July 2010

We awoke to a beautiful sunny day in Mendocino.  The weather gods were following the forecasters. After some breakfast, we loaded up the car and headed out. Our first stop was a nearby Pygmy forest inside (Jean Claude) Van Damme State Park.

Because of the proximity to the ocean, the soil is poor in nutrients. Geological forces have created a series of adjacent terraces. Only in the gaps between the terraces do enough nutrients and soil develop for normal plant development. The result is the terraces contain pygmy trees. These are trees that could be just an inch around and two feet tall, yet have lived for a hundred years. This is in great contrast to the redwoods we will see later in the trip. We follow along on the nature trail and loop back to the car.

oregon073[1] With such spectacular weather, we then go to the seaside downtown area which looks as much like New England as it does California. We do a short hike to take in the coastline and then wander downtown. After stopping in the candy store, we have a nice lunch.

Having seen our fill of the town (it’s not really that big), we drive over to the nearby lighthouse. Before walking to the lighthouse (officially known as the Point Cabrillo Light Station), we take a walk towards a small waterfall and picturesque coastline. While L’ plays with a few basset hounds that are enjoying the sun with their owner, I take a few photos. Walking along the coast we make it to the lighthouse which is still operational.oregon122[1] There are some exhibits about the lighthouse and a woman with a strong New York accent manning the gift shop. The lighthouse is now fully automated, but much of the lighthouse keepers’ homes have been restored to what they were like at the time they were lived in (one of them is even available for rental in case you want to spend the night). We take ourselves through the self guided tour of the house and then return to the car.

We head north for a quick stop in Fort Bragg. The coast is not nearly as pretty here and it is much more crowded. The colored glass beach is neat to see, but not worth a lot of time. We return to the car and depart for Eureka. While it is getting late, we take a quick stop along the Avenue of the Giants for at least a short walk among the giant redwoods. There was a huge grove within a very short walk from the parking area so it fits the bill.

From the car, L’ calls a hotel that was recommended by Lonely Planet. While they are booked, they recommend a B&B and they have availability. We book that, swing by to pick up the keys and get a dinner recommendation, and then go eat. It’s very late for dinner for us, but the day’s activities were worth it. The B&B is a beautifully preserved Victorian home and more than sufficient for a night’s stay in Eureka.

View all the trip photos here:


After checking the weather forecast, we saw that the weather was predicted to be sunny along the California coast. This is unusual in the summer so we adjusted our plans to spend our first night in Mendocino rather than an inland location. I checked for hotel availability during the day and wrote down the name of one that had one. We didn’t book anything since we didn’t know how the fickle Bay Area traffic would be impact how far we would be able to get.

We had moderate slowdowns through the wine country but found a pizza place in Santa Rosa. While it doesn’t rank on my pizza poll, it was adequate to eliminate the grumpiness factor from both of us being hungry. We called the hotel to enquire about availability which they fortunately still had. The hotel receptionist thought we would be in Mendocino in about four hours while by our reckoning it would be only two. We agreed we’d call again when we got closer.



The drive to the coast is windy, but manageable. Unbeknownst to me, but, to paraphrase, Spaceballs, knownst to L’, there is little to no cell phone reception in Mendocino (Note:  Spaceballs is one of L’’s favorite movies). We just drove to the lodging establishment instead and mentioned to the receptionist that we had called earlier. Surprised that we did in fact make it, she informed us that the room was still available (and for a phenomenal price given Mendocino’s normal prices). With keys in hand we were on our way.

At the entrance to the room, L’ tried the key to no avail. Puzzled, I also tried to open the door without success. We returned to the receptionist who accompanied us to the room to try and open it. After a few seconds, someone from inside the room yells for us to go away since they are in the room. Back at the hotel office, the receptionist figures out someone was in the room but it wasn’t properly listed as occupied. At this point, she upgrades us to a bigger room with a fireplace and fortunately the key works this time. So in the end, it all worked out. The remaining bonus was that the hotel was the scene for the filming of “Murder She Wrote”.

View all the trip photos here:


We finally made it to one of the California Missions that’s in our proverbial backyard, Mission San Jose.  To keep things confusing, it’s located in present day Fremont and not in San Jose.  Like many of the missions, it’s largely a reconstruction.  They did a good job though and built it with four feet thick walls and a roof made of hazelwood.  Some of the interior artifacts are still original.

Mission San Jose

After touring the mission, we stopped for an outside view of the nearby Ohlone Indian Cemetery.  It wasn’t open for anything more than a peek in from behind a fence.  We took advantage of our proximity to the Sunol Regional Wilderness to go hiking someplace we had not been before.  The park had some interesting views and geology, but owing to the lateness of the day and the relative heat, we just hiked around for an hour or so. 

Cave Rocks

All the photos are here: