I really have no excuse for how delayed this post is, other than I’ve been feeling lazy. You’d think with months and months at home, not travelling, I’d have all the time in the world. But, like many projects that lack a pressing deadline, this blog just got overlooked for simpler enjoyments (like bingeing TV).
Eventually the initial shelter-in-place restrictions on movement in San Francisco were lifted, allowing residents to venture beyond city limits for non-essential travel once again. The great thing about living in San Francisco is there are an abundance of sights within a day-or-two’s drive. So, once things had settled down a little, and national parks and hotels started to re-open to tourists, it was time to take off on a small road trip.
Not wanting to venture too far from home, Mendocino was an easy choice for an extended weekend away. It’s 3-4hrs north of San Francisco, depending on how scenic of a route you take – it’s worth at least going one-way along Highway 1 along the coast.
Rather than write too much, as it has really been too long for me to remember clearly, and it’s not the first trip up to Mendocino, I’m just going to have a gallery of images, with a few words.
I’d previously been lucky most times I’d ventured north of San Francisco, with clear skies and warm (for SF) temperatures. To clarify, it’s warm enough to wear a t-shirt in the sunshine, but you’d probably want something warmer in the shade. Or if there was wind. And, it’s definitely not warm enough to get into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean without a wetsuit.
But, that’s not to say that the fog and cloud don’t bring their own set of charms. For me there is something beautiful about the fog and low-lying clouds that cling to the hills, seemingly alive and moving with purpose.
The ocean also gets moody, with rugged rocks making for frothy seas, and the marine haze muting the colours.
I think I’ve said it before, but I truly believe that the drive along this section of Highway 1 is more scenic and enjoyable than the drive south through Big Sur. While it might not have the big ticket items of Bixby Creek Bridge, or McWay Falls, I feel that the overall experience is more enjoyable, with more opportunity for views, and far, far fewer tourists.
The foggy, stormy weather is somewhat less enjoyable when you’re exploring on bicycle. There is an annual race, Fish Rock, which due to the pandemic of 2020, was cancelled, like all other public events. Undeterred, we set out to do a DIY version of the route. It’s quite a brutal ride, with nearly 3000m of climbing on various road surfaces, over nearly 120kms. To make it a little easier on Jane, I let her book a taxi service to drop us at the start of the first climb, which cut out the first 20% of the ride. There was still nearly 100km of riding, and around 2300m of climbing.
There were some beautiful views along the way, but for the most part, it was a cold and grey ride, with much of it on public roads. Eventually the fun part of the ride began – Fish Rock Road, which was an extended gravel climb. It was nice to get away from cars, but the road was mostly sheltered within trees, so views were limited to occasional glimpses, rather than sweeping vistas. Even reaching the summit of the Fish Rock Road did not mean the end of the climbing. Instead, there were rolling hills that kept ruining the dreams of a downhill run back into town.
We’d both underestimated how long and tough the ride was going to be – even with the first climb taken out. Eventually the course returned to bitumen, and after a long cold descent, it was a mostly flat run back into town – attempting (and failing) to outrun the approaching storm and nightfall.
There are also quite a few eccentric options for accommodation, with shacks that feel like they were built entirely out of reclaimed materials in and amongst the redwoods. I believe some even don’t officially list themselves as accommodation, rather as ‘day use only’ – but, they don’t prevent you from spending the night there – as they’re not officially habitable.
We booked one with some friends, for a little getaway from SF, and there was something so calming about spending time in such a simple space – the guest bedroom was an Airstream, complete with outdoor toilet/shower that had a door that simply faced out into the forest.
By chance I was awake for sunrise, which didn’t look much sheltered inside a grove of trees, but the view from the air was phenomenal, with a beautiful sea of fog in the valley below turning the peaks into floating islands. It was cold, but thankfully there was a hot bath in the garden that worked as a solo hot tub of sorts.
My friend’s dog, Finley, was in heaven, and it was clear that he was reluctant to leave at the end of the weekend, and go back to being a city dog after the freedom of the countryside.
One last thing we all did before leaving Mendocino was a little research into how much a large property (with a view) would cost… as well as the logistics of living somewhere as peaceful, and beautiful as this. Turns out it’s more affordable than I’d expected – though you’d want to be prepared for working remotely (or stupid long commutes).
Oh, and the final final thing? Wineries. There are no shortage of wineries in this part of the world – and it’s not just wine, but also luxury cheeses, because what is wine without cheese?