Every day, locals and visitors roam the trails leading to Trinidad State Beach. As I walked to the red curb break at the end of the Stagecoach Road parking lot, I expected some stunning views. It is Trinidad after all. What I didn’t expect was a narrow trail that widened into a freshly groomed trail with great views of Pewetole Island.
The path, made on foot rather than on a map, can lead you to beautiful places. I’ve hiked the trail before to the beach and passed that first right turn, thinking it was a narrower path, a shortcut with turns and inclines that requires nimble feet and a thorough check ticks at the end. But its proximity is deceptive. A few meters away, a restored path slopes down and opens onto a striking view of the Pacific Ocean.
The Trinidad Coastal Land Trust manages miles upon miles of trails, assembling easements across 26 properties to secure public access to the beach and the forest. The American Hiking Society manages the countless trails that crisscross our vast nation. Each year, the partnership between the two nonprofits brings a team of 10 volunteers on vacation to Trinidad. Strenuous physical labor is not what comes to mind when planning a vacation. Yet from July 12-16, these dedicated people spent their free time maintaining trails in Humboldt’s backyard.
Once a construction site accessible only on foot, the project’s targeted 300-foot section of trail is now a clean line on the hillside. “Hard work” doesn’t even come close to describing the sheer effort it took for volunteers from out of town to pull it away from the wildlife and gravity trying to obscure and obscure it. erase it.
We stopped stammering, enjoying a panoramic view of the coast. The sunlight held the fog bank at the edge of the bay, Pewetole was surrounded by swirling enchantment. I was momentarily distracted from my admiration for forced labor. After a long look, I came back to contemplating the intensive maintenance of the trails. I’ve blazed a trail myself and remember how pride can kick-start tired muscles at the end of the workday. And honest exhaustion achieved after carrying tools up (always up at the end of the day), consuming that last bit of energy.
“Hand tools!” my wife muttered, recognizing the effort required to reach a level path. He too dug anchor roots in a windswept hill. A hiker passed us, nodding and whistling into full sun. Wildflowers, saplings and invasive plants had all been tamed, if only momentarily. Their growth will soon soften the raw edges and reach up to nibble the sight. A bee has exposed itself to the sun on a leaf, completely ignoring us. Another hiker was walking as the wind stirred the trees. On the beach far below, a happy couple played with equally happy dogs as the surf crashed into the sea behind them.
We took the path another day, taking it from the bottom up. There was no bright sun that day, but who cares? Surf Camp was in session, a row of lighted boards on the black sand. The students ran in and out of the water, much to the amusement of an elderly couple perched on beach chairs. I scanned past, looking for the start of the lower trailhead at the mouth of Miller Creek. At first glance, the rockfall looked like any other fall, but a man heading for the beach revealed the path.
As we ascended the switchback path, the mighty Trinidad Head was reduced to a single bump under a swirling shroud. As a sailboat passed through the rocks, I was grateful for the foghorn and the lighthouse. The fragile white veil was a wisp in the fog. We stopped to talk about the brave souls who ventured past lighthouses, foghorns or GPS. The terror of the sea and the fog did not hold them back. For my part, I shudder at the mere thought.
We went up the hill to admire the sweat of the volunteers. American Hiking Society volunteers forgo their vacations to maintain trails too far away for them to hike regularly or maybe never again. How cool is that? This year, the vaccinated volunteers came from Arizona, Illinois, Texas and parts of California. These hardy workers aren’t blessed either. Campsites kindly provided by Patrick’s Point State Park gave them a spectacular setting to sleep in, but no turndown service, no mints on the pillows. Despite the sore muscles, the volunteers persevered, with the wise guidance of two state park staff and one or two from the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust. After completing the section with four days of hard work, the team then removed the invasive English Ivy from Baker’s Beach. Fortunately, it was not all hard. Volunteers searched for murres and peregrine falcons on a relaxing nature hike – a prime example of a postman’s vacation. The icing on the cake was a special visit to the Trinidad Lighthouse viewing area and its breathtaking view of the California Coastal National Monument.
As my partner and I walked back down to the beach, I found myself overcome with gratitude. For those of us who must walk, paths like this are the blood of our lives. Visit www.trinidadcoastallandtrust.org for a map and to learn more about the dedicated community organization that keeps this incredibly valuable network of public / private partnerships available to us to enjoy. The Land Trust Stewardship Days are underway, a great way for high school students to gain experience. Register as a family and spend the first Saturday morning of the month (until December, 9:30 am to noon) giving back to nature. During Coastal Cleanup Month, the Land Trust will coordinate volunteers at Houda Point and Moonstone Beach on September 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Their laudable goal? To clean all the beaches, paths and parking areas between La Petite Rivière and Trinidad. Email [email protected] to add your name to the list. Or, if you’d like to explore America’s trails with a shovel in hand, visit www.americanhiking.org to volunteer. Hikers like me will be forever grateful.
Meg Wall-Wild, freelance writer and photographer who loves her books, Humboldt’s Dunes and her husband, not necessarily in that order. When not writing, she continues the adventure in her camper van, Nellie Bly.