Walking the Wild Trees Pt. 6: Eureka, Arcata, Crescent City
Wednesday October 12
Crescent City CA
A leisurely drive today up the coast from Rio Dell to Crescent City, where we’re planning to spend at least two nights.
We stopped first in the historic section of Eureka, and took a nice walk along the edge of the ocean and through a district where old buildings stand in various states of restoration. It certainly seems that the town is trying to revive the downtown area. The tracks of an old trolley line were still visible down along Railroad Street. One old hotel had been wonderfully restored, and there was a great corner bookstore.
Out at the edge of the downtown area is the old Carson mansion, built by William Carson, one of the first major loggers of redwoods after trying to find gold in California. It has been refurbished and used as a private club, and we walked out there and gawked at it, too.
We took a bridge along highway 255 out to the actual coastline. We drove a few miles and pulled into a community center for the village of Manila, and we walked out to the beach from there, where we got another great view of the waves. 255 led into Arcata, a college town that houses Humboldt State University, one of 30-some state schools and where our friend Darrin Long went to college.
It was great walking around the old town and square. The vibe was Boulder circa 1983, when we arrived here, and every business had green marketing and goods. It was really kind of trippy, and we drove up on campus and through the city park, which is a redwood forest, which we thought was pretty cool.
We had lunch at Tomo in the Arcata Hotel building just off the square. Billie had chicken katsu and I had yakisoba. The helpings were so huge and yummy that we got the rest to go, and we both finished our dishes up just now at the motel, along with a piece of carrot cake that Billie bought at the little breakfast place in Rio Dell. Little pleasures that make a difference on the road.
The waiter gave us some suggestions for places to visit on our way north. We stopped for a bit at Trinidad, a small town perched high above the coast, and then we headed for Patrick’s Point, where we walked down to the well-named Agate Beach, which wasn’t made of sand but of worn-down pieces of agate, and we walked around Wedding Rock on a lush old Indian trail through dense thickets of trees and shrubs around the cliffs. Wandering around up there gave me a strange case of déjà vu that took me back to south Kansas City 1955, for some reason.
As we got closer to Crescent City and the two other old-growth forests, we began noticing herds of elk all along the highway. In fields, along roads and in people’s yards. Almost like being in Yellowstone at the infamous elk traffic jam at Mammoth a few years back. Turns out they are Roosevelt elk, another of the four surviving sub-species of elk in the United States and common in this part of the world. Elk are no big whup in Colorado, but here they seem unique. No bugling, however.
We’re staying at Curley’s Motel. Fifties modern and built out of a single redwood tree. The woman who signs us in had an old-style curly haircut, and we bantered. Got the cash discount. After we got the room, I went back over and asked what I would have to do to get one more pillow. She smiled and said, “How about please?” Just the kind of place I want to stay.
Crescent City is the only American town damanged by tidal waves from the Japanese tsunami earlier this year. The mutilation was severe in the main harbor across the road from Curley’s, and she shows us a laminated set of photos that show the Before and After of the city’s main harbor. (Every business has the same one that they show when they get questioned, which is often in this place.) Construction equipment and cranes are all anchored around the harbor, and we find out later from a newspaper story that construction to repair the damage is expected to continue for awhile.
We decided to have a drink. We headed off for the Harbor View Grill, a short walk into the harbor. To get there, we crossed the highway and walked through an area next to the harbor that was like a trailer park, except that the trailers were sometimes boats. The grill is on the second floor, and we walk to the back to the bar, where we had a drink (great martini) while we chatted up the bartender there, a young guy who had just moved to town, before we walked home and ate our leftovers from Arcata. Life is good.