I was nearly done with my hike when I realized I had no photos of myself in that beautiful wilderness. I had passed a couple of people, and any of them would have been happy to snap a photo, but by the time I remembered to document my presence there, it was only me. So I took a selfie.
At the place where the little road to the trailhead comes out at Highway 299 is a little ghost town of Helena, California. People still live there and are served by the U.S. Postal Service. The place was settled in 1851 to serve the miners in the mountains. Today there are several large, abandoned, and vandalized buildings left near the road.
On my way west along 299, the temperature dropped from 102 to 72 by the time I reached Highway 101 along the coast. I arrived at Tara’s dad’s house with some sunshine and afternoon left in the day. Feeling pleased to have found Humboldt County in sunshine (a truly rare event), I was happy that Tara felt like walking to the beach. We hit the Hammond Trail and passed the gorgeous country fields near McKinleyville in the flat lands around the mouth of the Mad River.
Once I heard it, I have enjoyed telling the story of the naming of the Mad River. In 1850 the Dr. Josiah Gregg Expedition was exploring, mapping, and documenting the area. Gregg, a naturalist, was also interested in cataloging flora and fauna. Their most important work was arguably the mapping of Humboldt Bay, large enough to accommodate ships that could serve miners and trappers of the region. Falling on hard times, the group had a dispute about the best way to return to San Francisco. Gregg could not bring himself to give up on the scientific work and insisted that they must follow the coast home, and continue to work. The larger group of dissenters argued that they would starve to death unless they made their way inland again. Dr. Gregg had a tremendous temper tantrum at the mouth of a river, as his companions left him and a few others on the shore. The Mad River was named in honor of that event. Dr. Gregg eventually realized he needed to move inland as well, and his group began heading toward what is now called Clear Lake. Sadly, he was starving to death at that point, and in his weakness fell off his horse and died.
After enjoying the beach in the waning sun, Tara and I headed back. The next morning we left early in order to make preparations for the following day’s celebrations: My kid turned 17 and was going to have a big birthday bash at the house. I can hardly believe my baby girl is 17 years old. Babyhood a distant memory, Tara is now strong and kind, thoughtful and helpful, smart and oh, so funny. I feel honored that I get to share in her life.