Everyone involved in cannabis has heard of the Emerald Triangle. The famed tri-county region in Northern California known for growing lots of legendary pot. But what do most people really know of this area, this place?
Before I actually went to Humboldt county, I had dreamed of it without any realistic understanding or expectation of what it was. I had heard stories amongst stoners as a teenager and remembered a few articles from High Times. Then there was the Canna-bible and the movie Home Grown in the late ’90s that shared a small glimpse and an inaccurate, over-dramatized view. To me, the concept of the Emerald Triangle was the most intriguing mystery of the universe.
What was it like in a place where they grew the most and best weed in the country or supposedly even the world? Was it really a hippy haven or the true wild west? To me, from the little I knew, it was the cannabis Mecca, and I had made it my goal to manifest the journey of my life to take me there. It took me nearly half of my life to get to the Emerald Triangle.
While nearly everyone in the Triangle has a story, some are more powerful than others. While it’s a very large region, some areas are more significant and unique than others in terms of their past and their relationship with cannabis and the counterculture. They tell a mythical blink of history of a very beautiful, hardworking, and peaceful way of life, connected to nature in the simplest of ways, yet often enduring struggles from living rugged and wild.
Since I moved to Humboldt County, there has been much more publicity of the area. TV shows, news stories, books–all types of media and attention. Some portrayals paint a decent, semi-reasonable perspective of the way of life. But, most of the time, when the world gets a look at the Emerald Triangle from the inside, it’s usually a disappointing bunch of bullshit.
I think this is because, to the real cannabis pioneers of the area, this was all supposed to be a secret. This was their utopia and they didn’t want people fucking it all up for them. Now with new legal frameworks in place and the green rush of change that got us here, some of the most experienced and secretive growers have shown the ability to evolve, innovate, and excel at what they’ve done best for so long.
I had originally set out to grow a small indoor crop, live by the sea, and live a simple life growing medical cannabis–living free. But, where I ended up led me to the most sacred and magical cultivation region of the Emerald Triangle: Palo Verde.
The Emerald Triangle is visually stunning. It’s full of natural diversity and breathtaking landscapes. From the rugged coast lines below jagged cliffs with towering redwoods overlook the Pacific, to magical mountains above the clouds where deer outnumber people, and each nook and cranny of the hills provides a unique ecosystem and micro-climate naturally suited for cannabis to thrive, with the proper caretakers.
If you look at a map of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties, and draw a small circle in the geographical epicenter, you will see the Palo Verde fire district. It reaches the corners of Northern Mendocino, up Bell Springs to the Hanson Ranch, goes beyond New Harris and north east of Jewitt Rock, centers in the Palo Verde Sub division, and goes out Island Mountain where the road winds along the Eel River and eventually converges in all three counties. This area is also one of the cultural origins of the true Emerald Triangle, with a rich history of back to the landers, homesteaders, hippies, drugs, pot growers, camp and law enforcement raids, and the pioneers and outlaws who made our current industry possible. It has also been my home for much of the last nine years, it’s the home of my farm, and the spiritual home and roots of my brand, Rebel Grown.
The Palo Verde Ranch consists of 108 40-acre parcels subdivided from a large cattle ranch in the ’70s. Around that time, when hippies were starting to move north from the bay area, most settled a little closer to town where life would be a bit more convenient. The original folks, and many since, who settled in and around what is now the Palo Verde fire district were and are a unique group.
They were people who wanted to coexist with and steward the land. They wanted to be left alone by the harsh realities of society and sustain their lives within nature. They grew food, kept animals, and hunted. They built cabins and homes. They raised families, explored their spirituality, and they grew cannabis, eventually cultivating it into a way of life.
The stories of their journeys leave me wondering where to start. There is freedom and a peacefulness that exists in the neighborhood. You can feel the vibrations and energy from the land, of the first hippies, maybe even from the Native Americans who once considered it sacred land, combined with the rugged, yet abundant nature and remoteness. And at the same time, you can feel the sense of struggle, hardship, and tragedy.
In this series, you will hear a saga, one that still goes on. From tales of military helicopters flying grid patterns below FAA regulations terrorizing peaceful families, guerrilla growers hauling soil deep into ravines growing weed under the manzanitas and coyote brush; avoiding rattle snakes, and rip offs wrapped in barbwire brought to town and thrown over the fence of the sheriff’s backyard.
This is the place where people grew the most and best cannabis. To where seeds from Afghanistan made their way and were hybridized to imported sativa plants to create some of the first large growing vigorous varieties that actually finished before the rains and grew big dense resinous buds. Where helicopters drove people to fire up massive indoors hidden under thick forest canopies sparking the birth of commercial hydroponic cannabis production. And where Proposition 215 and isolation allowed the most badass men and women in cannabis to freely grow under the sun and go bigger than anyone or anywhere else dared.
These are the original Sun Growers. Their homes, community, farms, their stories, my stories and how they’ve evolved to stay relevant from being the Original OGs/Double OGs (OOGs) of modern cannabis in California. Since 2009, I’ve brought dozens of people to the Palo Verde as visitors or workers. I tell them all the same thing: “This is a sacred place, and it is a privilege to be a guest here.” The PV really is unlike any other place in the Emerald Triangle. However, the mountain can bring out the best or worst in people. For most who’ve come here, it has changed their lives forever.