The water-flow shows the general trend of the ranges; but most of the rivers have numerous forks, indicating transverse ridges. From an aeroplane the mountains of northern California would suggest an immense drove of sleeping razor-backed hogs nestling against one another to keep warm, most of their snouts pointed northwest.
Less than one-fourth of the land is tillable, and not more than a quarter of that is level. Yet it is a beautiful, interesting and valuable country, largely diversified, with valuable forests, fine mountain ranges, gently rolling hills, rich river bottoms, and, on the upper Trinity, gold-bearing bars.
Mendocino (in Humboldt County) was given its significant name about 1543. When Heceta and Bodega in 1775 were searching the coast for harbors, they anchored under the lee of the next northerly headland. After the pious manner of the time, having left San Blas on Trinity Sunday, they named their haven Trinidad. Their arrival was six days before the battle of Bunker Hill.
It is about forty-five miles from Cape Mendocino to Trinidad. The bold, mountainous hills, though they often reach the ocean, are somewhat depressed between these points. Halfway between them lies Humboldt Bay, a capacious harbor with a tidal area of twenty-eight miles. It is the best and almost the only harbor from San Francisco to Puget Sound. It is fourteen miles long, in shape like an elongated human ear. It eluded discovery with even greater success than San Francisco Bay, and the story of its final settlement is striking and romantic.
Neither Cabrillo nor Heceta nor Drake makes mention of it. In 1792 Vancouver followed the coast searchingly, but when he anchored in what he called the “nook” of Trinidad he was entirely ignorant of a near-by harbor. We must bear in mind that Spain had but the slightest acquaintance with the empire she claimed. The occasional visits of navigators did not extend her knowledge of the great domain. It is nevertheless surprising that in the long course of the passage of the galleons to and from the Philippines the bays of San Francisco and Humboldt should not have been found even by accident.