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Three northern counties of California produce more cannabis than anywhere else in the US, gaining the region the name “the Emerald Triangle”. The Wall Street Journal has been covering the cannabis industry here since the 1970s, long before it was legal. We’ve spent the month of October in this gorgeous area. We head south this week, with regret, but it’s time to settle for the winter, and it’s a bit chilly here in the far North.

We’re in Eureka, CA, part of Humboldt County. Often the entire state north of Mendocino is called “Humboldt,” with an inflection and implicit eye roll, like “the back of beyond,” where all the crazy hippie growers live.

It is beautiful here, there are only 14 cases of Covid-19 in the entire county, and when you go for a walk on the beach or on a trail during the week, you are often alone. People are good about wearing masks on the street, at the Arcata Farmers Market, and in stores. The Farmers Market is really good and runs year round. All products come from within 50 miles, and yes, there’s a lot of squash, peppers, and tomatoes right now. (That’s a good thing.) We have not eaten out.

We haven’t visited all the places you can hike or walk along the shore. There are far more than can be covered in a month. However, here are a few highlights.

The best place to hunt for California agates in beach gravel: Big Lagoon County Park, Trinidad CA

My three favorite places for bird watching:

  1. Arcata Marsh, Arcata, CA–there are thousands of shorebirds that visit this area, and lots of trails.
Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, former farm outbuildings

2. Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, south of Eureka, CA. More trails and lots of birds. We’re still seeing migrating species, especially on the warmer, sunnier days.

Mad River County Park

3. Mad River County Park, near Loleta, CA includes a trail behind the dunes. Trees have grown into a kind of tunnel, and tiny warblers jump through the branches faster than you can aim your binoculars. The trail comes out on the beach, and we walked back along the shore. Fog had rolled in and we walked through ghostly gray light.

I don’t have a favorite place for walking on the beach–there are miles of beaches, dog-friendly, even horse-friendly. At the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, there are signs saying No Dogs, No Vehicles, No Runners (?). We’ve seen more deer in our yard than at any of the wildlife refuges, however.

We learned a bit about Frisbee Golf when we went for a walk in a park in Manila, CA that turned out to be a popular disc golf course.

I will miss it here. The past two weeks have been without rain and when you stand in the sun it is warm (60s). Nights are cold, but there has been no frost. There was a full moon/blue moon/Halloween moon on Saturday. It’s been perfect for being outdoors.

We took advantage of the drive south to get off Highway 101 and onto the Avenue of the Giants that winds among redwood forest for 31 miles. This was our initial cruise through the forest. On our next visit to Humboldt, we’ll stop at one of the many places where trails thread through the huge trees.

Not far beyond the Avenue of the Giants, we entered the familiar California environment, brown hillsides, patches of trees, and lots of irrigated grape vines.

We decided to avoid the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco, but got a look at the city as we drove by.

By this time, we were ready for a break, so we stopped in to see Lyra at her new apartment in Mountain View, and to meet her puppy, Pandora. Pandora was much smaller than she looked on Skype, and cute as can be. We hadn’t see Lyra since Christmas, and that was a pleasure, and a big relief. How we all want to hug our family members! We visited with Amanda and Jim in Eureka, and we wanted to see Lyra. We don’t know when we will get back to Illinois to see Lillian and Neil, or out to Syracuse, NY to see my mom. Family–in the flesh–is to be treasured these days.

After our break visiting Lyra and Pandora, we went on to our destination in Carmel, a lovely house tucked in on a side street only two blocks from downtown. Driving due south for eight hours had the positive result that it is a bit warmer, as well as less rainy. It should be a good month.