1. Summer on the coast means fog (freaky weather patterns notwithstanding). Out here at the ocean, the seasons go like this: rainy, windy, foggy, glorious. Right now we're heading into "June gloom," which means by July, those of us ensconced on the coast will be climbing the walls — or more likely into our cars to escape to Willow Creek or Miranda for some sunshine, heat and river action. Start off by following all the general good-time safety rules, whether you're rivering or hiking, beaching, biking, etc. Know the area, bring enough food and water, let people know where you're going and when to expect you back, and check the weather.
2. Nothing beats the river to wash your woes away. But! But, but, but — safety! The Trinity deceives people every year. Don't get fooled into equating the peaceful view above the surface with what's happening below. You can't be too careful. Locals recommend opting for a mellower river until about August. Pick yourself up a copy of Elizabeth Whitley's fourth edition of Guide to Natural Swimming Holes in the Eel River Valley and Mad River Wilderness and familiarize yourself.
3. If this is your first summer in Humboldt, know this: People like to get naked. My initial experience with this phenomenon occurred at Bull Creek Flats. We'd marveled at the creek bubbling through the old-growth, so pleased to offer our children this wonderful place to play. When another couple arrived with a kid, I struck up conversation with the mom over how cute the children were, what a lovely day it was, yadda yadda. She had set a folding chair smack dab in the middle of the river and started stripping down, chatting all the while. Yes, they are just so adorable splashing around, playing pirate, flinging rocks into the water. What a great day. We're so lucky. At about this point, she settled herself into her chair completely starkers and completely at ease with being so. Intellectually, I loved the idea of nudity being natural. But I'd never hung out with someone in such a fashion — where I come from, the only reason to be naked with another person is sex. That was 14 years ago. I've since grown accustomed to seeing nipples and pubic hair and penises flapping in the breeze. It's no big deal! Be free! (Wear sunscreen.)
4. Oh, man — sunscreen. This is one of those issues where doing the right thing is not as simple as getting more exercise and being kind to people. You want to protect your skin from the sun, according to the people trying to help you not get skin cancer. If that's not enough, then consider this: wrinkles. Also, the leather look? Not good. But most sunscreens come with all kinds of ick factors that make slathering them onto your body unappealing. And despite the widespread use of sunscreens, skin cancer rates keeps rising. Also, high SPFs are largely bullshit. (See the Environmental Working Group's 2013 Guide to Sunscreens, http://www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen/, for a full look at the dos and don'ts.) So what's a Vitamin D-hungry person to do? Besides research? Opt for the most natural, effective sunscreen — my esthetician recommends Badger. Wear a hat. Cover up every so often or move to the shade for a bit. (Do I need to point out that I am not a doctor?) Avoid burning. Prepare ahead of time so you're not stressing about it when you're there. Get someone that you trust to rub sunscreen into your back. If you're the rubber, do a good job. Even if you're mad that you had to do all the packing and sandwich-making and water-bottle lugging. Don't do a half-assed job, because when your husband gets sunburnt down the middle where you didn't bother continuing — with the shape of your handprints left white — well, you're going to feel really bad. Trust me.
5. Put your cell phone into airplane mode so you can still use the camera, but you're not draining your battery or, worse, suckered into texting/answering calls/working/Facebooking. If you're fortunate enough to be hanging out in some of the North Coast's most soul-recharging areas, then really be there.
BONUS: And hey, do take photos — and notes. Summers are worth remembering.