Hiking in Humboldt County

There are so many hiking options in Humboldt County. I have lots of choices within 20 minutes of my Trinidad doorstep. I went on a longer 5 mile hike and then a short 1.6 mile hike–both with ocean views and lots of up and down.

The hike began along the beach in the refreshing fog.
The hike began along the beach in the refreshing fog.

On New Years Day I took advantage of the California State Parks kick off to their 150th year celebration in 2014. They hosted over 40 hikes at state parks including one at the Humboldt Lagoons State Park. I arrived at the park just as they took the group photo–over 30 people of all fitness levels looked forward to the 2.5 mile hike to the lagoon and 2.5 miles back.  We trooped across the beach and then headed up the trail. I am not one for group trips and it felt a bit like a wagon train walking up hill and over dale. If I had been a part of a pioneer train I would have volunteered to be a scout to get a chance to see off in the distance.  Occasionally the park ranger leading the walk would stop and give us information about flora and fauna.

A variety of woodlands framed the trail.
A variety of woodlands framed the trail.

We arrived at the lagoon and people spread out to eat their lunches at picnic tables and along the shore. I decided to head straight back so I could have the trail to myself and walk at my own pace. It took much less time to get back. There is only a shack like outhouse at the lagoon so I was happy to see the slightly nicer version at the parking lot. The hike began at 11:00 a.m. and now it was 2:00 p.m The parking lot was overflowing and a few groups had built campfires.

Lagoon.
Lagoon.
I enjoyed the solitude on the return hike.
I enjoyed the solitude on the return hike.

I overhead lots of conversations and while some people are regular hikers, most people seemed to be acting on resolutions for 2014. It was a great way to start the new year whatever the motivation.

Douglas Fir

On another day H., N. and I took the dogs to Trinidad Head. You can park at the Trinidad State Beach or walk from the parking lot at the Marina and Seascape Restaurant.  We walked from my rental home across the village.  As you head up the hill you can turn right at the trail or continue to the left up the road. Going to the right is clockwise and involves a lot more up. The trail is protected from the wind by lovely hedges. There are numerous breaks with seating for whale watching or staring out to sea. It is not hard to imagine shipwrecks just off shore.

The dock and Seascape restaurant are next to Trinidad Head
The dock and Seascape restaurant are next to Trinidad Head

Gorgeous views all round Trinidad HeadGorgeous views all round Trinidad Head

Friends framed by hedge archway
Friends framed by hedge archway

The hike is only 1.5 miles round the head and over a mile is up if you go clockwise. Near the “top” is a cross put in place by the “club women”.  The return on the road is a steepish downhill. The views of the bay and village are lovely. As we returned we were passed by an older gentleman who appeared to walk this trail everyday–a rigorous and healthy routine.

The walks to the Old Home Beach are too short to be called a hike. You can reach the beach from the Memorial Lighthouse in the village or from the Parker Creek trail. Both routes involve serious stairs and were a challenge to Radar’s creaky back legs. He was a trooper; although he could not see the sea lions just offshore and I dutifully kept him on leash, he really enjoyed the the variety of smells and sights along the shore.

cross at Trinidad head

Yummy Eating in Trinidad

Lighthouse Grill

The mashed potato cone is surprisingly yummy.
The mashed potato cone is surprisingly yummy.

Trinidad can boast a lot of really great places to eat for such a small town. The Lighthouse Grill is casual, affordable and delicious. The hamburger buns and ice cream are homemade and the fish is fresh from the Trinidad bay. Their most famous dish is the mashed potato cone. It is mashed potatoes with gravy and bacon in a cornmeal waffle cone.  I have eaten here a couple of times and ordered the mashed potato cone, fish and chips, tuna fish sandwich and cheeseburger. Everything was delicious. It is a fun place with indoor and outdoor seating. The location in the Murphy’s Market parking lot is not picturesque, but they make up for it in original and good tasting food. Just watch the fat intake (or look the other way)

Larrupin’s Cafe 

Consistently excellent Larrupin's Cafe in Trinidad
Consistently excellent Larrupin’s Cafe in Trinidad

Our dinner meal on New Years Eve was one of the best in memory. The service was topnotch and the interior is elegant and cozy. Until the sun set we had a view of the pretty garden. We went for the food and it lived up to its reputation: YUM! My friend started with the barbequed oysters: excellent. I have been eating the Larrupin’s red sauce (bbq-esque) for over 20 years and it has been almost that long since I dined in the restaurant. Why did I wait so long?

The wine list is comprehensive and you can buy anything by the glass or bottle. Entrees are priced between $25-38 and is a good value because it includes the appetizer board, salad and a choice of potato or vegetable. We varied our orders so we could taste more but we all ordered the twice-baked potato–old school and so delicious. I am not sure if they still sell their salad sauce; they should. It is amazing.

I ordered the lamb chops, Harriet ordered the chicken in phyllo, and Brian ordered the prime rib special. The prime rib was truly amazing. I loved my lamb chops and the chicken in phyllo was excellent.

We didn’t have room for dessert but our friend Jodie is the dessert chef so I had to try one. We all ordered coffee (it was a long time until midnight) and it was excellent. So many times restaurants do not get the coffee right. This Trinidad institution still delivers consistently excellence after all of these years. The triple layer chocolate cake with amaretto creme filling and caramel topping was out of this world. H and I said we’d only take a few bites and then it was almost gone!

Wow! beautiful and delicious
Wow! beautiful and delicious

I am not waiting 20 years before I eat at Larrupin’s again!

Jodie’s chocolate cake

Simply delicious chocolate cake
Simply delicious chocolate cake

I eat really well when I am in Humboldt County because so many people in Harriet’s family are terrific cooks.  Jodie is a pastry chef, Matt is also a chef. Nora is a great cook, and so is Jenny, and Harriet. When everyone gets together it is delightful and impossible to eat moderately. Steph and Jodie hosted a holiday open house and Jodie made this simple chocolate cake. I took my first bite and thought “this is what cake is supposed to taste like!” So many times you bite into cake hoping for this. Oh my.  I asked Jodie for the recipe (he is generous that way) and he went to the recycling and dug out the notes he made while he made it. It is all in grams and is missing some of the usual information about oven tempurature and how long to bake it–just the notes an accomplished baker needs to stay on track. I may frame it!

Trinidad Bay Eatery and Gallery

I started eating breakfast here on my first morning and went almost every morning during my stay.  I tried the Parker Street pancakes with banana and pecans because I’m staying at Parker Creek Cottage. Other mornings I ate the oatmeal, or buttermilk pancakes, or eggs over medium, or a ham and cheese omelette. It was a great way to start the day. Michelle, my waitress, would brew a pot of decaf coffee for me and make sure I had what I needed. There are a lot of regulars eating breakfast and I did not mean to eavesdrop and I learned a

Parker Street Pancakes
Parker Street Pancakes

lot about the character of the town. There is a lot to like.

Seascape Restaurant

Seascape Restaurant with Raven
Seascape Restaurant with Raven

The last place I tried is located down at the fishing pier and is on the water. It recently got a new ramp and entrance but the indoors have not ever been remodeled! I was craving clam chowder so we went to the Seascape for lunch.  The service is the best part of the experience at Seascape. Our waitress was very sweet and competent. The food is good and nothing memorable. There is a lot of fish on the menu and the prices are reasonable.

Beachcomber Cafe

It was the only restaurant of note (beside the casino) in Trinidad that I did not try because it was closed with the owners on vacation from December 24 to January 3.  From the menu on the door it appears that breakfast seems to be focused on bagels and they have a commitment to organic food and not using throw away dishes. There is another sign on the door that explains that you can take their real mugs to go if you bring them back.

I also tried the Murphy’s Market deli–they made a ham and swiss sandwich for my New Years Day hike. I requested Larrupin’s mustard and it was made to order and tasty. Of course after hiking 5 miles, sandwiches taste exceptionally good.

I focused on Trinidad restaurants during my stay and there are many more options if I drove into Arcata or Eureka. This is also the home of Cypress Grove goat cheese–my favorite is “Purple Haze.” I have places I want to try–guess I will have to return one day soon.

I Brake for Pie!

I just finished a 5 mile hike and was driving away from the State park, when I spied this sign across the highway from Humboldt Lagoons State Park:

PIe and coffee--it is a siren song!
PIe and coffee–it is a siren song!

My car was running on fumes and I needed to find gas within 15 miles, so I thought “Why not check this place (pie) out and ask about the closest gas station?” The Elk Valley RV Park and Campground turns out to be a happy place. The people who manage it were organizing a New Years lunch with salmon pate and bouillabaisse. Woowhee. A step up from hot dogs and beans.

The blackberry pie was just coming out of the oven, so I decided to go put some gas in my Passat up the road in Orick and come back for a slice of pie.

Got Gas? Nope. Please sell me some Betty.
Got Gas? Nope. Please sell me some Betty.

The spot in the road that is Orick is just 5 miles down the road and one of those places time forgot. Betty sold me $20 worth of gas and I used one of the oldest gas pumps I have seen in awhile!

Gas pump circa?

I went back to the Elk Valley RV Park and finally got my piece of pie to go. When I got back to Radar at the rental I took my first bite. Oh my!  The pie crust was flaky and the filling was sweet, sour, and berry good.

Pie worth waiting for!

I learned a couple of things while I was hanging out waiting for pie. There is a local wild elk herd of about 60 cows that roams through the campground about once a day. I saw them from the highway about 8 miles north of Trinidad on my way back!  And I thought someone told me there is a rock band called “There will be pie later.” When I tried to google it other pies came up: Humble Pie and a Russian band called Apple Pie. And then there is the classic Don McClean “American Pie”. (I may have to make a pie themed mixed CD.) I could not discover the Pie Later band, so if you know it please share. Apparently after their concerts spontaneous pie potlucks happen.

Remember if you are following me on the highway, I brake for pie!

Telling the World: goals not resolutions

About those cycling goals I am telling the world (or you my blog readers)…  Even before I read the article “Tempt Yourself Thin” by Lisa Marshall in the January/February issues in Bicycling magazine, I learned that setting goals and breaking them into “bite size chunks” works well for me. I do not make resolutions in the new year; however, I do spend time reviewing the goals in my journal and making new ones. This article helped me better understand how rewards can help me stay on track.

Eat my vegetables!
Eat my vegetables!

The article also includes profiles of six people who have been transformed physically through cycling and exercise. I found these inspirational and full of practical tips, including:

  • “I map out my riding schedule at the beginning of the week, anchoring it around my long ride on the weekend, with smaller rides during the week.” from Trish
  • “…mounting research suggest that tantalizing dieters with material rewards (or the threat of material losses) helps them lose weight and keep it off.”
  • “Don’t put work first. Put yourself first.” from Anne.
  • People are motivated the first week or two..but as time goes on, it’s harder to maintain self control, so if you have a lot of weight to lose, make your rewards incrementally larger.

In the next two weeks I will eat my vegetables everyday, and bike 2 times a week for at least 30 minutes (using the trainer if it rains) and one longer ride of an hour or more. When I accomplish this I will reward myself with clipless pedals and a bike fitting at the bike shop that makes me drool.

Reward: clipless pedals
Reward: clipless pedals

I will continue to set goals every two weeks. I may experiment with the website gym-pact.com where I can earn money if I meet my goals and pay others if I do not.

On my way to the Tour de France I will need to build up to being able to ride 50 miles on rolling hills with ease; to maintain my bike and make repairs (especially to flat tires); to shift gears, use clipless pedals, and travel at higher speeds; to speak more basic French phrases.  Also I want to lose at least half the weight I would like to ultimately lose, or 20 pounds.

I decided to enter the Bicycling magazine “You Lose You Win” contest. I submitted the following paragraph to describes my goal and commitment to weight loss. If selected, I win coaching from Selene Yeager and the opportunity to earn a brand-new Raleigh road bike.

After years of watching the Tour de France from my couch, I am committed to following it in person from Yorkshire to Paris. I am part of a Trek Tour in England and must be able to cycle 50 miles at an average of 15 mph. Today I am 40 pounds overweight, cannot shift gears very well and have never used clipless pedals. I am sharing my journey on my blog Adventures of American Julie. The testimonials in Bicycling convinced me to ask for help meeting my goals of becoming a level 3 cyclist and shedding 20 pounds by July. 

Before.
Before.

Wish me luck!

Ah, Trinidad (California)

Is there a more beautiful coastline than Northern California? I think not. Walking to the beach everyday is such a luxurious way to bring in the New Year.

View of Trinidad Head from Memorial Lighthouse
View of Trinidad Head from Memorial Lighthouse

Pinch me. A large variety of hikes in the redwoods and on beaches, miles of paved road to ride on Black Beauty, and several terrific restaurants makes Trinidad a great vacation destination. High speed internet at the rental makes it possible to get some work done.  I have even done some baking–both macaroni and cheese and slab apple pie to take to holiday parties.

Trinidad is just 20 minutes from Eureka on Highway 101 and even closer from the Arcata airport (located in north McKinleyville). Alas it is a long drive from San Francisco and Sacramento–between 5 and 6 hours, so I do not visit as often as I would like.

I love Trinidad, California in Humboldt County. Over the years I have visited often for a meal or for a beach day at Patrick’s Point. Back in the day the kids and I stayed in one of the Trinidad motels on an overnight but it was musty and lacked charm. I am splurging on a vacation rental for 10 days. It is a combined writing retreat, vacation break and visit with my oldest friend Harriet and her family, I searched the internet for rentals a few months ago in search of a 2 bedroom, pet friendly place. Trinidad Retreats offered just what I was looking for on Parker Creek Road. My home away from home is right at the trailhead to the beach. It is a 5 minute walk to a beautiful beach called “Old Home Beach” on the official Trinidad’s Coastal Treks map.  I am not paying extra for an ocean view; however, Radar has a large fenced yard to roam in and it feels secluded with the beach very close by.

Old Home Beach in Trinidad, California
Old Home Beach in Trinidad, California

Trinidad is the home of the Humboldt State University Marine Lab and has a small, quiet bay. Each day you can watch people launch kayaks from the Old Home Beach. Radar and I have walked the 80 or so steps down to the Old Home Beach from the Memorial Lighthouse (watch out, the steps are falling apart at the bottom) or to same beach from the Parker Creek trail (fewer steps and easier on Radar’s old joints). Yesterday we checked out the Trinidad State Beach with Harriet and her dog Ted. It is also a few minutes walk to the other side of the village and down to the beach.

Parker Creek Cottage managed by Trinity Retreats
Parker Creek Cottage managed by Trinity Retreats

I have had several days when I have not used the automobile at all. I can walk to Murphy’s Market for groceries and firewood; or to the post office or library just 2 blocks away from my place. I attended the a lovely, intimate Episcopal worship service on Sunday at the Saints Martha and Mary Mission on Trinity Street. Check out the beautiful religious paintings by Kathrin Burleson. (She typically does watercolors, whereas her religious paintings are more like traditional icons.)

Check out the Trinidad Museum in a historic home across from Murphy’s Market. The hours are limited to afternoons as it is staffed by volunteers, and offers a glimpse into how the Yurok tribe lived in Trinidad before the Spanish “discovered” it. Like much of California, Trinidad’s modern history is shaped by efforts to find access to mining fields–in this case, an easy route to Trinity County. A more sustainable economy was established around logging. Today it is a quiet village that caters to full time residents who work in Arcata and visitors staying in rental homes or Bed and Breakfasts. It is an incorporated city that feels like a village and a perfect spot for a retreat.

Oh, and if you plan to be here to ring in the new year, do not be alarmed when they fire the cannon off at midnight!  Happy New Year.

My Travels with Radar

On Christmas Day I loaded up the car with my luggage, writing projects, computer, and coaxed Radar into the backseat of the Passat. We had a 6 hour trip ahead of us and I wanted to get to our rental property in Trinidad, California before dark. I packed for various contingencies because I was not sure if anyplace would be open. The weather was cold but dry. I tuned the radio to public radio and hit the road.

Radar in the backseat of Passat
Radar in the backseat of Passat

I have not traveled much with my old dog Radar. He’s a 13 year old German shepherd mix that we adopted when he was 11 months old. He was untrained and full of neuroses. He can handle new experiences more gracefully now; however, he struggles to jump into the car and won’t use the ramp we tried. Still I did not want to be away from him for 10 days and who knows how many road trips I might be able to take with him.

Putting his bed and a blanket on the back seat increased his comfort and when I looked back as we approached Williams on I-5 he seemed to be snoozing. Whenever I slowed down he sat up and looked around to see if he could tell where we were. McDonalds IS open on Christmas, and most gas stations. I stopped to get a diet Coke and a cup of water for Radar. I only wanted to let him out once in Willits so I could keep his struggles to jump into the car to a minimum. Heading towards Clear Lake on Highway 20 the road is windy and when I looked in the rearview mirror I thought Radar might be getting a little carsick. I cracked the window and he immediately moved to that side and began sucking in the air.  Fortunately that was enough to revive him.

Eventually Highway 20 straightens out and joins Highway 101. Lots of CalTrans projects over the years has made this road safer and faster. We stopped in Willits at the Safeway and then the park near the Skunk Train depot.  Radar hopped out and sniffed many blades of grass before drinking a little water.  I was able to park right next to the curb and this made it easier for him to reenter the Passat.

The last bit of our trip was beautiful as we wound through redwood groves. The main challenge was the setting sun right above the tree line. I shoved my sunglasses onto the top of my head when we went into the shade and then suddenly the sun was blinding and I would grab my glasses and return them to the bridge of my nose.  As we reached Eureka I began to get nervous that we would not make it to Trinidad and the lock box before the sun went down. We pushed on and pulled into the driveway just as darkness fell.

I used my cell phone to read the lock box code and then could not find the lock box. I did not want to disturb the property managers but I did not know what else to do. Just as the manager answered the phone I spotted the lock box on a one of the porch pillars. Relief. I apologized for disturbing them unnecessarily and opened up the house.

I unloaded Radar and he explored the yard while I unloaded the car.  We settled in and I started a fire in the wood burning stove and found HGTV cable station on the television.  I ate a bowl of soup and relaxed for a bit, then Radar indicated he wanted to go out. I grabbed my coat and his leash and we went out the front door. He took care of business and we returned to the porch. I tried the door. Unfortunately It was locked. I thought I was only using the deadbolt and did not grab the keys. No keys, no phone. I felt so foolish. We checked all of the doors and windows and learned that this rental is locked up tight.

Unfortunately I did not have the property manager’s phone numbers–I could see the paperwork and the keys through the glass slider. I needed to get back to the village and hope that the gas station was still open so I could use their phone. It is less than a 10 minute walk but seemed longer in my anxiety and in the pitch black. I kept hoping that Radar’s eyesight was better than mine in the dark. I was never so thankful to see an open Chevron station in my life.

Unfortunately The mini-mart clerk was not excited to see me and Radar. He let me use the phone (had to remember how to use a landline) and phonebook (maybe they are not relics afterall), but he made it clear that he wanted Radar out as fast as possible. There was nowhere to tie Radar up near the door, so I hurried.  Unfortunately Trinidad Retreats had their phone switched to fax. The loud beep raised my anxiety. What next? Fortunately I have friends in nearby McKinleyville and Arcata.  I called Brian and Harriet; unfortunately I got their answering machine. Next I tried the Bickfords where either Brian and Harriet were celebrating Christmas or Michael and Deb could help. Fortunately Kate Bickford answered and was able to catch Harriet and Brian as they were leaving. Brian jumped on the Bickford’s computer and found a better number and fortunately reached Reed the property manager.

Radar and I hot footed it back to the rental to meet Reed. I was feeling sheepish and apologized profusely for making Reed come out to rescue us on Christmas night. Fortunately he was very gracious about it and told me a funny story about a couple that locked themselves out whilst stark naked!  I gave silent thanks to God that I was clothed with a jacket and shoes.

After all that excitement, Radar slept soundly. In the daylight I discovered the rental has a fully enclosed dog friendly yard when you close the driveway gate, which is terrific for Radar’s calls of nature. He has settled in and likes going to the beach a short walk from the house and playing with Harriet’s dog Ted. It is totally worth the effort to bring Radar along.