California Road Trip 2016, Part 4

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North Coast

We spent a fair bit of time on the Lost Coast and enjoyed it immensely.  After leaving Usal we hit highway 1 and the North Coast and found it packed with just as many curves and spectacular views as we had been enjoying, the big change was we were back on pavement.

North Coast
North Coast

 

After being out for several days it was time to restock the fridge and visit the laundry in Ft. Bragg which I found to be a pretty cool town to spend a bit of time in.  We walked around downtown and checked it out.  We thought we might end up spending the night at a place near a laundry so we just hit the store then took advantage of the daylight and went on a hike to the pygmy forest, ironically right next to a nice second-growth redwood forest,  and a walk to a lighthouse at Point Cabrillo.  The buildings there look to be in good repair with glowing red roofs.  It may be because they get $1000 for a stay in the light keepers house.  I’ll stick to the camper.

Point Cabrillo Light
Point Cabrillo Light

 

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After that we drove to where we thought we’d camp, but it was a private (jam-packed parking lot) spot that they were mistakenly calling a campground.  Note to self: don’t ever even think about staying in a private ‘campground’.  More on that later.  Back to the drawing board on plans for the day,  the other options heading south appeared to be closed so we headed back to Ft. Bragg, completed our laundry chores and hit North Coast Brewing which was now open – bonus!  Then it was off to MacKerricher State Park north of Ft. Bragg for the night.  It is a pretty big park and ended up being a great spot to spend the night.

 

Next morning we checked out the headlands around Mendocino and walked around town.  The ocean in these parts is a different kind of blue, and we had another blue sky day.

Mendocino Headlands
Mendocino Headlands

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Among the interesting buildings in Mendocino is the masonic hall topped with a sculpture of Father Time carved from a single redwood.

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Anderson Valley

It was then off to Anderson Valley, a bit of an inland trek and a change of pace from the past few days.  It was our day to do a bit of wine tasting.

Anderson Valley Vineyards
Anderson Valley Vineyards

Yet again we encountered a closed sign, this time on highway 128, but luckily we had an alternate route over the mountains.  Yet another windy steep road, I think there’s a theme here.  It was a great back road that included a stop for some wood in a farm field with a sign near a Monterrey pine saying ‘free wood’.  Fully restocked in the wood department once again. Before we knew it we were in the valley above the flooded section of 128.  It’s quite a beautiful valley with several vineyards scattered throughout.  Our first and best stop was at Handley Cellars.  We were treated to several great wine tastes, many stories of the valley from the sommelier and stunning ‘folk art’ from around the world featured in the tasting room.  We had the place to ourselves.  A definite must stop.  We made a couple other quick stops and then we decided we couldn’t be this close to Anderson Valley Brewing and not stop, so we did.  It was the best brewery stop of the trip, no question.  There was a great laid back vibe there to pair with their great beer.  And I finally got an understanding of the Boontling dialect behind their weird beer names.  Before we knew it the day was getting short, so we headed back towards the coast where we planned to spend the night at Manchester State Park.  Nope, yet another closed sign changed our plans and we headed off south in the setting sun which caused us to miss a few beaches and views we would have otherwise enjoyed.  Oh well, gotta make forward progress sooner or later, so we ended up heading into Sonoma County and staying at Gualala Regional Park.  It was another quiet camp with one exception.  There were a couple of the most aggressive raccoons in this camp that I have ever encountered.  We hadn’t been there 10 minutes and the greeting party was there seeing what they could get into.  Even when shooed away they only went a few feet, or to the other side of the truck to see what was available there.  Before packing up for the night and immediately after dinner we had one get his grubby little fingers on the garbage bag with the intent of diving into it for his own dinner and when I immediately caught him and went to scare him away he took it as a personal challenge and doubled down on getting into the bag.  I convinced him otherwise.  When packing the next morning we were ferrying items from the camper into the truck and one of them was a second or two from getting into the cab before we caught him.  That would have been interesting.

Heading south from Gualala we didn’t end up with a lot of spots on the list for the next day.  We made a few stops as we passed through Sea Ranch and Salt Point to walk on the beach.

Salt Point State Park
Salt Point State Park

 

With nothing else on the list and a limited selection of campsites as we neared San Francisco we took a diversion to see the town of Occidental. How could we skip it?  It was actually an interesting little town.

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Maybe I have a future here if this guy retires

The website doesn’t have anything to do with the town, but it was still a great stop.

After an exploration of downtown Occidental it was off to Bodega Bay to find a spot for the night.  Highway 1 continued its twisty path south providing stellar views at every turn.

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About mid day we pulled into Doran Beach Campground and noted their full sign, which I suppose is meant to keep out the literate people.  We continued on and found that several sites were available.

Doran Spit
Doran Spit

This camp was sure a change of pace from others we had been staying in, full of fifth wheels and motor homes that we had yet to run into up to this point.  I’m not sure what the draw was to this area, for us it was the last apparent camp on the coast before making the run through the San Francisco area, so we took it.  We occupied the rest of our day hiking the Bodega Head which offered lots of great views on a sunny day.

Bodega Head
Bodega Head

We enjoyed yet another nice fire after a walk on the spit, even though there was a steady wind out of the south it was still pleasant out for November.  We noted the weather forecast that called for rain coming in overnight and battened down.  Somewhere in the night the rain arrived with gusto.  It blew a steady 30 – 40 MPH with driving rain and I wouldn’t be surprised if it rained 2 inches or more.  We stayed dry as we slept but upon getting up discovered that the wind was driving rain through seams in the camper windows and things were pretty wet below the nice thick Exped mattresses.  We packed in a hurry and didn’t even bother with coffee which we picked up on the road.  It took a day or so (alright, I might still be drying out from that storm…) to dry out.  One other interesting situation was that as I went to fold down the camper the wind would catch it and pop it right back up.  It was a team effort of holding down the top from the inside while buckling down the outside, then we were southbound again in the rain through the melee that is San Francisco.

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