The Local Paper
We spent our first night in Garberville, which is ground zero to Humboldt and redwoods. It’s also ground zero to cannabis cultivation. As I stood in line at a local bakery for bagels in the morning, considering whether to carry cinnamon apple bread pudding back to the hotel, I was glad to see a local paper still in print. But these are new times, as a lengthy article explained out how to fill out the permit for proper water reclamation for cannabis cultivation to the California State Water Resources Board. Another article addressed a proposal to put a wind turbine farm out in nearby coastal waters, while a local columnist mused at length about the upcoming Taste of Cannabis festival. The line of muddy trucks stretched in front of the organic coffee drive-thru hut was longer than my local In ‘n’Out.
But we’re off for our own, non-substance-induced mystical experience today, off to drive through Avenue of the Giants.
An America Worth Fighting For
The road through these coastal redwoods is a scenic drive through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, with auto tour stops that sport walking trails and plaques, as well as tiny towns with more than one Center for World Peace and Understanding next to the shops with burl carvings. A burl, by the way, is a part of the tree that gets distressed and starts to grow anew. It can look like just a bump or actually grow out a new trunk.
One of the first stops, Bolling Grove, was named to honor the first U.S. soldier killed in World War I. When this grove was dedicated to Colonel Raylan Bolling in 1921, it marked the first attempt by locals and the Save the Redwoods League to protect the land from planned deforestation, and the park slogan became:
Preserve an America worth fighting forBolling Grove dedication, 1921
Peppery Air and Golden Mosquitoes
Walking through the cathedral of trees is to experience an immediate kind of quiet. Yesterday, next to the ocean, the wind swallowed up all sounds. Here, the trees imposed their own kind of hush. When the occasional car would drive by or someone would call out, the trees seemed to swallow the sounds.
Coastal redwoods are the tallest growing trees in the world, frequently reaching over 300 ft (113 m/100 yds). That’s the length of the football field or the height of the Statue of Liberty. They used to be much more common internationally, but most overseas groves died off after the Ice Age, so nearly all are concentrated on this 400 mile strip along Northern California’s Pacific Coast. They receive a ton of rain in the winter, but during the dry summers, they survive by squeezing water out of the fog, much like they squeeze the sound out of the air.
The air is redolent of spices, though we debated which–a little cinnamon, cardamom, pepper? The air would make a good garam masala. Shafts of sunlight brightened the ferns that attached themselves everywhere they could. A mosquito floated by, golden in the sun. I thought about trying to capture it in a photo but decided it would surely bite me for such effrontery.
Queso Kings and Fresh Halibut
With our heads full of oxygen and wonder, we headed further north. There’s a couple little towns off 101 that were far more interesting than the bigger, more industrial Eureka. The first, Ferndale, has a number of houses and shops with Victorian facades that are worth a look, like the Gingerbread Mansion B&B.
Ferndale sported a surprisingly robust number of small art galleries, vintage shops, and cafes. Lost Coast Bakery had a promising-looking rhubarb galette but not good for travel, so we settled for molasses cookies.
More importantly, we found our way to the Loleta Cheese Factory, which housed the Queso Kings grill. The place is small, through the tiny shop (whose cheese was overpriced and not as varied as what was on the grill menu). The gentleman taking our orders was a bit sassy, but the Sweet Cheesus and Smokin’ Pig were good matches for each other, and there might have been some picante in the tomato soup.
I was not aware that fresh berry jam went so well on a Fontina grilled cheese sandwich. Learn something new every day!
After more trails at Patrick Point’s State Park, we had earned some beer-battered fresh halibut on fish tacos at the Good Harvest Cafe in Crescent City. In my defense, there was also a salad, with beets. Plus, I never did get that bread pudding. Still, if you’re starting to get the impression that all we gourmands do is drive around, take photos, walk, and eat, then….yes!