EUREKA, CA – Equipped with flashlights, kayaks and a charcoal grill, the West’s premier lifestyle and travel monthly magazine is placing the spotlight on Humboldt County. Arriving on newsstands this week, the September issue of Sunset devotes the cover and eight full pages to a series of epic Redwood Coast adventures. (Read it here.)
The Sunset editorial team, which visited the region this summer with assistance from the Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, did everything from lagoon camping to tall tree hunting to slurping oysters fresh from Humboldt Bay.
Dan Duane, who wrote the cover story, began his trip with an overnight paddle to the newly reopened boat-in campground on Stone Lagoon, with bureau staff tagging along with tents, sleeping bags, and plenty of local spirits and foods.
“Less luggage for me to schlep around,” said an appreciative Duane, a San Francisco-based author who often writes about outdoor adventure. Well into the night, he and his campmates, the first to use Ryan’s Cove since it underwent a yearlong restoration, discussed everything from knife sharpening to raising daughters in the modern age to the origin of the Reuben sandwich.
While he later roamed alleys in Ferndale, hiked the outskirts of the Lost Coast, and dined on fresh seafood in Trinidad, his most memorable experience took place, not surprisingly, at the foot of a tree in Redwood National & State Parks.
Encountering a woman who had traveled from Montana just to locate a handful of hidden giants in the parks, Duane found himself standing next to Iluvatar, one of the world’s most massive trees. Like her, the encounter with the specimen, featured in an eight-page National Geographic Magazine centerfold several years ago, rendered him speechless.
Duane looked up, up, then up some more. “I’ll admit that I’m a nature-loving type, but believe me when I say that never in my life, not while hiking in the Andes or dangling from Yosemite cliffs, have I spontaneously wept in response to a view,” he wrote.
Here in the story Duane found his greatest inspiration, describing an emotional breakthrough felt by many when they first encounter the big trees.
“Philosophers have a word for this quality in nature: sublime: An ancient concept, the most common definition involves a greatness distinct from beauty, on a scale our minds cannot calculate, measure or imitate. The idea is that while mere beauty produces benign pleasure, true sublimity elicits cathartic understanding of the immensity of creation,” he wrote.
“Ancient, alive, beautiful and yet profoundly vulnerable, Iluvatar and the other great redwoods in the park elicit a uniquely tender awe in the human heart. “
Another notable story observation: Be respectful of Roosevelt elk mommies. As Marna Powell, a Stone Lagoon kayak rental company owner, outfitted Duane with gear for his overnight paddle, she gave some excellent advice in the story’s introduction.
“[Calving females] can be very hormonal and protective,” she said. “You can stare down the males, but the females don’t go for that. They’ll kick you to death with their front legs.”
Fortunately, the elk behave themselves and Duane escaped injury. So does his colleague Andrea Minarcek, a senior Sunset travel editor, who explored the county soon after Duane in search of additional places to eat, sleep, hike and stare. She thanked the bureau for its “terrific suggestions” in those departments. “[My] whirlwind few days up on the coast were all the better for it," she said.
One in particular was to check out newly restored cabins for rent on Oyster Beach, a secluded sand and forest sanctuary on Humboldt Bay. After a bay excursion coordinated by the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center, which organizes oyster boat tours, and offers samples of local goods, edibles and drinkables, Minarcek sampled Kumamotos grilled on the beach by boat captain Sebastian Elrite.
“Oh, man— they were delicious,” Minarcek recalled.
Tasked with mapping out a Redwood Coast itinerary in a side story, she listed dozens of stops and summed up as follows: “You could drive the heart of the North Coast in five hours. But that would be missing the point. To suck up the wildest beaches, tallest trees, and freshest oysters in the state, you’ll need at least three days.”
The value of the editorial coverage is substantial, given that the advertising equivalent of an eight-page cover story in Sunset is estimated at more than $1,175,000. Besides working with the Sunset editorial staff, the bureau took out a full-page ad to accompany the story, ensuring that the magazine’s estimated readership of five million will know where to go when they pick up the phone or go online.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the coverage. In one visit Dan Duane captured our area in a way that I think no other writer has,” said Tony Smithers, bureau executive director. “And I’m proud that our staff was able to get that story off the ground.”