Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt (1769-1859), naturalist and explorer, virtually founded the science of botanical geography. Today he is most remembered for things and places named after him—the Humboldt Penguin, the Humboldt Squid and Humboldt County, California, to name a few. Since he was German, really smart, and never actually visited Humboldt County, there is no one better qualified to answer questions about being hooked on Humboldt.

Question: My work requires frequent driving between San Francisco and Portland, but I hate the hot and monotonous Interstate 5. How can I make my journey up Highway 101 without being exposed to Humboldt?

Answer: The easy solution is to only drive through Humboldt County at night while it’s raining, but I suspect that there are deeper issues surrounding your reluctance to drive the scenic Redwood Highway. Is it possible that your parents took you to the redwoods as a small child and made you stop at kitschy road side attractions? Were you abandoned in a gift shop built into a redwood stump, or heaven forbid, were you inside an automobile as it was driven through a redwood tree? You must confront these latent memories or they will continue to haunt you. Your avoidance of Humboldt County does not stem from fear of addiction but from your attempt to flee at any cost from these childhood demons. But let me tell you, my friend, no matter how far or fast you run the redwoods will still be there until you are ready to face them.

Question: I used to do Humboldt when I was in high school, but I’ve kept away for over 20 years. Would a short visit be safe, or will I fall back into my old habits?

Answer: For my answer to be useful I would need to know more about your former Humboldt habit. For example, would you describe yourself as a recreational or a habitual visitor? You know, most people are able to moderate their Humboldt trips so that they don’t unduly impact their daily lives. It is only about one in ten people for whom traveling to Humboldt becomes addictive. However, when you say you’ve “kept away” for 20 years that tells me you recognized a problem at the time and had the strength to quit cold turkey. Congratulations—not many people can do what you’ve done. As far making a short visit to Humboldt, I wouldn’t risk it. Just go to Santa Cruz instead.

Question: What does being hooked on Humboldt actually feel like? What's the big deal?

Answer: Curiosity is the first step in many addictions and Humboldt is no different. Though you feign indifference in your question, I can tell you are strongly attracted and it will only take one foolish invitation or carelessly planned road trip before you are hooked like a fish. Believe me my friend, it’s not worth it! The redwood forest is just a bunch of trees! California is full of beaches, rivers and small towns—you don’t need to go to Humboldt to see them. My patients who are hooked on Humboldt are a sad, desperate bunch for whom wonderful big cities and other perfectly fine destinations can bring no joy. Do you really want to be like them?

Question: Are there any “quick fixes” that can satisfy my craving for Humboldt?

Answer: That depends on how deeply you are addicted. Some find that surfing the Humboldt website or watching Humboldt videos can scratch their itch for a while. Some have tried spending time in other redwood parks like Muir Woods, but finding that these parks are “just not the same” can actually make things worse. With luck your local grocer may carry some Humboldt microbrews. Otherwise, I would try to stay busy with volunteer work until your next opportunity to visit Humboldt.

Question: I visit Humboldt every year for the salmon fishing. Sure, I’ve got my favorite restaurants and stuff, but I’m not addicted. I can take it or leave it. Aren’t all these “Hooked on Humboldt” people just a bunch of whiners?

Answer: You are obviously in denial about your Humboldt habit. As long as you think you can “take it or leave it,” you won’t confront your deeply obsessive need to be in Humboldt County every year. Your red herring about salmon fishing doesn’t fool me for a moment—if it wasn’t the fishing it would be something else. Why not come down off that high horse and admit you’re no different than anyone else? If you stop whining for a moment (yes—you sir are the one who is whining) then you might realize that you have a lot in common with your fellow Humboldt addicts and you just might be able to help each other cope with it. Sorry—I just get so tired of people looking down on those who through no fault of their own get hooked on Humboldt. Try running the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in their shoes before you get all holier-than-thou.

Ask Dr. Humboldt