The Wickiup


This remote getaway was built in the early '60's by Russel V. Lee, M.D., one of the founders of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic. For the remainder of his lifetime, it served as his retreat from civilzation. It is now owned and managed by a group of his grandchildren who use it for the same purpose. It is located about 200 miles north of San Francisco, off highway 101 beyond Willits. It is tucked into a hillside above the confluence of the South and Middle forks of the Eel River and looks out through the trees over the river valley towards Round Valley.

The general location is inland Mendocino County, just about due east of Fort Bragg. It is far enough inland that there is no ocean influence on the weather. It rains and sometimes snows in the winter and it bakes in the summer with a calm buzzing, grasshoppery heat. The Eel river is three miles away and has some great swimming holes. There are numerous places to hike on jeep roads on the property, some leading to spectacular views of the Eel River valleys and the distant Trinity Alps. While the house itself is quite civilized, it is in the midst of a thousand acres of undeveloped wilderness. There are no neighbors in sight. Occasionally a car can be heard on the county road in the distance.

The air is fresh; the woods hum peacefully; the view provides an ever changing panorama. Cell phones don't reach here, unless you hike for 45 minutes to the top of the ridge. There is a telephone, but no answering machine. If getting away from it all is your cup of tea, this is a place where you can drink your fill.

There's some more technical information at the bottom after the pictures. Click on any picture for a larger image.




This view of the front yard was taken from the road up to the water tank. Water comes from a year-round spring on the land. The Wickiup is the round/conical building. The smaller building on the left is the Bunkhouse.
The back (uphill) side of the house holds the three bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The downhill (view) side is all one open room and the exterior walls are glass. The view out over the Eel River valley is reflected in the windows. The cement patio has ample space for a dozen or so people to sleep. There is no light pollution so on moonless nights the darkness is like black velvet and the stars shine like thousands of diamonds.

This trio of pictures makes the space appear larger than it is, since the photos overlap. The table seats about a dozen people fairly comfortably. This was taken from the kitchen, where the front door is.
The main seating area centers on the massive stone fireplace in the middle of the house.
Beyond the fireplace is a second seating area. Behind the fireplace is a semicircular hallway to the bedrooms.



The far end of the hallway comes out between the fireplace and the second seating area. The door to the third bedroom is visible. In there are a queen bed and a bathroom with a shower, plus the phone.
This is the only view I have that shows the kitchen. The appliances include a refrigerator, electric stove, wall oven dishwasher and microwave, plus coffee maker and grinder.
The fridge is visible to the right of the entrance to the hall. The first bedroom has a queen bed and a bathroom with a tub. After the hall bathroom (with shower) is the middle bedroom with a twin bed and a bunk bed.

Here is a closeup of the bunkhouse. It holds the washer and dryer, plus several beds.
The interior of the bunkhouse has a double bed, a single bed and a bunk bed. There is no bathroom out here. There are now curtains on the windows.
The pond sits between the Wickiup and the hill. It catches the overflow from the water tank, so if the water level in the pond is is low, we know we have a problem with the water line.

Just an ooh-aah shot of the truss beams and the central chimney.
This is the old barn on the property, the first landmark that you are almost there, if you come in from the Dos Rios side. The road is paved on this short stretch to keep the dust down. At the end of the paved bit is the driveway.
April sunrise over the Eel River valley. The patio is dimly visible in the foreground.


The Small Print At The Bottom:

It takes about four hours to drive to the Wickiup from the SF Bay area, and the time can vary from 3 1/2 hours to 6, depending on traffic.The nearest civilization to the Wickiup is about 30-40 minutes away by dirt road. There is a general store, a pharmacy, a gas station, a lumber yard, a few other miscellaneous businesses and a volunteer fire/EMT station.

Many wild animals live in the surrounding woods and meadows. Buzzards and bluebelly lizards and newts (in the pond) are by far the most common. Hawks, jays, quail, wild turkeys and woodpeckers sometimes pay a visit. Deer and jackrabbits are relatively common. More reclusive residents of the area include coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks, porcupines, bobcats, mountain lions and bears. The usual precautions of wilderness hiking apply here: Listen for rattlers. They want you to keep away as much as you want to stay away and they are polite enough to give a warning. Shake out your boots and your sleeping bag before using them because they can be attractive to the occasional scorpion (not very big ones, but not a pleasant sting). Wear insect repellant in the evening. Don't hike far from the house alone at dusk unless you are too big to be interesting to a mountain lion. Most animals (except the mosquitoes) want to stay away from us more than we want to stay away from them. Keeping a respectful distance will keep the four-legged and legless locals happy.

There is no managerial or maid service. We handle all the repairs and cleanup ourselves. This means that the last part of each visit is spent leaving the place ready for the next people: changing beds, washing sheets, vacuuming, wiping and mopping. The goal is to leave it better than we found it, ready for the next people who arrive late on a Friday night for a weekend of relaxation or maintenance.