Day 8 – Laid Back Arcata; Smoke and Friends on the Trinity River

Wednesday August 13 (Muriel)

We left Eureka in the morning and headed up the coast to Arcata, where we wanted to see the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. The Marsh is famous for the innovative use of wetlands to clean wastewater while creating wildlife habitat.

We walked a path that loops around the wetlands, with opportunities to view Humboldt Bay from parts of the path. Despite the heavy overcast, bird viewing was excellent. We saw over 100 Marbled Godwits, many of which flew in as if arriving for a rest and feeding stop on their southerly migration. There was a variety of other sandpipers and other common water birds. New to our trip were Long-billed Curlew, avocets, Savannah Sparrows, a Northern Harrier, kingfisher, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee. After our walk, the woman staffing the Interpretive Center was very helpful identifying the plants we had noticed during our walk.

We drove around looking for central Arcata in search of lunch. Eventually we found a charming plaza, ringed with stores and restaurant and populated with an interesting medley of people. Despite this being August, there were many students from nearby Humboldt State University. We circled the plaza, checked out the stores and restaurants, admiring many statues and other representations of banana slugs. We had some sense of West Hollywood, Berkeley and perhaps even Venice with many stores featuring new wave life styles, Asian religions, and organic foods, some of which Allan photographed. Eventually we had lunch and then headed for the mountains on California 299. When, at lunch, I asked the waitress if she was a student she said that she had recently graduated Berkeley and that in seeking a less expensive and urbanized environment like that, she had chosen Arcata.

Arcata's Central Square
Arcata Central Square

Typical Storefronts of Arcata

We headed for the home of Gil and Mediha Saliba, who had left the comforts of Tarzana for the small town of Burnt Ranch in Trinity County a little less than six years ago. Along the way we stopped in Blue Lake to look for birds, but they were invisible in early afternoon on what was a very hot August day inland.

The Salibas’ directions were excellent, fortunately. We found their charming red “barn” house and had lots of time to catch up with the events of the last six years.

The Saliba's Barn House

The Saliba Barn House
Gil has retired from his medical practice in infectious diseases and become a cabinet maker and artist in wood products. He acted as their contractor’s assistant in building a two bedroom guest house on their property and has almost completed building and finishing a canoe. He and Mediha plan to take it out on a friend’s lake before the summer is over.

Mediha spends a great deal of time with her grandson Silas, while his mom (their daughter Mikayla) and her husband run the local bakery. Mikayla and family live next door, also on a large rural property. Mediha also finds time to write poetry, make their lovely home environmentally sustainable, garden and improve the landscape, while collaborating in community projects with Gil.

When Gil and Mediha arrived in the Burnt Ranch – Willow Glen area, an old arts non-profit named Studio 299 (as in the highway) was being revived as a community organization. The Salibas have contributed in a major way to Studio 299 becoming an amazing community resource. She is its president, he the treasurer. They support a weekly local farmers’ market and have developed a local annual wine-tasting festival into a major event.

The Salibas find their new lives extremely rewarding. They send greetings to all their SFVAS friends and Mediha’s former RCD naturalist colleagues.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit, dinner and Mediha and Gil’s hospitality for the night. The only less than wonderful aspect of the visit was the smoke that began obscuring the views of the beautiful mountains as we drove into the coast ranges on the way to their home. There have been fires burning throughout the mountains since the dry lightening strikes much earlier this summer. When I followed Mediha upslope to her garden to harvest basil and tomatoes for dinner, we could see the burnt trees on the mountainside across the Trinity River. She described watching the fire and hearing trees crashing after the dry lightning storm that ignited over a thousand fires in California. The Salibas keep tabs on the fires that continue to burn, while continuing their busy and fruitful lives.

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