Trinidad and Samoa without a passport
Awakening in Trinidad last week after yet another night of hearing rain on the roof, we made plans for a change of scenery. And maybe a change of weather as well.
About 15 years ago, my husband and I had eaten at a great little breakfast place with our daughters. Good, basic American food, served in copious amounts in a family atmosphere. So we left Trinidad, headed south – briefly passing through Manila and following the signs – and arrived within half an hour at the Samoa Cookhouse. And we never even showed a passport.
You see, the Samoa Cookhouse sits on a peninsula just west of Eureka, in the far upper-left corner of California. This is logging and fishing country. The forests are redwood forests, and we were reminded at every stop what it took to harvest this natural resource – the tools, the machinery, the men, the ingenuity.
The Samoa Cookhouse preserves a bit of the history of a lumber camp and lives up to our memories of it. The ambiance is that of a camp dining room: pale yellow painted (and repainted) walls with red gingham curtains, checkered vinyl tablecloths, old photos and tools hung on the walls. Paper napkins are stuffed into old Farmer Brothers Coffee cans. Heavy white china.
The menu changes daily, but the choices are two: take it, or leave it. Just like home. We were offered biscuits and gravy, buttermilk pancakes, link sausage, scrambled eggs, coffee and juice. All we could eat and drink for a mere $9.95. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet, but without the bother of having to get up for more food.
The waitress, Yvonne, kept offering us more. We stopped ourselves at one helping of everything, but I imagine it would be a great place to take teenage boys. Even former teenage boys enjoy it. The Cookhouse offers lunches and dinners, too, with one main dish served for each.
Suitably fortified, we then continued south along the legendary Avenue of the Giants. It’s the slower, curvier, prettier road running parallel along Highway 101, through redwood groves so tall and dense, little sunlight reaches the forest floor.
Ferns, violets, oxalis, trillium, wild ginger, wild berry bushes and other greenery cover the forest floor. Rhododendrons stretch their necks to find the sun. Roadsides were beginning to bloom with purple lupines and bright orange California poppies. Almost heaven.
The next day, we headed northward to Patrick’s Point, the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and the Redwood National and State Park near Orick. Short walks with interpretive signs or brochures offer an up-close view of the world’s largest trees.
In 1850, old-growth redwood forest covered 2 million acres of the Northern California coast. Native Americans had inhabited the area for 3,000 years; nonetheless, a gold rush brought miners and loggers who began cutting down the trees.
By 1968, when Lady Bird Johnson dedicated the Redwood National Park, nearly 90 percent of the original redwood trees had been logged. Thanks to the efforts of the Save the Redwoods League, formed in 1918, redwood logging has been curtailed.
In 1994, the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation collaborated to form the unified Redwood National and State Park. This level of cooperation between federal and state park management is unique in the U.S.
Back in the 1950s, when I was (very) young, my family camped in the redwoods. We walked in the forest, swam in the Eel River, hunted for thimbleberries, ate fresh abalone, rode the Skunk Train, and gathered smooth stones, shells and driftwood on the beach.
This trip to the redwoods, we camped in our motorhome instead of my folks’ homemade foldout trailer. We stayed at the Emerald Forest, a private campground and RV park with cabins in Trinidad, not at a state park. But some things don’t change. The redwoods are still there, are still breathtaking. Vacations end too quickly, and time spent in nature is richly rewarded. We ate fresh seafood, saw beautiful sights, enjoyed each other’s company.
And did I mention the food?
• Fresh Ideas: Personal perspectives on timely and timeless issues. Lorie Schaefer teaches kindergarten at Seeliger School.