Coastal Beauty – Mendocino and Anderson Valley

Mitchell Creek and the beach between Ft. Bragg and Caspar

Mitchell Creek and the beach between Ft. Bragg and Caspar

April 4, 2014

For all the road trips I take, there are a lot of places that have been on my list to revisit. I hadn’t been to the Mendocino Headlands since 2000 (14 years) and hadn’t been in the area since 2005 (9 years). On the ’05 trip, I was driving back from Fort Bragg. Rather than coming down the coast on highway 1, I cut across on highway 128 through Anderson Valley. I was rushing back to finish up a photo shoot in Sonoma County and couldn’t stop to explore. But I remember it as being one of the most stunningly picturesque stretches of road anywhere. With all the driving I do in the Sierras, the central coast, in and around Mt. Tamalpais and elsewhere in our great state, that’s a bold statement. During my nine year absence, I thought that perhaps my memory was faulty and time had colored it in prettier hues than reality. Returning to Mendocino, Ft. Bragg, Navarro River Redwoods, Anderson Valley and Boonville, I learned that my original assessment was spot on.

Poppies and wisteria in front of an Anderson Valley winery (highway 128)

Poppies and wisteria in front of an Anderson Valley winery (highway 128)

Anderson Valley after a storm

Anderson Valley after a storm

I took the poppy and wisteria photo on the drive toward the coast on Thursday morning. I stopped first in Boonville, hoping to find a cup of coffee that wouldn’t poison me. I am a bit snobbish about my coffee and it’s a crapshoot to find drinkable coffee in small towns, even in areas known for quality wine (Handley, Roederer Estate), beer (Anderson Valley Brewing Company) and chocolate (Scharffen Berger). My fears were unfounded as I lucked into a charming cafe, Mosswood Market. They get their beans from a company called Flying Goat and it was every bit as good as the gourmet stuff I get in Berkeley and Oakland. On the way home this morning and afternoon, driving in and out of intermittent rain squalls, I took the second vineyard photos and stopped again at Mosswood.

When I got into the Mendocino area on Thursday, I had no set plans other than to explore the headlands and the area up and down the coast. I stopped first at Big River, one of the many rivers and creeks that drain the nearby mountains and empty into the ocean.

Big River

Big River

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Wildflower near Big River and Shoreline Highway

With time to kill before checking into my motel, I drove through the town of Mendocino and went directly to the headlands. When I was here in 2000, my only other visit, I was suffering a stress-related ailment and couldn’t muster the energy to do much exploring.       Enjoying better health and fueled by plenty of caffeine, I made up for lost time.

Mendocino Headlands

Mendocino Headlands

Dried angelica wildflower above a cove

Dried angelica wildflower above a cove

Rock formations and inlet at the headlands

Rock formations and inlet at the headlands

Late afternoon at the headlands

Late afternoon at the headlands

I went to dinner in Fort Bragg and drove back to my room at Pine Beach Inn just as it started to rain again. I chose the motel because it was relatively cheap. As I drove through Mendocino and along Shoreline Highway, I admit I was a little rueful that I didn’t splurge on some of the higher end inns and B&B’s. But PBI was comfortable and had it’s own little access trail to a small cove and beach. I was also treated to the wonderful sound of frogs singing in nearby Mitchell Creek at night. In the morning, I took a walk down to the beach and got a few photos of the beach and a strange looking plant that resembled something from a Star Trek episode.

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Mitchell Creek

Mitchell Creek

 

I drove back to the Bay Area, toying with the idea of camping and hiking on Mt. Tamalpais Friday night and then driving back to Alameda on Saturday. The dodgy weather made me rethink that plan. I do realize, however, that while on my John Muir Trail hike this summer, I’ll have to be much less of a wimp. Judging by how wet the roads were, I assume that I slept through some pretty heavy rainfall overnight. The drive home continued to astound me. First through the Navarro River watershed and then the Navarro River Redwoods State Park.

Navarro River near the Shoreline Highway/Highway 128 junction

Navarro River near the Shoreline Highway/Highway 128 junction

Navarro River Redwoods State Park

Navarro River Redwoods State Park

I can guarantee that it will not be another nine years before my next visit. But other places remain on my list to revisit in 2014. Near the top of the list are Grand Canyon (haven’t been since 1978!) and the great state of Oregon (also 1978). So many adventures, so little time…

 

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About victorvolta

I am a freelance photographer/writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the very suburban city of Santa Clara. Education: San Jose State University (class of '84) BA degree in Journalism with concentrations in Photojournalism and English. Favorite Foods: Ribeye steaks and Stan's Doughnuts (separate plates, usually). Favorite Drinks: Strong gourmet coffee and Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda (separate cups).
This entry was posted in California State Parks, John Muir Trail, Local Hikes, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Coastal Beauty – Mendocino and Anderson Valley

  1. Andrea says:

    Your photos are gorgeous and really capture the area well. I visited last fall and hope I’ll have the chance to return sometime. I hope you make it to Oregon. I have done a little exploring there in the last few years and it’s truly amazing!

    • victorvolta says:

      Hi Andrea, sorry for the belated reply. Thank you for the kind words. I usually take my mini-vacations in the Tahoe area, so it was great to re-visit such a beautiful area. So many great places to visit within hours drive.

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