Back to the Land

In spite of the logged-over nature of most of the land Shummians were able to buy to live on when they first arrived, the Land of Shum was and is still full of beautiful vistas almost anywhere you look. This fact contributed a great deal to the “spirit of place” feeling that soon became a motivating factor for the new residents.

A yard and the mountainside behind Redway are shown through a portion of fence damaged by a windstorm.

From a location on Elk Ridge, Bear Butte is seen behind my son, who is trying to comply with my request that he “be the tree.”

A typical meadow in the Land of Shum, this one featuring a veggie garden and tool shed.

Eel River view in early spring, when the river is full and there is still snow on distant mountaintops.

My niece and my daughter blow bubbles from the deck of the house I called The Goat Shed on a fine summer day.

Children play in the South Fork of the Eel River near Benbow. Though public swimming places are available on the Eel and a tributary, Redwood Creek, most Shummians prefer the numerous swimming holes that form in the summer on their own or their neighbors’ private land.

Different swimmers enjoy the same swimming hole on private land near Benbow, suits optional. Swimming holes on private land are usually suits optional. This one, however, did not last because it was too near a public road and there were complaints. It was fun while it lasted.

Perry Meadow as seen from Briceland Road. Parts of the meadow have been grazed. The mailboxes serve residents of Briceland Road. Such mailboxes are less in service now than in former times. Most people choose the more secure post office boxes in the various small towns of Shum.

A hillside logged over some time ago includes secondary growth Douglas fir trees, snags, rocks and stumps. Logged over land was sold cheaply to early Shummians, but not all of those parcels were as raggedy in appearance as this one.

A tiny waterfall feeds into Redwood Creek, a tributary of the South Fork Eel River.

Bear Butte as seen from some angles on Elk Ridge appears almost as a pyramid.

A coast view in northern Humboldt County that is indistinguishable from similar coast views in Shum. This one is in Patrick’s Point State Park, north of Trinidad.

A windmill catches the winter dawn light in a meadow. This one, left over from ranching days, was still pumping water when this photo was taken, but the vast majority of windmills these days in Shum are generating electricity and are not nearly as picturesque.

Long view of the windmill above, which was situated on a ridge top near a flat with sheds and vehicles.

A somewhat more planned than normal Shummian vegetable garden.

A cliff face on Briceland Road near Ruby Valley sports its wintertime waterfall.

A view of the Eel River in early Fall, when it is lowest from lack of rain during the summer.
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All is not beautiful landscapes in the Land of Shum. Usually because of irresponsible logging techniques, there have been some land-scarring and terrifying landslides. This one, just north of Redway on Redway Drive, was dubbed The Million Dollar Slide because it blocked the road from the southbound freeway exit for much too long, cutting the tourist trade to Redway, as well as part of the Eel River, below it and cost about that to repair. It also damaged sewer lines and narrowly missed a vehicle on Redway Drive that was only saved from falling into the huge chasm it cut by the fact that the vehicle behind it was a jeep with a winch. Had it hit the vehicle, the driver inside would surely have been killed. Shummians, by choosing to live in Shum, risk washouts, landslides, floods, wildfires, falling trees, scary roads, giardia and Lyme disease, not to mention drug-related crimes, to live there. These risks are freely chosen over numerous risks of living in cities or other rural areas and that was the case long before the marijuana trade added financial considerations to such a decision.

A west-looking view of Bear Butte is shown behind woods and a meadow grazed by horses. This is one view I enjoyed from the deck of a yurt I rented briefly east of Garberville.

The Eel River floods in midwinter near Garberville. A much bigger flood in December, 1964, wiped out an entire town further north on the freeway.

A barefoot Shummian resident is carried piggyback by her husband over the sticker-filled pasture toward the largest living madrone tree on record, near Ettersburg. This tree, called the Council Madrone, was a designated historical landmark, having allegedly once been a meeting place for local Native Americans. It provided an unbelievably large area of shade and, as public land, was once also used by modern settlers as a venue for weddings. Unfortunately, although it was a historical landmark on public land, it was surrounded on all sides, by private land used as pasture for sheep. Although there was a fence between the sheep and the landmark, no one was maintaining the fence and sheep got in. The sheep leavings, some say, caused the soil to become too rich for the tree, accelerating its normal rate of rotting. Some years ago, a windstorm blew down the entire gigantic tree and many are they who grieved its passing.

Flowers mark a spontaneous roadside memorial for one of many people who have died when their car left the two-lane highway over the Eel River near the cliffs between Redway and Garberville.

This view from the second-story deck of one of my homes includes the owner-built home of my land partner. Just barely visible through the mist is Bear Butte. The snow is not an unusual sight this high up in Shum and sometimes comes all the way down the hills to the riverbank. The longest, deepest snow I encountered closed low-lying creekside China Creek Road for two weeks, making my home and many others inaccessible to vehicles unless they had four-wheel drive and were outfitted with chains. I was snowbound in my home most of that time, but could have hiked two miles to the county road if I had gotten desperate enough for company or supplies. At that point, I did have one of the newly invented radio telephones, and could have called out in an emergency. Some people, especially volunteer firefighters, had CB radios before the telephones, which could also be used in an emergency.

The Land of Shum extends to the Pacific Ocean, an hour or two drive from Redway, depending on the weather and the state of the roads. This photo is of a beach in the northern part of the county, but the California coast looks pretty much the same at any point. Black Sand or Bear Harbor beaches in Shum look pretty much like this.

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