Welcome To Humboldt County – Here Is Your 420!
I love visiting the North Coast of California, especially in fall when the trees are full of vibrant colors. This year, instead of flying into San Francisco to rent a car and drive up the coast, we flew into Arcata airport (in McKinleyville) and explored Humboldt County as well as the southern coast of Oregon.
Welcome to Humboldt County – Here is your 420!
Our 40-passenger plane landed at one of the tiniest airports I have ever seen. We thought the airport in Luang Prabang, Laos was small, but Arcata airport takes the cake. This made it exceptionally easy to get our rental car at Alamo and set off on our adventure.
Since this was Scott’s first visit to the northern coast of California, I felt it was imperative that we drive south to the Avenue of the Giants. If you have never done this drive, it’s a must! The Avenue of the Giants is in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and consists of a 32-mile long stretch of road with rows of massive redwood trees on both sides. You can even drive through a tree!
Don’t forget to pick up a map at the roadside sign boards at the Avenue’s Southern and Northern entrance, so that you will not miss all the hiking area stops.
Watch out for slugs! This area is known for them. I’m familiar with banana slugs, the mascot for UC Santa Cruz, but we came across a different type of odd-looking slug on this particular hike. The poor creature then became our photo subject for the next ten minutes.
After exploring the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, we decided to make our way back up north to find a place to crash for the night. We settled on the town of Eureka, since it has a multitude of lodging accommodations. The Travelodge set us back $55 for the night.
I handed the hotel receptionist 3 twenties. She swiped the first bill with her magic currency marker and turned to us with a frown.
“This money is fake.”
“Um… ok. Are you sure?”
“Yes, the pen mark turned black, and that means it’s fake.”
We took a look at the bill, and it was noticeably different from the new twenties, so I looked at the date.
“It says it’s from 1950. I wonder if the older bills don’t work with currency pens.” I said.
The other two bills passed the test, and I handed her a new twenty in exchange for the “fake” one. I wasn’t convinced.
I racked my brain to remember the last place I got change. The only place I could think of was the gas station by our house. If this was indeed a fake twenty, then this was a lesson that I need to be more aware of the change I receive from people and businesses. I knew one thing for sure though; I wasn’t going to let it ruin our trip!
We found Eureka to be good for one night’s rest. There is an old part of town that boasts Victorian architecture, but I have yet to visit this particular area.
I would highly recommend ‘Hole in the Wall’ Sandwich Shop in the town of Eureka. You’ll know you’re at the right spot by how many people are scarfing down sandwiches in their car outside the shop. Their sandwiches are huge and some of the best I have ever had. You can easily split a sandwich between two people. Each sandwich costs around 9 bucks.
The next morning we continued north and stopped at many of the beaches along the coastal road, conveniently named ‘Scenic Drive.’ All the beaches were pretty close to deserted since it was overcast and chilly. Moonstone Beach has a cave about 100 yards to the north side of the beach. It looked creepy inside and we didn’t have a flashlight, so we just took some photos from the entryway to the cave.
Just before we hit Trinidad Beach, I noticed a sign for Cher-Ae Heights Casino pointing up a paved road, heading east. As we passed the road, I remembered something my mom had said before we left for our trip.
“Oh yea, my mom told me we had to go to the casino in Trinidad. I wonder if that’s the same one?”
At this point it was 11 am and the thought of spending our daylight hours in a smoky casino wasn’t that appealing. Scott managed to convince me that it might be fun, so I turned the car around and made our way toward the Indian Reservation. I later realized we were very lucky I did.
Luck was the word of the day. Following the advice of my mother, we signed up for the Players Club. The lady at the front desk handed us a box and told each of us to pick a card.
After carefully choosing our cards, she then asked, “What numbers did you get?”
“Scott got a card with a number 11 on it and I got a number 1 on mine.”
Her eyes grew wide with amazement.
“Really?” She asked. “You better give him a huge kiss!”
The lady informed us that Scott picked the best possible card and was worth $500 to play at their casino. Mine was worth a measly $5. But she didn’t stop there. She told us to put down a date for our anniversary so that she could give us an extra $25 each to play. We didn’t need any convincing since our anniversary was only one week away.
To make a long story short, we played our $555 casino cash and converted it to $420 regular cash (I know, 420 in Humboldt) by roaming around the casino and somehow constantly winning at each of the games. The casino allows you to take home any of the money you make. So if we played $10 and won that round, we would print out a ticket for $10 to cash in at the end. When we arrived at the cashier 3 hours later, we had a stack of 41 printed tickets.
On our way out from the casino, they played our song on the radio, ‘Take the Money and Run’ by Steve Miller.
The rest of our 4-day trip was spent leisurely exploring the northern tip of California and all the way into Southern Oregon.
We stopped at Patrick’s Point State Park for a hike and a view from Wedding Rock, a popular place for couples to profess their love for each other. After hiking the trails off the Coast Hwy in Oregon and viewing multiple natural bridges, our stomachs led us to the Brookings Oregon Harbor where we dined on award winning clam chowder and fresh crab cakes.
Our final night was spent in the quirky college town of Arcata. It still amazes me how friendly the people are in this area. Our dinner at the Humboldt Brewing Company consisted of wings, an awesome salad, falafel, and a very friendly waiter who kept insisting he bring us free beer tasters since we were the out-of-towners.
If you are a cyclist, don’t miss Library Bike, where you can borrow a bike for $20 deposit which gets refunded upon return. You can return it up to 6 months later!
The next morning we gathered our things to head to the airport, but not before three different people asked us….
“Wanna buy some green bud?”
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I grew up in Arcata, graduated AUHS 1960! Never could get used to dampness. But swimming in Mad River, riding my horse across hwy 299 from our home into the mountains, wonderful memories. Best of all were my wonderful friends. Some I still have today even though I now live in Arizona.
I now live in Las Vegas…yuck. I was born and raised in Mckinleyville was awesome to read your story. Going there in 2 weeks can’t wait haven’t been home in 20+ years
I AM ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE WITH THIS PART OF CALIFORNIA AND UP INTO OREGON ALONG HWY 101. ITS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE IVE BEEN IN ALL MY TRAVELS. I SAY ENJOY IT AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN WHILE THWRE STILL IS WILDLIFE AND AMAZING NATURE. EVERY COLOR GREEN IMAGINABLE!!! LOVE J.STARR B
You forgot to mention “FERN CANYON”
I live in Eureka….. And I love it here…..
Hey I see you are from Tahoe area. Just wanna say I hope you guys are OK. I guess the Good thing is being such experienced travelers you know where to go! Anyways next time you make it to the coast, Eureka does have a nice boat called the Madaket which takes you for a tour on the Humboldt Bay.
That’s so kind of you! So grateful they saved all of the homes in our area. Thanks for the tip!!
Thanks for the article about Humboldt Co. I’m writing to you because you have to know that we are having wildfires at the moment and Hwy 101 is the only road open from the south but is one way controlled from the north. Flying in and out is the best way at present but planes may be grounded due to smoke or weather. Check Hwy 299 it may be one way controlled soon.
I’m an East coaster who has lived on the west coast for the last 2. I spent time in Brookings and now live in Arcata. So glad you had fun while here. It’s a crazy and beautiful place to be.
My dear son lives in Humbolt county and to see some of the sights he sees on a regular basis is wonderful for me! I live in Florida on an income which requires some imagination to get by, as well as, the generosity of my son so anything that brings us closer melts my heart! Thank you!