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River Views

When I came home from a backpacking trip to Desolation Wilderness one of the temples of my eyeglasses was drastically out of balance with the other. I learned that term, “temple” (for the sidearm of a pair of spectacles) when I took the glasses into Dr. Wolfman’s office in Fort Bragg. Dr. Wolfman, who once made a pair of eyeglasses for his Brooklyn boyhood hero Duke Snider, took one look at my pair and sent me down Laurel Street to Chernoff’s Jewelers where Jeff Tavelli fixed the offending sidearm straightaway. Total charge to me from both businesses: $00.00. It’s not like I’m a regular customer of either. My last visit to Dr. Wolfman had been in 2004 and I’ve never come closer to Chernoff’s than lunch at the Laurel Deli, where the food is good despite owner Scott Orrey’s true blue Dodger loyalty.

There are good folks all about. I drove unannounced to the McGuire Ranch at the foot of Bald Hill, was greeted without question, and treated to an hour-long description of the history of the place and its surroundings. Just this week, after one phone call for introduction, Bud and Pamela Thompson drove me through two locked gates to the very top of Bald Hill, so I could get a close look at the obelisk erected there in 1892. They also let me pour through a pile of primary source historical documents at their home for hours.

On July 8th I was part of a group privileged to be toured through the environs of the now disappeared lumber town of Glen Blair. The tour was hosted by Denise Stenberg and her son Mike and cost nothing more than a little wear on the walking shoes. The highlight had to be the old growth floor built only inches above a lengthy stretch of Pudding Creek. Enough of it still remains to dazzle the imagination. Anyone interested in the history of the area should purchase a copy of Denise’s book, Glen Blair: The End of the Line.

Will Parrish’s “Hack and Squirt” article made note of the construction of the Masonite Road from Ukiah to Navarro between 1948 and 1950. Masonite Corporation was the predecessor in interest to Mendocino Redwood Co. Both corporations’ timberlands have surrounded three sides of the Macdonald ranch.

The private Masonite Road allowed for oversized trucks that carried four times the legal limit of lumber on beds with ten to twelve foot bunks, when the highway limit was eight feet in bed width. A lesser known portion of the Masonite Road building concerns its extension down the Albion River. To widen the old railroad right of way Masonite bulldozed hillsides and what today would be marketable trees directly into the river. So much that heavy rains the following winter buried the bottomlands here at the Macdonald Ranch in several feet of mud and muck.

On their road right of way through the ranch itself Masonite used explosives to blow out a redwood root and some protruding rock. The first explosion took out two of our apple trees as well as the root, the second sent shards of rock through our sun porch windows a quarter mile away. Neither explosion came with any warning from Masonite nor did they come to either my parents’ or grandparents’ homes to apologize for the damages.

I can’t say that Mendocino Redwood Co. has learned much from their predecessor. This summer, our corporate neighbor has cable logged over the river without any warning signs for boaters and fallen trees over our road without permission or warning.

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