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Pronounced WEECH-pek by outsiders, WEECH-a-pek by locals, it's a town.... well, settlement, in Northern California. Actually, even that is giving it too much credit. It isn't even, properly speaking, a wide place in the road. Weitchpec consists of a store (Pearson's), a set of trailers and small houses (inhabited by local partriarch and merchant Billy Pearson and his extended family), a gas station and assorted abandoned vehicles, on Highway 96. Legend has it that it was Billy Pearson himself, as a young man, who dressed up in a gorilla suit for the famous film of the Bigfoot. Billy will neither confirm nor deny this story.

Weitchpec has greater importance, however, than its unpreposessing appearance would suggest.

First, and most strikingly, Weitchpec sits in a very beautiful location: the meeting of the Klamath River and the Trinity River. The actual river meeting can be seen by walking to the edge of the cliff behind the store and looking down, down... smaller blue water (the Trinity) joins bigger brown water (the Klamath) - only thirty miles or so from the Pacific Ocean. (Accordingly, at one time you could buy in the store a T-shirt with the legend: "Where in the fork is Weitchpec?")

Then again, small as it is, Weitchpec is the biggest thing for miles around, and the parking lot in front of the store is the de facto town hall for everyone and anyone in the area who doesn't have anything better to do at that moment than stand around, drink beer and talk. There must be hundreds of thousands of such tiny settlements in California alone.

"Weitchpec" is, of course, a Native American name, from the language of one of the local tribes, probably the Yurok. There are three local tribes: the Hupa (up the Trinity), the Karock (up the Klamath) and the Yurok (down the Klamath). Though they have lived together for centuries, these three tribes speak languages which are almost entirely unrelated, and are certainly mutually unintelligible. There is a long long history of hostility among these three groups, hostility which pre-dates the arrival of Europeans. Weitchpec was for many thousands of years, then, the meeting place of these three mutually hostile groups. Accordingly, it was said by all of them to be haunted.

It certainly doesn't look haunted today: just rural and sleepy and beautiful, the green Douglas-Fir rising in unbroken ranks up the steep river gorges on either side.

It used to be that you could not node from Weitchpec. There was no phone service, let alone internet. Times have changed, however, and the internet is available via satellite dish. There are even land-line telephones. No cell phone service, though.

For further information on this country, try Dear Mad'm, the memoirs of Stella Walthall Patterson, an eighty-year-old woman who went to live alone near Weitchpec about seventy years ago, and gossiped extensively with the local people. Amazon has it. Or, more rewardingly, turn your computer off and go there yourself.

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