I love a January road trip. Misty, grey, open roads calling you to drive onward into the alluring abyss. It’s the perfect time to travel because few others do.
Last week was up to Humboldt county, my first time back in over 10 years. I lived in Arcata for a few years, moving there from LA after the 1988 California State Peace March. How wonderful it ‘twas to be back.
There’s something adventurous in crossing the Ukiah/Mendocino line and heading north. It’s another world up there; one where the trees call the shots. An alternative economy that is getting more mainstream every day, surprisingly untouched with lots of hippies, homeless and happenin’ folks still around town; plenty to see and do.
January offers time to ponder what new adventures await us. Consider a trip up to Humboldt this year. Here are a few things to do when you get there:
Have lunch in this entry town to the wild, wild north. A classic hippie hangout - this is your welcome to the region. Funky shops and local flavor everywhere.
An old logging stop worth a jump off the freeway just to gaze and amaze at the remnants of a town built solely for the ever-decreasing logging industry. Drive around the processing plant and gasp at the piles of timber still stacked as far as you can see. This picture comes no where close to capturing the view.
Humboldt Brews for Happy Hour
It’s fun to arrive in new towns at happy hour and catch how the locals do it. This is that spot. I wasn’t there for more than a ½ hour when I ran into 3 people I knew including the old boyfriend who blew off my calls to catch a drink when I got into town. Wasn't he surprised to see me just sitting there in my cute rainboots? Maybe he didn’t respond back ‘cuz...well... Mr. Rock Climber of Days-Gone-By stacked on a few too many extra pounds? Uh huh… I didn’t think it was about me. -856 10th St., Arcata
Jimmie, my longest California friend, fellow Peace Marcher, and gracious host took me on our first morning walk around Trinidad Head in the cute town of Trinidad (16 miles north of Arcata). Have breakfast on the pier when you go, then walk around the Head keeping an eye out for traveling whales.
Lunch at Wildberries
When I lived in Arcata, the Co-Op was the community store and hangout. I earned some chops in Spoons back then. Now it has rightful competition from Wildberries. There’s an extensive takeout deli and indoor patio to enjoy your meal if it’s raining (which it was). This is a local foods extravaganza with good prices. - 747 13th St Arcata
Dinner at Tomo
Sushi is standard fair in Humboldt – there are many options. Tomo is a local favorite, it was packed when we went. Who knew sushi could be so fun? Interesting veggie options include the Humboldt Hunny with Tofu, Broccoli, Carrot and Almond Butter. - 708 9th St, Arcata.
The next day first stop was Arcata Saturday Plaza Farmers Market, open year round from 9 AM – 2 PM, rain or shine. (We know, it was raining again)
Then a morning hike in the Arcata Community Forest. Just blocks from the Arcata Plaza, this 790- acre paradise offers easy paths thru amazing old growth redwoods. A must see! We stumbled upon David Bowie in the trees, and the sun even came out while there. Spectacular!
Then a quick jaunt to Fire & Light, THE local artsy glass company. Started in 1995, it was partnership between the Arcata Community Recycling Center and community members who wanted an innovative use for crushed, recycled glass. Last year, Fire & Light turned the equivalent of 500,000 Snapple bottles into fun-colored dinner plates, cups and bowls. They are sold in many local shops, or visit the showroom for discounts on seconds. 45 Ericson Court, Arcata.
Saturday lunch was picnic supplies from Wildberries to enjoy at the Arcata Marsh, a world famous wetland system used as a wastewater treatment and wildlife refuge. Bird watching tours every Saturday at 8:30AM, or go on the history tour that we enjoyed at 2PM; both free. The Marsh is open anytime for a picturesque bayside walk.
On the way out to the coast, we did happy hour at Richards’ Goat Tavern and Tea Room, a cute new café offering shots of homebrew and locally-made kombucha on tap.
From there we traveled thru the “bottoms” to Mad River Beach via the Hammond Coastal Trail (this is the closest beach to Arcata, about 2 miles outside of town). The road is flanked by wide-open farmland, interesting houses, and old bridges. It’s fascinatingly serene and worth the drive even if you don’t make it to the beach.
Dinner was at Larrupin in Trinidad, another classic Humboldt haunt. Larrupin is famous for it’s signature Mustard Dill Sauce, a product of my time still sold at Whole Foods and other specialty shops.
Our entrees (Tofu Saute $24, Stuffed Portabella Mushroom $28, and Creole Pork Tenderloin $29) were nothing out of the ordinary and a touch overpriced for the complexity of preparation, but the complimentary appetizer plate featuring local cheeses and meats made a lovely addition, and the restaurant is just so romantic and cozy.
Dessert was a Cypress Grove Goat Cheese and Whipped Cream Soufflé. Yum Yum! Cypress Grove is an Arcata-based company that produces the famous Humboldt Fog cheese you all love. Visit their cheese-making creamery at 1330 Q Street, Arcata.
We danced the night away at the Blue Lake Casino (a new and surprising addition to this sleepy town) and the famous Logger Bar (standing since 1899), that's two rockin bands in one night in the small town of Blue Lake, just 6 miles east of Arcata. Both places showed off the locals in fine form with cheap drinks (vodka soda $4) and free music that went till 1 AM. (Don’t forget to tip the musicians.) The Logger Bar is a hoot – filled with chainsaws and all kinds of logging paraphernalia.
Ok Food Partiers! So this is your hog call to get out to see and eat the world.
Signing off… this is Lauralies (that's leees like the treees).
High from Humboldt