Behind the Curtain 10 – Pot-polluting the Picture Postcard
Take Highway 36 to Alderpoint Road and head south for 37.5 miles towards Blocksburg,” Jake read aloud to Eric. “There’s a footnote here, ‘If no four-by-four, hike in 1.3 miles.’ Happy to have the wheels, my friend.”
This was Jake’s first adventure in growing outside. He and his girlfriend Caitlin came to Humboldt to trim but it wasn’t consistent enough work to keep afloat in Northern California.
Sure, it was cheaper to live here than, say Southern California, but the jobs or pay just wasn’t here. Eric said the difference in money was in the hundreds of thousands, rather than the tens of thousands he and Caitlin were making now. “Enough to pay off student loans and have some left over,” he thought to himself.
Eric watched the mileage gauge and turned off the highway onto a dirt road. “It’s just beyond this ridge,” he said.
The lot was a perfect plateau overlooking a green valley of rolling hills and the occasional California Live Oak with a scattering of cattle.
Since this area was settled in the late 1800s, the hills that stretch between Humboldt’s County seat of Eureka and Southern Humboldt have long been ranching land. Hoof property.
In the late 1960s, “back to the landers” made their way into the hills, cultivated cannabis and have been largely self-sufficient ever since.
“What a mess,” Eric said pulling into the lot.
“Is the owner going to clean it up?” Jake asked, stepping out of the truck onto a pile of insulation.
“He’s in jail,” Eric replied. “It’s our gig now.”
The owner was born into a wealth of cattle land with little to no interest in ranching. His inheritance was parceled out to growers. This one, the neighbors had informed Eric, was thought to be a “nice family from Mexico.”
A one-room wooden structure overlooking the valley stood unfinished. The prior inhabitants lived in tents while establishing their operation, but their plans didn’t pan out, as the grow was shut down before their first harvest.
A nearby neighbor and second generation lumberman native to the ridge, said he would occasionally see his new neighbors at the dump or in town. “They didn’t speak English,” he reported. “The greenhouse went up first, but you can see them everywhere now,” he added, motioning across the valley to the ridge in the distance. Redwoods dominated the view, but under the blue sky the large, white squares of plastic were indisputable. “They say clear-cutting leaves an ugly mark on the landscape, but I think this is worse.”
Jake and Eric began the task of cleaning up the rubbish. The area overlooking this picture postcard view was dirtied with a sea of venting tubes, drip irrigation lines and plastic covered in a scattering of white vermiculite. A dozen blue plastic children’s wading pools were everywhere, the vessels of plants now confiscated.
“We can put the greenhouse here,” Eric said, stuffing large squares of pink insulation into a trash bag. “The drainage lines can hang over the edge of the ridge.”