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For scenery and solitude, for beachcomber or hiker, it's Trinidad.

For scenery and solitude, for beachcomber or hiker, it's Trinidad

Still and shrouded in mist, dazzling and brilliant in sunshine, Trinidad Bay lies 22 miles north of Eureka on California's rugged north coast. If you're seeking an untouristed seacoast hideaway abounding in natural beauty, it makes a pleasant weekend stopover off U.S. Highway 101 or a destination in its own right for a weeklong vacation.

Within walking distance of one another are the tiny town of Trinidad (population 432), Humboldt State University's Telonicher Marine Lab, wild and unspoiled Trinidad State Beach, and the bluffs of Trinidad Head.

Plenty of small, no-hassle side trips are possible. Six miles north of the town lies Patrick's Point State Park, where you can sift through the coarse sands of Agate Beach, visit the curious "octopus forest," scale a sea stack for a commanding view of sea and land, or take a turn through a small natural history museum. Just a mile north of town is a demonstration forest; pause here for a short tour through a stand of coastal redwoods. Or go a couple of miles south to Luffenholtz Beach, Houda Point, Camel Rock, and Moonstone Beach.

The town of Trinidad

If you're wondering whether some similarity exists between the Caribbean Trinidad and this low-profile California town, there is none. The point (and later the town) was named after Don Bruno de Hezeta clambered ashore on June 11, 1775--which happened to be Trinity Sunday. Miners, lumbermen, and whalers all had their chapters in local history, but now Trinidad is a fishing harbor and quiet tourist village.

As you enter the town's Main Street from U.S. 101, turn left onto Trinity Street. You'll be greated by Memorial Lighthouse, a good place to park and get your bearings. Directly ahead is the harbor, dotted with fishing boats. Walking downhill on Edwards Street, you'll pass a couple of smokehouses (handy if you should charter a fishing boat, get lucky, and want to preserve your catch).

On your right, at Edwards and Ewing streets, is Humboldt State's marine lab. A hallway aquarium exhibit is open 8 to 4 weekdays and 1 to 5 Saturdays; here you might pay your respects to a giant blue lobster, among other resident creatures. A 30-minute lab tour is conducted by reservation; call (707) 677-3671. Out behind the lab, an open tank contains a variety of tidepool creatures for holding and petting. This is your chance to feel the strange unprickliness of a sea urchin as it gets to know your palm.

Trinidad State Beach, Trinidad Head

Directly below the lab, Edwards Street leads into Trinidad State Beach--a beautiful place for picnics, beachcombing, a game of catch, or a peaceful snooze. To your left is Trinidad Head, a dramatic promontory that deserves a walk. A pleasant 1 1/2-mile trail leads up and around the head. Very soon, you hear only the sounds of the sea and a buoy with the moan of a homesick whale. Benches are placed here and there, if you'd like to sit and enjoy some solitary contemplation.

On the harbor side of Trindad Head are the Seascape Restaurant, a fishing pier, and the boat launch. This is the place to ask about fishing charters ($40 per person for a 5-hour trip). Telephone Collins Charters, (707) 677-3625.

Patrick's Point State Park

A forest- and meadow-covered headland, 625-acre Patrick's Point State Park lies 6 miles north of Trinidad. This surprisingly varied park includes a beachful of agates, trees that stand on octopus-like arms, sea stacks, even a tiny museum.

Arrived at by a steep, 1/3-mile trail, Agate Beach lives up to its name: you'll see many people sifting through the sand for the semiprecious stones. Nearby is the Octopus Tree Trail, a meandering loop thick with hemlock and Sitka spruce. Some of the spruce have grown roots over logs that have since rotted, making the roots look like huge octopus tentacles. This trail also acquaints you with the area's wildflowers, berries, and ferns.

One of the park's most dramatic features is its sea stacks. Two short, steep trails lead up to Ceremonial Rock and Lookout Rock, left high and dry when the ocean receded. For more great views, try climbing Wedding Rock or Patrick's Point.

To see the entire park, try the 2-mile Rim Trail. It follows the edge of the bluff around three sides of the park, taking you through forest and along the jagged shoreline. The park's day-use fee is $3. Camping reservations may be made through Mistix; call (800) 444-7275.

What's nearly: redowoods to the north, more beaches to the south

Just north of Trinidad on Patrick's Point Drive, the Louisiana-Pacific Demonstration Forest offers a short, pleasant walk through a second-growth redwood forest, crossing bridges and winding through the trees. If ths gives you a taste for more redwoods, drive 20 miles north of Trinidad to Redwood National Park.

For more beaches and trails, go south on Scenic Drive. On your right, 2 miles south of Trinidad, is Luffenholtz County Park. Next comes Houda Point, a good place for hiking and picnicking. About a mile south is Moonstone Beach, with a wide expanse of fine sand. For more information, write to Humboldt North Coast Land Trust, Box 457, Trinidad 95570.

Accommodations: a B & B and motels

The B & B is in town; other lodgings are along Patrick's Point Drive. Prices are per night, double occupancy. Zip is 95570.

Trinidad Bed & Breakfast, 560 Edwards Street; (707) 677-0840; $65.

Ocean Grove Lodge and Motel, 165 Patrick's Point Drive; 677-3543; $30.

Shadow Lodge, 687; 677-0532; $40.

Deer Lodge, 753; 677-3554; from $20.

Trinidad Inn, 1170; 677-3349; $35.

Bishop Pine Lodge, 1481; 677-3314; $45.

Sea Cliff Motel, 1895; 677-3485; $26.

Lighthouse Motel, 3360; 677-3121; $31.

View Crest Lodge, 3415; 677-3393; $37.50.

Driftwood Motel, 3602; 677-3483; $36.75.

Details may change. For an update, write to Chamber of Commerce, Box 356, Trinidad 95570, or call 677-0591.

Photo: Rugged, rocky coast holds back dense fir forest crowding cliffs of Patrick's Point State Park

Photo: Trinidad lies 22 miles north of Eureka, just off U.S. 101; Patrick's Point is 6 miles farther

Photo: Agate hunters proudly display their patiently picked-over treasures at aptly named Agate Beach

Photo: Scaling the roots of immense Sitka spruce on Octopus Trees Trail kept this youngster busy, briefly, in Patrick's Point park

Photo: Fir-bordered Patrick's Point Drive connects Trinidad and Patrick's Point. Woodsy motels are tucked along route

Photo: Memorial Lighthouse, a good place to park for local exploration, overlooks boat-dotted Trinidad Boy; Trinidad Head is at right

Photo: Low-key but immaculate, Trinidad Bed & Breakfast is a cozy place for travelers to rest. It, too, has view of Trinidad Bay

Photo: "Thanks, but no thanks," baby's face seems to say, after his first encounter with starfish at Humboldt State marine lab
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Title Annotation:Trinidad, California
Date:May 1, 1988
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