Lake County and “The Wedge”

By Dante DeAmicis

While “localism” is very trendy these days, cities and counties are still packaged in regions.  There’s rough agreement on the general area that makes up a region and usually the descriptive name for a multi-county region.  However, in comparing maps of regions I’ve noticed there’s a problem of boundary zones where its not agreed if a piece of geography belongs in one region or its neighbor.  Lake County is one of those boundary zones.

A single county is not a region.  Some map makers will include our county in the high status “Wine Country.”  This is the preferred regional label among chamber of commerce types.  Probably a more common grouping is with the “North Coast”- except we aren’t on the Coast.  Within the subculture, Lake has a more solid standing as a member of the “Emerald Triangle.”  This designation is not used or useful outside the subculture.  There won’t be an Emerald Triangle road map.

Although it is discouraged, sometimes counties are split between two regions for some purposes.  Sonoma County occasionally finds its bottom half in the “Bay Area” and its top half in the North Coast.  Legislative districts split counties all over the place and not consistently from one branch of government to another.

Creating a new region from border zones is not out of the question.  It just requires some marketing.  Lake County would have to link up with some related pieces to have a remote chance of being considered a “region.”  Is there such a natural region that would include aspects of our visible and strong points?  Yes there is. I call it “The Wedge.”

I created the Wedge from noting where my out of County trips still leave me feeling that I haven’t left my region.  I can’t shake that I’m almost local.  Most people wouldn’t catch this nuance unless they traveled more intentionally and slowly by bus or bike as I often do.

Which direction should we look to extend Lake County as a region?  Definitely not to the East.  Our Northern wilderness ends our regional expansion in that direction. That leaves the West and a maybe a little of the South without carpetbagging too much of the Wine Country or Bay Area.

My first attachment crossing the County border is the Ukiah Valley, extending up to Willits.  When I hear the call of the Coast without an accompanying itch for a road trip I go West to Fort Bragg and a few communities to the South of it.  The Western urge can include going out the South end of Lake County, nicking off the Northern tips of Napa and Sonoma Counties.  The strict Southern boundary of the Wedge is the Russian River and out to the Coast.  Welcome to my region map makers.

Until the Wedge catches on as a region it can be used as a purely descriptive term.  “Where is Lake County?  Its in the wedge between the Bay Area and the North Coast.”  Note that Mendocino is sometimes in and sometimes out of “Wine Country.”  When people hear the description enough they will drop the “between” after wedge and just say  “You know. Its the Wedge.”

A definitive “Wedge” bicycle tour would look like this.  Start in Willits at the Skunk Train Depot or the circus tent Shakespeare Theater.  Then East through the canyons to Potter Valley, Southeast to Witter Springs, through Scott Valley, around the rim of Big Valley, over Bottle Rock, Highway 175 to Middletown and out Butts Canyon Road.  Now into Napa Valley at St. Helena Hospital and North on Highway 128 to the Healdsburg turn off, South on various roads to the Russian River Highway 116, slowing at the Bohemian Grove to flip off the one-percent, then straight on to the Coast at Jenner.

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