Crossing into Humboldt via Bell Springs Road

Hmm, let me take a deep hit of this Swami joint and ponder the assignment: describe the field trip we took last Saturday afternoon. Mind blowing? Yes, for sure. Absolutely beautiful, absolutely! A big reality sandwich? Oh yeah. The difference between Mendocino and Humboldt Counties is HUGE!

Winding up Bell Springs Road into the heart of the Emerald Triangle, there is a stunning view of the three counties: Mendo, Humboldt and Trinity. We felt the higher altitude and cooler air. It was an unusual “Juneuary” day when it could have been early spring, instead of practically mid-summer. The surrounding hills were just beginning to turn golden, yet the late rains this year insure some green well into the season. It was spectacular, a land of big trees, open skies, fresh air and rolling hills. California at her finest. We were reminded of how blessed we are to live here.

As we worked our way up the dirt road to 4,000’ altitude, the surroundings became more barren, the trees smaller, and some funky shelters appeared occasionally, almost ghostlike in the misty fog. This was the summit and it was otherworldly. Manzanita grew along the sides of the road and large metamorphic knockers dotted the rough landscape. We were fewer than 15 miles from our ranch but it seemed like another planet.

We made our way back down the hill on the other side, heading into Humboldt County, and the landscape grew more lush again. Steep hills tumbled into deep valleys that lead to the Eel River. Giant oaks stand proudly on gentle golden hillocks. I half expected Julie Andrews to come prancing over a verdant knoll singing, “The hills are alive…”

But wait, Julie would more likely be dancing through the hoop houses which were visible everywhere. Rows of them, a group here and a small army there, lined up. Most were full of green bud with tarps ready to pull. It will be time to harvest light deprivation crops very soon, and these girls showed it. It was then we started to notice the small populations of water tanks everywhere, as well as giant bladders that hold up to 20,000 gallons each. Water Tanks, greenhouses and hoop houses were ubiquitous, in plain sight, no hiding here in Humboldt. How weird it felt.

We complain a lot here in Mendocino about all the rules and regulations our County imposes upon us. It is so very different than what goes on in Humboldt, where they can grow up to an acre per parcel, while here we are only allowed to cultivate up to 10,000 square feet, barely one quarter of an acre.  And in Humboldt they are clearly taking advantage of that allowance.

But, the truth is, I am very happy to be a Mendonesian. We grow less, but that being said, it means we can offer each girl that much more love and attention. Each bud is important and precious. Plus our landscape is not covered with hoop houses and green houses and razed mountain tops for giant grows. I know they are still small potatoes compared to what is going on in other parts of the state, but it still was staggering.

After a couple of hours of getting lost off Island Mountain Road, which was really a beautiful blessing, we headed back down the other side of Bell Springs into Garberville. It is a fairly rough 28 mile road from Hwy 101 north of Laytonville, over the ridge, to the town of Garberville and usually takes about an hour and a half for the whole drive. Back in the 1800’s, it was called Mail Ridge, and was the only through road connecting Mendocino County and Humboldt County before Highway 101 was built.

Now Bell Springs Road is the long way around … and so we took the 101 back home to our Mendo ranch. As we made our way back up Bell Springs from the other side to go home, I didn’t see a single hoophouse. Not to say they are not there, I know they are, but not so many and certainly not so obvious. Being covert has been a way of life for so long in these hills it guarantees you don’t see cannabis farms openly. This is not wine country. Cannabis farmers remain discreet in Mendo. It was good to be home and great to have seen our neighbors, too. The Emerald Triangle has it all!

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