We recently spent a few nights in Mendocino California. We always enjoy the town’s 19th-century town’s character, its water towers, gardens, and lovely residential streets. While we rarely visit most of the touristy stores, we never seem to tire of strolling through the headlands or the town’s streets. And as a bonus, during our stroll, we heard a couple of songs from blues and folk singer Ruthie Foster, who was performing the last set of the day at the Mendocino Music Festival.
Mendocino Area Parks
We visited several of the area’s many parks.
Jug Handle State Park
Jug Handle is an incredibly varied park where we walked the lovely, five-mile (round trip) interpretive trail through a veritable geological time capsule. It takes one across five distinct, geological epochs from the still-forming beach, through the meadows of the headlands and three, older, forested terraces, each of which has different soils, plants, and hydrological conditions. Each terrace is about 100 feet above that of the previous one and was formed in separate geological periods (approximately 100,000 years from the previous terrace). They were formed by a combination of tectonic plate movements, uplifting, and continual fluctuations in sea levels over periods of global warming (higher sea levels) and ice ages (lower levels). Numbered post, which corresponds to an online document, describes the soil, drainage, and plants in each of the five zones, including the fir, redwood, and pygmy forests. In the pygmy forest, the trees (especially Bolander pines), grow to only about ten percent of their normal height due to the zone’s soil. Due to half a million years of leeching, the soils here are 1,000 times more acidic than in the slightly younger redwood zone. This increased acidity has dissolved much of the soil’s iron, which combines with bedrock to create a hardpan that retains acid and reduces drainage.
Mendocino Headlands State Park
The Mendocino Headlands are right next to Mendocino’s scenic main street. We strolled the acres of lovely headlands enjoying views of the ocean, several coves and beaches over a series of rugged, heavily eroded shoreline cliffs.
MacKerricher State Park
MacKerricher State Park is in Fort Bragg, which is not far from Mendocino. Here we walked the headlands, past several coves and beaches. Of particular note is:
- Glass Beach. Glass Beach is so named from the glass that was dumped in the beach area for many years. The so-called “sea glass” has become a collector’s item. So much so that the beach no longer has the abundant sea glass just lying around. While you can still find pieces here, or on several beaches outside of the park area, visitors are strongly encouraged to leave the sea glass in place so that others can enjoy seeing it. If you want to know more about sea glass or want to buy a piece, visit the nearby Sea Glass Museum. The museum explains the history of the beach and the glass and displays various pieces.
- The 19th-century Pudding Creek Trestle lumber railroad bridge (since converted into a stretch of the city’s Coastal Walking Trail).
More than just parks
The Mendocino area also has some other interesting areas outside of the parks.
Pacific Star Winery
Pacific Star Winery is a family-owned winery is up the coast from Fort Bragg. If wine is not your thing, it is still worth a visit for the beautiful view of the coast. The winery, founded by Sallie, who cut her teeth at her own Napa Valley winery in the 1980s. She returned to the area in which she was raised to build a home/winery. She produces roughly 20 small-production wines from primarily Italian varietal grapes grown in the Ukiah Valley. While it is well worth a visit for the scenery alone, the winery also produces some very credible wines, including Chenin Blanc, Charbono, Barbera, and Tempranillo.
Fort Bragg is a short ride from Mendocino. It is always fun to stroll Fort Bragg’s old town area to see some of its nicely-restored, 19th-century buildings and visit some of its many galleries.
Mendocino Area Restaurants
This trip provided time for two dinners and one lunch. Dinners were at:
- Wild Fish, a small, south coast restaurant that is known for its straightforward preparations of super-fresh, local seafood. We shared two dishes: creamy coconut summer squash soup and roasted Alaskan halibut with fingerling potatoes, sautéed asparagus, and English pea puree. For wine, we chose a 2010 Philip’s Hill pinot.
- Café Beaujolais, a long-time standby that is, to our tastes, the best in the city, with its sophisticated, spot-on preparations of dishes based on the freshest ingredients. What began with plans for two fish-based entrees: Roasted Alaskan halibut (with sugar snap pea puree, fingerling potatoes, and basil pesto sauce) and fresh, wild, local, pan-fried local king salmon (with morel mushrooms, new potatoes, grilled asparagus, and lemon beurre blanc). A side dish of wild foraged mushrooms and finished off with a dessert of Tahitian Vanilla ice cream with espresso complemented the dish. The extensive wine list, meanwhile, gave us a chance to revisit Lula’s Peterson Vineyard point—this time the 2014 vintage, rather than the 2017 we tasted and bought at the winery.
- Silver’s on the Wharf, is a seafood restaurant at the base of Fort Bragg’s Noya Harbor where we shared two, tasty dishes: deep-friend oysters (with tartar sauce, steamed vegetables and rice) and fried rockfish sandwich with lettuce, tomato, onion, tartar sauce, and French fries.
Hill House Inn. While Hill House is a little dated, it seemed clean. At least we thought it might be clean until we saw how our room was cleaned during our stay. The sheets on the bed were pulled up but the bed’s top cover remained jumbled on the floor where we had kicked it off. Strange. Towels were changed and we couldn’t see any evidence of anything else being done. The carpet is old so you can’t see how dirty it might be (or not). The sink had cracks, and the tub faucet dripped continually. The bed was very soft. Surprisingly, the sheets were comfortable, although the pillow was a bit hard. Kleenex was probably the scratchiest that we have seen in many, many, many years and reminded us of toilet paper in Europe 40 years ago. Breakfast had muffins and cereal and yogurt. Coffee and tea were available in the lobby throughout the day. The initial person behind the desk became the joke among the people at our breakfast table as to how robotic she was and the poor first impression she made. Would we stay here again? If the price was right, yes as there are few affordable choices in Mendocino.