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Don't run from the winter. Embrace it. Own it. Light it up by candlelight in the forest. Traipse through it on a hike to a waterfall, estuary or the mother of all sand dunes. Eat it all up over a slice of goat pizza and oysters. Wash it all down with pomegranate mimosas. Want more? Gather with tribal elders, paint with Eurekans, feed the cows pumpkins, ice skate in a barn and marvel at the world's tallest living lighted Christmas tree. Go on these and other adventures that follow, good traveler, and enjoy the passing of winter like a cool breeze.

Outdoorsy Type


Fog or sunshine, which sky conditions provide the optimal view experience to marvel at the redwoods? Hard to say, with pros and cons for each. But there's a third option gaining popularity: darkness. For the 30th annual Candlelight Walk in the Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park will, due to public demand, host the event over two evenings, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7. Doors will open at 5 p.m. in the visitor center, a shabby-chic cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, just north of Orick. After snacks, a raffle and silent auction to benefit the park, the luminary-lit processions will proceed at 6 p.m., on an easy ¼-mile level path to the campfire ring, for tales as tall as the trees. Please leave your candles and dogs at home. Advance reservations, which begin Nov. 1, are highly recommended ($10, free to kids 12 and under). Rain or shine. Call (707) 465-7327 or visit www.redwoodparksconservancy.org.

click to enlarge Trillium Falls. - GREG NYQUIST
  • Greg Nyquist
  • Trillium Falls.

With star attractions like big trees, Roosevelt elk and Fern Canyon, Redwood National and State Park visitors often overlook a fourth natural star, the Trillium Falls Trail, which features deciduous and redwood forests, Pacific rhododendron, plenty of Western trillium — one of the foremost wildflowers on the North Coast — and patches of giant trillium. Watch for early bloomers as spring begins. But the real showcase of the moderate trail loop, which rises and falls and switches back and forth over 3 miles, is Trillium Falls, the largest and most beautiful in the parks, which really shows off in the winter rains. A steel bridge over Prairie Creek offers an excellent view of the boulder-strewn cascade. To start the walk to the water from U.S. Highway 101 just north of Orick, go west on Davison Road at the Elk Meadow Day Use Area, then take a quick left to the parking area, which has restrooms, picnic tables and, sometimes, a herd of resting elk. Start at the trailhead at the southern end and tiptoe around said antlered layabouts if present.

Do Humboldt like the locals do — they selected the Hammond Trail, a 5-mile section of the California Coastal Trail between Arcata and McKinleyville, as the best place to walk, jog and bike in one reader poll. Besides two-wheeled riders, the path, which meanders along a river, estuary, beaches, forests and sand hills, welcomes riders on four hooves. It begins in the Arcata Bottoms at the old steel bridge, retired to trains but open to pedestrians. Look down at the Mad River and you may see people and sea lions alike chasing the same schools of fish. Go north and stop at the market near Widow White Creek and School Road for refreshments. A bit farther north, turn the kids loose on the playground at Hiller Park. Or near the northern end of the trail, which climaxes with panoramic views of Clam Beach. Hop down a Billy goat trail into the coastal meadow for a closer look at harbor seals lounging about by the hundreds around the Mad River mouth.

click to enlarge Headie’s Pizza and Pour. - ZACH LATHOURIS
  • Zach Lathouris
  • Headie’s Pizza and Pour.

Foodies

If you're camping in Patrick's Point State Park and get a hankering for hot food, one of the most satisfying remedies is a pie from Headies Pizza and Pour. Try the Margherita, Old Growth or Goathaven washed down with a local wine or beer on tap. The pizzas — available by the slice, too — are huge, despite coming from a tiny oven. And they're piled with gourmet ingredients like goat cheese, artichoke hearts and pesto, but the crust is thin. Please note: If you prefer deep dish carb bombs, you may need multiple slices. The space is small and seating limited to a few tables, inside and out, as Trinidarians tend to pick them up to go. But the atmosphere remains welcoming, comfy and laid back, no matter the evening.

Old-fashioned meals have made the Greene Lily a breakfast and lunch staple among office workers in Old Town Eureka. New-fashioned beverages have made it the most praised mimosa spot among North Coast Journal readers. Good thing the cooks make breakfast all day because the eggs Benedicts, whether classic or with a twist (try the Backwoods Bennies) amaze all. In a related manner, improbably, it has perfected the most delicious gluten-free crab cake topped with poached egg and hollandaise sauce. The all-day breakfasts also excuse mimosa drinking well into the afternoon. Try a glass or carafe of the standard and seasonal blends, which may include watermelon, dragon fruit and the personal favorite of this writer, pomegranate. Owner Charity Desbrow named her café after her great grandmother, who, while raising 12 children in the Great Depression, dreamed of opening a speakeasy. Lillian Greene would be proud.

Humboldtians and their guests rave about the eclectic fine dining at Larrupin' Café in Trinidad, where Oriental rugs top the tables, zesty sauces top the meats (try the eponymous Swedish sweet dill mustard), glass-blown chandeliers top the ceilings and the wait staff top the water glasses with ceramic fish-shaped jugs, tilting just so to create an amusing gurgle. Sit upstairs for a view of the garden or, depending on the weather, out on the patio for a listen to live jazz. Repeat customers go right for the mesquite-grilled meats and seafood. The filet mignon, barbecued oysters and Klamath River salmon come highly recommended. Vegetarians find enough on the menu to satisfy, like fresh garden greens and vegetables, honey maple sweet potatoes, Portobello mushrooms, tofu kabobs and spanokopita stuffed with spinach, chard and cheese. Reservations recommended.

click to enlarge Toronto-based artist Nick Sweetman. - ZACH LATHOURIS
  • Zach Lathouris
  • Toronto-based artist Nick Sweetman.

Art Lovers


The southeast corner of Second and C streets in Old Town Eureka, a fenced lot with a smattering of long and odd wooden buildings, has come a long way in recent years. Once a private storage facility, its quiet is broken only by a gaggle of honking guard geese as they accost surprised passersby, the Mendenhall Studios complex now buzzes with artists as they paint, dance, display and host art openings and happenings. The big four fluttering the most — Rachel Schlueter, Kathy O'Leary, Joan Dunning and Linda Mitchell — have studios inside and recently mounted giant framed acrylic canvases on the Second Street exterior wall. The respective images celebrate cats, dancers, redwoods and an island in Humboldt Bay belonging to the Wiyot Tribe. While disparate in style, the artists share a commitment to public art. This fall, Mitchell exhibited 50 works in a "Dance of Life" series to raise funds for Studio D2, an on-site multi-use studio space slated to host mural projects, classes and workshops. Call or hang about the corner for a chance to sneak peek these works in progress.

Imagine being in a room with a dozen children, all quiet, well-behaved, concentrating for an hour on one thought: an owl in a tree backlit by a full moon. Such fantasy is reality, for kids and adults, at the Lavender Rose Paint Nights. The Eureka fabric store hosts creative brush and canvas sessions Wednesdays through Fridays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m., with subjects like bigfoots, unicorns and dragonflies, and backdrops like sunsets, lagoons and starry nights that keep the budding Basquiats occupied for the entire two hours. Reserve a spot online for $38 (www.lavenderrosefabrics.com, walk-ins sometimes accommodated) and you'll get a canvas, paint, step-by-step instructions, light refreshments and a night to remember every time you look at your 16-by-20-inch masterpiece in the living room.

If you want to paint the town red and other colors, or see the works of others who have, walk around Eureka and marvel at its mural-icious ambitions. For two years, the city has invited artists from near and far to prettify Old Town and downtown. They responded by transforming storefronts and alleyways into a giant dinosaur, Japanese cityscape, ship in a bottle, ocean waves and psychedelic fantasia. Eureka, which prides itself on its support for the arts, regularly ranks among the top 10 in John Villani's 100 Best Small Art Towns in America. Murals are one reason why. Not just new ones. Old-school wall works by Eurekans, like "No Barking Allowed" and "The Dancer" by Duane Flatmo, one of the most celebrated Burning Man artists, have brightened the city for decades. For details or a mural map, go to www.visitredwoods.com or call 707-443-5097.

click to enlarge Humboldt Ice Rink. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt Ice Rink.

With the Kids


Smooth, unblemished ice, the goal of every true skater, will appear in Ferndale's seasonal rink from early December to early January, thanks to the cutest little Zamboni machine on the planet. This is the second year the city will host this classic winter pastime, fitting considering the Victorian Village celebrates one of America's most Christmas-y Yuletides. More on that later. Admission, which includes skate rentals, is $8 for children and $12 for adults. Enjoy a winter wonderland with Santa, seasonal lights and, if needed, a space reserved for birthday and group parties. Open daily, times vary. Go to www.humboldticerink.com for details and dates.

Attention helicopter parents: It's time to land in Loleta, turn off the rotors, unhitch the harnesses and let the kids roam about like the free-range youth of yesteryear, with a few modern modifications. Opened this summer, the Bear River Arcade brings together the ultimate high-tech trifecta of amusements: laser tag, bowling and arcade games. Located off Singley Hill Road near the Bear River Casino, the fun factory boasts 10 lanes of 10-pins, 38 arcade games, a pool table, shuffleboard and, according to arcade director Scott Noggle, "the Cadillac of laser tag arenas." Laser tag is $6 per mission and bowling is $5 per game. For the latter, try the Angry Birds mode. Snack bar options include pizza, burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, soda, beer and wine.

South of Arcata on the Humboldt Bay peninsula, what could be the most biologically diverse coastal ecosystem in California thrives in the Ma-le'l and Lanphere dunes. Besides tons of rare plant species, seemingly more adapted to distant mountain ranges or bygone epochs, they possess millions of tons of sand heaped up in the biggest sandlot your kids could imagine. The less pristine Ma-le'I section, located off State Route 255 on Young Lane and Vera Linda Lane, is the main draw for recreation. Its winding dunes, devoid of features except for a skeleton forest of dead trees, offer perfect places to jump, tromp, dig and follow the tracks of strange creatures, with many, few or no legs, that visited the night before. The more restricted Lanphere unit protects most of the exceptional flora. It's open to free guided tours on Saturdays. To budding young botanists, the rare wallflowers, pink sand verbenas, owl's clover and reindeer lichen should be enough to enthrall. For details and to register, try 707-444-1397 or info@friendsofthedunes.org.

click to enlarge Warren Creek Farms pumpkin patch in Blue Lake. - LEÓN VILLAGÓMEZ.
  • León Villagómez.
  • Warren Creek Farms pumpkin patch in Blue Lake.

Not Strictly for Tourists


To pick up traditional orange holiday squashes to carve or cook, consider those from the following organic pumpkin patches. East of Eureka, Lost Coast Hay, the home of the late world's tallest steer (RIP, Danniel), grows pretty big pumpkins, too. After selecting yours, do the corn maze and hayride, and browse the farm store packed with cute live barn animals. Not far away, Organic Matters Ranch devotes much of its 100 acres to pumpkins. Take further advantage of its ecological goodness by stocking up on seasonal veggies and retail meats, including chicken, pork and lamb. Near Arcata, the Bayside Gardens Pumpkin Patch features a mix of sizes and varieties. Bonus fun: Feeding pumpkins to the cows, building a scarecrow and riding the tractor. In Ferndale, the Leonardis run a patch for school kids on their farm but welcome the public on weekends. Check LeonardiPumpkinPatch on Facebook for details.

Honor our Native American elders and veterans, see Indian dances and enjoy a delicious fish meal cooked according to traditional recipes on Nov. 9 in Eureka at the 38th annual Northwest Intertribal Gathering and Elders Dinner. The celebration brings tribal dancers from across the region to the Redwood Acres Fairgrounds. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and National American Indian Heritage Month, the public is warmly invited. Indian singers, drummers and dancers will perform from 11 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. The demonstrations feature Brush, Hoop, Tolowa, Aztec, Shake Head and Pow Wow dancers. Native arts and crafts will be available for purchase. Elders are served a free traditional dinner beginning at noon followed by a gifting ceremony at 3 p.m. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. Dinner is $8, $4 for children 12 and under and free for those 55-plus.

How about a Victorian Christmas? For Noel nostalgia, wind ye olde clock back a century to Ferndale, California's best preserved Victorian Village. This ghost of Christmas past is friendly, like Casper, not like those wretched haunts in Dickens' tales. The month abounds with cool Yule tides: The switching on of America's tallest living lighted Christmas tree on Dec. 1, a town tradition since 1934. It features the booster band, chameleon singers, 4-H kids, Boy Scouts, homemade cookies, cocoa and a bonus beans and linguiça dinner at the Portuguese Hall. There's an appearance by Santa on Dec. 7; Victorian Holidays street fests with period costumes, live music and late-night shopping on Dec. 13 and 20, and the Christmas Lighted Tractor Parade on Dec. 15, when the Cream City celebrates its dairy heritage in udder-ly charming style.

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About The Author

Richard Stenger

Richard Stenger

Bio:
Richard Stenger is media relations manager for the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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