8. June 2012 20:44
Two hours north of the San Francisco Bay area lies the Mendocino Coast in Mendocino County. Although there are splendid coastal views further south in Sonoma and Marin Counties, the truly memorable scenic drive that stretches from Gualala to Rockport offers unsurpassed views of the blue Pacific Ocean as it meets the rocky shoreline and cliffs of the California Coast.
Along the way are many state parks, beaches and reserves, picturesque communities like Mendocino, Point Arena, Manchester, Little River, Fort Bragg and Westport. Two historic lighthouses can be visited at Point Arena and Point Cabrillo, which is a State Historical Park with free entry. Wildflowers seem to grow everywhere, including at the formal floral displays of lovely Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
Architecture in such towns as Little River, Mendocino and Fort Bragg reflects that of Coastal New England, which was the origin of many of the area’s early settlers. In Fort Bragg, the Guest House Museum boasts an impressive Victorian mansion, built in 1892 by a lumber king who became the city’s first mayor.
In addition to numerous inns and interesting shops all along the coast, first-class lodging is readily available at group-friendly properties convenient to the “Skunk Train” depot in Fort Bragg, as well as in Ukiah for those preferring to make a day trip “loop” from inland. Regardless of how the trip is planned, however, I’d suggest at least a three-night stay in order to take advantage of the major attractions that Mendocino County has to offer. With the addition of two or three nights in the San Francisco Bay area, group leaders can construct a wonderfully varied trip that their travelers are certain to recall fondly for many years to come.
Bob Hoelscher, CTC, CTP, MCC, CTIE, is a longtime travel industry executive who has sold his tour company, bought a motorhome and is traveling the highways and byways of America. He is a former chairman of NTA, and was a founding member of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP).
Well-known in the industry as both a baseball and symphony aficionado, Bob is also one of the country’s biggest fans of our national parks, both large and small. He has already visited more than 325 NPS sites and has several dozen yet to see. He is currently traveling the country to visit as many of those parks as possible. His blog, “Travels with Bob,” appears periodically on The Group Travel Leader’s blogsite, “Are We There Yet”.
Bob is available for contractual work in the industry and may be reached at email@example.com or by calling (435) 590-1553.
Village of Mendocino
Wildflowers and Rocky Coastline
The Pounding Pacific Surf
31. May 2012 23:33
I looked and looked, but the view at McWay Cove in Julia Pfeiffer State Park did not feel real. The impossible beauty I beheld had to be part of some highly imaginative dream. Or I had been suddenly whisked up to heaven. Since neither of those seemed true, I had to accept the most likely scenario: I had fallen into a screen saver picture.
The little cove’s rocky cliffs, hills blanked with colorful flowers and 80-foot waterfall that flows into bright turquoise waters is unbelievably gorgeous. I knew I had found my new mental happy place. This breathtaking view stood out among numerous other immaculate vistas along the Big Sur route that goes up the coastal Highway One from Morro Bay to Monterey.
The elephant seals agree that this coast is pretty close to paradise. For April and May, the Piedras Blancas beach is covered with hundreds of female and juvenile elephant seals.
For a second, I entertained the horrifying idea that the elephant seals laying along the beach may all be dead from their absolute lack of movement. However, I soon learned that these seals were only very, very tired. Apparently months of hunting and giving birth in the ocean really tires you out. They hardly budged except to nestle further in the sand and the occasional sparring (play fighting). Some seals seeking an ocean swim would move a couple of feet toward the water before having to stop and take a short nap before moving again.
Along with elephant seals, I spotted harbor seals, sea lions, incredibly cute sea otters and two humpback whales on a whale watching trip in Monterey. The whales became an immediate trip highlight for me, since I had always wanted to see a whale in the wild after watching hours of National Geographic shows on these giant creatures. Watching them play next to the boat and occasionally look at us with curiosity was more than I ever hoped for.
Saying goodbye to the coast was difficult, but I took with me the ability to close my eyes and picture McWay Cove any time of day.
All photos by Jeremiah Myers