2013 Begins with a Memory

What Barbara Wein* found while looking through old documents this Christmas, or, What She Wrote: 


*For 25 years, Barbara Wein served as Executive Director of the Golden Gate Council of Hostelling International-USA, based in San Francisco. She shepherded the Redwood Hostel into being, back in 1986. At the time she wrote this poem, she had agreed to caretake the hostel after a federal government fiscal crisis required the hostel to close temporarily (Redwood Hostel was a concessionaire of the National Park Service). She recently found this poem, and we are glad for it.

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Our Little Hostel By the Sea Closes

After nearly 23 years welcoming travelers from across the globe, the Redwood Hostel bid farewell to its final hosteller on the morning of January 18th.

And so we say goodbye…and thanks for the memories.

Kaci, Ryan, Rory & Kailen on the hostel’s final night, January 17th. Rory’s art is a drawing of the hostel and reads, “I love you hostel!” Thanks to longtime Redwood Hosteller, Giovanni Amadeo, for taking this photo.

But we’re not quite done. As the hostel’s final managers, we can’t say goodbye, not just yet. We are going to maintain this blog for the time being, to catch up on posting photos and video from recent times…and, as well, to continue blogging our thoughts until what needs to be said, has been said. The to-do list, thus far, includes: posting photos from our Closure Celebration, a video clip of the Goodbye Ceremony (hosted by Rory) on our final morning, other photos taken by Giovanni Amadeo on his last visit here, a backlog of photos taken over the years that couldn’t be posted from the hostel’s dial-up Internet connection, thoughts on packing up/tearing down/transitions, other thoughts, and, lastly, news of any reopening possibilities.

Our blog is currently hosted by Squarespace, yet we may transition to a free blog service and, if so, will let y’all know. [update: we’re now at redwoodhostel.wordpress.com.]

This post began with a photo of the hostel’s final managers, Kaci and Ryan (who met at a hostel, fell in love and married). Let’s sign off with a photo of the hostel’s first managers, Joe and Christina (who also met at the hostel, fell in love and married!):

Categories: About Redwood Hostel, Hostel News

Tonight’s the last night…

Working the front desk tonight, I’ve been thinking of a song by one of my favorite musicians.  On the album Black Sheets of Rain, Bob Mould has a song called “Tonight’s the Last Night”:

Tonight’s the last night that I’ll ever spend with you / And please don’t ask me why ’cause I don’t know

A somber sentiment, sure.  But after 22 1/2 years and probably over 7000 nights welcoming hostellers (we guesstimate over 75,000 unique guests in total during that time), tonight is the last night for the little hostel at Wilson Creek.  The reasons for the closure have been described before, but now we are left with the reality.  For my family, it’s been a great time: four years of meeting travelers and helping them plan their day, four years exploring the beach across the street and all the hiking trails throughout the Parks, and four years of scrubbing the same toilets day after day.  Well, okay, maybe that last part wasn’t so great.  But it was part of the experience.

Some random off-the-top-of-my-head memories from the past 4 years….the power going out for 4 hours on our first day in charge o’ the place….severe storms tonight and the possibility of the power going out tonight…the fellow skateboarding the entire coast from Mexico to Canada on a 6-foot long skateboard….Linda Marie and Craig showing up with a Christmas tree a few days before Christmas one year….Humboldt State’s French class showing up each year, and speaking French for most of the weekend….Humboldt State’s German class showing up each year, and speaking English for most of the weekend….popping “Kind of Blue” into the living room stereo before opening the office….Mike the Spoon Guy biking here with his bucket full of hand-carved spoons….a group of hostellers including 15 or so of the California Conservation Corp singing to our son Rory on his first birthday here….a member of the CCC losing his bookmark and being upset because it was his grampa’s photo (we found it and tried calling the CCC but they didn’t have contact info for you–if you’re out there we still have it 4 years later)….all the many kids playing with our son Rory for a day or two….all the many adults playing with Rory for a day or two….watching Kailen born here–as hostellers were checking in at the office right below us….getting to know all of our great staff members over the years: Cautip, Mark, Matthew, Barbie, Tara, Lezlie, Emily, Andrew, Brandi, Sarah, Kyle, and Chris….all the other hostellers, too numerous to name, who have made working here a fun and rewarding time…and, of course, the thousands of hours of conversations with Kaci on every possible detail of the place: policies like daytime lock-out and length of stay, furniture, wall decor, prices,advertising, recycling, landscaping, purchasing, coffee and candy bars and the foodstore and the bookstore and on and on and on and on. You’re a rock star, Love, and I look forward to whatever adventure we share next (and congrats on the Manager o’ the year award–you earned it).

So, yeah. Thanks for the memories, Redwood Hostel.

– Ryan (with “Kind of Blue” on the stereo right now)

P.S. For those that don’t know, we will be opening our doors one more time.  So there is one last chance for people to come on in and check out the place (or should that be “check the place out”?) before we start disassembling bunk beds and moving everything out.  This coming Saturday, January 23, from 3pm to 8pm, we will have the farewell celebration.  There will be live music, free food and drink, and a history of the settler, pioneer, and hostel history of the area.  We’ll also have a community hour where people with a connection to the place can share stories. More on that here.

Categories: About Redwood Hostel | 1 Comment

Bookstore closed

It hadn’t really sunk in that we would be leaving our home of 4 years, until earlier tonight when I started taking down the bookstore.  Soon after we arrived, Kaci and I decided the hostel needed a bookstore.  We just didn’t know where to begin.  How do we get the books?

One day while perusing the books up at the Jedediah Smith visitor center, we mentioned our plan to the man working there.  Turns out Jeff ran the many state park bookstores up here on behalf of a local nonprofit, the North Coast Redwood Interpretive Association.  And he said he’d be happy to set us up.

Within a few weeks, the hostel had a bookstore, essentially a satellite store for the NCRIA, offering over 50 titles most of them relating to the natural and cultural history of the area.  For the next few years, Jeff dropped off whatever books we asked for and returned to pick up the deposit. Sure, the hostel never made a penny on the sales, but it supported a local nonprofit, it was a great service for our hostellers, and we got to thumb through the books and guides on the occasional slow night.

Since the hostel is closing we talked to Jeff about the plan for the remaining books.  January 17 is our last night, but for his association’s annual inventory, he noted it would be better to have those books back before the end of the year. And so, earlier tonight I started boxing them up.  Out of curiosity, I decided to count up what I saw on the sales record.  In about 3 1/2 years, we sold approximately 170 books and 120 trail maps.  And yes, there were many more people who just enjoyed being able to peruse.

But now the bookshelves are empty. The books are the first to go, but soon they will be followed by everything else: disassembled bunkbeds and other assorted furniture, boxes of old files, tools, sheets and pillows, et cetera.  And then us.

I guess you could consider starting up the bookstore and closing it down the bookends to our time here.

Categories: About Redwood Hostel, Hostel News

Solstice Oxygen

Last night while closing my 10pm shift, I did the usual walkabout the hostel. I wrote a message on the office door, contemplated changing the Quote of the Day (“Life is a book. Those who do not travel read only a page” -St. Augustin), but didn’t, said goodnight to the half-dozen hostellers still up reading thick novels and finishing a raucous game of Balderdash, drained the mucky kitchen sinks and poured another 40 pound bag of pellets into the wood stove hopper.

I also locked the four doors connecting the hostel to Outside. At each door, before locking up, I pushed the door ajar slightly–just 12 inches or so–and poked my head into the night. I felt like a bear, sticking her nose out of the den.


Would a bear stick her nose out of the den on the Winter Solstice eve? Around here, maybe. It doesn’t get quite cold enough for a full hibernation, so the bears kind of “mini hibernate” throughout the winter. Like cat napping for four months. (I, human mother to a newborn and preschooler, am envious beyond reproach).

Outside was instant awake. Foamy waves belly-flopped onto rocks. Sky mist separated the land and sea from most stars, yet even then, at least four dozen Other Suns broke through the fog. Twinkle, twinkle, how small we are. It was cold, but a cold of gratitude. That is, you feel it, and wordlessly give thanks to this cold for –like a bell– alerting you to where you are. Bringing you back to now.

And the air.

When I’d poked my head outside, I took a deep breath of that air. I did not tell myself, “Oh, fresh air! Breathe it in!” Didn’t need to. Just, head poked outside, lungs got the news and pulled in as much air as they could. I had nothing to do with it. At least not the conscious parts. The best I could do was to notice.

The other day, I took a short walk on the Yurok Loop trail with my newborn son in a front carrier, napping as he likes to do. No other humans were around. The rain abated, and only a sheath of mist lingered. I was on the move and outside, so the fresh air pumped freely in and out of my lungs, letting me breathe deeply with such regularity that I could take this for granted. Of course the wilds will always be this accessible. Of course I’ll always make time for a hike. Of course I can always breathe like this.

That was when I made a pact with nature, or if you like, Nature. To be on her side. In a non-dualistic culture there wouldn’t be sides, only one long roll of the tides that carried everyone and everything on it, landing ashore in one piece. But my culture needs to choose. Whose side we’d take, if it came down to it. Are you with us, or against us?

I’d rather not focus on who I’d be against, but I can choose to be with nature, and not for nature’s sake, either. If we left, if humans wiped ourselves out through war or simply attrition, the plants, microbes and non-human animals would survive. Persist. Evolve. They would move on. I side with nature for our sake. I want my great-great-great grandchild to take her newborn son for a hike someday. He deserves at least that much.

A bird swooped down a few feet in front of us and alighted nearby on the branch of a red alder tree. I looked up. This wasn’t just a bird, it was a Spotted Owl. In our human world, the spotted owl is the symbol, the epitome, of the bitter struggle between “loggers” and “tree huggers.” I doubt that this particular spotted owl knew, or cared, about our little fights in humanland. She just wanted to have a look at us. She watched me, I watched her. After a few minutes, I walked away. It was a simple relationship.

That is the Solstice for me. Simple. The sun rises, the sun sets. Sometimes it moves closer to us, other times it moves away. We don’t need to control it, or sell it, or even seek to ‘understand’ it. All we need to do is take notice.


Categories: About Redwood Hostel

Walking in Our Final Winterwonderland

Winter is descending again. This morning I scuttled about the frosty hostel, cranking up the space heaters and feeding pellets to the wood stove. My fingertips are still numb, but the sun is out, so hope persists.

May hope also persist with the future of Redwood Hostel.

As many of our blog readers know, the hostel is closing indefinitely next month. Our beloved building has worn her foundation down to her seismically unfit bones, and our friends at Redwood National and State Parks–who own the hostel building–are unable to fund repairs. So we close.

Guests are, naturally, despairing. This little hostel by the sea has served many travellers with a warm and cozy respite for two decades and each year, it seems, more people are drawn to the Redwood Hostel. It fills them up.

Our final day is January 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Until then, we are open limited nights: December 3-5; December 10-12, December 17-January 2, January 7-9 and January 14-17. We are planning a Goodbye Celebration in late January, so please check back for more details as they become available (it will be after our closing date, so sadly, we can’t offer overnight accommodations to the public).

We’re optimistic the hostel will re-open sometime in the future, either at this location or nearby. If you happen to find $2 million beneath your couch pillows, or lying on the sidewalk, or wadded in your backpocket and you just don’t know what to do with it…think of us.

And if you would like to stay abreast of Redwood Hostel news, please contact us at 707-482-8265 or info@redwoodhostel.org.

We’ll miss you all! Keep this little hostel in your thoughts during the coming chill.


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Welcome to the Redwood Hostel, Kailen Reil!

We welcome with love the birth of Kailen Reil on September 26.

He was born at our home, a.k.a. the Redwood Hostel, upstairs in the staff kitchen. It was late afternoon when active labor really took hold and, being a warm day, the window facing the hostel’s entrance was open. Arriving hostellers were greeted with inexplicable screaming–but all was soon explained by my dad and our eldest son Rory, who passed the laboring time in the Common Room putting together puzzles and telling everyone that mommy was having a baby.

Kailen, Rory and Ryan & I stayed upstairs within the warm cozy of our staff apartment for a few days, happily sequestered, and I didn’t get the chance to introduce him to the hostellers who’d been partially privy to one of the most intimate, dearest moments of our life. Thank you, Redwood Hostellers of Saturday September 26th! We felt your warmth from below.

Categories: Hostel News, Local Information

The return of TROUBADUO

In May, Redwood Hostel was energized with a a great set of live music from national touring act, Troubaduo.  We and they enjoyed it so much, they are making a return engagement.

This Monday, September 21, in the Redwood Hostel living room, the soul-singing duo of Bryson Van Cleve & Jill Marie will be performing some of their great original songs and also some of their favorite covers, free for guests (though you may want to bring $10-15 in case you want to take home one or more of their CDs).

To learn about their last visit, click here and read a blog posted just after the concert. You’ll also be able to see them perform a few songs by clicking the links in that blog.  By the way, when we discussed that they may come back, they said maybe they’d even bring some recording equip. and record a song or two.  So if you want to hear yourself clap on a future CD, come on out to the show.  There’s more on Jill and Bryson in another of our blog posts right here.

Troubaduo.  Be here Monday.  Or miss out.

Categories: Events

Freewritin’ Crepes

The Open House Party was a blast! A total success with roughly 85-100 people streaming through the hostel this past Sunday afternoon for a tour, homemade berry crepe, cup of lavendar lemonade, or a listen to the amazing acoustic guitarist, Jon Parmentier.

Some chatted on couches. Others played the Redwood Hostel version of Mad Libs. Three people won *new* Redwood Hostel organic t-shirts, and three others won annual memberships to Hostelling International.

Jon Parmentier and his partner, Chris, performing at the hostel’s Open House Party.

We also led a “Travel Writing Freewrite” workshop Tuesday night at the hostel. I was pleasantly surprised to have an enthusiastic group “fill the space” we had set aside in the Common Room for the workshop. Six of the seven participants were in their ’40s and ’50s, and therefore had a long history of travel to draw upon, but never before the opportunity to share. Freewriting prompts included “Describe a place you know well to someone who has never been there,” “The meaning of retreat,” and “Leaving your comfort zone.” We wrote for 3-7 minutes per prompt, and most people read aloud at least once. Thank you, freewriters!

Three more activities await: a “World Travel 101” workshop tonight at the Cresent City Library, “Documentary Fridays Go Hostelling” tomorrow at the hostel, and we will conclude with a Family-Friendly Hike to Hidden Beach on Saturday morning.

We have also had a bit of media coverage through KHSU Radio, the NPR affiliate based at Humboldt State University, KMUD Community Radio in Garberville, and The Daily Triplicate newspaper in Crescent City, which also published Ry’s Letter to the Editor.

Categories: About Redwood Hostel, Events

Hostelling Turns One Hundred

Many of you ask, “What is a hostel?”

Our answer usually focuses on the present-moment details: what you need to know about hostels to decide whether they work for you: They’re affordable. They’re about sharing. They’re a great way to build community with other travelers.

When you ask, and when we answer, you and we don’t usually reach beyond these basic details and scrape under the skin of the Hostelling International logo, to get at the origins of this thing called “hostelling.”

Well, as it turns out, hostelling has a history worth celebrating.

100 years ago the movement began. Its first impulse was to reconnect children with nature in a rapidly industrialized culture. Its second impulse was to promote international peace. Its current impulse? Our mission statement sums it well: “To help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and its people through hostelling.”

We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary milestone in August, along with the 75th anniversary of hostelling in the USA, with an Open House on Sunday August 23. We’ll also have a Travel Writing Workshop (Tuesday August 25), “World Travel 101” educational travel workshop (Thursday August 27), Documentary Screenings of Hostel- and Travel-related Films (Friday August 28), and a Family-Friendly Hike to a hidden beach (Saturday August 29).

Let’s get back to the history with an interesting recap, as shared by our beloved Barbara Wein, the Anniversary Coodinator for Hostelling International-USA (and the former head of our council, the Golden Gate Council based in San Francisco, who spearheaded the creation of Redwood Hostel more than 20 years ago!):

* * * *

Celebrating Hostelling’s Proud History

2009 marks two milestone anniversaries: the 75th Anniversary of Hostelling International USA (formerly American Youth Hostels) and the 100th Anniversary of the international hostelling movement. Following is a short history about the early beginnings of these inspirational non-profit organizations.

The idea of “Hostelling” began at the turn of the century in Germany, when Richard Schirrmann, a school teacher, began taking his students on multi-day hiking excursions in the countryside. Emphasizing simplicity with just knapsacks and some provisions, the students were housed in empty school rooms and farm buildings. Schirrmann instilled in them a healthy lifestyle and a new-found appreciation of the natural world. A visionary with great energy, on one such outing in 1909, Richard Schirrmann conceived of the idea to create a system of simple overnight student accommodations using empty classrooms each a day’s walk from the next. In 1912, his town of Altena allowed him to furnish some rooms of their 12th Century castle as inexpensive dormitories. Altena Castle thus became the first permanent “youth hostel” and the start of a growing hostel network. Beginning in Europe, hostelling soon spread around the world, and with an expanded mission, from just dormitories to include common rooms where people of different countries could meet, exchange ideas, and become friends, leading to broader international understanding.

Hostelling spread to the United States through Isabel and Monroe Smith, school teachers and scout leaders, who discovered youth hostels while leading a tour of Europe with their students in 1933. Impressed by the simplicity and idealism of the European hostels, Isabel and Monroe worked tirelessly to open the first American youth hostel in Northfield, Massachusetts in 1934 and to found the American Youth Hostels organization.

The hostelling movement has grown in the United States and around the world. Today, there are more than 4,000 hostels in 80 countries around the globe, which provide more than 35 million overnights annually. Like its early beginnings, the hostelling movement is still based on high ideals of promoting world peace, international understanding, and environmental stewardship.

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