3 days in Mendocino & Fort Bragg

I fell in love with the Mendocino area the first time we set our foot there. With its spectacular coast line, elegant redwood forests, lovely vineyards and beautiful cabins, it is hard not to! When we decided to move back from California, I knew I had to visit this gem of a place once again. So, we set out on a 3-day trip to Mendocino and Fort Bragg post Christmas and had a lovely time.

When you are driving from San Francisco, you can either take the coastal Hwy 1 all the way to Mendocino or take 101 and then Hwy 128. Though it might seem like the coastal route would be more scenic, there are these amazing redwood forests on Hwy 128 that we did not want to miss. So, we decided to take Hwy 128 on our way up and Hwy 1 on our way back and it worked out great. 

Redwood forest on Hwy 128
Our first stop was at the Mendocino Headlands SP, but it was so windy that evening that I could barely stand straight :) Soon we headed to the Point Cabrillo light house to watch the sunset. What a lovely and pleasant sunset it was! My husband declared it the best sunset he has seen so far.

Mendocino Headlands SP

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse
After enjoying the sunset, we headed to the tiny town of Mendocino to grab some dinner. We then went to our Airbnb cabin and were happy to find several books in their library. A few days before this trip, I was thinking about how I don't use my right brain effectively and lo and behold, I found a book on how to nurture our creative side and I got hooked. The cabin not only had several books but it had a lot of character too. In the bedroom, they had this huge wall-to-wall poster of space with Planet Earth in it, which was cool, inspiring and humbling too. Interestingly, the owners also had a yurt dedicated to art in their big yard. It had a ton of art supplies and several musical instruments, which the owner was happy to share with the guests. While my birthday trip to New Orleans inspired me to learn to play drums, this trip to the Mendocino cabin solidified the idea. I joined drums lessons in February of this year. I don't know if my music sense has improved but trying to use both the hands synchronously has definitely got my right brain exercising :)

Next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and some more reading, we headed to the MacKerricher State Park to check out the Glass Beach and some coastal trails. Glass Beach got its name from the colorful sea glass that is found on its shore. It is intriguing but the sad truth is that years earlier it was used a dump site where glass, appliances etc. were dumped. The pounding waves broke them down to the small, smooth colored glass pieces that we now see. It is a powerful reminder of what a mess humans make and how beautiful Mother Earth is. The amount of waste we create to live is appalling. Every time I avoid a material purchase and reuse or re-purpose the things I have, I feel a tiny bit better about myself. But I know that there is a long way to go.
Glass Beach
Right next to the Glass Beach was the coastal trail in the MacKerricher SP. What a lovely trail it was! It took us through dramatic bluffs, lovely beaches and romantic bridges. It was so beautiful and peaceful that 2 hours later, we had to tear ourselves away from it to grab lunch. I could easily spend a day there watching the waves crash against the bluffs in that lovely weather.

We then went to a Mayan fusion restaurant, in the town of Fort Bragg, serving Yucatan inspired Mexican food. We tried their Yucatan specials and the food was good. We then enjoyed strolling around the town, especially after a heavy meal. 

In the evening, we drove along the Hwy 1 all the way till Rockport. The coast was so striking and incredibly beautiful that I find it hard to believe that there are coastal drives in the rest of the world that can beat this. Do make a stop at the 'Pacific Star Winery' and enjoy their wine tasting while savoring the stunning ocean views. On our way back, we stopped to watch another sunset, this time with our feet in the sand and waves splashing against us. Ah, how I love watching sunsets on the beach! 

The next day, we decided to explore the Jug Handle Ecological Staircase Trail. Located within the Jug Handle State Natural Preserve, it is a 2.5-mile trail that explores a series of 5 uplifted ocean terraces, each with its own geology, soils, and plant communities. It is a very interesting trail that starts at the beach, then goes through a pine and fir forest, then through a redwood forest and ends at a unique and rare pygmy forest. Jug Handle received a "Natural National Landmark" designation because of the site's unique natural history. 

Some additional details from their website that I found interesting: "Starting at the beach, one is standing on today's time. Climb to the bluff top and one has traveled back in time 100,000 years. Each terrace is approximately 100,000 years older, taking one back in time a half million years as one travels from the beach to the fifth terrace. Terraces 3, 4, and 5 contain some of the world's oldest soils, depleted of nutrients and extremely acidic. Here is where Mendocino’s Pygmy Forests developed, adapted to this harsh environment."

Boardwalk in the Pygmy Forest
After our hike, we had lunch at a local thai restaurant called Nit's Cafe, recommended by our Airbnb host. We then headed back to the Bay Area on Hwy 1. 

Our last stop for the day was at the Point Arena lighthouse. I always make it a point to visit the lighthouses in the area as they are usually built at some of the most scenic locations. And this was no exception.

Point Arena Lighthouse
Well, Point Arena wasn't quite our last stop. Coz we stopped to watch the sunset again on Hwy 1. I just can't seem to get enough of them! 

They all might look the same but watching each one was a bliss :)

If you live in the Bay Area, I highly recommend a trip to Mendocino-Fort Bragg area. The weather was perfect when we visited during Dec-Jan but I am sure it would be great at any time of the year. Don't miss a trip to the vineyards in the Anderson Valley while you are there. Since we spent a day there last time we visited, we skipped it this time. As I wrote in my blog post on our previous trip to Mendocino, this place is an exquisite combination of Napa Valley and BigSur, without the crowds. Go enjoy while it lasts that way!


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