Morgan Visalli and Jocelyn Enevoldsen will begin their journey at the top of the state.
For 97 days the duo, known as the MoJo Hikers, will follow the California Coastal Trail over sand and cobblestone-covered beaches, past headlands and rocky points to its terminus at the Mexican border. Along the way, they'll traipse over busy roads and skirt large swaths of private property, military bases and one nuclear power plant.
The hikers are using their journey to drum up public awareness for the 1,230-mile route. Using GPS, the hikers will identify gaps and create interpretive content for the California Coastal Trail Association.
The duo will trek through Del Norte County starting on Sunday. They will hold a short meet and greet Tuesday at Point St. George.
"The trail's only halfway complete," Enevoldsen said. "Some people say it's about two-thirds complete. One of the big pushes for our project is trying to get some really good information about how complete the trail is and also to spread the word about the trail so the public knows about it."
Enevoldsen and Visalli, graduates of UC Santa Barbara's Bren School of Environmental Science, are wrapping up year-long California Sea Grant State Fellowships. Visalli was a fellow with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Enevoldsen worked with the California Coastal Conservancy, which oversees the California Coastal Trail.
Enevoldsen said she learned about the route through her work with the California Coastal Trail Association, or CCTA, and told Visalli about it. The CCTA is an alliance of local government, state agencies, non-profit organizations and the public whose goal is to complete the trail.
The concept that morphed into the California Coastal Trail began in 1972 with Proposition 20. Known as the Coastal Initiative, Proposition 20 mandated that a statewide network of trails and public accessways to the coast be established and maintained.
Since then, multiple pieces of legislation has passed related to the coastal trail, said CCTA Executive Director Una Glass. One of the most important, California Senate Bill 908, authored by North Coast representative Wesley Chesbro, mandated the Coastal Conservancy as the lead agency in charge of completing the trail.
"The Coastal Trail isn't owned by any single entity, it's basically a concept in state law. Who actually owns it are over 100 separate jurisdictions," Glass said, adding the association will also cooperate with the California Coastal Commission, Caltrans and California State Parks. "Probably one of the first steps is to make sure every jurisdiction, county and city, in the coastal zone takes it seriously and thinks about what would be a good route for their coastal trail."
During their hike, Enevoldsen and Visalli will collect content for a smartphone app that is expected to be released in six months. Glass said the project is funded by a California Coastal Conservancy grant and will include photographs as well as interviews with coastal residents, heroes and celebrities.
Enevoldsen and Visalli will also map their route using GPS and collect information about trail conditions and attractions and landmarks that may be interesting to the public, Glass said.
She noted the coastal trail shares a lot of traits with other wilderness treks like the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. Many spots are incredibly remote, such as the Lost Coast, and hard to get to. The coastal trail also wends through urban areas including the promenades at Venice Beach and Santa Monica and the Bayshore Bike Lane in San Diego.
"The county that has the most completed coastal trail (segment) is San Diego," Glass said. "The Bayshore Bike Lane that goes all the way around San Diego Bay is a multi-use trail that is also used as a commuter bike trail for people to go from Imperial Beach to Downtown."
Visalli said she and Enevoldsen will encounter obstacles during their hike, which will force them inland. One of those obstacles is the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The duo also expect some beach walking, forcing them to keep an eye on the tides, especially around bluffs and headlands.
"Our goal is to try to do our best to stay as close to the coast as possible and then for those parts that are really tough to keep really good records," Visalli said.
Veteran backpackers and wilderness adventurers, Enevoldsen and Visalli have been planning and training for their hike since last summer. They have also reached out to public officials, nonprofits and other coastal advocates. This includes California State Parks, which manages more than 300 miles of the coast.
The duo are also encouraging folks to hike portions of the trail with them.
"We want to get people out to the Coastal Trail as much as possible so we would love to have people come join us for a mile, two miles, 10 miles, however long suits their fancy," Visalli said. "We'll have our itinerary online and they can follow us on Facebook or Instagram to know where we are and where are good places to meet up on the trail."
Del Norters will be able to meet the hikers at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at Point St. George and join them as they wend their way down Pebble Beach Drive, past the harbor and out of town. To follow their progress, visit www.mojocoastwalk.org. Folks can also connect with MoJo Coastwalk on Facebook and Instagram. To help with their endeavor, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/mojo-coastwalk-on-the-california-coastal-trail#/.
For more information about the California Coastal Trail Association, visit www.coastwalk.com/ccta.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.