Northern California is it’s own unique area. It’s a little bit of the oregon weather and farms with a lot of the free spirit and open mindedness of California. It’s a good mix and each little town has its own flavor. We spent most of our time in Eureka and Arcata, two towns so close together and tied into Laurel’s family history, but they couldn’t be more different. They both have that distinct Northern California sleepy vibe. It could be the time of year we visited, but they seem to be constantly blanketed in a fog bank. Then at a random time of day the sun will poke out and you’ll remember how pretty it can be there, but then back to damn soul crushing grey.
Arcata is small (about 15000 people) and it’s home to Humbolt State University. Which has a beautiful campus situated on a hill surrounded by redwoods. The town itself has a nice old square in the center with a fountain and several great restaurants. The only downside is that the square is constantly full of ‘travelers’ that are constantly harassing you for a handout. Its a problem in a lot of towns on the west coast.
Mad River Rapids RV Park
This is a great RV park on the north side of Arcata. From our experience it’s in the middle in terms of upkeep, it’s a little bit older. But they do have a working hot tub and pool. The bathrooms are clean and the showers are hot. The convenience store is well stocked (even with local beers!) All of the other residents were very nice and quiet and the office staff was very plesant. I would definatley stay here again, it’s a pretty great location and setup. The only downside is the wifi is Tengo and barely usable.
Redwood Curtain Disc Golf Course
This has to be one of the most beautiful disc golf courses in the country. Being in the redwoods makes it so different from anything that I have played before. They are HUGE! The canopy is so far up the tree that you don’t even feel like your ourdoors sometimes, the light is significantly dimmer and there isn’t a lot of other vegitation on the ground in some areas. So you feel like you’re throwing the discs in some kind of natural building. The holes aren’t that well marked and its easy to get lost, but that kind of adds to the natural feel. A challenging course too, I shot 8 over both times I played it. But I did see a guy get an 300 ft uphill hole in one, so that was awesome.
Redwood Park and Arcata Community Forrest
I know I mentioned the disc golf course before I mentioned the actual forest, but that’s how it goes. Its amazing to see these trees at all, but its a real treat that they are so close to the city, probably a 4 mintue drive from the city center. The system of trails that runs through them is great , with bridges crossing seasonal streams and old benches to sit on. You really feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Laurel really loves being here, you can tell by her face that she’s imagining dinosaurs stepping out from behind a tree. Also you can tell by the fact that she says that all the time.
Six Rivers Brewery
Technically it’s not in Arcata but just up the road in McKinleyville but it’s close enough for me. Even though we were in the winter months there were always people packed in around the bar. They seemed pretty knowedgable about beer, but they were a little surprised to hear about our beer tasting trip across the country. That’s what we’re doing right? Seems like it sometimes.
Japhys Soup Shop
I shouldn’t get this excited about a simple asian noodle place, but this really sticks out for some reason. It’s affordable, great food, and a cool atmosphere. They staff seems to enjoy working there even when it gets really busy. The note taped to the counter seems to imply that they’re good with dealing with stupid questions in a fun way.
Our favorite breakfast place in town, we had to stop ourselves from going here more often, we could have gone everyday! Because it was so busy on the weekends we ended up sitting at the ‘bar’ and talking to other people who enjoy ‘really thin pancakes’
Hey Juan Burritos
I only went here because someone bought the last breakfast burrito right in front of me at the coffee shop. This little burrito place across the street stepped in and sold me a delicious tortilla encased beef and cheese delivery system. It was a damn good burrito.
Finnish Country Saunas
This place doesn’t look like much from the outside, it’s in an industrial part of town. But as soon as you walk in you know something is up, it’s small and rustic like a hobbit lives there. Out back they’re hiding a little garden oasis surrounded by little houses that contain individual soaking tubs. You can get an earl grey latte and soak for 30 minutes, like a real man. You need this kind of thing in the rainy season in Humbolt, it’s dreary here.
We don’t frequent many Italian places. I think it’s because of our fear of carbs and cream sauces. But we had spent so much time in Humbolt that we were actually having to branch out and explore some new tastes. I’m glad we did because the bread alone at this place was worth the price. Here’s a tip, if you eat 3 loaves of bread, then you don’t need to order that extra meatball. The eureka location is much better than the Arcata one.
Continuing our theme of super fancy drinks on this trip. It’s got all the things that are required in a modern ‘speakeasy’ 1. $14 drinks with complicated ingrediant lists 2. Dimly lit 3. Bar staff in suspenders. 4. limited seating. It does help out review that we went there during ‘Arts Alive’ and they had a band playing in the back.
Lost Coast Brewery
Located in the heart of Old Town Eureka, this place feels like it’s one half turn of the century saloon and one half small town chain restaraunt. The beer is decent, but they’re not taking a lot of chances. My favorite was the raspberry brown ale. It’s a great starting point for NORCAL beers and you can probably get it in your area, they distribute very widely.
Old Town Coffee and Chocolates
It’s a coffee shop in Old Town that also sells chocolates. But for us it became a second home and office a couple days on the trip. When the wifi would go out at the park we would just pack everything up for lunch and move the ‘office’ over here. We learned several things.
- They open at 7am.
- They have a couple regulars
- one old man with a beard who’s constantly writing a composition book (probably his manifesto)
- A middle aged man who enjoys loudly talking about politics and not understanding anyone elses views.
- A couple younger graphic design types (probably art majors!)
- To get to the bathroom you have to walk behind the counter and through the kitchen.
- You’re supposed to pay for refills of coffee, but no one seems to notice.
- The Wifi is strong here!
Samoa is a peninsula that forms one half of the Arcata Bay. It has some pretty beaches and some very unpretty paper mills. The problem is that it’s not really connected to the mainland in that there’s only one road in and out of the area. They were doing some road work the weeks that we were staying there, but we were used to life on the road, so sitting in the car for 5 minutes really wasn’t that hard.
Fairhaven is this little neighborhood on the penninsula. There’s probably only 50 little houses. It’s one of those places that people from town will say “Oh man, you guys are staying all the way out in Fairhaven!” But in reality it’s only a 5 minute drive from Eureka. We got to park the RV outside a friends house and use their electricity, water, and wifi. After being out there and paying for RV parks every night it was really nice to just stay somewhere for free for a while. It was also great to use some regular speed residential WiFi with no bandwidth caps.
Manilla Disc Golf Course
This was the first disc golf course that I played on the trip. We had been moving around so much that there wasn’t really time for me to take a couple hours off and throw the discs around. This is a laid back course filled with grass that’s only cut a couple times a year and one hole that you throw across the outfield of a little league baseball field. It was good to play with a friend because it does have one of those holes where he warned ” you don’t want to overshoot this, because you’ll loose your disc in the mud.” Good to Know!
Samoa Dunes Recreation Area and Samoa Beaches
At the end of the road on the Samoa peninsula there’s a big section of dunes were people go to ride dirt bikes and atvs. We don’t own either of those, but it’s a good place to walk around and check out the beaches and abandoned WWII bunkers. There are a bunch of good beaches along the coast, it was cool to just be able to stop by the side of the road, walk across a dune and see the sunset on the beach. It’s one of the best parts of Samoa.
We were told that we would love Blue Lake. But I think we must have been there on an off day, the town seemed almost abandoned with the only action being at the brewery. But it was a Sunday and we weren’t really looking for a raging party so it did the job. Fun Fact, there is no actual lake here.
Mad River Brewing Company
Mad river seems to be the local favorite, the Steelhead IPA is everywhere. It’s an easy drinking beer, it’s a stepping stone into the world of good beers. It could also be an island that you go over to and never go back. Whatever metaphore you use, remember that they do have a full selection of other beers. They’re all pretty good, I remember liking the sunset IPA and Flor de Jamaica. They had a couple special ones on tap only at the brewery that fit my desires (old ale, barleywine). We had a few and then took a lap around the blue lake walking trail.
Trinidad is a small town north of Arcata. It’s a quiet little beach town with a couple popular beaches and some really cool hiking trails around ‘trinidad head’ which is basically an enormous rock dividing the two beach areas in Trinidad. The hike around the Head is has some great views and the beaches are beautiful rocky west coast beaches. It’s really a prefect example of the rough beauty of Northern California.
We talked about going to Patrick’s point for a while, but I wasn’t really into it because we had already been to Trinidad and I was sure that it would be the same as all the other beach areas. But as we have learned from this trip, just try it out, it will be fun. While it is similar to other beach areas, it is much more impressive. We visited some native ceremonial sites and hiked to the top of an great lookout point. Then we went out to ‘Wedding Rock’ (or something like that), even though a fog rolled in, it was still really impressive. I hiked down to the shore and got some great slow motion shots of the waves crashing into the rocks. We had a fantastic day there, it’s a really good memory of Humbolt.
So what did we think of Humbolt? It has quite a draw for members of Laurel’s family, Two sisters and a brother live here. I’ve been here twice before but mostly around the same time of year. I keep hearing that we need to come back in the summer and check out some of the other things to do in the area. Like swimming in the rivers and hiking around in the redwoods. I’ll admit that I am not a fan of the rainy season. But there was something different about this trip, we stayed for almost a month in a couple places around the area. We loved hiking in the Redwoods, they are something that is very specific to this area. Its just indescribably to walk through trees that are 100 feet around and are thousands of years old.
For me the openness and sometimes pretentious attitude of some of the residents can get a little overwhelming. I’m not a fan of the aggressive panhandling of the transients in Arcata Square. The locals in Eureka are sometimes a rough type that don’t fit the stereotype most have of Californians, but California is a big state. But there is something about living in a very progressive area where you have access to local food and where arts are so integrated into the community. I think it’s probably too small of a town for me to live in full time, but i’ve seen enough to know why people love it here. Maybe we’ll be back through in the summer to see the other side of the story.
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