the mill and a railroad for transporting logs extended three miles up Usal Creek. A fire in 1902 destroyed the sawmill, schoolhouse, warehouse, and county bridge over Usal Creek. The railroad was dismantled; but a few structures, including a hotel, survived until destroyed by fire in 1969. Steep terrain and unfavorable coastal mooring conditions delayed timber harvesting of Jackass Creek drainage until internal combustion machinery was available for transport. The company town of Wheeler, California, was built for logging operations from 1948 to 1959. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park began acquisition of Lost Coast property in 1975.


The geology of the Lost Coast makes it very difficult to establish routes through the area. State Route 1, California's Pacific Coast Highway, was originally planned to continue up the coast through the region. In 1984, admitting that such construction was not feasible, Caltrans re-routed the northern segment of Highway 1 from Rockport to Leggett and renumbered the portion that was built from Ferndale to Fernbridge as State Route 211.

Without any major highways or county thoroughfares in the area, the secluded communities within the Lost Coast are only accessible by land via small mountain roads. Mattole Road runs south from Ferndale to Petrolia, while Shelter Cove Rd. and Briceland Thorn Rd. form the main route connecting Shelter Cove with US 101 to the east.

Shelter Cove Airport in Shelter Cove is a small public airport with only one runway, making it possible to fly in when weather permits. Communities right on the coast are also accessible by boat.

Shelter Cove, California

Shelter Cove is a census-designated place in Humboldt County, California. It lies at an elevation of 138 feet. Shelter Cove is on California's Lost Coast where the King Range meets the Pacific Ocean. A nine-hole golf course surrounds the one-runway Shelter Cove Airport at the center of Shelter Cove's commercial district. Utilities are provided by the Humboldt County Resort Improvement District #1 and boating access to the sea is managed by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation & Conservation District. The population was 693 at the 2010 census.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is about 6 miles south of Shelter Cove on the coast. There are also parks such as Black Sands Beach, Mal Coombs Park, Seal Rock Picnic Area and Abalone Point. Much of the land around Shelter Cove is in the King Range National Conservation Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Cove amenities include hiking trails, a community center, deli, coffee shop, restaurants, multiple inns, a general store, and several gift shops. Other amenities in Shelter Cove include a small aircraft airstrip, a boat launch, and RV parking. Some services not available in Shelter Cove are in the towns of Redway and Garberville on the U.S. 101 corridor, about 20 miles of winding county road to the east.


The area around Shelter Cove was originally home to Native Americans known as the Sinkyone people.

Near Shelter Cove on July 21, 1907, the coastal passenger steamer Columbia collided with the steam schooner San Pedro amidst dense fog. The Columbia subsequently sank, killing 88 people. Although badly damaged, San Pedro stayed afloat and helped to rescue Columbia's survivors.

Because of the very steep terrain on the coastal areas surrounding Shelter Cove, the highway builders constructing State Route 1 (the "Shoreline Highway") decided it was too difficult to build the coastal highway along a long stretch of what is now the Lost Coast. As a result, the small fishing village of Shelter Cove remained very secluded from the rest of the populous state, despite being only 230 miles north of San Francisco, and is accessible by boat, via small mountain road, or by the small Shelter Cove Airport.

As a result of its seclusion, the Shelter Cove area has become a popular spot for those seeking quiet vacation respite or retirement area. Popular activities in the area include fishing, whale watching, hiking, diving for abalone, and other outdoor activities.

The Cape Mendocino Light, a lighthouse from Cape Mendocino, was moved by helicopter to Mal Coombs Park in 1998.

A post office operated at Shelter Cove from 1892 to 1933, moving in 1898.

Shelter Cove Golf

The Shelter Cove Golf course overlooks the Pacific Ocean and offer some amazing views of the coast. It’s an easy walking course and the views are spectacular. This is a nine hole links course covering 2,380 yards with a par of 33 for the men and 34 for the ladies. There is one par-5, four par-4s, and four par-3s. The slope rating is 110.

Shelter Cove Golf Course is a member of the Northern California Golf Association. NCGA has installed a computer in the club house for its members to register scores and calculate handicaps. The Community Clubhouse Recreation Facility includes a sports lawn for volleyball and crochet, bocce ball court, two horseshoe pits and a basketball hoop in the overflow parking lot. Sports equipment (horseshoes, bocce balls, basketballs, volleyballs and crochet set are provided by the Resort Improvement District.

Greens fees are payable using the pay kiosk at hole #1:

$15.00 - 9 holes, $20 - 18 holes, $50 - 1 week, $90 - 1 month.

Honeydew, California

Honeydew (formerly, Honey Dew) is an unincorporated community in Humboldt County, California. It is located 17 miles south of Scotia, at an elevation of 322 feet 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Lost Coast, near the King Range. It has a general store, elementary school, post office, and a few houses nearby. Many of the locals live in the hills surrounding the Mattole valley, named after the Mattole River which runs through the valley.


The first post office at Honeydew opened in 1926. Honeydew, Petrolia and Capetown were originally stagecoach and mail stops in the 1800s.


Because of its isolated location, Honeydew retains a small town atmosphere. There are no motels in the town, but there are several campgrounds nearby. The local firefighters, Honeydew Volunteer Fire Company, organize the "Roll on the Mattole" every summer to raise operating funds for the fire company. The region has a long history of sheep and cattle ranching.

The Mattole Grange is the main gathering place for community events.

King Range

The King Range is a mountain range of the Outer Northern California Coast Ranges System, located entirely within Humboldt County on the North Coast of California.

BLM describes the area as:

The King Range National Conservation Area (NCA) is a spectacular meeting of land and sea as mountains thrust straight out of the surf with King Peak (4,088 feet) only 3-miles from the ocean. The King Range NCA encompasses 68,000 acres along 35 miles of California’s north coast. The landscape was too rugged for highway building, giving the remote region the title of California’s Lost Coast. It is the Nation's first NCA, designated in 1970.

The King Range NCA’s Douglas fir-covered peaks attract hikers and hunters, while the coast beckons to surfers and anglers. World-class mountain bike trails, and 42,585 acres of coastal wilderness are two of the highlights of this incredibly unique area.


Much of the mountain range's area is protected within the King Range National Conservation Area, a National Conservation Area unit of the National Landscape Conservation System, and in the King Range Wilderness Area, both managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

As part of the Northern Coast Ranges, the King Range runs parallel to the coast, and its western slopes fall steeply to the Pacific Ocean.

The King Range is adjacent to the Mendocino Triple Junction, where three tectonic plates — the Pacific Plate, the North American Plate, and the Juan de Fuca Plate — meet. The area experiences frequent earthquakes.

Most mountains and ridges in the range are low to moderate in elevation. King Peak, at 4,091 feet, is the highest mountain in the range. Snow falls above 3,281 feet a couple of times per year.

Natural history

The range is part of the Northern California coastal forests ecoregion. It is largely forested with coast Douglas-fir, coast redwood, and tanoank.

The rivers and streams that drain the range include the Mattole River. Four federally endangered species occur in the range: the Coho Salmon, Chinook Salmon, steelhead, and northern spotted owl. Other wildlife includes brown pelican, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, Roosevelt elk, osprey, otter, gray fox and black bear.


Historically, the King Range was home to the Native American Mattole and Sinkyone peoples. In the 19th century, the region was opened to commercial logging, fishing, ranching, and tanning.

In 1936 and 1937, due to the rugged terrain of the King Range and Mendocino Range to its south, engineers assigned to designing the new State Route 1 were forced to site the highway further inland/east towards the town of Leggett in its route north from Westport. Subsequently, the inaccessible coastal wilderness, known as the Lost Coast, remains the longest undeveloped stretch of coast in California.

In 1970 the U.S. Congress designated 60,000 acres of the range as the King Range National Conservation Area. It is primarily located within southwestern Humboldt County, and extends into the far northwestern corner of Mendocino County.

In 2000 President Clinton signed the law designating the rocks and islands just offshore as the California Coast National Monument.

In 2006 the U.S. Congress designated 42,585 acres of the National Conservation Area as the King Range Wilderness. The California Coastal trail goes from end to end of the range.

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