We’re still (slowly) heading north on US-101 but California is pretty darn large. We’ve moved out of the warm CA areas and we’re now getting into the colder areas which is progress. While Mike and I prefer the warmer air, Opie and Max in their black fur coats are much more pleased with the recent temperature drops.
Our next stop is a little town called Willits, located at the entrance of Mendocino County’s redwood forests. Since we’re staying on Rt. 101 and avoiding Rt. 1 (some RVers take Rt 1, we’re just not that brave), folks recommended using Willits has a home base to visit Ft. Bragg.
We used one of our days to visit Mendocino County Museum located in Willits. It’s a small eclectic museum containing various artifacts, stories, and information about people and events from Mendocino County. They had displays on the Pomo (Native Americans) who pre-dated the Europeans in CA, Seabiscuit, and the Willits Creamery, apparently a mainstay of Willits before it shut down. The nice thing is that entrance to the museum is free every first Wednesday of the month which happened to be exactly when we arrived in town!
We dragged Opie out with us to visit Fort Bragg while Max stayed home and dreamt about chasing groundhogs and squirrels. Fort Bragg is only about 40 miles from our campground but due to the narrow and very winding road, it takes an hour to get there. Poor Opie gets a bit carsick so the constant tight curves and speed changes made him whiney and unsettled. He was very happy when we finally made it to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
The botanical gardens rate highly in TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, and it’s dog friendly so we had to visit. To our delight, admission was free for Nature Day. More good luck for our wallets! They have an amazing collection of rhododendrons, some are 20–30 feet high which were in bloom while we were there. I wanted to see their dahlia collection but those do not bloom until the summer. They had an unusual flower which I later learned were fuchsias, known to attract hummingbirds. They had ferns, roses, succulents, and a huge vegetable garden. There is a great trail that lets you walk right up to the coast and watch the waves crashing onto the rocks below. I know Opie was scoping for a way down into the ocean but no luck so, of course, he found a small stream to splash in later. It’s a beautiful garden with breathtaking colors and plants everywhere.
After the gardens, we headed to Glass Beach. In the early 1900s, Fort Bragg established water dump sites where they could discard their trash (appliances, metal, glass, etc). When the first beach filled, they moved to Site 2, then Site 3. The dump sites were closed by 1967 and clean-up efforts began to remove the metal and appliances. The glass and pottery shards were slowly eroded by waves and are now almost like pebbles.
There are actually three Glass Beach sites in Fort Bragg, with one of them almost picked clean. We were lucky to visit the one of the beaches still full with sea glass. The beach is completely covered with at least an inch of sea glass, we couldn’t even see any sand. When the waves hit the shore, it makes an odd crackling noise from the glass and water rubbing together. Most tourists collect some of the glass when they visit so this beach may be glass-free in a few years too. While we admired the sea glass, Opie was much happier romping through the ocean waves chasing after his ball. I think we’ll have a desolate Opie on our hands once we leave the coastline.
Our campground neighbors Ridgewood Ranch, the final resting place of Seabiscuit. The ranch is close enough that Opie and I took a nice stroll to visit the Ranch and check out the Seabiscuit statue. Ridgewood Ranch does have bi-monthly tours but our timing didn’t work out for that one (oh well, can’t win them all).
We had the neatest coincidence at our campground. Roy, the gentleman in the fifth wheel next to us, came over to chat about various sites in the area. As we were talking to him, I had the strongest feeling we had met him before and asked if he had camped in CA recently (San Diego, LA, San Francisco, etc) or spent the winter in AZ. He responded in the negative which completely bemused me. After speaking with him, Mike agreed that he seemed awfully familiar. Mike then went through the business cards we had collected (when we meet other RVers, we often exchange personal information; most full-timers will have business cards to make it easier). Mike realized we had met Roy before, almost a year ago at a campground in Raleigh, North Carolina! I’m hoping as we do this longer, we’ll continue to run into other RVers we’ve met in the past so we can continue to renew friendships.
Willits is a nice little area with all the amenities (hardware store, supermarket, and most important, a good donut shop). Since our next stop is right in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park with almost no amenities (and no cell signal), it was a good place for us to visit and stock up on our essentials before moving forward.