Huffpost Travel
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Cyrus Saatsaz Headshot

A Surfer and His Dog Explore Northern California

Posted: Updated:

Retracing familiar steps.

Lost Coast Trail.

Many people don't seem to go down the path already traveled, often times seeking new adventure when previous ones that brought memories of joy and happiness await their return. People continually seek new things. As they should. After all, how else to expand one's horizons? To gain new perspective? To find adventure?

Nonetheless, sometimes the greatest travel adventures are the ones already ventured.
And while change is inevitable, and often times for the good, there is something about the familiar that soothes the soul.

I often feel a sort of island fever in the San Diego area, where I live, during the summer. Anywhere east is a deathtrap of heat. South is Mexico, which usually requires some extensive preparations. And north is the vast endless traffic-ladened urban sprawl of Los Angeles.

The heat of summer was in full suffocating gear, and tourists were driving me mad in my own home. I desperately wanted to get away and find some cooler temperatures with less-crowded waves. Plus my adventurous spirit was starting to tug at my strings. And when that happens, you strap on your spurs, buck that bull, and grab on to its horns.

I lived in the beautiful college town of Arcata for two years. The first, as a freshman student at Humboldt State University. The second year I basically just hung around, partied, and accomplished very little in life. This was due partly to me having skipped a grade when I was younger, and I used it as justification to do nothing but have fun.

Oh to drift into fantasies of yore.

With memories of Arcata and its beautiful surroundings stirring, I settled on a roadtrip to my old haunts of Northern California.

When you hear the phrase "Northern California," and especially when associated with "surf" or "surfing," the places that usually come to mind, or are referenced, include the world class waves of Santa Cruz. The various breaks around San Francisco. Maverick's if we're talking big waves. In reality though, all those spots are geographically located on the central coast of California.

The real Northern California is the Lost Coast. Humboldt County. That's the true Northern California surf scene in every sense of the word.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My travels have been limited in recent years to roadtrips because of my beautiful dog, Dr. Indiana Jones, or Indy for short. Indy graces the cover, and has pictures featured, in my book Dogwild & Board: Stories, Interviews and Musings from a Surf Journalist.

I don't have any family in the area to take care of him if I were to go on a lengthy vacation somewhere, and between cost and distrust I'm not interested in leaving him at a pet hotel. I know he would be miserable there.

I've grown tired of traveling alone, which given my current relationship status would be a requirement were I to travel somewhere beyond where the roads would take me. So Indy accompanies me on my travel adventures.

Onward to Humboldt.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A rough start to the trip. I rear-ended a guy on the 405 heading north through L.A. It was right near the Crenshaw Blvd. exit. We were in the fast lane when the accident occurred. I think he pulled over right by the exit, though I wasn't sure what he was doing and there was no other shoulder to pull over on. I lost him. I wasn't planning on exiting the freeway, especially since I wouldn't know if he was going to do the same, so I moved on. The driver amazingly caught up to me. I think he got my license plate number as I fervently gave him hand gestures asking if he wanted to pull over off the highway.

Hopefully I won't get arrested for being involved in a hit and run accident.

Later I missed the exit for Interstate 5 and went on the most ghastly of California's freeways. Route 99. Fortunately an immediate exit allowed me to correct my mistake and quickly get on the I5.

The length of California from top to bottom is approximately 900 miles. It's exhausting driving from the bottom to the top. So I made a pit stop at the family home in Napa and had myself a home-cooked meal before resuming the trip in the morning and heading for Humboldt.

The best FM terrestrial radio in the entire country, in my opinion, is in Northern California. It's fantastic music with amazing DJs. It's exactly what FM radio once was during its heyday in the rest of the country. It's art in its purest form. I was reminded of this as one of the radio stations was playing The Grateful Dead, which rarely plays on Southern California radio stations, followed with Tom Petty's California, apropos for this roadtrip.

The way I always describe the drive to Humboldt is this: After driving past various small towns for a few hours north of San Francisco on the 101, you slowly enter an enchanted forest that you drive through for about an hour before reaching the ocean and then Arcata.

The enchanted forest I refer to is the vast area of giant old-growth redwood trees that symbolizes the region, with numerous freeway exits along the way allowing you to stop at various national and state parks to hike amongst the Land of the Giants.

2014-08-24-IMG_5268.JPG

Old-growth redwood trees.

2014-08-24-IMG_5271.JPG

It's truly spectacular. 96 percent of the original old-growth coast redwoods have been logged which makes me wonder just how lush these forests must have once been. We stopped along the way many times to go for hikes in the forest amongst the giant old-growth redwood trees.

For lodging, I was looking for a place that was affordable, respectable, and of course dog friendly. So while the original plan was to drive all the way to Crescent City and make my way down the California coast from there, given the relative lack of decent accommodations I opted to stay in Arcata for two nights instead of one and made Crescent City a day trip.

I settled in the Days Inn & Suites Arcata, which satisfied my personal criteria and offered a great location to travel from while also providing a warm indoor swimming pool and a separate indoor room for a Jacuzzi, which I'm always a sucker for. Given the rate and cleanliness, I recommend this place for travelers in the area.

I was surprised at how many people were staying at the hotel during a weeknight. If I had to guess, I'd say the Oregonion mobs decided to spread their wings and head south of the border to California.

After checking in and getting settled, Indy and I went to the Samoa Dunes Recreation Area where we went on a fun hike and caught the sunset, then stopped in downtown Arcata and grabbed dinner before returning to the hotel. I slept hard that night.

2014-08-24-IMG_5289.JPG

Samoa Dunes Recreation Area

2014-08-24-IMG_5296.JPG

Crescent City

The drive from Arcata to Crescent City is one of the most beautiful in the world. For the vast majority of the approximately 77 miles of road separating the two cities, you'll find yourself enjoying some of the most scenic views in the world. Endless old redwoods line one side of the road, that dark shade of green that dominates the landscape. The Pacific Ocean lies on the other side of the freeway.

Elk are predominant in this region, with herds making their way as they please. I encountered one of these conglomerations a short ways after leaving Arcata and pulled over to check them out. A local resident who was parked alongside me said they often cross the freeway whenever they please, causing considerable traffic jams. I didn't realize until this experience that each herd, which in this case numbered somewhere around 30, has one bull that rules the roost.

I also met a really cute blonde girl there who was perched on the stump of a tree next to her car observing the magnificent creatures. We immediately connected. I learned she was from Cincinnati, which for whatever reason made me think of the defunct HBO show John from Cincinnati. She had moved some years ago on a whim to another of my former college towns, San Luis Obispo, which I visited later on in the trip.

She told me about how she was studying to become a life coach, which I've always thought to be a sham profession given I don't believe anyone on this planet has gotten a firm enough grasp on life and reality to become a "coach" and for those seeking help from these life coaches my personal experience has taught me enough to know that these lost individuals probably need psychological assistance more than someone who claims to know enough about life to coach it.

I digress.

We struck up a rather long conversation about numerous topics. Travel. Career. Romance. She was on a solo road trip exploring the Pacific Coast while her husband remained in San Luis Obispo. She was married, so I didn't ask for a phone number given I'd been down that road before and it rarely ends well. I did find her on Facebook though, and we've been in touch. It's nice meeting interesting new people on these adventures, and it's one of the many reasons why travel gives you so much perspective.

When I think of male and female friendships though, this scene from the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally comes to mind.

Who knows.

After saying goodbye to my new friend, I gazed at the elk for a short while longer before hitting the road again. Indy was infatuated with the elk, though I'm pretty sure were I to let him out of the car to approach them he'd see the size of these animals and quickly head the other direction.

There are multiple freshwater lagoons along this drive. Beautiful bodies of water that are separated from the cold Pacific by a sliver of land thus creating a similar setting to an estuary with undoubtedly a plethora of life growing and thriving within it.

Countless beaches of breathtaking beauty are along this drive as well. I stopped along the way at some of the beaches to observe the surf. Undoubtedly, with more swell, there are some amazing waves to be had here.

The beautiful drive separating Arcata and Crescent City is surprisingly long, much longer than I remembered, though in the two years I lived in Arcata as a student at Humboldt State University I never ventured that far north. The only time any of my college friends ever mentioned Crescent City all those years ago was in reference to it being the only city in the entire region that sold a 190-proof alcoholic beverage called Everclear that was considered perfect for making Jungle Juice that we served at parties.

In fact, this was to be just my second trip ever to Crescent City, the first being when I stayed there a few years before during a coastal road trip from British Columbia to San Francisco that I wrote about in great detail for Dogwild & Board.

It took two hours to get to Crescent City. Despite the bountiful amount of beauty that this stretch of drive provides, most of it seems to dissipate upon arriving to Crescent City. I don't want to sound harsh towards California's northernmost coastal city, but there doesn't seem to be much there to take in particularly given how much the rest of the region has to offer.

Immediately upon arriving at the city you see Crescent Beach, which faces south thus sheltering the beach from most strong northwest storm swell, and is where the annual Noll Longboard Classic was once held.

That event went with the surf shop who hosted the contest. Rhyn Noll Surfboards, founded by legendary big wave surfer Greg Noll's son over 20 years ago, closed down when he decided to move to Hawaii and his mom didn't want to operate the business by herself.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's really a stretch to call the only surf shop in town thus. South Beach Outfitters is really more of a tourist gift shop pretending to be a surf shop for the purpose of adding some hip flair and selling more clothes. I was going to buy a shirt until I found out that they don't have their own logo and instead are using an apparel company's various generic images as their own. The owner of the shop was a nice lady though.

2014-08-24-IMG_5342.JPG

There wasn't much to be had in the form of waves this day although there were three longboarders in the water and one of them would get a short ride here and there. I knew it was a bit of a catch-22 coming to Humboldt during the summer given this time of year rarely has good swells hitting the California coast. Given I didn't bring a longboard with me, there wasn't going to be any surf this day.

2014-08-24-IMG_5351.JPG

Crescent Beach

Indy and I did stop at various beaches along the way with his favorite being this strand of beach that he had all to himself.

2014-08-24-IMG_5398.JPG

I can say this about Indy on this day, and most of the rest during the trip: He was exhausted from all the hiking.

We stopped many times along the way that day. Our last stop before returning to the hotel for a breather was exiting the freeway at the small coastal town of Trinidad, located just north of Arcata. This small area has some of the most beautiful, isolated beaches in the world, including Trinidad State Beach and just south of there Moonstone Beach, where most surfers in the area go to catch waves. There were no waves to be had this day as the Pacific Ocean continued its calm ways.

Indy found himself his own private beach, where he has this habit of endlessly sprinting while playing with the waves.

We eventually made it back to the Days Inn & Suites Arcata. With a hearty appetite developed from the day's hikes and explorations, I decided on the best restaurant in the entire region, the historic Samoa Cookhouse which is located in the remote town of Samoa on the outskirts of Arcata and Eureka near where Indy and I went the night before.

Despite its unusual location, the Samoa Cookhouse has been operating since 1890 and is a staple for the region. I don't remember the last time I left a restaurant that stuffed with pure goodness of soup, salad, vegetables, potatoes, baked pork shank and the main entrée of pot roast which melted in my mouth. They offer you free seconds of everything, so of course I got another piece of pot roast and somehow was able to fit some bites of desert into my mouth before belaboring to my vehicle and returning to the hotel.

Arcata

The entire focus of my second day in Northern California was Arcata, my former home of two years when I attended Humboldt State University. There's a multitude of amazing trails to hike in the various parks surrounding the region, but my favorite is the Arcata Community Forest, which is full of novice to intermediate level trails with troves of giant old-growth redwood trees in every direction. After visiting the bookstore to see if they had any apparel I wanted to purchase and exploring various parts of the campus including my old dorm room, Indy and I made our way to the northeast corner of the school where the trail entrance to the Arcata Community Forest begins.

I should include a description of Indy here. He's a half-English Bulldog, half-Boxer who was rescued from the San Francisco SPCA. I was a volunteer at the neighboring San Francisco Animal Care and Control when one day I decided to visit the SPCA, which is privately operated and doesn't accept pit bulls, and came across my little man. He was part of an influx of exotic breeds brought in due to the housing crises which resulted in abandoned foreclosed homes and a plethora of dogs being left behind in the process. Indy was a casualty of the Great Recession. He was also my blessing as I rescued him that day.

He's now five and a half years old, and has a split personality of the two breeds he encompasses. At times he's an English Bulldog, sleeping for days-on-end regardless of disturbance. Then he becomes the Boxer, full of energy and wanting to play all day long. With each day that passes, my dog is becoming more English Bulldog and less Boxer. So while he was up for really long hikes and willing to walk for miles on end when he was closer to his puppy days, now he tires rather quickly. For our hike I needed to pick a trail that didn't have too steep of an incline and was relatively short in total distance.

The Arcata Community Forest was perfect for this.

We went hiking for approximately three miles, stopping numerous times along the way to take pictures and admire the endless lush, green forest surrounding us. We eventually reached the Jolly Giant Reservoir, which was Arcata's water supply from 1937-1964 as evident by the sign which said as such, before turning around.

2014-08-24-IMG_5460.JPG

Old-growth giant redwood trees are abundant here. Their breathtaking beauty never ceases during these hikes deep into the forest.

2014-08-24-IMG_5462.JPG

We headed back to the car as I tried to capture every sensory imaginable. I said goodbye yet again to my former college HSU, the place which in so many ways made me the person I am today and where I developed friendships that remain with me to this day.

Before I bid adieu to Arcata, I wanted to visit the local surf shops. After all, the inspiration for this trip was to surf the region even though a flat ocean greeted me thus far. I found two of them and while the employees of the shops, each looking like they were barely in their teens, were extremely nice to me and went against the stereotypical aloof, unsociable, inconsiderate surf shop employee, the shops themselves left very little to be desired.

The surf shops, The Neighborhood and The Shop, each had a decent selection of boards, nearly all of which were shaped by popular board designers such as Al Merrick, Firewire, and Surftech. They had next to nothing in terms of clothing though, and I did want to buy a short or long sleeve t-shirt for a souvenir. Neither shop had a shirt in my size and to be honest, as a former surf shop owner myself, I had no idea how these operations were making any money given the very limited selection of literally everything they were offering. Given the turnover of surf shops in this region, it won't surprise me if I visit this area in the near future and a new crop of surf shops have supplanted these establishments.

2014-08-24-IMG_5468.JPG

2014-08-24-IMG_5471.JPG

As I leave I'm reminded of how Humboldt is one of the final bastions of the purest form of what was the liberal movement of the 1960's. You still have hitchhikers on the side of the road. The garb exists. The idealism thrives. Rebellion against authority still rings true. Very few places in the world quite like Humboldt.

Shelter Cove

I first visited Shelter Cove some years ago as I wanted to explore the Lost Coast to conclude Dogwild & Board with a brief travel guide of the area. I only stayed there for a night and didn't get a chance to truly capture the essence of the region. So while I wanted to recapture the brief moments of beauty that I was able to encapsulate during my previous visit, I also wanted to walk the trails that originate from the small coastal town of Shelter Cove to get an idea for what hiking this vast, desolate and beautiful region truly entails and perhaps discover some of the hidden surf breaks that I've heard many times over the years existed in this region.

Often times the only way to find those mystical surf spots, the waves that are told only in obscure stories with little to no description when doing online research, is to do a reconnaissance mission and discover it for yourself. This was the primary objective with my visit to the Lost Coast.

It's worth noting that the only way to get to Shelter Cove is to exit off the 101 approximately an hour south of Arcata and drive on a windy, single-lane road for close to an hour, ascending most of the way before reaching a mountain peak that provides a glimpse of the town and coast below before burning most of your car's brakes descending down the steep and curvy road into Shelter Cove.

The Lost Coast.

You don't have many options in terms of lodging for the most isolated coastal town in California. While future visits to the area will surely prompt me to bring along camping gear to connect more closely with the abundant beauty of the surrounding nature, for this visit I wanted the amenities that came with staying in some form of formal lodging. So I decided on the Inn of the Lost Coast.

This place is truly a gem. The entire hotel is situated on a cliff side directly above the ocean, and every room has an enormous balcony overlooking both the crashing waves and the distant peaks of the Lost Coast coastal mountain range. You're blessed with the sound of waves crashing when you sleep at night.

2014-08-24-IMG_5499.JPG

It's also hard to go wrong with a place when they have a yellow submarine stationed in front of the establishment.

2014-08-24-IMG_5630.JPG

Shelter Cove doesn't have much in terms of dining options so in addition to their incredible accommodations, Inn of the Lost Coast also has a surprisingly good restaurant that serves lunch and dinner and they have another restaurant on the premises for your breakfast, lunch and coffee needs. That, along with the huge room that had a Jacuzzi and sauna, was an amazing setup for my Lost Coast adventure.

The weather was unusually hot, a dry heat pushing near 90 degrees as the sun started to set. Shelter Cove has the feel of an island, or small piece of land on a narrow peninsula, thanks to there being one single-lane road leading in and out of the town and everywhere you go the ocean surrounds you. It has the feel of a fishermen's village, with a sprinkle of tourism. I would find out later this is nowhere near the truth of the town.

I took it easy the first night, going with Indy for a brief stroll along the coast before returning to eat some surprisingly delicious pizza at the hotel restaurant. Later that evening I decided to visit the town's only drinking establishment, a dive bar located near the marina that had this funny sign on the wall.

2014-08-24-IMG_5494.JPG

I love hitting the bars in small towns like these (and really, any place I visit) because you truly capture the spirit and essence of the local flair when conversing with locals while inhibitions are lowered thus bringing an honesty and genuineness that provides a true glimpse into the soul of the area.

While the bar is the only one in town, it definitely has a local flair and its patrons seemed for the most part to all know each other. It was a bit of an intimidating crowd as most of the people in there had a menacing look to them. Fortunately, not judging a book by its cover, they were nice to me and I started a conversation with the two gentlemen I sat next to.

"When I moved here 6 years ago, there were maybe around 60 students at my kids' school," said one of the fellas, who I'm guessing was in his 30's, when I asked if the area had changed over the years. "Now there are over 100. And construction jobs are growing. Besides the school needing upgrades and improvements, there are homes being built."

His comment begged the question of what economic stimulus was bringing more work and people to the small town.

"There's one profession in these parts," he said. "Well, two. Construction, and growing."

He was in construction and while it should have been obvious to me what the apparent majority of the area's inhabitants were doing for work, the concept of this being the Shangri-La of marijuana growing naively didn't cross my mind. When I was a student at Humboldt State, Proposition 215, which legalized medicinal marijuana in California, had only recently passed and the majority of my experiences with the culture were strictly illegal and black market. Now, with two relatively near states having complete legalization (Colorado and Washington), and marijuana becoming mainstream, the industry in the most thriving region of marijuana growth and quality was booming.

I didn't stay there long and thanked everyone, including the bartender, for being nice to me. I went to sleep that evening in my posh hotel room situated directly above the ocean, with the crashing of waves lulling Indy and I to sleep.

2014-08-24-IMG_5628.JPG

We slept in that next morning. After grabbing coffee and some food at the restaurant located on the hotel's premises, I took Indy to the town's main beach, appropriately named Shelter Cove.

Again, no surf. It was completely flat. The beauty of the cove, situated at the bottom of a road built for fishermen, is that it faces directly south so the big, nasty waves generated from the Pacific Ocean near Alaska manage to miss the majority of the cove's beaches. Unfortunately though, that means that a south swell is needed for there to be waves and in this instance neither hemisphere of the Pacific was acting tempestuous enough for swell to reach the California shores.

The morning called for Indy to be let loose and run wild on the beaches of Shelter Cove. He hasn't learned how to swim, at least not to my knowledge, so while he won't leave the shallows of the shore, he will sprint endlessly back and forth from one end of the beach to the other, trying to catch the foam of the whitewash in his mouth as he frolics in the surf.

I let him go like that for a good hour or so, hiking along the expansive beach with him. I could tell he was getting exhausted so we made our way back to the Inn of the Lost Coast. Indy occasionally suffers from hip dysplasia, particularly when he runs hard like he did that morning. I give him a daily treat that is loaded with Glucosamine and Chondroitin. On a day like this where he started limping and struggled to move when we got back to the hotel, the medicine allows for a very speedy recover. He was fine the next day.

Today though, he was done. I wasn't nearly ready to call it a day, although the thought of sitting in my private Jacuzzi and maybe hitting the sauna while gazing at the ocean did sound incredibly tempting. I was on a recon mission though. To explore the region and find some traces of incredible waves for future adventures.

A considerable amount of online research led to very little clues about where the best surf breaks were in the area. Most writers and journalists who have previously explored the region would change the names, or avoid mentioning altogether, the spots that held potentially amazing surf to avoid upsetting potentially angry locals and probably to keep the secret to themselves for future visits. A particular name did continue to pop up in various websites though that was mentioned enough to garner my attention.

Big flat.

Talking to locals in both Arcata and Shelter Cove confirmed my suspicion that Big Flat featured one of the mystical mysto waves of the Lost Coast. It's real, and if what everyone said was true, it's a world class wave.

The problem is that it's located 8 miles north of Shelter Cove, and it's accessible only by boat, remote dirt roads that go through private property probably owned by marijuana growers, or by walking the Lost Coast trail.

I officially had a destination for my recon mission.

The starting point for hiking the Lost Coast is a pristine beach located on the northern end of Shelter Cove called Black Sands Beach. Here is where the Lost Coast Trail begins. It goes for approximately 25 miles along the coast and is one of the few coastal trails in the U.S.

2014-08-24-BigFlat.jpg

Some of the greatest surf adventures never told start here.

This is one of the most remote and desolate coastal regions in all of California. When I got to the beach there was a smattering of people visiting the area. I decided to go for a long hike to get a general idea and feel for the trail.

It's grueling. Mainly because of the sand. The trail is almost exclusively on the beach so there's no easy way to gain significant ground in a short amount of time. The trail is also tricky in that numerous points along the way get washed out during high tides. This is where a tool such as the Freestyle Killer Shark Tide Watch I was equipped with is a tremendous help given it provides tide data for 150 beaches around the world.

I didn't have the time to go for a 16 mile roundtrip hike in one day and Indy doesn't have the strength to make a trip like this. He was completely passed out back at the hotel, so I decided to go a part of the way at least to get a feel for the trail.

This was one of the most beautiful hikes I had ever experienced. Shortly after starting my hike, all traces of civilization were gone. It didn't matter that there weren't any waves. The breathtaking beauty of the surrounding nature, from the black sands to the forest on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other with all the various pelicans and other sea birds hunting for food near shore, sufficed.

2014-08-24-IMG_5533.JPG

2014-08-24-IMG_5545.JPG

2014-08-25-IMG_5559.JPG

I hiked three miles each way for a total of six miles which felt much longer given it was all on sand. The question of whether there was legitimate surf at Big Flat was also confirmed. On the way back shortly after I turned around, I encountered the only other person on this hike. A hipster-looking gentleman with a large backpack, a surfboard in a carrying case hanging over his shoulder, and a dog accompanying him. The dog was carrying a pack of his own, which I'm guessing the guy rigged on him to help with the journey. I wished then that Indy had the strength to make such a similar trip, but that feeling quickly subsided as I knew it didn't matter. I loved my dog with all my heart regardless.

I immediately asked the guy if he was going to Big Flat. He replied yes, and I wished him luck on his journey. I don't know if there was surf there on this particular day given the ocean was completely flat everywhere else, yet I knew it didn't matter. The journey there and camping in such isolated wilderness would be more than enough to make the trip worthwhile.

I went back to the hotel, but not before encountering this curious fox who didn't seem to be that afraid of me. He kept circling me as if he wanted to know more about me. He eventually went on his way.

That evening at the Inn of the Lost Coast I eased my tired legs in the room's Jacuzzi while enjoying a beautiful sunset that the locals would tell me the next day was a rarity given the marine layer that usually makes its home along that portion of the coastline. It wasn't hard to sleep that night.

Shelter Cove, in my opinion, is the last hidden gem of the California Coast. There's a part of me that doesn't want to share the splendors of this region because of the spoils that may become of it. Hopefully the isolation of the region, due mostly to its lengthy proximity from any major metropolitan areas, will keep it this way.

I left Shelter Cove the next morning feeling somewhat lost. Maybe that's why they gave it that name. The Lost Coast. Its beauty, desolation, remoteness, and isolation give you such a fresh perspective on life, and the beauty of nature. I'm left with thoughts of uncertainty, and a lust for that wild unknown that is the Lost Coast.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

San Luis Obispo

I've been blessed to have called California my home for my entire life. In my 36 years on the planet I've seen the state go through many changes, with most for the worse given housing prices continue to skyrocket, open spaces continue to decrease, and income inequality is the worse it's ever been. Which is one of the reasons why this trip meant so much to me. Northern California offers its visitors the opportunity to visit places frozen in time, trapped in a time period from decades before while maintaining its vast natural beauty and an air of familiarity that continues to vanish from most places in the state.

I see developers, land owners and techies reaping mass profits while the rest make barely enough to put a roof over their head. I see a coastline of segregation, where a white upper class own the vast majority of the coastal land and maintain their distance from the rest of the populace through economic obstacles. I lived in San Francisco for 12 years and it's night and day from what it was to what it is. My current city of Encinitas went from being a quiet beach town to one overrun with mass development of cookie-cutter homes on the other side of the freeway that brought with it expensive real estate and massive amounts of crowds. My experience has taught me that the single greatest ally to open space, lack of crowds, and the preservation of nature is the prevention of large development. Hence my disdain for greed and suburbia.

My complaints about the state are nothing new though. In 1937 Woody Guthrie famously wrote and sang this famous line about California in his song Do Re Mi.

California is a Garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won't find is so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi

This was Guthrie's take on California nearly 80 years ago. Some things do stay the same.

I don't subscribe to the theory that all change is good. Most is born from necessity sure, but I'm a firm believer in the adage that that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. My second college town of San Luis Obispo, where I went to school for three years, followed Arcata's path in agreeing with my philosophy.

Both towns seem to have continued to avoid the pitfalls of what development brings to a region. They have the same look and feel as they did when I went to school in those two towns from 1995-2000. So I decided on my way home to make a stop in San Luis Obispo for a couple of days to see some old college friends that still live there.

I grabbed dinner with one of them, Jerry, at Firestone Grill which after all these years still has the best tri-tip sandwich I've ever had. We then went to an old drinking establishment, McCarthy's Irish Pub, where another of my old friends Aaron serves as a bartender. McCarthy's actually changed locations from where it was when I went to college there, though the vibe and ambience were still the same. We had fun that evening.

The next day I saw an old friend from high school who I still keep in touch with. We grabbed lunch on a beautiful sunny day at Avila Beach, and I admitted to her that she was my high school crush. She laughed about it and was hopefully flattered.

Everything changes. This is a certainty of life. Some places change much more slowly than others though. Northern California and San Luis Obispo are two such places. It's always great to revisit these old haunts from yesteryear, places that still maintain their magic from many years ago.