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We join a jostling lunch crowd at the Mendocino Market. Owner Jeff Neumeier migrated to this outpost (pop. 894) a decade ago in search of a simpler life, transforming a 150-year-old butcher shop into a popular eatery. A former corporate chef who's worked in kitchens from Idaho to Alabama, Neumeier brought with him a passion for high-gravity beers, like his award-winning Brandy Barrel Aged Barley Wine; exotic sodas, including dandelion and burdock cola from the U.K.; and local fare, from Dungeness crab to Greek dolmas to dim sum. After scarfing down a whopping smoked salmon bialy, one of 36 sandwiches on the menu, it's time to push farther up the coast.

Shelter Cover, the geographical epicentre of the Lost Coast, is also home to some of the region's best biking. Accessible by a tortuous hour-long drive over the King Range, this once-secluded fishing community became a $50-million developers' dream during the 1960s, with 4,500 vacation homes planned for wealthy weekenders (only 400 homes were built). We arrive in late afternoon and discover rocky headlands peppered with empty lots and abandoned mansions. Neither town nor village nor hamlet, Shelter Cove is, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a Census Designated Place – a sparsely populated area that exists as a quasi-breakaway state.

A "Closed" sign hangs in the window of the Airport Deli and Market. Golfers wearing cut-off jeans and drinking Bud from the can knock balls around on a course built along the shoulders of a silent airstrip. The scent of kelp mixes with wild fennel, and oystercatchers scream overhead. I wander silent subdivisions, at last spotting another soul: a solitary man on a porch, smoking a cigar and watching pelicans skim the swell below.

Paraglider flying over the Cape Mendocino lighthouseThis paraglider, flying over the Cape Mendocino lighthouse, might argue that the best way to see the Lost Coast is from the air.

After dragging our suitcases into the low-slung Inn of the Lost Coast, we head to the hot tub, overlooking the Pacific. This is where we bump into Garren ("Like guarantee, without the tee") and his nightgown-clad bride. The stocky, tattooed man grew up in Shelter Cove and returned only yesterday to get married. A makeshift chapel stands on a nearby bluff, its white linen drenched in sea fog; two sun-warmed kegs sit on the lawn. "Drink up," Garren insists.

"It's an alternative reality out here," he says, raising a red party cup. "The road is our filtration system; not many tourists make it through. If you grew up here, you know how to drive." Garren points to a massive pickup truck parked in front of the motel. "She's got 5,000 miles on her already – sideways!"

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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