Our drive from Yosemite National Park back to the coast was very interesting. Lots of curves and steep grades at first, crossing the flat agricultural valley in the middle of the state, across San Francisco Bay and lots of curves and steep grades going over the coastal range in the end.
Longer than we normally plan and one of the most challenging drives up to this point in our walkabout.
As we crossed the bridge leading to Fort Bragg Hector pointed out our campground down below us, a marina and RV park. I saw that the RV’s were pretty close to each other on a gravel lot, and I was not too excited.
But after we arrived at Sportsmans RV Park, were greeted with a hug from Linda, one of the two owners, and given a key to their private pier – basically a big deck on the water with picnic tables – I had a change of heart.
I find that smaller, private parks can be quite charming and their owners make a huge difference. Dusty and Linda were great hosts and having access to the large, fenced deck area over the water where Angel could hang out with us off-leash made up for our small campsite.
And, one of the most important features for us was that the road that the RV park is located on dead ends at an off-leash dog beach where the Noyo River meets the Pacific. It’s a nice size beach which is pretty solitary on weekdays. Although a bit more crowded on the weekends.
Angel enjoyed the off-leash dog beach every day of our stay there. She loves to wander by the water’s edge and poke around the beach debris looking for crabs and other interesting smells. But she has never shown interest in jumping into water. In fact, if a large wave rolls in, she runs away from the water.
Noyo Harbor is a working harbor so there are lots of boats around, one of Hector’s favorite photography subjects. Fishing is the main focus with both commercial and sport fishing boats. There are also some wharf side restaurants and a fresh seafood market.
But one of our main interests in the area was the famous Glass Beach in the adjacent town of Fort Bragg.
Residents threw garbage over cliffs in the area in the early 20th century, and referred to it as “The Dumps”.
Three different areas were used as dumps over the years. People lit fires to get rid of the trash. And, after the practice of dumping trash stopped, waves cleaned out some of the trash. But glass was more resilient and was tumbled into sea glass. Lots of it.
Afterwards, still years ago, the beaches had many layers of colored sea glass (we’ve seen photos), but some party poopers used big buckets and such and hauled away pounds of it.
People are discouraged from taking sea glass, which I fully understand. But many still do and there were many collectors on the beach, including us, I must confess. Although we tried to be very selective and not pick up too much.
We also visited a couple of other beaches in MacKerricher State Park adjacent to Glass Beach. The park has a nice boardwalk and other trails.
MacKerricher State Park also has a very cool display of a gray whale skeleton, and one of the days we visited, there was a group of schoolchildren attending a ranger program in front of the skeleton. Love those park programs.
We also drove over to the neighboring town of Mendocino, a very manicured and pretty town, but quite touristy. With lots of interesting arts and crafts, though.
And yet another day, we took a short hike on the beautiful Jug Handle State Natural Reserve nearby, walking along the coast, then through forest and then down a large staircase to yet another gorgeous beach.
Back at the campground, we had cocktails and appetizers out on the private pier and were joined by our hosts Dusty and Linda who told us about the history of Noyo Harbor and how they came to live there. It was great to get to know these warm and friendly folks.
We’re really enjoying the northern coast of California.