A Weekend in Mendocino

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After our 3.5 weeks in Washington, Annie and I met some friends for the weekend in Mendocino at their vacation cabin.  Annie and I took a leisurely two-day drive, mostly along the coast to get there. Aside from some long construction delays, it was uneventful.  

I drove Highway 1 ten years ago while on my road trip across the USA, and it was weird to see all the RV’s and homeless camps!  I remembered it being much quieter, though I wasn’t there on a summer weekend either.

Anyway, seeing Dustin and Julie again was great.  I think I saw them last in December 2019 while diving in the Solomons, just before COVID hit.  They were amazing Mendocino tour guides, and after arriving late Friday night, we were busy the whole weekend!

Russian Gulch State Park

We began Saturday morning at the Russian Gulch Waterfall Loop Trail.  There are a couple connecting trails to the waterfall in Russian Gulch State Park.  We took the trailhead at the northern boundary of the park, which is a local secret and less trafficked.  That said, the loop is on AllTrails, so I doubt it will remain that way!

While we weaved through the forest of giant trees, marveled at giant mushrooms, and admired the narrow falls, we didn’t run into a sole until our return. And don’t worry, we didn’t harm the mushroom while taking this photo. Dustin’s foot was for comparison.

Point Cabrillo Light Station

After our lovely 4-mile hike, we visited the Point Cabrillo Light Station.  In this State Historic Park, the light house is located on the headland overlooking the Pacific about ½ mile from the parking.  In addition to the active lighthouse which also operates as a museum, the park includes three restored lightkeeper homes and other historic buildings. Visitors can also rent units to stay overnight, some are even pet friendly.  We just visited for a little bit and wandered the headlands in a cool breeze.

port cabrillo light station

Noyo Fish Company

From our visit at Point Cabrillo Light Station, we headed North to Fort Bragg where we enjoyed lunch on the dock at Noyo Fish Company.  First, I wouldn’t have even known about the dock that was below the highway if it weren’t for Julie and Dustin. Second…oh my goodness, the fried fish basket was spectacular!  The fried prawns were also good, but I really like the fish.  And we all had food envy when the fish tacos went by!  Next time.

fried fish at noyo fish company

Mendocino Headlands State Park

We had to walk off our heavy lunch, so we ventured to the Mendocino Headlands State Park.  The wildflowers were out in force!  I’m actually told they were fields of wild turnips?!?  Regardless, the walk along the coastal ridge with views of tucked away beaches dotted with seals was pretty special.

The headlands also provided a picturesque vista of the Town of Mendocino.  It is definitely one of the best places to capture the full image of this historical landmark.

Town of Mendocino

From the headlands, we walked into town to stroll Mendocino’s two main streets.  Of course, we couldn’t leave empty handed, so Julie bought some chocolate!

Little River Blowhole

Before we ended the day back at their cabin, we stopped at the Little River Cemetery.  Believe it or not, there is a short trail system behind the cemetery in a pine forest which circles the Little River Blowhole.  It is actually a punchbowl, rather than a blowhole, as water does not shoot up in the air. 

However, during high tide, the waves surge through the tunnel to the sandy bottom.  It is possible to climb down into the punchbowl with a fixed rope that is in place, but the trail is steep and slick.  After all our walking today, we didn’t climb down, but enjoyed it from the top.

Breakfast at David’s

We were too lazy to go out for dinner, but the stellar jay eating the suet on the patio provided plenty of entertainment. It couldn’t stay on the feeder, so it would shoot up from the railing, snag a bite, and then repeat.

We did, however, get up early to have breakfast at David’s in Fort Bragg as many Mendocino restaurants were still only doing takeout due to COVID.  This diner is popular among the locals.  We arrived by 8am on Sunday morning and snagged one of the last tables.

I love when I can get good old fashioned fried eggs, bacon, and hash browns!  Somehow, I decided on a pancake instead of an English muffin.  YUM!  The service was friendly and efficient too.

Noyo Headlands Park

Once again, it was time to walk off our giant meal.  Fortunately, the Noyo Headlands Park was just a stone’s throw away.  The park features a six mile trail which is very popular among walkers, joggers, and cyclists.

Little paths veer off the trail to points dotted with artist chairs and endless views of the oceans.  The rocky inlets are home to sea stars and seals playing in the waves.

There is also an old runway that Annie loved racing down!

Unfortunately, after our morning walk, my great visit to Mendocino with Dustin and Julie had to end.  I was off to Truckee to visit my old tennis partner Ann before beelining to Durango to get my shattered stovetop replaced. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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