CALIFORNIA COAST TRAILS
CHAPTER XXII

Arcata — Furze and daisies — Mad River — Stump land — Trinidad Bay, headland, and lighthouse — Lagoons — Norwegian and Indian — The coast hemlock — The village of Orick — Fine game country — Splendid forest — Fog among the redwoods: a weird scene — A strange couple: sentiment yields to fact — Crossing the Klamath River — Requa: the Klamath Indians — The forest again — Crescent City: saloons and a prospective harbor — Doubtful sailing dates — Smith River Corners — The Oregon coast in view — The goal is reached: congratulations — Good-bye to Anton, — and to Oregon.

IT was the 25th of October when I left Eureka. Though my time was not limited I had planned when I began the trip that I would finish it by the end of this month, and it looked as though I should just about keep my date. Here we said good-bye finally to cities and railroads, though not entirely to automobiles, a few of which travel the coast road, though the bulk of road traffic takes the inland way through Red Bluff and Shasta. The morning was dull and cold, with a look of rain, which at this season might be expected without much warning. I had to take a circuitous road, in order to avoid the wide stretch of swamp-land that lies to the east of Humboldt Bay, and rode twelve miles before rounding the head of the bay at Arcata, only six miles from Eureka by air-line.

This region is the finest of dairy-land, flat and green, most of it having been originally forested. The roadside was adorned with many old stumps of redwoods, on the slowly decaying tops of which little gardens of herbage and small shrubby plants were flourishing. The climate offers a continual bonus to vegetation. Even in the rainless summer, growth goes on unchecked by aid of the fogs, and the ground is automatically fertilized by generous deposits of humus.

At Arcata, a clean, small town which once aspired to the leadership of the bay and the county, the road turned again directly north and gradually drew to the coast. Outlying blocks of timber varied the level farming-land, but the main body of the forest lay a mile or two to north and east, a long, dark wall, serried, reticent, beautiful. A faint growl came from the ocean. Bushes of furze appeared here and there beside the road, introduced, I suspect, by some sentimental Briton, and the grass was sprinkled with pink-tipped daisies. Sometimes the road ran between high banks overgrown with herbage and shrubbage, and often past pleasant, old-fashioned cottages, with little semi-wild gardens and careless apple trees thereby. It was altogether a charming scene to any one who prefers the simplicities to the elegancies of life.

Here I crossed another considerable stream, bearing the name of Mad River. Its character did not seem to suit the title, and I learned later that the name referred to a quarrel that had arisen here among a party of the early settlers in the neighborhood. Think of using Nature's bright pages as a memorandum book of some foolish squabble!

A westerly turn of the road brought us down to the shore, a few miles south of Trinidad Bay. A strong wind was blowing, and all up and down the shore a salty mist overhung the meeting of land and water. To the north the coast rose again to cliffs crested with timber, and the dark shape of Trinidad Head stood out in firm outline, with a glint of white marking the lighthouse on the seaward edge.

Interminable zigzag grades now led through miles of stump-land, where blackened torsos of redwood made a dismal mockery of a forest. The melancholy sky and chill wind gave an appropriate setting to the forbidding scene, and occasional dashes of rain added a touch of physical discomfort to round out the impression. I kept Anton moving at a good pace, and by early evening we came to anchor at the little town of Trinidad. This was once a place of more importance than it is at present. The harbor, though small, is a good one, with deep water close inshore and shelter from all winds except the southwesterly. To the Spaniards it was known as Puerto Trinidad, though little enough can have been its use as a port to them. I saw the remains of an old landing-place, but the Trinidad of to-day has settled on its lees, and contents itself with making a feeble appeal to summer visitors. The bay is a pretty one, with rocky and wooded shores; and the presence of a few Indians who live in rattletrap huts at the foot of the bluff adds an element of the squalidly picturesque.

I paid my visit to the lighthouse, which occupies a striking position on the face of the almost perpendicular headland. It is a "fourth order" station, employing a total force of one man. The present keeper has been in charge for twenty-three years, and, for a wonder, had no desire for a change. The other lighthouse men I had talked with were almost to a man living in hope of being transferred to other posts, which is natural enough, considering the loneliness and monotony of their lives.

Leaving Trinidad the next afternoon, ten miles of delightful road, varied between cliff and forest, brought us to Big Lagoon. This is the first and largest of a chain of three lakes, lying close along the shore. At the southern point of the lagoon I found a wayside stopping-place kept by good Norse people, and here I put up.

A considerable number of Indians are scattered through this region, which is not far from the Hoopa Valley Reservation. While I was chatting at the door, an Indian woman with painted chin, a solemn papoose slung at her back, came up with a present of huckleberries for my hostess. It was pleasant to see the cordiality of their manner to one another. A party of "bucks" were at work a mile or two up the beach, washing out the auriferous sand, which all along the coast in the locality of the Klamath River yields gold in small quantity.

A cloudless morning with a smart touch of frost set us early on our way. Two miles took us to the foot of the lagoon: then the road turned northward, following its eastern shore through a noble forest of redwood, spruce, and hemlock. I here was just entering the territory of this last-named tree (Tsuga heterophylla), with whose grace and daintiness I fell at once in love. The leaves are fine, feathery, and of a soft yet brilliant green; the stem a deep brown overshaded with gray; and the cones quaintly small and fairy-like, hanging like beads below the drooping sprays of foliage.

The timber was unusually dense, and the play of light through fathoms of waving foliage was so charming that I was compelled to rein up every moment in admiration. By now Anton was used to my vagaries, and when he saw my note-book come out, applied himself without delay to the herbage. It was always amusing to me to watch his programme when he saw me putting away book and pencil. That was his cue to cram his mouth in the greatest haste and up to the last moment; but he always marched on good-naturedly when I gave the word.

A couple of miles of open country gave opportunity for a gallop to make up some of our lost time, and brought us by noon to Stone Lagoon, the second of the lakes. Stopping at a ranch-house to buy a few apples, I was gratuitously loaded with as many as I could carry away. Here foxgloves appeared again by the roadside, and occasionally a few violets. Daisies, too, were plentiful, and now and then a late wild rose smiled from a thicket. Once I found even a bush of luscious wild azalea in bloom, three months out of its place in the floral procession.

The third lagoon, called Freshwater, though smaller than the others, is a fine sheet of water, fully a mile long. The road runs high above it, and looking down from my elevation the surface seemed covered almost solidly with waterfowl. A mile beyond it I came to the village of Orick, and, it being now mid-afternoon, I put up at an old-fashioned building, ranch-house and hotel together, kept by hearty Scotch-Irish folks. The guns, rods, and dogs over which I stumbled at every turn seemed to imply a fine game country. The place is very attractive in situation and surroundings, on the banks of a pretty trout stream, only a mile from both sea and lake, and backed by a ridge of primeval forest that rises from the rich land of an ever green valley.

IMAGE: Forest and Fog: In the Heart of the Humboldt Redwoods

FOREST AND FOG: IN THE HEART OF THE HUMBOLDT REDWOODS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

The road next day passed still through the same superb forest. The beauty and majesty of the great trees were deeply impressive, and their thronging numbers quite staggering. The hemlock in particular again charmed me. There is an inexpressible richness in those downward sweeping fans of foliage, dark yet sumptuous, a fragile grace in their drooping spires and branchlets, that makes each tree individually lovable. The spruces, too, were wonderful, the stems extraordinary in girth and perfect in straightness and taper. The cones of this tree are exceedingly pretty, the scales small and regular, and of a bright light-brown color; and the foliage hangs in rope-like valances from the downward-curving branches.

As for the redwoods, they were more than ever memorable in their columnar steadfastness and symmetry. A marked habit of the species is its manner of growing in twins or triplets of stems from a single base, which in such cases is often of prodigious size. I noted many trunks that were over twenty feet in diameter, and many trees that were fully two hundred and fifty feet in height: though by reason of the colossal size of the whole assembly the dimensions of individuals would hardly be guessed.

A few maples grew along the creeks, upholstered completely in the greenest of moss. Their scanty remaining leaves were glowing with autumn fire, and the gloom of the forest aisles was lighted up by their large ragged stars of purest yellow. On every stump and fallen log, and on every fork and bulge of living tree, little elves' gardens of small plants and fungi were growing, — dainty sprays of vaccinium, red and orange toadstools, barberry, gaultheria: and the roadside banks were set with myriads of ferns, while mosses grew to such size that I sometimes mistook them for a young growth of some stiff, heathery plant.

The day was overcast, and all the morning the clouds crept and wreathed about the higher ridges. As the day went on, the fog lowered, till a dense white mist enveloped us and our tree companions. The effect in this close forest was strange and beautiful, the straight, dark stems of the trees standing all about me, outlined against a vaporous background of white that strongly accented the perspective while it obscured all detail. Heavy drops fell from the branches dimly seen overhead, and a low and muffled sound came from the surf on the shore a mile away. The place was weird and Dantean in the extreme, and I could have thought myself wandering in the gloomy forest of Dis.

While I was standing on a bank above the road, admiring the novel and mysterious scene, a man and a woman came round the bend of the road and stopped to speculate upon Anton, who was tied close by. As they did not see me I had time for speculating on them myself. They were young and well-dressed. The man was bareheaded, and had a pleasing face, and both had the air of education and good-breeding. They were walking abreast, carrying between them a rifle, at the middle of which a bundle was slung. The woman's face showed a pallor that might imply the early stages of consumption, and I rapidly fitted up a theory that they were a young husband and wife, a kind of forest lovers, who were endeavoring, by a wandering life in the open, to ward off the dread disease. On the strength of this romantic idea I felt quite sympathetic toward them.

After a few moments, during which they discussed Anton and pointed out to each other the items of his equipment, it occurred to me that it would be awkward to be discovered thus with an appearance of "taking stock" of them; so I said, "Good-afternoon," and they turned and saw me. We exchanged a few sentences bearing upon the weather, the forest, and the distances we had to go respectively to our intended destinations for the night, and then they walked slowly on. It was a ludicrous sequel to find later that they were adventurers who had been travelling with horse and wagon, giving stereopticon entertainments at any little place where they could get an audience, and leaving a long and mournful train of creditors in their wake. The stereopticon had been seized somewhere up country, and the horse and wagon had been impounded at Crescent City to satisfy other bills which had been destined for settlement by the "skipping" process. These facts, when I learned them, seemed to throw a new light upon the interest they had shown in my good horse and my other property. One could hardly imagine two people whose appearance was more at variance with such a mode of living, and I have often wondered what were the beginning and the end of their adventures.

Somewhere hereabouts we crossed into Del Norte County, which is the northernmost county of the State, and therefore would be the final one of our expedition. I mentioned this to Anton, but he was depressed by the gloom of the day, and showed no particular interest in the prospect of a speedy release from his duties.

The forest ended abruptly soon after we crossed the county line, and we now came again directly to the coast. The road ran close to the shore, but high up on the cliff, and the sound of a heavy surf roaring below us, unseen for the fog, produced a queer sensation. Occasionally the scream of a sea-bird came up from the gray void with startling effect. Back from the cliff-edge stretched an open hillside of bronzed fern mixed with brush and a scattering of low-growing spruces.

Some miles of this brought us by evening close to the mouth of the Klamath River, where I was fortunate in finding lodging at a comfortable house on the cliff, escaping the dismal alternative of the inn at Requa, on the farther side of the stream. The people were cultivated and friendly, and I passed a most pleasant Sunday, with music, magazines, and a pervading thunder of breakers on the river-bar half a mile away.

IMAGE: The Klamath River: Requa on the Farther Side

THE KLAMATH RIVER: REQUA ON THE FARTHER SIDE
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

On the morning of Monday, the 30th of October, I crossed the Klamath, succeeding, after ten minutes' whooping, in gaining the attention of the Indian who operates the ferry when not too deeply engaged in loafing about the village. The Klamath is a fine stream, fully a quarter of a mile wide here at its mouth. Looking up it from mid-stream I saw a wide, smooth sheet of reddish-colored water sweeping between high forested walls, — such a river as it has long been my wish to explore from sea to source. But this was not to be the occasion.

I landed at Requa, a village of a dozen or so houses, with a population that is half Indian, and principally employed in the salmon canneries, of which there are two near by. The Indians had an intelligent and prosperous look. At a neat little store kept by one of them, I purchased a few of the baskets for which the tribe is noted. Beside the many uses which the California Indians in general find for their baskets, the squaws of this locality use them as head-coverings, with picturesque effect.

When it is said that this small settlement is the second place in size in the county, it will be seen that the population of Del Norte is not imposing in numbers. It seems strange that this little region of some forty miles square should have been formed into a county at all. But that is their own business; and the Del Norteans do not omit to tell you that their small territory shows a greater assessed valuation per head for its people than any other county of the State.

To-day again was cloudy, and the forest still wore an aspect of gentle gloom. Golden maples shed a glory over the little creeks that crept with soundless flow along every hollow, and here and there a bush of the exquisite vine maple glowed with the life-blood of the dying year. I rode hour after hour through this delightful land, revelling in the companionable quietude and indulging to the full that quickening of mind and sympathy which are the peculiar spiritual boons of a forest. From time to time the deep, wise voice of the ocean came to me in thoughtful undertone. Bird and animal life seemed almost absent, and the automobile element was gratefully rare. Much of the road was "corduroyed," and did not lend itself to the motorist's ideal of speed.

We had started rather late, and had travelled slowly, so that it was dusk before we emerged from the forest and came down to the beach. A cheerful beam came from a lighthouse a few miles to the northwest, marking the point of the bay on which Crescent City is built. The road was bad, but there was a bright moon, and I turned Anton down to the hard sand of the beach and put him into an exhilarating canter. Soon the lights of houses began to twinkle distantly, then gleamed across the water of the bay; and we clattered down the main street of Crescent City just in time to save me my supper at the hotel.

I devoted the next morning to a tour of the "city," which revealed nothing noteworthy beyond a phenomenal number of drinking-places. I think this smallest of California cities, with a population of about twelve hundred, can probably claim the preeminence in proportion of saloons to inhabitants. Nevertheless, the place has, on the whole, an attractive look. The general topic of discussion seemed to be a harbor which it is proposed to make on a neighboring arm of the ocean called Lake Earl. In the West, that is a poor community, indeed, that has not always some harbor or railway in prospect.

Del Norte's principal link with the rest of the world is a small steamer which plies with regular irregularity between Crescent City and San Francisco. This was to be my means of returning to the south. When I inquired the next sailing-date, the reply was not very explicit. "Let's see," said the agent, "this is Tuesday. Well, she ought to sail Thursday, but I guess you had better figure on Friday, anyway." He would not commit himself to anything more definite, and in some disgust I was leaving the office when he called me back, to add, "Say, it might be Saturday, you know." On this shifting foundation I had to lay my plans.

I took the road in the afternoon for the few miles of California that remained. The coast here trends westerly to Point St. George, but the road lay two or three miles inland, to escape the inlet, or lake (Lake Earl) which I have mentioned. The country for some miles was more open, with occasional farms that had been reclaimed from forest, and much stump-land in process of clearing.

Then for a mile or two I rode through a belt of virgin forest as fine as any I had seen. The redwoods are here almost at their northern boundary, for they appear in Oregon only in one or two scattered groves just beyond the line. It seems remarkable that the tree should cease so abruptly, since it flourishes in undiminished power up to the limit of its range, giving no hint of dissatisfaction with its conditions of soil or climate. California may fairly boast that both species of the greatest of American trees, the famous "big tree" and the redwood, are practically confined to the State.

On emerging from the forest, I found myself approaching Smith River, which runs in a wide green valley opening to the sea. Two miles brought us to the river, which at this season was shallow, though normally it is a very considerable stream. By evening I was at the village of Smith River Corners, a kind of Sleepy Hollow close to the junction of a tributary with the epic-sounding name of Rowdy Creek. Here I put up for the night at the village inn, and next morning pursued my way toward the final goal.

The road passed through a region of prosperous farms, and gradually approached the coast, which here is not high, though backed by broken ground that rises to the dignity of hills. Blocks of dark timber diversified the landscape, and the shore was picturesquely varied with storm-blown spruces and a foam-ringed islet or two. I gazed with particular interest at the northward reaches of the coast, for though there was nothing notable in the view, I realized that at last I was looking up the coast of Oregon.

I put Anton to his best pace. We dashed along a mile of pleasant road, passing a trio of hilarious Indians in a crazy buckboard; skirted a dusky thicket of spruces; and at half-past ten on the 1st of November galloped gaily up to a post on the nearer face of which was inscribed "California," on the other, "Oregon."

IMAGE: At the Goal: Where California Meets Oregon

AT THE GOAL: WHERE CALIFORNIA MEETS OREGON
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

I had accomplished my purpose. The coast of California, cliff and dune, rock and sand, forest and barren, bay, lagoon, and headland, was henceforth mapped plainly in my mind; a panorama of nearly ten degrees of latitude and not much less than two thousand miles of actual travel, taking into account the sundry divergences I had made and the windings of the way. I rode Anton down to the beach, tied him to a stump that projected from the sand, and threw myself down beside him for a congratulatory pipe. It was a matter of regret that he could not join me in it, but I promised him instead unlimited oats at his stable that night.

When I felt that I had done justice to the occasion as far as circumstances allowed, I mounted and rode a few miles farther up the coast for good measure, crossing a pretty stream called Windchuck Creek, which empties just to the north of the line. In the afternoon I rode leisurely back to Smith River Corners, and at the supper-table with no little compunction arranged a "deal" with the local liveryman whereby my staunch comrade of so many miles changed owners. As I looked into his intelligent eyes at parting, I wished there were some way by which I could express my thanks and farewells as warmly as I felt them.

Next morning I returned to Crescent City, to find that the sailing-time of the steamer was still in as much doubt as when I left, except that Thursday had been automatically ruled out of the list of possibilities. There was a general opinion that Saturday might be the day, but it came and went, and the steamer made no sign. At the breakfast-table on Sunday rumor set the event for noon of that day, but an experienced pessimist construed the word in this bearing to mean five or six o'clock in the evening. I was just about starting for a walk to while away a few hours when a blast from the steamer signalled passengers to come aboard.

I hurried down to the wharf, and was entertained for an hour with the spectacle of the loading of a carload of tan-bark. Then arrived a load of bones, and an odoriferous half-hour was devoted to the leisurely stowing of these. At last a flat-car rumbled down the rails of the wharf, hauled by two mules, and driven by the good captain of the Del Norte. On the car was a group of personally conducted passengers, who had much the air of being figures on an allegorical float in a procession. The gangplank was thrown out, we scrambled aboard, the whistle blew again, the ropes were cast off, and in a drizzle of rain Crescent City and the misty cliffs of Oregon vanished from sight.

THE END