Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – While hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last year, I spent time in towns like Kernville, Lone Pine and Mammoth Lakes between stretches in the outback. After a shower, a burrito and a beer or three, I’d look up at the distant mountains and know that embedded deep within, out of sight, were all manner of wonders: wildflowers, wildlife, gorgeous streams, mind-boggling vistas and of course, trails full of delight and surprise.
You can do the same right here in Humboldt, whose abundant forestlands are loaded with hiking opportunities. Chances are there’s a gratifying hike mere footsteps, or at most a short drive from where you are right now. Some 55 splendid hikes are well documented in Ken Burton’s Hiking Humboldt, Volume 1: 55 Day Hikes in Northwest California (Backcountry Press, 2016).
This year sees the publication of Hiking Humboldt Volume 2: 101 Shorter Day Hikes, Urban and Road Walks by your backcountry buddy and mine, Rees Hughes. He’s the affable gent who organizes weekly trailbuilding and cleanup events locally with the Humboldt Volunteer Trail Stewards, whose participants are often seen smiling and toiling on these pages.
Hiking Humboldt Vol. 2 is different than Vol. 1 in a couple of ways. It covers nearly twice as many hikes, and many are not in the woods. What the two books do have in common are well-organized descriptions of walks, complete with descriptions, trail data, tips, directions, informative sidebars and maps. As an aside, the maps by cartographer Jason Barnes set a refreshing new standard for aesthetics and clarity in terms of guidebook maps (which are sometimes not so helpful).
All of Humboldt, if not every single one of its variegated trails, is well represented. Sure, there are foresty walks herein for Redwood National and State Parks, the Arcata Community Forest (including my beloved Beith Creek Loop), and Ferndale’s Russ Park, among many other woodsy sojourns.
But there’s also the Hammond Trail, the Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary, the Bay Trail North through central Arcata, the Eureka Old Town and Mural and Historical Walk, even the Blue Lake Industrial Park and Mad River levee hike, to name a few.
All the walks are exquisitely described and accompanied by gorgeous photos, so you can know in advance or on the trail just what to expect. The book’s introduction alone is a gold mine of information, practical and philosophical – preparation tips, what to bring, safety issues and an inspiring “ode to walking.”
Apart from all the useful and motivational info, the Hiking Humboldt books are just pleasing objects to have and handle. I’ve used a lot of guidebooks, and these are extraordinary – beautiful, dense with information and, mercifully, entirely free of the Papyrus font. They remind me in a way of when I bought my first serious sleeping bag long ago. I did a huge, detailed comparison of everything available and wound up buying a sweet Moonstone bag made right here in Arcata (which still works). Funny that 30 years later, the highest quality guidebooks you can buy are also conceived and printed locally.
I’ve already identified a handful of hikes outside my usual comfort zone that I’d like to hit. You can pick them out by category (urban, wooded or special interest) by length, proximity, historical interest, environmental richness or even at random. Open the book to any page and you’ll likely learn something new about this region in which we live and hike.
If you’re looking for a new adventure, avail yourself of Rees’ wisdom and insight, and try hiking. It will challenge you, educate you, get you fit and introduce you to all kinds of super-nice people. And your first steps should be to the bookstore, to pick up either edition of Hiking Humboldt.
Immerse yourself in matters trail at the Trails Summit, Saturday, June 3 at the Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way in Eureka. With the theme of “Humboldt Bay Trail, connecting the pieces,” the event begins at 10 a.m. with an Open House and refreshments; program topics from 10:30 to 11 a.m.; more Open House with trail-supporting organizations; and a Walking Tour from 11:30 a.m. to noon.
Program topics include the Humboldt Bay Trail, progress and updates; the unveiling of the Humboldt Bay Trail logo; and the launch of the Humboldt Bay Trail Fund. The event is family friendly and free to the public. For more information, visit the Humboldt Trail Council’s Facebook page.
Thursday Night Trails
On this week’s KHSU 90.5 FM Thursday Night Talk, it’s all about places to put your hiking boots, with your feet in them of course. Join trail enthusiasts Bigfoot Trail founder Michael Kaufmann, Volunteer Trail Steward Rees Hughes, trail planner Emily Sinkhorn and host Kevin Hoover for talk about trail volunteering, the new Humboldt Bay Trail North, the Bigfoot Trail, Rees’s new book, Hiking Humboldt, and next month’s Trails Summit. All on TNT, 7 p.m. on KHSU.