Northern California is majorly underrated by my fellow Southern Californian’s, which is really unfortunate so I am trying to change that up so they too can admire and physically enjoy the beauty it has to offer, but also once you realize how beautiful your home is you might respect it more. For a while I was working in the mountains up in Angeles Crest with students from the Los Angeles Unified School district and so many of them had never even left their cities let alone camped or taken a drive with their families into the local mountains. Once they came up to our outdoor education camp near Mt. Wilson, many of them adopted a new perspective of the world they live in, in terms of taking care of it, nurturing it and respecting it. For example, when we were (still are) experiencing the water shortage crisis so many people believed that the solution was to take water from Northern California and not reduce water usage, and everyone from Nor Cal including myself went up in arms at that because A) That’s not the solution to a MAJOR problem. B) You will destroy our beautiful forests by doing this. C) Did you not see what happened to Lake Shasta?!? Water levels dropped drastically.
I think for a lot of people to truly appreciate solutions that will benefit not only themselves, but also on a global level, you have to step out of your comfort zone and explore the world you live in. Traveling is such a powerful educational tool IF you do it without blinders on. Make observations, ask questions, make comparisons and I guarantee you will have a different perspective on what is important in life.
Circling back to the topic of Northern California’s beauty.
If you know me, then you know that I am a NorCal- Humboldt County fanatic which brings me to this mini-guide about driving up North into Mendocino County.While living in Humboldt, I had only ventured around the coast of Mendocino between Fort Bragg and Bodega Bay, not so much the forests. Recently, I had a quick weekend road trip with Ary starting from Los Angeles to San Francisco and we toyed with the idea of going up to Humboldt County, but changed our minds to go camping in Mendocino. Greatest idea ever. I usually like to complicate things, but this is as simple as it gets. Each of the points I am going to touch on is in the same place.
If you like any of the following three things, then keep reading:
- Rivers and Swimming Holes
- Camping in Redwoods
Eating BBQ Oysters in Leggett, California
Humboldt County is famous for a few things, but one that is a bit more discrete is its oysters. Their Oysters are distributed around the world and they are so fat and juicy that I could never have enough. However, in Humboldt, raw is not the way to go. Every Father’s Day weekend, the Humboldt Oyster Festival happens and it is just one of the best days of my life. What seems like a hundred oyster vendors, set up and serve you up BBQ oysters. They grill, schuck and marinate ’em and they are so so so good. Why am I talking about an event that takes place in Humboldt County if I’m in Mendo mode? Simply because you need to stop at The Peg House right along the 101 and order yourself some Humboldt Bay BBQ oysters. “Never Don’t Stop At The Peg House” is their slogan so you better stop. The Peg House is a great place to break up your trip for lunch. There is a general store that sells groceries, drinks, few camping necessities like giant marshmallows, tents, firewood and souvenirs. Outside, there is a concert venue and within that is your golden ticket to oyster land. They also have other types of food like award winning Humboldt grass-fed beef burgers (also amazing), and local beers like Lost Coast and Mad River.
Camping on Highway 101 at Standish Hickey Recreation Area
Along highway 101, what is not very well pronounced or obvious, is that right across from The Peg House, there is an excellent campground with access to the Eel River. We were there in early May and we were able to find a few good camp spots, but if you come here during the summer I highly recommend reserving a site ahead of time. This is a great place to camp off highway 101. The area is forested with redwood trees and there is running water and bathroom facilities which are really clean. Thank you Mendocino Parks and Recreation! There is not much else that I can say other than it’s a great spot to camp and you have the river at your finger tips. However, I will say this … it does get noisy with it being right along the highway so you’re not really getting a complete sense of peace and quiet.
Swimming in the Eel River at Standish-Hickey
The gems of Northern California, depending on who you ask, are the rivers. The rivers that run through Mendocino are stunning as they snake through forested valleys. The path to the river is straightforward. Once you came across it, take time to explore until find an area that sort of “speak to you.”
How to Get to Standish Hickey or to The Peg House
From San Francisco, Leggett is about 2.5-3 hours away if you take the 101 north all the way up. When you arrive, The Peg House will be on your right. You cannot miss it because there is a yellow school bus with monster tires out front. The entrance to the Standish Hickey campground is directly across The Peg House to your left.
Put this address into your GPS for good measure: 69350 US Hwy 101. Leggett, CA 95585
For more swimming holes in Northern California, you might enjoy my post about the best swimming holes in Humboldt County.
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