Pacific Ocean Lifts My Heart

IMG_6907The Pacific Ocean is such large and magnificent and I’ve lived within a few hours of the ocean my entire life. It has always been a balm to my stress. This visit to Clam Beach met my need for my molecules to be reorganized and synced to the rhythm of the waves.

IMG_6915Taking @DozertheDozerian and Lulu along to enjoy the open space and fresh air made it more fun. Clam Beach allows dogs to run off leash on the wet sand for a limited time in the winter.

IMG_6902Of course the point of my visit was to spend more time with the Watlove family. We learned to play a new board game, Fuse. We ate at our favorite restaurants and cooked at home. Nora baked wonderful lava cakes.

IMG_6916I have traveled to Humboldt County about once a year since my best friend Harriet moved up to Arcata to attend HSU. Now her children are in their 20s and the youngest daughter attends UC Davis, so the Watloves visit the Sacramento area often. I can’t remember the last time I made the 6 hour trek to Humboldt County.  There have been changes to the route. The Willits bypass is completed. It makes stopping for lunch or a bathroom stop so much easier and more pleasant.

IMG_6926The weather was the wildest I’ve experienced driving up with snow in Lake County and in Mendocino near Laytonville. It is always good to check CalTrans to confirm roads are open.

Some other changes include legalization of marijuana, so there are more dispensaries now. Also the price of marijuana has dropped so the local economy is feeling the beginning of the pinch. Nora says that most people in Humboldt County also resent the portrayal of southern Humboldt in the Netflix “documentary” as exaggerating the danger for entertainment.

Some of our favorite restaurants:

Ramone’s Bakery, 1555 City Center Road, McKinleyville, CA; I did a pastry run for the sleepyheads and picked 7 different pastries then cut them up for more tastes. Everything was delicious!

Lighthouse Grill, 355 Main Street, Trinidad, CA; known for mashed potato cone and grass-fed beef burgers; our fav’s this trip included fish and chips and a tuna melt.

The Alibi, 744 9th Street, Arcata, CA; this is a dive bar on the Arcata Plaza that also happens to serve a wonderful breakfast.

Postcard: Awesome Arcata!

I love Arcata because I love spending time with my oldest, dearest friend Harriet. She lives in McKinleyville, but we always spend time in adjacent Arcata.

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So many great places to eat… Scoops is a regular stop for organic ice cream. Yum. This trip we also had a super breakfast at The Alibi on Arcata square (yes, the dive bar). I bought an amazing sandwich at the McIntosh Farm Country Store. We also enjoyed very good sushi at the Sushi Spot in McKinleyville.

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Tevis and I drove up to celebrate Nora’s high school graduation and we took the dogs with us. We stayed at the pet friendly Days Inn in Arcata. It was great for people and pets, though the noise from the trolls who lodged above us kept us up most of the first night. We love how many dog friendly beaches we can find in Humboldt County.

20160617_094041For a number of years we have gone to Arcata to celebrate Independence Day the old fashioned way: with a Crabs baseball game, hot dogs, and fireworks at Steph and Jodie’s.

Wherever you are enjoying the July 4th holiday: be safe and have fun.

Relaxing Stay in Eureka with Lulu

Rowing at the Eureka wharf.
Rowing at the Eureka wharf.

There is something about Humboldt County that equals relaxation for me. Somewhere past Willits the cares of the day fall away and I am breathing more deeply and slowing my pace. And no it is not aided by medicinal marijuana–although if you are into that sort of thing I am pretty sure by the smell that you can pick some up if you make a pitstop in Garberville.

The private Ingomar Club in the Carson mansion anchors Old Eureka.
The private Ingomar Club in the Carson mansion anchors Old Eureka.

I decided at the last minute to get out of town. Saturday nights are noisy in my neighborhood–add Halloween and daylight savings so bars can stay open until 3 a.m. and I knew my dog Lulu and I had to scamper. I jumped on the Internet and searched Google for “Pet Friendly Hotels in Eureka.” There were quite a few to choose from and they are all located along 4th or 5th Streets where Highway 101 splits into one-way avenues through town.

I chose the Quality Inn and it was sufficient. I will probably not stay there again but for this weekend Lulu and I enjoyed walking past the private Ingomar Club at the Carson Mansion, along the wharf, and past the other victorian houses in the upper end of Old Town Eureka. One challenge of traveling with a dog is that you cannot leave them in your hotel room. Fortunately Eureka is almost always cool enough to leave your dog for short periods in the car wtih the windows well cracked.

The Pink Lady is across the street from the Carson Mansion.
The Pink Lady is across the street from the Carson Mansion.

Lulu and I unwound and enjoyed the time away in the relative quiet. Most of it was spent further north in Arcata and Clam Beach in McKinleyville. Sunday morning before we left we met Harriet and Brian to check out a new restaurant for breakfast. The Greene Lily is named for the proprietor’s grandmother. The menu is focused on breakfast and lunch and inventive with a bacon stuffed waffle, omelettes and lots of “Bennies” or variations on Eggs Benedict. It’s Humboldt County so Brian knew the person at the next table. As I asked him how he liked his crab bennie I realized he had almost licked his plate and the answer was fairly obvious. He said the foundation crab cakes were especially good. It was also a bit pricey at $18.95. We did not try the Candy Bar Waffle–next time.

Romano Gabriel's sculptures are preserved in Old Town Eureka.
Romano Gabriel’s sculptures are preserved in Old Town Eureka.

The Greene Lily is also adjacent to the Romano Gabriel sculptures. They are like a two dimensional version of Disney’s Small World ride. The paint is faded but it is still impressive. He originally had it in his Eureka house garden. Apparently not all of his neighbors appreciated it. But then it was illegal for Italian immigrants to go close to the Eureka coastline during World War II. Fortunately, it was preserved.

It is a six hour drive from San Francisco or Sacramento–a real damper on tourism. With Ferndale and the Redwood National Park it is worth the drive.

3 Favorite Beaches of Humboldt County

Trinidad, California
Trinidad, California

On this Throwback Thursday I am reminiscing about the beaches I have enjoyed in my annual trips to Humboldt County. My BFF lives in McKinleyville and I have made many trips over the last 30 years. I would make more if it was not a 6 hour drive one-way.

I just returned from my first adventure with Lulu where she had her first exposure to the ocean. She still smells like the weird stuff she rolled in!

Beach at Trinidad, California
Beach at Trinidad, California

The best beach has got to be Patrick’s Point. We have spent many happy hours here with our children. There is a creek that provides lots of opportunities to play Army Corp of Engineers. It is north of Eureka and Arcata and also can be a launching point for hiking.

Radar smelling the mysteries of Trinidad beach.
Radar smelling the mysteries of Trinidad beach.

There are other great beaches like Moonstone, and my next favorite is the beach at Trinidad. This is where Radar and I spent a very happy Christmas break.  Harriet brought her dog Ted almost everyday to walk with us.

Ted loves the beach too.
Ted loves the beach too.

This weekend I introduced Lulu to sand and ocean waves at Clam Beach in McKinleyville. She loved it! She chased her friend Ted through waves and along the shore, only momentarily distracted by birds.

Lulu at Clam Beach
Lulu at Clam Beach

Humboldt County beaches are colder than SoCal beaches. The ones we go to do not offer waves for surfing–they are generally too wild and rocky. They are unsurpassed for beauty, rarely crowded and great for cleansing your mind of clutter and stress.

Even though Lulu got carsick on the way up, I am thinking about when we can go back and chill with our friends on the beach.

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.

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.