July 10, 2009


Hudack and I were spent by the time we got to our friend Joe Petsche’s house. The effects of the Armenian wedding the day before lingered with us for the five hour drive up desolate Interstate 5 to Joe’s place in Salinas. It was time for relaxation and a break from the fast pace of Los Angeles. It was time to get up to one of the most relaxing places in the world: Humboldt County, California.

Joe, Hudack and I became friends at Humboldt State University in a small town called Arcata, which is about five hours north of San Francisco. Back in 1999 we found ourselves with a weekend of absolutely nothing to do before school started. From perpetually rainy Arcata we took a memorable trip up to Eugene, Oregon, which among other events was the final resting place of the car’s alternator and the point of origin for our friendship.

We stayed the night at Joe’s place in Salinas, which is close to Monterrey Bay. In the morning he explained that Salinas is the ‘lettuce capitol of the world.’ Lettuce, fast food, and gangs, is how Joe explained the delicate balance of life in Salinas, but he and his girlfriend got a good deal on a nice house there and it’s close to where they study/profess at San Jose State University.

Humboldt, our destination for the trip north, is a stunning place. The coast features intermittent immense rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. The interior is filled with towering redwood trees, mountains and cool winding rivers. Fortunately for us, as beautiful as Humboldt scenery is the ride north along the 101 from Humboldt is nearly as sweet.

We had four days to conquer the old college stomping grounds and had a list of places to hit during the stay. Here are the highlights:


DSC05583This was the ultimate hangout in college. Frisbee, bonfires, rock climbing faces, relaxing, sunsets…And if those didn’t interest you then it was time to check your pulse and see if you have a heart beat.

DSC05597Low tide exposes caves at Moonstone. I once saw Hudack catch a live fish with his bare hand close to this cave. Hudack has done some amazing things in his life but that ranks up there with the time he fell through our patio roof trying to secure a sound spot to watch the sunrise.

DSC05613Hippies sit on a log at Moonstone Beach discussing pertinent hippie issues.

DSC05622Scenes like this is a big reason why people show up to this beach.


DSC05652Kinda pretty, I guess.

DSC05710The Mouth of the Klamath is a wildlife paradise. Fish stream into the ocean from the river only to be eaten by seals like these. The seals face the constant threat of being liquidated by a whale or a shark, which at times make themselves visible.  It’s like a free Sea World without the families from Indiana in matching t-shirts and hats feeding the wildlife nachos.


DSC05718Even bears love the huge population of fish at the mouth of the Klamath for some reason.


DSC05745This little stream carved this dramatic canyon with vertical walls covered in ferns. Usually, it seems, there is a human vs. elk standoff at the entrance to the canyon because they (the elk) are drawn to the stream for water and they (the people) are often less than artful in dealing with wildlife in ‘their’ path.  Even better is when a hippie has to restrain his hippie-dog from attacking the elk: “Marley! No! Chill, Man! Stay, bro!”


Looking up, out of the canyon.


Joe poses to make the canyon walls seem taller than they really are.


DSC05852One of my favorite places in the world is traveling inland in Humboldt County to the Trinity River, one of a few pristine winding rivers through the mountainous countryside. The temperature is anywhere from 10-20 degrees warmer than the coast though it is only about 45 miles inland. The water is cool but the air is hot so it is ideal for floating and swimming, The only sketchy part is getting down there. This picture shows approximately where our rental car would have landed if we hadn’t missed the Jeep that was coming the opposite way around the corner.

DSC05801It never required being held at gun point to swim in river water that looked this nice.


Spots like this are hard to access but once you are there you become thankful that it’s that way–thankful, for instance, that it isn’t inundated with heaps of people with big silver boom boxes blaring Def Leopard using the river are their personal aluminum can recycling bin.


DSC05925This redwood forest sits just beyond the back doors of the university.  It has miles of trails winding all around the hills behind school.  It also served as a fine alternative to going to classes.


DSC05924You can always tell that you’re in a redwood forest because all the trees will be really tall.

This jaunt through redwood country made me realize how important it is to stay connected with this amazing area of the world.  It felt great to just aim the car in any direction we wished, seeing sights that we either took for granted or were too busy to get to back in the college days.

Most of my friends have moved away from there and have become real functioning people:  I teach art in Maine, Hudack gave up bare-hand fishing and now works with computers in Baltimore, and Joe Petsche is now a professor of Geology at San Jose State.  We have plenty of excuses of why it is hard to get back to the place, but letting six more years lapse before heading there again will be a crime.



  1. rach :) said

    How odd that my baby sis is currently teaching HS English in Salinas (your description matches hers) and my other sis taught at Humbolt and we had the luxury to visit some of those places you mentioned. This SAD 21 connection to my East Coast turned West Coast fam freaks me out just a bit…

  2. Hey!
    Really really amazing pictures!
    Wow, I’ve heard about the redwood forest but never saw these kind of pictures.

    This is definitely going on my “to see” list for future travel!

    Keep well!

  3. Teri said

    My husband grew up south of Eureka, in Humboldt County, and went to HSA. We lived there together a few years before coming back East, and there are many days I wish we’d never left. Your photos remind me of why. The power of the Pacific Ocean, the redwood forests, the mountains all in one place. It’s a deeply spiritual place (see hippies above).

    Thank you for these awesome sphotos.

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