Long contemplated, the Mendocino trip finally came to fruition in August of 2007 when club member Brenda secured the use of a vacation home in the little town of Gualala. Motels, hotels and house rentals fetch fairly dear prices in the Mendocino area, and the rental of the house became affordable once eight of us stepped up to book the trip.
It turned out that the location of the house was almost ideal, since the town of Gualala is situated at the southern end of the Mendocino County region and is just a short distance north of Ft. Ross—an old Russian military fortress preserved in a State Park.
Some in the group had taken trips to Mendocino County in the past, but very few of us actually knew much about Mendocino. We were to be educated very well by the time we had to return home.
August ordinarily is not a good month for cavorting about in California because of the heat and the lack of any fresh, green foliage—most of California goes brown and dormant in the summer months. Mendocino in August, however, is bedazzled with hues of pink amidst the tawny, dry grass—it is literally covered with the bright blossoms of naked lady lily plants. In fact, I’ve never seen so many of these amaranthus lilys in one place in my life. During its blooming phase, the plant sends spikes with multiple buds skyward in the late summer. The green foliage has long disappeared in the early summer, giving the bare stems with vibrant pink flowers on them a surreal, haunting appearance. Everywhere you looked the landscape was splashed with color from these strange plants. By the way, August, September and October are the best months to visit Mendocino because of the frequent clear skies and “Indian Summer” weather.
Among the places we explored as a group was the Pt. Arena lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse structure on the West Coast, Glass Beach at Ft. Bragg, the Mendocino Arboretum in Ft. Bragg, and several other very beautiful sites and beaches along Highway 1.
Of course we didn’t even scratch the surface of what Mendocino has to offer its visitors, but we tore up the road trying. We never got around to going to see the coast redwoods, or floating on the several beautiful rivers, or bowling ball beach (which is a challenge to get to), or numerous other inland cities, each with its own distinct flavor—the sculptured trees in Manchester and Queenie’s Diner and the nice beach in Elk, just to name a couple of high points. Even the former industrial towns, such as Ft. Bragg (a former lumber mill town), are funky and interesting in their own way.
We spent quite a lot of time close to base camp because the house was just a very relaxing and peaceful place to be. Outside there was a large stack of firewood and a large fire ring with benches and lawn chairs. Dale proved his worth by chopping wood every night—something we all surely appreciated but never really got around to say to him. Each night we built a wonderful bonfire and sat and talked and listened to the sound of the waves crashing into the cliff just 50 to 75 yards away. The fire ring was one of the best things about the trip.
The house is a 20-year-old prefab owned by a member of the Golden Hills Art club in Milpitas(a friend of Brenda). It can comfortably hold six, but we managed to squeeze in eight. And the backyard had ample room for a few tents. All in all, it was a perfect place to stay. Nearby are plenty of good restaurants—all charging fairly husky prices—but we never came across a restaurant that served bad food. (I suppose if we looked harder we could have come up with a dog or two.) The house had a nice kitchen and a Weber grill stored in the garage for barbecueing.
We took off on a Thursday and stayed until Sunday and we had two days of overcast weather, but one brilliant, crystal clear sunny day that we took full advantage of. Those who came on this trip are sure to want to come back next year, so stay posted because this little gem is sure to pop back up on the 2008 Field Trip Schedule. (Perhaps even a few of us will enter the Gualala art show at the nearby Gualala Arts Center.)
© 2007 S.R. Hinrichs