The Northern California Coast


Welcome to the Northern California Coast- land of curvaceous coastlines, freaky fog, sexy sunsets, bitchin’ beaches and bluffs, radical redwoods, funky flannel and awesome artisans!


On June 2, 2014 we travelled from upbeat Oregon to laid-back Northern California which was a smooth transition!  Over the next couple days we visited Arcata, Jug Handle Creek and Mendocino.  


City of Arcata Community Forest Redwood Forest.

This forest is the first municipally-owned forest in the United States. The City of Arcata has created a 635-acre community forest where the citizens own the forest and benefit from sustainable logging practices. Profits go towards the Arcata parks and recreation department and the city of Arcata. It is considered a “living lab” where students from Humboldt State University come to study ecology, biology and forestry. They provide data to the city and help advance forest knowledge. Originally, this forest was old-growth, but now is made up of 2nd and 3rd growth which has been managed in order to restore and maintain diversity. A section of this forest is set aside as a reserve zone exempt from logging, primarily near riparian zones.


What is sustainable timber management? The City of Arcata used a combination of selective logging and replanting to maintain the forest and mimic old-growth “mixed-age class”. Benefits include protected species habitat, human and ecological benefits, and an aesthetic landscape rather than a developed cityscape.


Our tour with Mike was fun and he did great imitations of owls – which are studied within the forest. Baird owls are currently outcompeting Spotted Owls, evoking conversations of invasive versus native species discussions.


CCAT- Campus Centre for Appropriate Technology

Established in 1978, this student run organization follows permaculture principles in hopes of combining physical and social technologies. Located on a gentle sloping hill at  Humboldt State University, the CCAT demonstration site has raised gardening beds, a yurt made out of reclaimed materials, and a green house. Jacob led us on an inspiring and informative tour throughout the site. Educational courses on organic gardening, green building and eco-crafting provide the students with the opportunity to develop a deeper connection to the land.  Driven by student initiative and maintenance, three students each year are elected to run CCAT and in trade get ‘free’ housing. With each rotation of new students brings fresh innovations to the center. CCAT’s fulfillment to establishing a sustainable environment both inside the garden headquarters and outside is evident. Inside, walls are made with cob or silted straw covered with a limestone plaster and then painted with a natural paint made of milk, flour, lime, or even blood! Outside, the yurt is made with recycled redwood covered by a roof of flattened tomato cans with water filled wine bottles that act as solar lights.


Of course, working with multiple students and many different perspectives doesn’t come without its indifferences. Tradeoffs and compromises are a common theme to ensure CCAT functions to its fullest abilities. Thus the ‘practical environmentalist’ must shine through to balance these differing perspectives and priorities. Going beyond the university, CCAT has a MEOW (Mobile Energy Operation Wagon), which provides them with the opportunity to share their knowledge and appreciation for the earth through environmental education and awareness at concerts and community gatherings.


During day 2 in Arcata, we had the pleasure of visiting the Potawot United Indian Health Services center, which represents seven tribes in Arcata.  This centre is intended to be a space where local tribe members can come and seek sanctuary from the world and an education centre where members can learn about proper nutrition and exercise.  The goal is not about getting a band-aid fix, but learning how to heal and live a healthy lifestyle. The centre is open and welcoming to the public forthose interested in learning  about the centre and its role within the local community. One of these roles has been to foster tribal identity within the Humboldt Bay County area and encourage cultural transmission through ceremonies, language and protecting traditional fishing and hunting rights.

The centre is located on a 40-acre land parcel that was originally a tribal village area, then became pastureland, and has now been redefined to mimic the natural ecology that once was there. This process has been difficult with problems of invasive species and rebuilding local ecosystems from the bottom up. The building has been designed with elements of a traditional plankhouse which has been constructed with reclaimed redwood and powered by a number of solar panels.  In the center of the village is a flourishing wellness garden made up of native and edible plants, which members can come and enjoy, eat or harvest for medicinal purposes.

Part of the centre includes the Potawot Community Food Garden. which integrates food, health and people to provide food for the healing centre, tribal community elders and some sold in a market to make money for the garden. Using organic principles, they use a “traditional seasonal round” where they plant and eat according to seasons. Some activities in the garden include propagation of seeds, dehydration of produce, creation of tinctures and the harvesting of honey. We saw some of the largest tomatoes and sampled some delicious snap peas and the biggest, juiciest strawberries we’ve ever had!


Our Experience at Tule Fog Farm

-Our guide and owner of the farm, Shail was knowledgeable and humble. She led us around the farm bouncing a baby in one hand, eating lunch in the other and providing us with an informative tour of her farm

- Their livestock and chickens are grass-fed, which is good for two reasons; one being that it is more nutritious than store feed, and  secondly, this method is less energy intensive because it avoids production and transportation costs associated with grain.

- In order to keep the grass at its optimum they use an intensive rotation method, where they move livestock pens twice a day. This rotation allows for increased grass/plant diversity, reduced dead zones, and reduced consumption of feces with parasites, thereby decreasing livestock sickness.

- A huge highlight for our class was holding a one day old piglet!! The farm raises Maori pigs imported from New Zealand- they are the only kind of pig that can handle a grass-fed diet. They are also very friendly and have short noses that do not uproot grasses, leaving the grasses to feed them indefinitely.




Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary- Waste Water Treatment Facility

Here we learnt about how waste water can be treated through filters, digesters, and a series of constructed wetlands. Arcata is world renowned for their sustainable efforts in their treatment facility, which many people visit from all over the world to gain insight. Why has this system been highly regarded? Firstly it is always better to treat waste water than to dump it in the ocean (HINT- Victoria!), secondly it creates jobs lending to economic stability and social sustainability, and thirdly waste water should be regarded as a valuable resource. In Arcata, treated waste water is used to raise salmon due to high nitrogen content, provides duck habitat, and lastly captured methane provides over half of the plants energy needs.


Mendocino, CA

On June 5, 2014 through winding roads, and redwood forests we made our way south to the quaint town of Mendocino, stopping at the famous Chandelier drive through tree on the way. Known for its post hippie charm, Mendocino is a town for artists and vacationers with galleries, small restaurants and countless B&Bs. The next few nights we had the pleasure of calling Jug Handle Creek Farm & Nature Center our home. The farm is located on Jug Handle State Reserve just outside of Mendocino. It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the large cities we were previously in. Cell phones and internet service were traded in for campfires and romping through the farm fields.



Located within the Jug Handle State Park, the Ecological staircase with 1 million years of preserved ecological evolution on 5 natural wavecut terraces. It was a great hike with Arianne learning about the different staircase biomes and their associated biomes. This area is the Southernmost point of the the Sitka spruce, which some may say indicates the Cascadian boundary.



The big highlight of Mendocino was visiting the Fort Bragg Noyo Food Forest managed by a young vivacious 23 year old named Gowan and other community members. They grow food for over 1800 children in the school district including two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. On an eighth of an acre, 80 - 100 pounds of produce is harvested every week. Gowan emphasised knowing your soil as the key to successfully growing an abundance of produce. Hops from a local brewery provides the soil with excellent fertilizer.


Gowan shared with us that it is much easier to start up a non-profit farm then it is to sustain it. Similar to most non-profits, funding is difficult to secure and often limits the full potential of organizations, which is true in the case of the NOYO Food Forest. Unique to this food forest is the Garden within Reach, an area dedicated to students with physical limitations. Raised beds in various heights allow  those students to participate and become connected to their food.  This area also provide refuge to students who want to relax in a calming environment.



Here is a song we wrote and sang about the California Coast...

Anywhere Else But Here

The Cali coast is so full of fog

It is where we go to get away from smog

I don’t see what anyone could see

in anywhere else but here,


Hippies and Artists that’s where they’ll be

The redwood forest has some tall ass trees

I don’t see what anyone could see

in anywhere else but here,


You might get to see a pretty sunset

One that you won’t soon forget

I don’t see what anyone could see

in anywhere else but here,


What was once was a place filled with stinky trash

Is now a beautiful beach full of coloured glass

I don’t see what anyone could see

in anywhere else but here,


Doot  Doot da Doot….Whistle Whistle Whistle…...But here  



Written by: Jeff Harrison, Laura Tassie & Sarein Basi- Primeau



Arcata, CA
United States


Location type: