From its trees to its people, Humboldt hooks long-time residents

By Sydney Alexandra Morrone
Flapjack Chronicle

Some have lived here a few years — others for decades or a lifetime. People say Humboldt County sucks you in.

Jessie Crestner-Hartenstein, a professor at Humboldt State University, has traveled around the world, but said she somehow keeps getting sucked in by the magnetic force of Humboldt County. Originally planning on attending University of California Santa Cruz for her undergraduate degree, Crestner-Hartenstein visited Humboldt, her backup school, on a camping trip when she decided that UCSC was no longer the place for her.

What was the attraction?

“[The] trees,” Crestner-Hartenstein said. “I fell in love with the landscape.”

The trees are captivating to many people. Humboldt State University professor Chris Martinek had a similar experience when she first came to visit the school to attend for her undergraduate degree.

“I saw the trees and chose HSU,” Martinek said.

Originally from Fresno, Martinek wanted a small school. Besides the trees, the lack of concrete and the wonderful people were deciding factors as well. Martinek went home after for the first summer after freshman year to visit family where she experienced 30 days of straight heat. That was the last time she left Humboldt, except to go on vacation.

“I never had the desire to [leave],” Martinek said. “This is home.”

Unlike Martinek, Crestner-Hartenstein has repeatedly left and returned to Humboldt County. She attended grad school in Australia, then lived in Kuwait. However, when Organic Planet festival called to offer her a job, Crestner-Hartenstein came back in a heartbeat. She’d spent enough time in cities to make her miss the rural lifestyle.

Now teaching a variety of journalism and anthropology courses at Humboldt State, Crestner-Hartenstein said she feels she has settled and made a life here.

“I don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t get to leave every summer,” Crestner-Hartenstein said. “Of all the places I’ve traveled, this is the place to call home.”

Aside from the exceptional variety of natural resources and locations to explore here in Humboldt County,  people are friendly and make everyone feel welcome.

“Friendliness, kindness, generosity, acceptance,” Martinek said.

These qualities are palpable as you walk through Arcata or Sunnybrae, even Eureka, along with a sense of compassionate cohabitation.

“Different cultures coexist here,” Crestner-Hartenstein remarked. “Extremes not found in the city [are found here], hippies, hicks, pot growers. No melting pot, just coexistence.”

Martinek does not see leaving Humboldt County in her future.

“[I will be here] until I die,” Martinek said.

That’s not true for everyone.

Humboldt State student Sarah Meyer, 19, has just embarked on the next stage of her life. Recently married, and a baby on the way, Meyer said she plans on staying until she finishes her degree.

“I love it here, but I need a change of pace,” Meyer said. “We are thinking about moving to Colorado. But I might eventually retire in Humboldt County if the economy doesn’t get turned upside-down, or it gets over-populated.”

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