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Mendocino and Humboldt counties, California

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Did You Know … ?

  • Boonville has had a locally invented dialect, called Boontling, now dying out, since the late 19th century.
  • Philo Ridge Vineyards (Mendocino County) is the world’s first off‐the‐grid winery, relying only on solar energy.
  • When Eureka obtained its charter (1856), its sawmills were producing 2 million board feet of lumber monthly.
  • Humboldt County counts most of the world’s 20 tallest trees.
  • Mendocino Village was used for exterior shots for the TV series “Murder, She Wrote,” set in Maine.

Redwood Coast

Drive the Pacific coast of Northern California and, as the miles roll by, it becomes ever clearer why this part of the state is called the Redwood Coast. The trees are generally found no more than 50 miles inland.

There are state parks in every county between San Francisco and the Oregon border (from south to north, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte) that protect the trees. In addition, Redwood National Park is quite far north, most of it in Humboldt County with the rest in Del Norte.

The parks, plus a dramatic coastline, wild and scenic rivers, Lake Mendocino, mountains and rolling hills, provide the basis for much that attracts visitors to Mendocino and Humboldt counties. The area entices active travelers who like camping, canoeing/kayaking, cycling, fishing, hiking, surfing and other such pursuits. In addition, visitors look for wildlife, especially the birds and whales, and love the scenic drives in the forests, in the valleys or along the ocean.

Humboldt County is mostly mountainous except for the area surrounding Humboldt Bay. Eighty percent of the county is timberland and recreation areas. Mendocino County is the same size but varies based on its more southerly geography. Parts of it are effectively an extension of the better-known Sonoma wine region just to Mendocino’s south, giving rise to the predictable wine festivals, wine tasting rooms, wine touring routes and an accompanying interest in food and wine pairing.

Many towns in the two counties originated as logging centers (the vast majority of America’s old growth redwoods fell to loggers) filled with Victorian homes and other buildings that now appear on lists of designated historic places.

Some logging towns have morphed into art centers or places where art communities coexist with commercial fishing and post-boom logging. Places to look for the art galleries, art centers and, often, boutiques and gourmet eateries include Mendocino Village, Fort Bragg, the town, and Gualala. In Humboldt County, top choices for the culture oriented are Eureka and Ferndale.

Things to do for Venturers

  • At the Solar Living Institute in Hopland (Mendocino County), take one of several two-day courses on living a more sustainable life.
  • Rent a kayak for a paddling adventure on the ocean or on one of several rivers in either county.
  • Build a multiday adventure around the uncrowded King Range National Conservation Area (Humboldt County). It offers 80 miles of hiking trails including routes into the mountains; abalone diving; rustic camping; fishing (mostly at selected coastal sites); mountain biking, and surfing.
  • Attend the Mendocino Crab, Beer and Wine Festival in January or the Mendocino County Mushroom, Wine and Beer Festival in November.
  • Hike in the Humboldt Dunes near Eureka. For equally awe-inspiring but wildly different scenes, hike the Fern Canyon, also in Humboldt County.
  • If a birder attend Godwit Days in spring. The event features numerous small group field trips, workshops, boating excursions and community activities. Or, if an expert, participate in the Christmas Bird Counts; contact the Redwood Region Audubon Society for more information.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Consider one or two intriguing museums, such as the Bigfoot Museum in Willow Creek or the Kinetic Sculpture Race Museum in Ferndale, both in Humboldt County. The latter memorializes a wacky race over Memorial Day weekend that features bizarre human-powered vehicles on a run from Arcata to Ferndale. Attend the race!
  • Have a meal at the Samoa Cookhouse, the last western logging camp cookhouse still serving family-style meals (Humboldt County). There is an adjacent museum.
  • Walk among the redwoods. One among several choices is the 3.2-mile Prairie Creek and Cathedral Tree loop in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Another choice: Walk a two-plus-mile loop in Montgomery Wood, or take the 20.5-mile Lost Man Creek Trail in Redwood National Park.
  • Attend one of Mendocino County’s springtime whale fests — the Fort Bragg Whale Festival; the Whale Run and Walk Race to run with the whales along the Pacific, and Whale and Jazz Festival in Gualala, which includes “whale education.” Or take a whale watching tour.
  • Relish the views and small villages during a drive along the Pacific Ocean. Or drive the 75-mile Highway 128 Wine Road for the scenery and, effectively, a wine tasting tour (Mendocino County).
  • Join the Arts Alive! arts walk in Eureka, Humboldt’s county seat, on any month’s first Saturday. Or, take a two- or three-day class in ceramics, sculpting or related subjects at the Mendocino Art Center.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Spend quality time exploring Victorian neighborhoods in Eureka, Ferndale or Mendocino Village. In Eureka, visit the Blue Ox Millworks to watch skilled craftsmen, using vintage machinery, create the wooden gingerbread pieces found on Victorian buildings.
  • Taste Mendocino wines either in a tasting room or with your meals.
  • Drive the 33-mile route called Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. See a 20-foot room carved from a single tree and drive through a living redwood. There are six albino redwoods in the park, too.
  • Ride the Skunk Train. It provides a 40-mile ride from either Fort Bragg or Willits through redwood forests and mountain meadows, and across 30 trestles bridging rivers in the mountains (Mendocino County).
  • Visit the Hoopa Tribal Museum in Hoopa (Humboldt County) to see redwood dugout canoes and ceremonial regalia, and consider optional tours to Native American villages.
  • In Eureka, take a 45-minute cruise on Humboldt Bay aboard the Madaket, a 1910 passenger ferry. It is America’s oldest passenger-carrying vessel in continuous service.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Visit California at www.visitcalifornia.com