Saturday, October 11, 2008

Touring Mendocino County’s Southern Coast


South of Fort Bragg there are many small towns and sights to along Hwy 1 to see, so today we spent the day exploring the coast in southern Mendocino County.

Our first stop was Point Cabrillo Lighthouse State Park. Point Cabrillo is a completely restored light station that consists of most the original buildings which includes the actual lighthouse, three light keeper family houses and a shop building that contains some exhibits and aquariums. These buildings sit near the coastline on the bluff edge which is a half a mile from the parking lot. So from the parking lot there are two ways to walk down the lighthouse and other buildings (it seemed like handicap parking existed at the lighthouse). You can hike on a dirt path through the open dried grass field or you can walk down the pedestrians only pave road. We chose to make a loop of it by hiking through the field and returning via the road. We were glad we did, for we saw several deer in the brush and had terrific unobstructed views of the ocean. Once you hit the bluff’s edge, the trail veers to the left through some thicker brush towards the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself is a well preserved wooden building, which is somewhat unusual for most we have visited have been stone and/or metal to withstand the weather. This building looked very picturesque against the ocean and open field where it sits. Inside the lighthouse is a museum and gift shop with a suggested donation fee of $3 per person. We decided not to go not because of the fee, but because no one is allowed up into the lighthouse tower itself. There are some nice short trails along the bluffs edge which give you great views of the rugged coastline. We even saw seals sunbathing on the rocks. Next, we headed back towards the parking lot and stopped to tour one the open light keeper homes. Inside we found a completely restored downstairs that was representative of the time around 1909. Information plaques and other artifacts gave you a good sense of the time and work required to keep this critical lighthouse going. One of the other light keeper homes has been restored and is now available as a Bed and Breakfast. After completely seeing the grounds, we made the half mile walk on the paved road back to the car. Initial, we didn’t expect the long walk to get to the light station buildings but found that it enhanced our visit. This State Park is worth the visit and exercise.

Continuing the day’s adventure, we stopped in the town of Mendocino. This is a small town that sits on bluffs that extend out into the ocean a little more than the surrounding cliffs. This gives you many great views of the ocean from many locations. The town’s buildings all have been well preserved so you really feel like you are back in era of it’s creation. We found Menodocino a charming and quaint town with many wonderful restaurants and interesting shops to explore. We had lunch at the Mendocino Bakery & Cafe, which was very good - they have sandwiches, soups, quiches, and desserts - it was a simple, filling meal for under $20. Suzanne found the numerous old water towers found throughout the town fascinating; they definitely added to the architectural charm. Also while we were in Mendocino, the Mendocino County Animal Shelter had an outreach with adorable dogs & cats for adoption ~ and here is our public service announcement ~ please visit your local animal shelter when thinking of adding a furry companion to you family ~ as long time volunteers at the Oregon Humane Society, we know how great these rescued pets can be.

Back on the road, we drove south along Hwy 1. Driving from Mendocino to south of the town of Point Arena offered many amazing viewpoints when the road was literally clinging to the cliffs above coastline. In other areas of this drive, we found many cattle ranched with large open pastures between the highway and the coast. This surprised us for we were expecting the cliff clinging views the whole way. We didn’t stop in any of the little town including Point Arena because we got a fill of town touring in Mendocino so we headed to a little south of Point Arena to Bowling Ball Beach. To find this beach you can park at Schooner Gulch road (which is parking for at mile marker 11.48) and hike down to Schooner Gulch beach and follow the beach north until you find Bowling Ball Beach. The information that we had talked about another route and leads to stairs down to the beach, unfortunately we were unable to find this trail. The beach itself is pretty interesting with a field of large round rock sticking out of the sandy surf. Viewing is only at low tide and for negotiating around some of rocky areas to get there. There are plenty of beautiful beaches in this area. During our visit there were several people wind surfing. That was fun to watch and was an added bonus. If you are in this area anyway, I would say visit this beach, but if you aren’t here anyway, we're not we would recommend the drive just to see the “Bowling Balls”.
~On a final note, restaurant.com is having a special this weekend ~ beginning Friday, October 10 at 12:01 a.m CDT all $25 Gift Certificates are only $3. Plus, Dinner of the Month packages are 70% off too. The 70% off sale (Coupon Code: SAVE) and runs through October 13, 2008 at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Please use our restaurant.com button on the left if you decide to take advantage of this opportunity (which you should ~ you won't be disappointed!)

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