You might be wondering why someone who lives near one of the most beautiful National Parks (Yosemite), travels to other places during the summer. I have two words for you; heat and crowds. We much prefer Yosemite in any season except summer and who knew it would be hot at 4000+ feet elevation? Not us. To remedy a major lapse in judgment, we bought a travel trailer and now we toodle around in cooler climes during the summer. That’s why we recently visited norther NorCal to explore the North Coast. One of our day trips took us to Scotia, Trinidad and Patrick’s Point.
I’ve been to Scotia, Trinidad and Patrick’s Point before, but Ron hadn’t. He’d heard me talk about it enough; the lumber mill tour in Scotia, the clam chowder and smoked salmon in Trinidad, Agate Beach, banana slugs, driftwood and agate in Patrick’s Point State Park. I guess my fond memories piqued his curiosity and our proximity to the area meant it was time for Ron to see, taste and experience it for himself.
Our first stop was Scotia, a historic company town of the Pacific Lumber Company, aka PALCO. I discovered PALCO no longer offered mill tours. How disappointing! The mill tour was the highlight of visiting Scotia. At the Scotia Museum, they gave you a piece of redwood, imprinted with tour information. It was your ticket.
From a catwalk above the mill floor, we watched massive redwood logs get stripped of bark and milled into boards. Plaques along the catwalk described the activity below (Ron would have LOVED it!). The mill workers would occasionally glance up at us. We waved. They didn’t. In retrospect, I understand how catastrophic that could have been.
Despite no mill tour, we wanted to visit the town, look around and visit the museum. The museum website indicated they were open 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. Imagine our surprise to discover it closed. Boo. Harrumph. Drat. The museum had outside exhibits so we wandered around those for a bit.
Have I ever mentioned that Ron likes to read plaques? I mean, he really likes to read plaques. I’m not much of a plaque reader. I speed read them, get the gist and then ask Ron later if I have questions. All of this is to say that for about 3 pieces of equipment and a big slice of log, it took over a half hour to view the outside exhibit. Well, it took Ron a half hour. I finished in less than 10 minutes. Our disconnect for the love of plaques works. I take photographs while he reads.
While Ron was enjoying plaques, I left in search of the lumber mill we toured years ago. Scotia is small and the mills are big, so it was easy to find them, but I couldn’t remember which one we toured. Ron caught up with me, and together, we walked along Williams Street. At a bridge that crossed a canal, we and traffic (one car) came to standstill while a team of ducks crossed the road to join their feathered friends on the other side. There was a dirt road on our left, so we walked it and arrived at the log pond for the Scotia Mill. It looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure until we drove down Main Street and saw the mill from the front. Yes, that was the one.
I enjoyed revisiting Scotia, but the changes in the logging industry have definitely affected the town and the people. The Pacific Lumber Company encountered a hostile takeover in the mid-80s by Maxxam, Inc. Maxxam needed to make back their money from the purchase of PALCO stock, so they started clear-cutting ( previously, PALCO had a sustainable growth policy). Due to environmentalism and because of litigation against Maxxam, PALCO filed for bankruptcy in 2007 and in 2008, PALCO ceased to exist and all their assets, including the town of Scotia, were transferred to the Mendocino Redwood Company. Mendocino Redwood Company renamed PALCO to the Humboldt Redwood Company. The mill is still operational, but at a much lower capacity than when I visited as a child.
Since Scotia was a company town, ownership of the town changed, but the new owners apparently don’t really want to own and maintain a town so there are plans to subdivide and allow for the sale of residential and commercial lots. There was even a suggestion to roll Scotia into Rio Dell, the town on the other side of the Eel River. I don’t know how this will affect the residents who are current and retired mill workers, but I don’t have a good feeling about it.
To me, Trinidad is a small fishing village with beautiful beaches and coastline, Katy’s Smoked Salmon and a pier with a restaurant that has good clam chowder. In actuality, it is one of the smallest incorporated cities in the state and is a gateway city to the California Coastal National Monument. I didn’t even know that was a thing! But it is and it encompasses the entire California coast and it protects all islets, reefs and rock outcroppings along 1,100 miles of coastline. Who knew? And Trinidad is, in fact, a small fishing city with beautiful and protected beaches and coastline, Katy’s Smokehouse and a pier with a restaurant that has good clam chowder.
We stopped at Katy’s first. It was closed. Boo. Harrumph. Drat. I see a definite pattern here. All indications were that it should be open. I was quite disappointed because I wanted to get some smoked salmon in honor and in memory of my dad. I guess we’ll just have to go back. Katy’s is less than 1/2 mile to the pier, so within minutes we arrived at Trinidad Head and the pier. It was too early for lunch so we hiked Trinidad Head first. I don’t remember this hike; I don’t know if the trail is relatively new or we just didn’t know about it all those years ago. It’s only about a mile, but it affords some fabulous views of Trinidad Beach and Harbor. After our hike, we went to the Seascape for clam chowder and fish and chips and blackberry pie a la mode for dessert!
The hike on Trinidad Head was beautiful, not just for the ocean vistas, but for the wildflowers too. I’ve searched, but I can’t find the names of all of them. Do you know what they are? If you do, please let me know.
Our final stop for the day was Patrick’s Point. It looked so different! A lot changed, especially flora growth, during my absence. The only thing on my agenda was to take Agate Beach Trail down to the beach and look for more agate. The trail also seemed quite different; I remembered it as longer with more switchbacks and very fern-y. It looks like the trail was rerouted. When we got down to the beach, I pointed out the general area where Jeff P. and I took turns climbing up on a stump right at the edge of the surf and with big driftwood sticks in hand, challenged the sea to knock us off the stump. We were wild and crazy 8-ish year olds!
While Ron was desperately searching for a plaque to read and resorting to examining the geology of the cliffs, I sat on the pebbly beach and started searching for agate. I wasn’t entirely sure I knew what I was looking for, though. I have a pebble that I picked up from this very same beach when I was 8-ish years old. At the time, I showed it to Jeff’s mom and dad and they both assured me it was an agate. Still, I didn’t know what to look for. A man who was searching for agate showed me the agate he collected. When I saw his collection, I had serious doubts about the pebble that I have kept all these years. So with renewed determination, I searched. And I found. After sifting through pebbles for about an hour, I found six pieces of agate! I also had very smooth hands.
We still had some daylight left so we explored more of Patrick’s Point State Beach. We hiked out to Patrick’s Point on the Patrick’s Point Overlook Trail, then we hiked out to Wedding Rock. The views were marvelous and there were some pretty wild flowers. The weather was also very strange; foggy and cloudy and dark and foreboding one minute, then sort of clear with sunshine that brought out all the hues of the ocean the next minute. Despite how it looks, I promise all of the following photos were taken between 5:24 pm and 6:03 pm.
Another interesting factoid; It was surprising how little driftwood there was on Agate Beach and around Patrick’s Point. It was definitely a notable feature many years ago, and in fact, I collected pieces and made a mobile. I learned that my very first visit was sometime after The Christmas Flood of 1964. I don’t know how long after, but long enough to wear smooth branches and sticks and not long enough to have washed away or worn down the logs that had washed ashore.
This day trip was definitely a stroll down memory lane. For most of the day, I remembered bits and pieces of previous visits and I was probably boring Ron to tears with my stories. For as much as I enjoyed revisiting these places, it was also emotional and bittersweet. I couldn’t escape how much time has passed, and how young I was when I last visited Scotia, Trinidad and Patrick’s Point. I have many memories from all the times I have been here; when I was 8-ish years old, 15-ish years old and I’m not sure, but maybe also when I was 24-ish years old. I was having a hard time reconciling the now me with the then me; it didn’t feel like we were even the same person. I kept thinking of the lyrics from Adele’s song Hello:
I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet
And a million miles
It did feel like a million miles. My 8-ish year old self would think of the now me as an old woman, yet we’re the same person. The 8-ish year old Denice didn’t know where we were going or why, she just sat in the back seat, playing with a troll doll and was indifferent to the adults’ plans while the now Denice has so many questions about why we visited these places. Why did my parents choose to vacation here? How did they find out about Scotia and the lumber mill tour? What was the draw that made them drive 700 miles and spend two weeks here?
I am sad that so much time has passed in what feels like mere moments. It makes me happy to have seen and experienced so much as a child. I am grateful for all the things that allowed me to visit again and relive some of my fondest memories. Mostly, I’m thankful for the reminder that I am exceptionally fortunate and so far, have lived a very good life.