Blue Lake, No Lake
Blue Lake is a small town that’s 6 miles from Arcata (home of Humboldt State University) and 16 from Eureka (home of the gold-rush in the late 1800’s). It’s an old logging town with a strong Native American heritage and presence. The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe is in Blue Lake, as is their casino and hotel.
There are no grocery stores in Blue Lake.
There is an internationally renowned performing arts academy though! Dell Arte has been going strong for years now. And there are two bars: the Logger Bar (which is over a hundred years old), and the Mad River Brewery (which also serves food). Blue Lake used to have a coffee shop – Stardough’s, which belonged to my brother Dana.
Downtown Blue Lake
The buildings in downtown Blue Lake are straight out of another time period. They are old and lovely. Graceful, colorful.
That’s The Grange
The big red building – Mad River Grange – is the grange for the area. The thing about it is that it’s been there forever and a day… and so too has my family lived in Blue Lake.
The inside is plastered with old photos of Blue Lake and the people who once lived here – I always wondered who in the photos we were related to. It wasn’t a question so much of “if” we were related; just “who.”
Micah’s got a joke:
He was dead-serious here, but it normally cracks him up, and that cracks me up, and so we all end up helplessly laughing at each other cracking up.
And! It’s on-target for him and Blue Lake.
You see, Micah’s great-great grandfather was Ira Underwood, who was smooshed by a redwood tree while logging in Humboldt. He lived in Blue Lake; his grave is in Blue Lake too, right along with a legion of Micah’s ancestors.
That feeling of belonging was priceless. I’ve never felt it before in that way – knowing that half the people in the Blue Lake cemetery are related to me and the kids, and that we have such a long history with Blue Lake.
Blue Lake, no Lake
There is no lake in Blue Lake!
There used to be. It was once here:
It has the river and the river only these days, the Mad River. Which sounds so cool., doesn’t it?!
It’s lovely in that crisply Humboldt way that rivers are lovely. And the levy (which sets “American Pie” off like an ear worm in my head) doesn’t get better for walking.
So, Blue Lake is this tiny town without any grocery stores (but with two bars) that I came back to when my marriage imploded. I took the kids and went to live in Dana’s house, where my mom has been living, working to make it into a grief and loss retreat center.
My brothers kids live down the street.
That’s been a real highlight, just being able to pop by for impromptu ‘hey! how ya doin’?‘ visits. Who gets to do that anymore? I know, right.
So I’ve treasured it.
It’s been awesome and then some to actually live in a town that has been so connected to my family for so long. Like a dive into a real-life “Roots”, meeting and seeing distant cousins and being the grateful recipient of all the grace that this town, which knew and loved my brother well, has to offer us.