May 2017, Penultimate Eureka Visit

WHUFU Trip: Penultimate visit | 0

Tuesday (May 23) 

Things are starting to heat up on the next big Life Change for Martha’s family. They are (we hope) buying a house on Petaluma in the summer/fall, and to that end they have given notice on their happy rental home on the quiet cul de sac in Myrtletown for July 1. So the Eureka phase of Martha’s life will be coming to an end. This is my May visit, and I hope to get back one more time in June, hence the fancy word penultimate 🙂

I spent Monday getting ready, so actual Leaving Day is pretty quick and easy. Get all my crap from the condo to the van in three loads, pick up my sando, return library books and I’m off … for six miles of I-80 to breakfast at my hidden gem – the Westside Cafe. Had the perfect trucker’s breakfast – asada con huevos – now I’m really off. I started so well that there is nothing I need in Susanville, except a little break from driving, so I find a shady spot by the park and chill for a while.

Back on the road, pull into Bridge Campground, my new favorite Hat Creek campground around 5 pm.

Bridge Picnic Area and Campground:  

Just stopped at the picnic area today, no camping. Hat Creek is awesome, and this is an excellent spot to park in the shade and enjoy it. Routes 44 and 89 cross over the creek at a bridge right here, hence the name. Excellent spot for fishing, (very cold) swimming, or just hanging out and believing the universe is a blessed place.

tonight: First time I've camped here! It's about 3 miles after I leave CA 89 to take CA 44 to Susanville, and I've never driven the extra miles to stay here instead of Cave CG. It's great! Same beautiful Hat Creek, with the same modest pine forest in the middle of the giant lava field, but $6 cheaper. No water, I guess. I have always been enchanted by the picnic area across the road, and now I'm spending the night here!

Really nice little spot. There is day parking for fishermen right next to the creek. I took the site right next to that lot to be close to the creek. I can hear the creek, even from inside the van. I set up my excellent hammock, and lay there and soak it all up.


Last night’s perfect spot is this morning’s perfect oven. I haven’t been out in summer weather in seven months, so I’ve forgotten the drill about choosing my campsite and angle with an eye to being shaded in the morning. The heat drove me out of the van pretty early. I unhooked one end of the hammock and rotated to a shady spot and watched the world go by in shady comfort for another hour or so.

Leave 12:30-ish, sit at a road repair stop for a while. This time they are straight-up laying a whole new road bed rather than cleaning up after rock slides. I roll into Corbett’s about 2:10 … which is awesome because they close at 3. I have however missed the Sandwichery, which closes at 2.

After my tasty late breakfast and wifi I flail around the godforsaken hell-hole that is Redding for too long looking for cheap diesel and a sandwich. After a very frustrating half hour lost in warehouse-land I finally settle on good ole familiar Safeway as the answer to both. Got my diesel, then fended off the tweekers in the parking lot to go into the store to get my sando.

Head out of town, past Whiskeytown, over the first hill and down into Weavertown, then over the second hill, then sit through today’s road repair stop, then finally down through Junction City, to:

Pigeon Point Campground:  

On a bend in the Trinity River, next to a boat ramp ==> lots of partying rafters, but a couple of great sites!

Busy Route 299 is only 40' up and 90' over, so when a truck passes you hear it. Fortunately, the road is not busy after dark.

Not quite as torrid as Redding, but still pretty darned hot until the sun goes down.

tonight: It must not be fishing season around here, because the place is utterly deserted. I therefore take site #6, the one with creek view parking.

I spend a quiet three or so hours of contemplating the swollen Trinity River. The river was raging, but the weather conditions are so mild and un-buggy that I left the van door wide open all night. I can hear the rushing water really well, but there is no moon, so I can’t really see it until sunrise, when I had the pleasure of watching the morning light break over the river from the comfort of my cozy bed. That’s what this van camping stuff is all about!

Thursday – Sunday 

A short six mile drive to a quality light breakfast experience at the Strawhouse, an americano and a piece of their really tasty coffeecake.

The next excitement is getting past the giant landslide a few miles down the road. The wait wasn’t too bad. It is a spectacular sight.

I am in no hurry, also haven’t really eaten, so I opt for lunch with the weed growers at the Mexican restaurant in Willow Creek, Eureka. I don’t really know that all these people are weed growers, but the um … unique clientele does fit my idea of what growers are like. I  get to Martha’s just in time to pile into the minivan with everybody.

Tyler’s elementary school music performance is tonight. It was pretty cool. The steel drum band was good, and the jazz band was spectacular! I was not expecting to see scrawny 8th graders playing competent improvisational sax solos. Tyler’s beginning band (5th and 6th graders) was … earnest and sincere. I really dug the whole thing.


Took the grown-ups (M and Chad) to breakfast at Renata’s in Arcata, one of her favorite places … for some reason. It’s a crepe place, both sweet and savory. I had the savory special and it was very good – goat cheese and bacon and apples and pecans … Then back to Eureka – that was the excitement for the day.


We all pile into the minivan(*) again and drive to Arcata again for the beginning of the Kinetic Race. It was hard for the little kids to get close enough to see the vehicles, and Tyler was being a too-cool six year old, so we ended up doing a lot of walking around while Martha shopped for inventory.

(*) minivan is configured for the six-seat option. Martha and Chad in front. Two toddlers in their respective carseats in the middle, easily accessible from the sliding doors on each(!) side. Tyler and I in those super hard to get to backwards-facing back seats. Strollers and crap in the boot. Sometimes M will swap with me for the front, sometimes not.

We leave about the time the race starts. Chad has the excellent idea to drive home the long way, past Manila out on the peninsula. The race involves land and sea, so this is the route – south out of Arcata past Manila to somehow pedal your way across the bay to Eureka, then southward. We pass 3-4 really interesting “floats”.

Home all afternoon, then, a walk around the neighborhood, me and Martha each pushing a stroller – a quality Grandpa event!


No events today. Very nice lox and bagels and eggs breakfast.  Everybody but Chad went for a walk over to the Coast Guard housing. Tyler wanted to shoot hoops, Rylan wanted to play on the playground, and me and Martha just wanted to get out. The Coast Guard housing area is a very nice place.

I went out for coffee later and scored a Sunday paper – woo! Martha made an excellent fish dinner.


Leaving day! Confusion everywhere. The babysitter was in, so Martha could concentrate on working. It’s Memorial Day so no school for anybody. We tried to squeeze in lunch before I go, but the places she likes were closed for the holiday, so I made my goodbyes and went to the restaurant that I like!

Entirely uneventful trip 2/3 the way across 299. No road repair on the holiday, so the stoppage at the giant landslide was pretty quick and easy.

I’m thinking I’ll try a different campground tonight. I drive up the hill to Big Flat CG. It wasn’t a good scene. One site occupied, by a sketchy dude with with big dogs. There was one nice site looking over the river valley, but there was garbage everywhere. Overall a pretty depressing place today.

Next up is good ole Pigeon Point. I did a drive-through and my perfect site from last week is taken, so that does it!  I am pressing on to try Junction City for the first time.

Junction City Campground:  

tonight: I am very early today, 4 pm and sunset is at 8. Pigeon Point is very charming, but there isn't much to do there unless you boat or fish. So I decided today would be the day that I try this BLM campground 5.5 miles east. So far so good, although the Host says the mosquitoes don't come out in force for another hour - we'll see. After I walked to the pay station in flip-flops I noticed the ground is covered with ... either a blanket of oak seedlings or poison oak! We'll see about that also.

I like it here. I have a great pair of trees for the hammock. The mosquitoes got active around 6:45, but I saw way worse across the great Northern Plains last summer. I walked across the road to hang out along the Trinity River for the rest of the day. The amount the river is overflowing its banks is small and not very dramatic, but the speed with which it is flowing is amazing close up. Actually, this is upstream (smaller) from where I saw the river at Pigeon Point last week, and it seems way faster here. I’m sure there’s some good reason for that, but it wasn’t obvious to me.


Nice morning, no bugs. Slept pretty late, which I take to mean that I didn’t sleep very well.

Two miles to Junction City, then Weavertown, then another road repair stoppage that made me too late for the Sandwichery again, then Brew. for coffee. Afterwards I did a walk-by on the Coffee Bar, a new coffee place I see on Yelp. Nice space, but looks too fancy for me, and every cup is special kind of place.

Got a good sandwich at the San Francisco Deli. They are is open all day. I am over tying to make it to the Sandwichery before 2pm.

Today’s road stoppage is way longer than that I experienced last Tuesday (a week ago!). They have completely stripped one lane down to the dirt, so there is about a 10 inch drop between the untouched lane and this – like when the dentist gets every spec of the old filling out before they lay in the new filling. The untouched lane was where all the equipment was, so we had to take the dirt lane. The guide truck chose to go super-duper slow over it, which slowed down the wait and the transit itself. I’m glad I don’t have to be anywhere at a particular time. Still plenty of daylight when I get to:

Bridge Picnic Area and Campground:  

Just stopped at the picnic area today, no camping. Hat Creek is awesome, and this is an excellent spot to park in the shade and enjoy it. Routes 44 and 89 cross over the creek at a bridge right here, hence the name. Excellent spot for fishing, (very cold) swimming, or just hanging out and believing the universe is a blessed place.

tonight: I guess this really is my new favorite spot on Hat Creek. Second time in 8 days. Different site this time, across the road on the inside of the loop and a little further from the parking area.

Last week when I stayed here I bushwhacked downstream to the entrance and the picnic area across the road. This time therefore I must explore in the other direction – upstream, towards Old Station. The whole stretch of 4-ish miles between here and Old Station of mostly burned-over scrubland, and this little walk reminds me how close to the edge of the trees this campground is. A coupla hundred yards upstream and I’m in the sunlight. It’s important to walk carefully here, because there’s charred wood everywhere and it dirties up what you’re wearing pretty quick. discover it doesn’t brush off, it’s there till the next time you wash it.


Last night I chose this site carefully to not get baked by the sun in the morning … so of course it rained! In the very early hours of the morning I awoke to the lovely sound of rain plinging on my roof. Whoops, better get up and bring my tablecloth inside. Whoops again, my back roof vent is leaking badly.

The leaky roof situation just moved from annoying to MUST FIX. It’s summer in Reno, so I have a few months to deal with it, but deal with it I must before next winter.

Some stuff got pretty wet, the new comforter Martha gave me got thoroughly soaked, but I’ll be home tomorrow, so overall no big deal. From before sunrise I tossed and squirmed about to try to find a dry spot and some dry cover and finally got back to sleep, to re-awaken at noon!  Pack up and go to be out by 1pm checkout time. Then breakfast at my new favorite place JJ’s Diner, then an easy drive home.