The Northwest Region of California
Established in 1973, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, located along the southern stretch of California's iconic Lost Coast, can finally live up to its name. In November 2006, after hearing the impassioned pleas of Native American elders, local conservationists and other ardent supporters, the California State Park and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to designate 7,100 acres of Sinkyone as wilderness. Despite its name, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park had long existed with no designated
The striking scenery that brings visitors to the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park left the land largely undeveloped for so many years. The steep, foggy coastal cliffs connecting Mendocino and Humboldt Counties rise sharply up from the sea. It is a landscape so rugged that the engineers who designed Highway 1 decided that the better part of valor was to retreat inland to find an easier route. This gap in Californias famous coastal highway has since been known as the " Lost Coast."
The land's basking seals and sea lions, fluttering shorebirds, and misty forests appear peaceful. Yet conflict has left its mark over the last two centuries. In the 1800s, bounty hunters slaughtered Native Americans for a reward from the State of California. Near the park's Needle Rock, a group of the vigilantes fell upon members of the Sinkyone Tribe and massacred them. The sole survivor, given the name Sally Bell by a white couple who eventually adopted her, hid in the woods for months after watching the murder of her family.
Later, conservationists clashed with logging interests in a fight to preserve the park. Timber companies clearcut choice old-growth forests nearby. By the mid-1980s, Georgia-Pacific Corporation was on the verge of liquidating the last ancient redwoods in the area. While some activists filed suit, others chained themselves to trees in an old-growth forest they dubbed the "Sally Bell Grove." In 1986, after receiving a favorable court ruling and financial help from the Save the Redwoods League, the Trust for Public Land, the California Coastal Commission and other interests, the park was expanded to its current size and special places like the Sally Bell Grove were finally spared. North Coast activist Darryl Cherney commemorated this struggle with his catchy folk song, "Give 'Em Hell, Sally Bell."
The activists who helped defend Sinkyone in the 1980s continued to pressure the California Department of Parks and Recreation to officially protect the park as wilderness. At last, these efforts paid off this past November. President Bush created the first ever Lost Coast wilderness when he signed into law the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, which included 42,000 acres of wilderness in the King Range National Conservation Area, adjacent to Sinkyone. The two areas of public land border each other and share the 50+ mile Lost Coast Trail. Both the governments of the State of California and the United States have finally given the historic and beautiful Lost Coast the permanent protection it deserves.
Trail name: Bloody Rock/Cold Creek
Distance: Your choice of 3.2 miles round-trip or 12.8 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate; Moderately Strenuous
Features: This region is a wonderful mix of open meadows, oak woodlands, old-growth pine and fir forests, and 10 miles of the Eel River canyon. The wildflower displays in spring are truly outstanding, and wildlife is abundant. The Eel River can be reached via a moderate 3.2-mile round-trip hike. The stream offers great swimming holes and many flat, shaded areas for picnicking. Most hikers turn around at the river, but the trail continues east from the stream for another 4.8 miles up the wild, beautiful and seldom visited Cold Creek canyon.
The trail is an ancient Native American trade route between the Central Valley and the Eel River watershed. Impressive Bloody Rock, a mere 0.75 miles from the trailhead and accessible via a vague spur trail, is the site of a Nineteenth Century battle between members of the Yuki Tribe and local settlers. The story goes that instead of surrendering, about 30 Yuki warriors sang their death song, joined hands, and leaped to their deaths from Bloody Rock. Today, however, the rock is an extremely peaceful place. From the top, visitors can see much of the Snow Mountain region.
The area is accessible year-round, but it is best to visit in April or May to see the wildflower displays. As with any wild forest in California, watch for poison oak, ticks and rattlesnakes. Use bear-safe food storage methods. Use caution while cro?sing the Eel River during high flows.
For more information: Mendocino National Forest, Upper Lake Ranger District, (707) 275-2361. The official Mendocino National Forest map is essential.
Directions to trailhead: From the intersection of Highways 101 and 20 in Mendocino County 4.5 miles north of Ukiah, head east on Highway 20 for 5 miles. Turn left on Potter Valley Road. Continue for 6.5 miles to Eel River Road and turn right. Follow Eel River Road for 17 miles to Mendocino National Forest Road M1, turn left. Follow M1 for 6.3 miles to Road M6, turn right. Follow M6 for 2.7 miles to the signed Bloody Rock Trailhead on right. Approximate driving time from Ukiah is 1 hour.
This hike description was written with the assistance of Bob Lorentzens outstanding The Hikers Hip Pocket Guide to the Mendocino Highlands (Bored Feet Press, www.boredfeet.com ).