Pique your curiosity with the header?   Read on…

I used to hunt, fish and hike the 65 mile long swath and 35 mile across, 913,306 acre Mendocino National Forest.

I’ve covered huge fires in the forest, followed college students and native Americans on archaeology digs, hiked through snow drifts, spent a night at a fire lookout, even did my cross country training near the Pine Mountain Lookout at 3,000 feet. It’s a place to go when you need to get away, without being too far away from home.

A couple of weeks ago, I inquired about the 15th annual NomeCult Walk or the Trail of Tears.  NomeCult is a journey that traces the forced relocation of Indians from Chico across what is now the Mendocino National Forest to Round Valley in 1863.  The walk started near Chico in the Sacramento Valley last Sunday and ends with a celebration in Covelo this Saturday.  In between, the walkers trace the steps of their native American ancestors, over 100 miles, most of it through the forest.

Reporter Glenda Anderson and I were encouraged by tribal members to cover and report on the walk.  On Thursday, Anderson and I drove in to the forest by way of Forest (FH) Road 7, out of Covelo. With a very detailed map in hand, we figured it would be easy to find the Nome Cult walkers.

Wrong.

The map was detailed enough.  The roads and trails are well marked on the map. However,  it looks like a four year-old drew a bunch of lines on the map, which resembles an alphabet of  Z’s an W’s all connected together.  When I was a Boy Scout, we took a 50 mile hike through the forest and ended up hiking 75 miles because we took the wrong road.

Needless to say, signage back then wasn’t the best.

Well, it’s better on the main roads now, but it’s still easy to get lost.

We did.  The first road took us ten miles beyond our turnoff.  We were looking for a number, M4, but there was no M4, only a sign that pointed to the nearest city which was in the Sacramento Valley.

We doubled back and took another road that lacked signage too.

I called it Bob’s Road.

After ten miles and a sign that said Lakeview-no lake and no view- the road getting more narrow, we decided to turn around and double back.  Again.

The third time was our charm.  We found M4, but the signage was fully two miles from the turnoff.

Finally, we found the walkers about four miles from their campsite.  Most of the participants in the grueling walk were very surprised to see us.  One gentleman couldn’t believe my Press Democrat Honda Civic made it over the roads. The road at times felt like all four tires were flat.

Nome Cult Trail walkers head toward camp, Thursday Sept. 16, 2010 in the Mendocino National Forest. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

Nome Cult Trail walkers head toward camp, Thursday Sept. 16, 2010 in the Mendocino National Forest. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

Born and raised in the Round Valley community of Covelo, Fred 'Coyote' Downey, pauses during the Thursday Sept. 16, 2010 leg of the Nome Cult Trail walk. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

After awhile, Glenda and I had our story and hopped back in to the car to civilization.  All told, we could have traveled to Anaheim and ridden Mr. Toads Wild ride,  in the time it took us to drive up and back.

That’s journalism.  Stories are out there and the NomeCult Trail story is one that needed to be told, no matter the effort.

-Kent Porter