I finally got my external hard drive out of hibernation and was looking through some of the pieces I have written over the years. I came across this story. It is entitled King Salmon. That was the name of the small fishing enclave where I had a second home some years ago. I'd like to share this with you today. I also found a few 8mm video tapes from King Salmon and hope to get the contents onto YouTubes one of these days. In the meantime, here is a snapshot of what was going on in my life the mid 1990's.
The first time I went any farther from home other than the surrounding states of Wisconsin, Indiana or Michigan ( I grew up in Chicago, IL), was in 1957. Dad took the Chrysler to Massachusetts so my Mom could visit her Mom and the kids could see Nonna. Again in 1959, in the Oldsmobile this time, Dad drove old Route 66 to L.A. My Mom had a sister out there to visit. I didn’t get out of the Chicago area on my own until 1968 when I got drafted and traveled on Uncle Sam’s dime. Too bad Uncle got to choose the destinations.
In 1970 I wandered a little farther out and discovered Minnesota, then in 1974 moved there. With the start of a young family and trying to make the proverbial ends meet, travel was not on any agenda I had. Although I did take a few truck driving jobs that got me over-the-road once in a while.
My first trip on my own out west,m other than the all expense paid plane ride to Oakland on my way to Vietnam in 1969, was in 1977 thereabouts. I drove from Minneapolis, MN to Portland, OR. I was working for a furniture moving company and was hauling household goods for Burlington Route Railroad executives after they merged with Northern Pacific. I met up with a good friend out there and traveled south of Portland and into Northern California. My friends had settled in an area on the coast in a small village called Ferndale.
The nearest bigger city is Eureka. Other towns around are Fortuna and Arcata. It is about 250 miles North of San Francisco off of US 101 and about 100 miles South of the Oregon/California border. It is in Humboldt County with Humboldt Bay giving Eureka a large harbor. The harbor is enhanced by the existence of “jettys”, spits of land made by the relentless washing of sand from the ocean had created long strings of beach. The Army Corp of Engineers came in and used large natural and man made boulders, along with a lot of poured cement, to make a passage opening between these spits of land, for boat traffic complete with foghorns and lighthouses.
The extreme northern part of the bay has a very large pacific oyster fishery with the college town of Arcata at the northern tip. Arcata is the home of Humboldt State University. At the southern end of this bay is fantastic Humboldt wildlife refuge. Home of an unbelievable array of natural plants and animals.
I knew I’d come back some day when I didn’t have to be beholden to “the man” for a paycheck. It took me quite a while to get the family raised and have the time and a little money to get back there for a quality visit. My friends out there kept in contact over the years and we finally pulled it off in 1991. After that visit, you couldn’t keep me away. I traveled there many times and eventually had a place of my own in an area of Eureka called King Salmon. A name derived when the charters and fishermen would come there in droves to reel in the fish by the same name.
|Ocean sunset Northern California coast|
The fishery is about dead. Logging and over fishing has taken it’s toll. Low daily limits and an abbreviated fishing season has driven the charters out of business. A few fishermen still participate, but it’s nothing like it was. The logging has taken its toll on the hillsides that surround the coastal range of mountains. The cutting of roads to get to the logs has caused many creeks, the lifeblood of spawning for salmon, to fill in with silt and make the spawning ritual impossible. This scene has repeated all along the beautiful abundant Northern Pacific coast, quickly killing the survival hopes of the great King Salmon.
In terms of beauty, this area is full of natural wonders both subtle and grand. Of course there is the ocean shore. As a whole, a large never ending view of the water, or as a colored rock washed up along the edge of the world. A coastal range of mountains, steep hillsides, many with grazing cattle on grassy patches or in the trees, or desolate stretches, that are impossible to get to because the winter rains wash out the gravel roads and render them uninhabitable.
The bay, with it’s industry along side the natural beauty of the creatures that live here, waiting for the many rivers that carry the run-off to bring more food and forever change the landscape as only flowing water, with the help of the Earth Mother, can.
Last but not least of the natural wonder here is the presence of the Giant Coastal Redwood trees. The old growth preserved in groves all around the area. Younger redwoods also abound, but are forever in conflict between the loggers and the environmentalists. Thank heaven for the people with vision who bought the land and saved all they could of these majestic giants from the chainsaws of man.
At the coast, the weather isn’t very diverse. Temps usually range from 50 to 70 or thereabouts all year. A lot of rain in the winter. A lot of sun in the summer, that is, unless you are right on the coast. When the hot weather is evident inland, the fog lays on or near the shore until well into the afternoon. Inland, the summertime temps get up into the upper 90’s. This long growing season makes for the best farmer’s market anywhere all year around.
Cheatam Grove, Table Bluff, Copenhagen Road, Centerville Beach, Tompkins Hill, Field’s Landing, Samoa, Manila, Carlotta, Lolita, Fernbridge, Hydesville, Rhonerville, Bridgeville, Ruth Lake, Densmore, Pirates Cove, Garberville, McKinnleyville, Patrick’s Point, Avenue of the Giants, North Jetty, South Jetty, Petrolia, Honeydew, Swimmer’s Delight, The Van Duzen, The Eel, Southfork. These are some of the names of the places. I’ve been to them all. Some are to brag about, some are to lament their passing, all are strikingly beautiful.
|The beach at Centerville|
After that first trip, I found myself going out there from my home in Minnesota quite often. When I landed a job that gave me large blocks of time off between job assignments, I went out to Eureka. I stayed with my friends or camped out.
King Salmon, a small area south of Eureka situated along the waters edge of the bay, is basically five streets, Halibut, Cod, Crab, Herring and Perch. Each street having access by road and their alley, a channel leading to Humboldt Bay and inevitably, the Pacific Ocean.
Johnny’s, the larger of the two marinas there, is an enclave of two “streets”. One filled with traveling RV’s who live there seasonally or full-time, depending on their lifestyle or financial standing at the moment. The other street has 11 small mobile homes with none newer than 1970. While driving around King Salmon one day, I saw a “For Sale” sign in the window of a nice looking older mobile home. Folks were busy sprucing it up and painting on the inside. I knocked on the door and asked if I could take a look inside.
The outside looked great for a 1955 vintage trailer. No broken windows, no missing sheet metal parts. There was an aluminum canopy out over the front door which made for a great carport or patio. The inside was small and quaint. The new paint was doing a great job of brightening up the old place. It was 52 feet long and 8 feet wide. There was a living room which adjoined the kitchen, a bathroom complete with small tub and shower, one bedroom with built in night stands and dressers and the other bedroom had three floor to ceiling closets.
|The quaint kitchen of my 1955 Executive mobile home located at Johnny's in King Salmon, CA|
I bought it right then and there. I negotiated with Johnny to pay a certain amount each month for lot rent. I found out my mobile home site rental at the marina gave me a berth on the dock with access to the bay. I had no boat but thought I might get one some day.
This trailer was eight feet wide and fifty two feet long. The longest semi trailers on the road today are at 53 feet, so for that era, this thing was enormous if you hauled it on the road. The woman that bought it new, a Miss Clark, (That was the name on the original 1955 California title), had set it up at Johnny's and never moved it one inch. This trailer was the same make and model featured in the motion picture by the name of "The Long Long Trailer" which starred Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz. Here is a photo from the movie showing the general idea of what our place on Humboldt Bay looked like.
|This photo from the movie gives you a general idea of what our home on Humboldt Bay looked like|
I set things up where I left a vehicle out in California so I’d have one waiting for me when I got there no matter how I decided to travel. I even had a Yamaha thumper I found at an auction and kept that at my new second home.
The next few years, I traveled out there multiple times per year. I drove, I flew, I took the train in combination with the bus. In one year, I went out there and back eight times. I never really lived out there like in changing my address and stuff, but I lived out there when I was out there if that makes any sense. I felt like I had a gem in my pocket because I had this place to go to on the ocean.
Daily walks, picking up rocks and shells, the smell of salt air, the sounds of the foghorns and the gulls. My little mobile home was very comfortable and only 100 or so yards from the waters edge. I rode my motorcycle often and explored many of the twisty highways through the coastal range. I attended many summer festivals in the area. I shopped at the fabulous farmers markets.
It was a sad time when I had to sell the place. New owners took over the marina as Johnny and his wife were getting too old to run things on a day-to-day basis. New owners meant new rules and higher fees. I was having some health problems myself and didn’t make the trip as often as I did in the past. But it was a good gig while it lasted and I sure enjoyed myself out in that part of the country. Now, when I go back, I stay with my friends.
Another time, maybe another day, I might get specific and tell you in more detail about a certain place, because I’ve barely broken the surface as a travel piece. I’ve just broken the ice.