Onward Humboldt County

After visiting breakfast and the Botanical Garden, I drove north on Highway 1 for about forty minutes before I got a major case of the drowsies. I pulled off to the side of the road next to a state beach and napped for about an hour in my car. I put the seat back and closed by eyes, but I'm not sure if I actually slept. No matter, just resting made a huge difference. I was quite alert for the rest of the day.


My next stop was Garberville, a rather un-photogenic, unincorporated little town on the Eel River in Humboldt County about 10 miles from the ocean. I stopped at the grocery store to buy a new toothbrush because the one in my travel pack was disgusting. I also got a pretty good turkey sandwich at the deli counter.

From Garberville, I drove an hour straight to Nadelos on Briceland Thorn Road (which becomes Shelter Cove Road), a tenting access to the Sinkyone Wilderness overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management, where I'd planned to camp for the night. I'd expected this area to be much less inhabited than it was. But I saw a lot of homes and trailers all along the way from Garberville.

I was even more surprised to see snow on the side of the road. In March? When I got to Nadelos, less than half-a-mile (and one hill) away from the ocean, it looked like this:


Camping in the rain is one thing, but camping in the snow with rain-soaked, spongy ground is something that I was not mentally prepared for. I was nervous to even be driving around in here because I was a) alone, b) had no satellite reception on my phone, c) never driven in snow or icy conditions before, and d) I saw a few recently broken trees that hadn't fallen yet. I thought if they fell across the road while I was on the wrong side of them, I would be stuck for I don't know how long. I knew right away I'd have to find another place to spend the night.

I thought I might find a place to stay in Shelter Cove, but I didn't really see any point in staying in this strange, small resort town.


Apparently there was some kind of real estate boom here a few years ago and some very expensive-looking homes went up rather quickly. How they even got all the building materials here is a bit of a mystery to me. Not only are the roads narrow and winding, they are quite steep in places. I wouldn't want to drive a delivery truck here. Anyway, it looks like the boom went bust. There's a lot of for sale signs in Shelter Cove.


They claimed to have nice tide pools, but the water looked murky to me like there was a run-off problem from Shelter Cove's lawns or something. The vultures on the beach were a trip. I kept my distance.


I decided to drive back to Garberville and get a room there instead.


There are some very old-school motels in Garberville. I considered them, and I considered all of the nasty motel rooms I've slept in over the years, and I got a $100 room at the Best Western instead. I was disappointed to not be camping, but I was also happy to treat myself to a warm bed, especially after the harrowing night before. The Garberville Best Western serves complimentary wine and cheese every night 5:30-7:30 pm so of course I indulged in that.

While there, I got hit up for conversation by a Viet Nam vet slash drug dealer slash felon doing exchange time on a hog farm in Navarro for illegal arms possession. He lives in Vegas but he was a passenger in a car in Humboldt County that got pulled over for rolling a stop sign. When you get pulled over in Humboldt County they don't just run the driver, they run everyone in the car. I guess a warrant turned up. Anyway, he like me grew up in San Jose so we had a lot to talk about.

Later that night I had a couple drinks alone in a very quiet bar, watched a little bit of TV and went to bed.

Sipping bourbon.

That was Sunday.


Kaveh Maguire said...

Your description of Shelter Cove and the pictures crack me up. That is a serious Norman Bates town for sure and I don't blame you for not wanting to stay in a motel there.

When I was staying in the Mendocino area I took a drive up to Seattle and took the coastal route and I swear in one of the northern coastal towns of California it seemed to us like the people had shuffled out of the ocean. You could practically make out the webbed feet and gills.

Beautiful part of the country but a little bit strange too.

danger garden said...

This post could be a movie...but the ending wouldn't be happy.

Annie in Austin said...

The whole series on your road trip is weirdly fascinating, Chuck - from the beautiful trees to the photo of your breakfast to abandoned McMansions to the chorus line of vultures. At first the angled shoulders made me think of the singing vultures in the animated Jungle Book, but a second viewing brought The Dark Crystal to mind.

Was this the CA equivalent of going walkabout?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

grumblebunny said...

Love the vultures. So vulturey.

Also loving the vaguely Hitchcockian/Lynchian/Deliverance overtones of your quest for a safe bed in Humboldt.