Sunday, November 29, 2009

A HALS Adventure Vacation

Last May I planned a “HALS Adventure Vacation” and selected several possible sites to visit along a looped route that would take us north to Arcata/Trinidad, then east to Redding, and further east to Yuba Pass where we stayed at Bassetts – a favorite place for birding – another interest of ours. Along the way we visited eleven historic sites. I wrote up HALS forms for four and have one yet to finish for the Point Cabrillo Light Station.

Our first stop was Fort Ross, featured in my banner and October 11, 2009 post. The most interesting site though was the 700 acre Mendocino Woodlands State Park located in the Jackson State Forest about 8 miles east of Highway One. The site is long, narrow and steeply sloped. See map of camp 1 above.

The first building encountered is the dining/recreation room. The kitchen has a high, beam ceiling with a skylight, and off that central space there are two dining areas each with its own stone fireplace. From the kitchen, double doors lead out onto stone steps and an outdoor eating area. This building and all of the others at the camp were built in the 1930s by the WPA and CCC, which were created by President Roosevelt during the depression. All are constructed of old growth redwood milled from the site. Even the tables and bench seats in the dining hall were constructed by the CCC crews.

Below the dining building is an amphitheater constructed in a traditional semi-circle, with Redwood stumps that mark the corners of the “stage”, and the Redwood forest as a “back drop”. The theater benches are in two groups divided by timber steps. Each bench is made of Redwood logs topped with a rounded slab of Redwood. There is a 3’ diameter fire ring at the center of the amphitheater.
Camping is in individual cabins that are identical throughout. Each has a small (3’ x 4’) stone porch, space for 4 cots, a small closet, a small porch, and a stone fireplace. Cabins are spaced about 30-40 feet apart, and at different levels, with footpaths connecting them. Between the paths understory plantings of fern, grasses, blue-eyed grass, Douglas Iris, Vaccinium, and Gaultheria provide a lush understory.

The camp was one of 46 similar camps built around the country that included Camp David – the president’s retreat. “It was conceived to provide a setting that would introduce the public to the wonders of nature” according to the Mendocino Woodlands Camp Association website history. This is the only one of the original camps that has been maintained and continuously used for its original purpose. It was given to the people of California with the mandate that it be used for group camping and environmental education. A non-profit group was organized in 1949 to manage the park, and in 1976 Mendocino Woodlands became a State Park. National Historic Landmark status was granted in 1997.

Visiting these historic sites with the intent of doing a HALS inventory form really enhanced the trip for me. I made a greater effort to really see, explore and understand what I was seeing and what was important about it. Rather than just give a cursory look at exhibits I studied them carefully leaving with a deeper understanding and appreciation for our California history.

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