Guidebook offers new hikes to try on the Mendocino Coast
Trail guides are a literary form all their own. Most will get you where you want to go. The most artful of the genre, however, will change your perception of a place for forever. You may even find yourself reading an especially inspired trail guide over and over like a beloved novel.
Such was my fate when I traded in my heavily dog-eared 20-year-old copy of Bob Lorentzen’s “The Hiker’s Hip Pocket Guide to the Mendocino Coast” for the new fourth edition, now available at local independent bookstores, museums and from the Bored Feet Press website.
When my copy arrived in the mail, I curled up with a cup of coffee and spent the next several hours lost in the labyrinth of ridges, canyons, pocket beaches, redwood forests, ghost towns and old logging roads that make up this wildest stretch of California’s coast.
The book covers 400 miles of scenic trails ranging from easy strolls and ADA-accessible outings to ambitious backcountry treks. Its 64 individual trip descriptions include many new trails since the previous edition as well as fully updated accounts of “the classics,” including that most isolated treasure — the Lost Coast. Other updated entries include trails through Jackson State Forest, Bowling Ball Beach, Russian Gulch, Gualala Point and Jug Handle, as well as the State Parks at MacKerricher, Russian Gulch, Van Damme, Hendy Woods and Manchester.
New trails include Usal’s candelabra redwoods, Big River State Park, Fort Bragg’s Noyo Headlands Park, the Point Arena-Stornetta area, Pelican Bluffs Preserve, the Newport/Kibesillah Coast Trail, the Caspar Headlands and Uplands and many others.
Although he’s had a lifelong passion for hiking and a critical eye for what makes a trail guide useful, Lorentzen surprisingly did not initially set out to become an author. When he moved to Fort Bragg in 1974, he simply started looking for places to hike. Working at the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, he soon became the go-to trail guy, happy to chat with customers about where they could hike.
“When people asked if the store had trail guides available, I jokingly would say ‘No, but I’m going to write one!’ ” he said. Fortunately for his readers, Lorentzen decided to take himself at his word. After two years of research, hiking and writing, the first edition of the Mendocino Coast guide was published in 1986. Lorentzen’s friend, Judy Detrick, provided the design and a local Fort Bragg schoolteacher, Jann Patterson-Watters and her daughter came up with the set of explanatory symbols that still accompany the text three editions later.
“At the time, I thought it was going to be a one-off — a hobby,” Lorentzen recalled. But about six months after it was published, the San Francisco Chronicle reviewed the guide along with other Northern California regional books. “After that, we sold out so fast it had to be reprinted,” he said.
The first Mendocino Coast guide was followed by three more “Hip Pocket” volumes, covering Sonoma County, the Mendocino Highlands and the Humboldt-Del Norte Coast, respectively. Each of these is enriched by Lorentzen’s encyclopedic knowledge of natural history, especially plants, and the human stories of the places he describes. As a whole, the Hip Pocket series covers well over 2,000 miles of trails — trails which Lorentzen and his friends have hiked, again and again, to keep the guides updated through multiple editions.