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Nick Taylor pushes the barn door open and fumbles for a switch. Light floods his cavernous workshop, revealing a jumble of chainsaws, African masks, tortoise shells and heavy-duty lathes. Hundreds of antique axes, adzes and chisels lean against the walls. Towering above are a Dalíesque head, an acorn the size of a dishwasher and a two-metre-tall leaf balanced on its stem. "I never know what to put as my occupation," he says, glancing around at his sculptures. "Builder of weird stuff?"

Artist Nick Taylor at Fort Bragg studioArtist and mountain biker Nick Taylor, a “refugee” from San Francisco, works out of an old timber-frame barn in Fort Bragg.

Taylor's portfolio includes an eight-metre-tall baseball glove at San Francisco's AT&T Park, the golden statues for the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon tour and Anish Kapoor's iconic Cloud Gate, a.k.a. the Bean, in Chicago's Millennium Park. After closing his Bay Area studio, Taylor searched for years before finding this patch of raw land close to Fort Bragg and not far from the Lost Coast, a mountainous stretch of Northern California that's so rugged, it took him a year to clear the plot before he could raise the timber-frame barn that's now his home and atelier.

Like all frontiers, the Lost Coast attracts two types of people: those seeking something and those escaping something. Lumberjacks, miners and fishermen first settled here, spurring booms that went bust. Later, during the 1960s and '70s, waves of Haight-Ashbury refugees transformed the region, creating an exotic hippie hybrid that Taylor describes as fiercely independent, yet neighbourly. "We gotta take care of each other out here. No one else is gonna," he says. I've come to these lush hinterlands, along with a group of bikers, in search of those hardy souls as well as challenging topography and soaring oldgrowth forest. And there may be no better way to explore this realm than from the saddle of a mountain bike.

Shrine Drive-Thru TreeThe Shrine Drive-Thru Tree in Myers Flat may not be large enough to pass through with a car, but you could easily step in to take a few pictures.

Just the previous day, our group rode through stands of fir and tanoak in nearby Jackson Demonstration State Forest, where the scent of eucalyptus and decay hung in the air. A guidebook had warned us of prodigious banana slugs ("very difficult to remove from tire treads"); instead we found glorious hand-groomed trails, every corner bermed, every side cut reinforced. I couldn't help but wonder who maintained the trails amid these lonely hills. The only signs of habitation we'd glimpsed were a handful of slumped mailboxes at the end of rutted tracks.

Tags

BIKING     CALIFORNIA     LOST COAST     OUTDOOR TRAVEL    

Comments… or add another

Marilyn and Mike from Shelter Cove

Sunday, June 16th 2013 12:02
Thanks for the write up. Lots more things to do here in the Cove. A fishing village for salmon, halibut and rock fish, winding roads and beautiful redwoods that end in the crystal blue-green water of the Pacific.

Bill

Monday, June 17th 2013 01:07
We live in Shelter Cove: heart of the Lost Coast. It is all that has ever been written about it.

Want to extend your life on earth? Move here too.

Mark Baeder

Friday, June 21st 2013 17:40
Great story! So glad how it turned out and honored to have been a part of the trip. To join the full adventure check out: http://www.sacredrides.com
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