Helena and Humboldt

Backpacker selfie
Backpacker selfie

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.

Once a large and beautiful home
Once a large and beautiful home
My mother would have loved the pine cone wallpaper.
My mother would have loved the pine cone wallpaper.
The old post office building
The old post office building
Staircase inside the home
Staircase inside the home

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.

Fields and farmland near McKinleyville, California
Fields and farmland near McKinleyville, California
I'll bet one does not find many snails on the fence posts of Kansas.
I’ll bet one does not find many snails on the fence posts of Kansas.
Walking bridge over the Mad River, along the Hammond Trail
Walking bridge over the Mad River is part of the Hammond Trail
An abandoned barn along our route
An abandoned barn along our route
My Tara dancing on the beach
My Tara dancing on the beach
Purple flowers and grasses as lovely as any arranged basket.
Purple flowers and grasses as lovely as any arranged basket.
A hunter waits patiently in the field.
A hunter waits patiently in the field.
This heron is doing more aggressive hunting, as she stalks gracefully across the grass.
This Great Blue Heron is hunting more aggressively than the cat.

 

4 thoughts on “Helena and Humboldt

  1. I love your travelogues! Makes me jealous of all your hiking; we used to hike a lot, and now that we have the time to do it again, my ankles and Husband’s knees just can’t take much of a hike any more. Thanks for letting me enjoy these places I will likely never see in person. 🙂

    1. My knee has decided it’s not 25 anymore. I have to use strategies for going downhill like walk backwards and walk with my legs far apart. As long as I can find a work-around, I’ll keep doing it. Then, when my joints all fall apart, I’m going to get one of those motorized scooters. I love those things!

      I’m glad you like my travelogues! I have fun writing them and posting photos.

  2. Outstanding series of photos and thoroughly enjoyed your descriptive and interesting trip comments! (And BTW — thanks for the Jorstad Cabin link.)

    This is the 30th Anniversary of the Trinity Alps — 30 years since it was officially recognized as a federal wilderness. Unfortunately (ironically, too) — the TA only got a fraction of normal rainfall / snowpack last winter — in fact, for the last three straight years its snowpack has been below season normal. The North Fork and all its creeks — Rattlesnake Creek, Backbone Creek, China Creek, Grizzly Creek, etc. all have been impacted — all have greatly reduced flow rates.

    Wish the temperatures had been more moderate for your trip (crazy weather pattern all over!) — but glad you got to experience the historic North Fork Trail — was used as a trade route by Native Americans for several thousand years before so-called “first contact” … and hope you’ll give Grizzly Lake another try — there’s a short cut — can come in from the South Fork of the Salmon River side. Thanks for sharing your trip experiences! Happy Trekking!

    1. Gary, I’m so glad you stopped to take a look at my trip up the North Fork. And thanks so much for your info on Jorstad Cabin. I couldn’t find info anywhere else, except people who had copied what you wrote. Thanks for the appreciative comments. It’s nice that people can enjoy it when I do what I love: hike, snap photos, and write. I’ll go back to Grizzly Lake for sure.

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