Okay, COVID, you won’t win this time. If you’re looking for a fun pandemic-friendly activity (aka one you can do outside while socially distancing, you’re going to take a ride on The Skunk.

No, not THAT skunk. The Skunk is more formally known as the California Western Railroad, a unique way to travel through California’s Redwood forest.

For a bit of background, the early 1880s, three lumbermen—C.R. Johnson, Calvin Stewart, and James Hunter—wanted to expand timber operations in Mendocino County, California. To help make transporting heavy lumber more convenient, the Fort Bragg Railroad was created in1885—or, as we know it today, the foundation of The Skunk.

It was the California Western Railroad before it was nicknamed The Skunk in 1925—not due to any black and white designs, but because of its odor. When motorcars (now referred to more commonly as self-propelled railbuses or railcruisers) the engines were powered by smelly gasoline. That combined with pot-bellied stoves burning crude oil to keep the passengers warm and you’ve got one distinct smell—and not a pleasant one. Thus—The Skunk was born.

Don’t worry, the stench is no longer—but you can still enjoy a ride on one of those motorcars. A group of local investors bought the California Western in the 90s, and today, the tracks are used for all kinds of purposes, especially seasonal family activities. From visiting Santa in the winter to taking a ride on the Pumpkin Express in the fall, there’s no shortage of fun times.

However, right now, one of the most popular ways to use the tracks are through an excursion on custom-built electric railbikes.

Each bike fits two people that you can peddle along with through the scenic redwoods of Mendocino County. It’s a truly relaxing, fun, and above all, gorgeous ride that will take you back in time—to prehistoric times, perhaps.

“The Redwood forest is a dreamlike place, particularly on a rainy or misty day, it’s like a scene from Jurassic Park,” said Robert Jason Pinoli, “The Chief Skunk.” “With the railbikes traveling along the Pudding Creek Estuary, you can’t help but think that a brontosaurus might be around the next corner.”

Each twist and turn on your railbike brings you more and more in touch with the history of the California Western Railroad and Redwood Forest.

“These trees are hundreds of feet tall and are each a unique monument to the very forest they make up,” Pinoli said. “The tracks of the Skunk Train date back to 1885 and trains have been running over them continuously for 135 years.”

In addition to taking in nature, you might also see a few unique creatures. “Common sightings are otters, egrets, a lounging turtle, deer, and on the early morning trip, an occasional bear too,” Pinoli said.

It costs $250 to rent a bike—a small cost to see over a century of history! To get your tickets or learn more about the railbike adventure, check out www.skunktrain.com.

Have you ever explored the Redwood Forest? Does this sound like something you might be interested in doing?