Salt Point (4)

Great solar site in a 10+1 campground

On an awesome trip like this one, it is hard to say which stay was a favorite. But this one was pretty great. We had a hard time coming back to reality. First off, the drive between Gualala and Salt Point is one of the most spectacular stretches on an already jaw dropping coastline. There tends not to be much traffic out this way because you’ve got some daunting driving on either side, so Richard had a nice ride down the coast. And what was once a cell service dead zone now has pretty steady signal the whole way. I must admit, I do appreciate connectivity. Any time we have good cell service, we give the campground an extra point in the Levenberg Rating Scale.

Just another view along the way

I got to the campground in a jiffy and had to ask if our site was open yet. It was, and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. This was the first site we had gotten with any solar at all the whole trip. And it was easy backing with a pretty level pad. I just parked and had lunch while I waited for bike guy to get there, happy that we could communicate the whole time.

#worthit

Of all the options we chose for Dory2, the inverter was the one I figured we probably could have done without. The microwave comes in second, but any time we have ever heated up leftover Chinese food, I have reminded myself of how much I love it when the moment is right. The inverter will allow you to power those few 120v items, like the microwave, for short bursts even if you don’t have hookups. Since we’d run the generator the previous evening, and since we had nice solar, and since we had two leftover pieces of pizza in the refrigerator, this became one of those perfect moments when the inverter got its chance to shine. Hot pizza on a picnic table while you’re listening to waves crash in the distance moves the inverter-microwave combination into the “must have” zone.

Along the trail to Stump Beach

Since Richard’s ride was short, we had plenty of sunlight left in the day to go out for a hike. We took the trail out of the campground down, down, down to the Visitor Center (which was closed). From there, you can catch trails that take you along the bluffs to Stump Beach. This hike goes in the books as one of our favorites. You get a front row view of endless waves smashing into rocks and exploding into the air. You can feel the mist on your face and feel the vibrations pounding under your feet.

Heron chillin

The trail ends up at a deep cove where the waves roll in, one after another, in long sweeping rows of cresting sea foam. Herons will deign to share the view with you as long as you don’t mess with them. Once we’d had our fill, taking in the awesome power of the Pacific, we turned back and headed the way we’d come. We caught a beautiful sunset and returned to Dory by walking up, up, up the campground road. That night, we were reminded how beautiful the starry skies are. Being so remote from any big city, you can easily see the Milky Way on a clear night. Even through the coastal mist, the stars are magnificent out there.

Accurate

For our last full day of vaycay, we checked out the road into Kruse Rhododendron State Preserve. Richard has biked the road, but his memory on it was fuzzy. I was curious about driving it, and he was interested in not having to bike back down it, so we planned to meet at the top. It’s about six miles one way and I’m not really sure I could recommend it. I was surely glad to be doing it in the Passport, and not when it was muddy. And if it had been one way, I think I would have enjoyed it more. But honestly, it is so narrow, I just kept hoping no one would come in the other direction. There are some places you can pull out to allow another car to pass, but there are also long stretches where it would be seriously dodgy. As it happened, only one car passed me, a State Park Ranger, and it was in a place where I could scooch over. But yeah, by the time I reached the top, I was ready to really look at my other options for going back down. Given that I didn’t want to have to do the whole “roller coaster” from Jenner, I took my chances with the unpaved road again. And again, no one else came the other way. I’m sure my mindful friend will remind me about how thoughts are not facts, but boy, the thoughts about what would I do if another car came definitely drowned out the quiet reality of it not actually happening. It was a very pretty drive anyway.

Restored and staged for how it might have looked back when it was an occupied fort

Our last hurrah came in the form of a docent led tour of Fort Ross. Richard happened to see a flyer for it in the campground, and it was so fun! We learned so much about the history of Russian settlement in the area, as well as the impact that had on the native population. We learned that one of the most extensive collections of native baskets is housed in a museum in Russia. The docent said he went there with a group of local native descendants who wept when they held the baskets. They said it was like feeling directly connected to their ancestors and it was very powerful. It is a fascinating area, which marks the southernmost migration point of both Russians and native Alaskans. Just a bit further south, in Bodega Bay, that area marks one of the northernmost migration points of the early Spanish settlers. While the competing factions maintained a strained detente, they were also fairly codependent, and traded frequently, even though technically they were not supposed to. Superimpose this over the top of an already established and thriving native culture, and the history becomes both fascinating, and tragic. I highly recommend doing those docent tours any chance you get.

Are you suuuuuuuuuure we have to leave?

Alas, it was time to head home on Sunday. We wanted to fight it, but all of the pie was gone, so that took some of the sting out of departure. We got in an exhilarating drive along the roller coaster before pulling into our very familiar territory of Bodega Bay. We had second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about maybe pulling into Wrights Beach to see if there was a premium site open for just one more night. That was some major self control to keep driving past (on my part; Richard was no help at all). But we will be right back there next weekend, so stop the whining and get back to work. We are such babies.

Highway 1

Our Thanksgiving Van Trip Do Over was extremely fun. We could do this every year. I think I’d limit the stay in Hendy Woods, but still make it a stop in order to get pie. I’d be interested in trying Van Damme State Park some time too. But I wouldn’t change a thing about staying in MacKerricher, Gualala Point, and wrapping in Salt Point. Just perfect.

Total miles from Gualala Point: 18.8, 14.3 mpg, 1 hour 9 minutes. Site 2. Great site. Solar, excellent 5g (now), set apart from others, nice and level. New (as of 6/2021) 5g tower nearby, so excellent cell service in a once dead zone. No dump.

Gualala Point

A lovely, woodsy little campground

A new place! This is a county park in the Sonoma County system and has always been just a bit too far out of reach for us to go visit. We did drive through the campground at some point a few years ago, and I remember my overall impression was that it was a very small campground. Pretty, and nicely quiet, but a tight squeeze to drive through. The location made it also a bit far for Richard to bike to from Fort Bragg. Instead, I dropped him about half way at Manchester State Beach. There, he got out and rode the rest of Highway 1 to the campground. He considered doing a longer ride up Annapolis to Skaggs-Stewart Point Road, but that would have added another couple of hours. He’d like to try it some day, but it would take better planning.

On Highway 1 along the north coast, any oasis of civilization is a welcome sight.

It was a particularly foggy day, so much of the ocean viewing along the way was completely obscured in a thick white blanket. It didn’t clear until I was just about to arrive in Gualala. This is a very cute little town and a nice place to stop if you need a quick bite, or shopping essentials while you are on the coast. I headed right to the campground to set up.

Sure, we fit. No problem.

The campground itself is very small, with a narrow loop road coming quite close to large redwood trees on both sides as you pass through. The site I reserved fit Dory ok, but it was pushing it to get the car positioned in front of her in a way that could be counted as “in the site.” I took off the towing mirrors to prevent anyone clipping them, and basically just crossed my fingers that there was enough room for other trailers to get past.

Dual 100 ah lithium batteries: check. Dual 440w solar panels: check. Having a generator after 5 days of deep forest in the winter: priceless.

Following a stretch of five days with zero solar, it was time to pull out the generator and top up the batteries. I’m very happy we now have dual lithium batteries and massive solar panels on the roof, but all those potential watts and amp hours don’t get you very far when it’s winter and you’re under the cover of tall trees. I am not usually the generator person, so I am rather proud of myself for getting it all up and running long before Richard arrived.

I kept myself entertained by catching up on the blog. While there is no cell service down in the campground, there was super fast, and free, wifi available. That was all I needed for the rest of the afternoon and evening. That, and pizza. I noted that there was a good looking pizza joint in town and Richard got to go out on a mission to get some take out. He texted that it was quite the operation and we’d have to wait almost an hour. He said there were many people working the kitchen, and pizzas were coming fresh out of the oven like an assembly line. Surprising to have such a wait in such a small town, but perhaps the nearby resort complex of Sea Ranch keeps the pizza people busy on the day before Thanksgiving. In any case, the pizza was fabulous and put me well over my calorie budget for the day.

Beach at the mouth of the Gualala River

We spent Thanksgiving Day checking out the beach and Bluffs Trail. There is a little trail that goes right from the campground, under Highway 1, and to the day use area of the park near the shore. You can walk down to the beach from there, which we did. From there, we picked up the start of the Bluff Trail and just kept walking until we decided to turn around. This trail goes on for something like six and a half miles and skirts Sea Ranch Lodge and golf club much of the way. There are stunning views of the ocean all the way and it is completely flat. We walked far enough that I figured I had worked off the pizza splurge from the night before, and then turned around and walked back.

The colors were absolutely stunning.

My favorite part was stopping to look at waves as they were cresting in the wind. The spray coming off the top created a rainbow effect that was just crazy beautiful.

Rainbow waves!

Our Thanksgiving consisted of Chicken Cordon Bleu, precooked and frozen, then reheated in the Omnia. This paired with sauteed green beans and a bottle of Rombauer. For dessert, it was apple pie heated to perfection in the Omnia. We brought out the “fancy” Corelle plates to mark the special occasion (but still the plastic wine cup because we are not pretentious).

And a Happy Thanksgiving to all!

This was a perfect Thanksgiving for us. We even got to video chat with our son. Stop #3 of 4 was delightful and introduced a new location. While the location of Manchester is more centrally located along the coast, I preferred Gualala because there was a fun little town and a beautiful campground. I would very happily stay here again.

Total miles from MacKerricher: 68.6, 16.7 mpg, 3 hours 4 min (stopping at Manchester SB). Site 13, no solar, no hookups. Amazing free wifi. No cell from campground. Very tight campground loop road. Most sites ok for Dory, but not all. No solar sites at all. Site 10 would be nice, with a river view too. Good dump.

MacKerricher SP (3)

Fine site, but again, no solar

This is one of my all time favorite areas. The campground does not surpass Wrights Beach status, because the sites themselves are dark and have no views to speak of. But the park is in close proximity to the town of Fort Bragg, and it boasts a very nice beach overlook, with boardwalks and trails down to tide pools. It has it all, with the only downside being that it takes a commitment to get to.

Highway 1 between Navarro Beach and Fort Bragg is exciting!

When we came here with the van, my chief complaint (that I basically sustained through the entire stay) was that I felt trapped and unable to get to town to enjoy its fun things. We actually really factored that into the following and rapid fire crazy decisions to: 1) put in the order for Dory2, not knowing when she might be ready, and 2) buy a used Alto to get us through the wait time and serve as a backup should anything happen ever again. The van was fun, you see, but a pain in the ass to pack up and move if you want to take a little trip somewhere. And we didn’t have my bike with us on that trip, so I couldn’t even do that. This was an excellent do over.

Look who remembers how to ride a bike

Just when my pretty blue bike was feeling hopelessly abandoned, we found a place that was the absolute perfect application for it. It is a short ride from the campground down to the beach, so that became our first order of business upon arrival. I recognize that we are not in Buffalo, NY here, but we were super cold and had to pull out all the winter things in order to endure staying out to watch the sunset. Well worth it for sure. There are lots of tide pools with an abundance of hermit crabs and little fishies. And way out on the horizon there was at least one, but probably more than one, whale! We think they were Grey Whales because someone with a fancier camera than my iPhone was able to get a great shot of the dorsal fin. We saw periodic spouting and surfacing, and that was loads of fun.

Absolutely gorgeous day!

The next day we really put my seldom used biking ability to the test. There is a multi-use trail that runs something like ten flat miles along the beach, all the way to the south side of Fort Bragg. There are a few places where you can turn off the path and go into town, but otherwise, it is just an endless coastal cruise with spectacular views the whole way. This is also a must do for anyone visiting the area, even if it means you have to rent bikes in town.

We did poke around town for a while with two specific missions in mind. Mission #1 was to check out Cowlick’s Ice Cream Shop, since I had earned some calories. They have mushroom flavored ice cream, which I was not brave enough to try. Richard got a taster and said it mostly seemed like maple. I got a Black Forest, which was chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks, bing cherries, and almond extract. OMG YUM.

Surprisingly successful Mission #2

The Music Merchant

The second mission was to see if there was any kind of fun souvenir to bring back to our daughter. We often pop into weird looking, crystally type shops to see if they have little dragons or D&D dice. Mostly the answer is no, but there was a music store that also had every sort of Ultra Gaming Nerd accessory that one could possibly imagine. And many options for dice. While we do not fully understand the need to have more than one set of dice, especially if you solely play D&D online and thus have no need for physical dice, we appreciate the fact that it is a thing. The store guy said that he has a “stupid number” of dice sets himself, so we were talking to the right person. Mission #2 accomplished.

And unplanned Mission #3

International Sea Glass Museum

We also wanted to check out the Sea Glass Museum. That is located inside of a big building that houses multiple shops and businesses, including an actual physical video rental store. I did not know any of those still existed, but there you are. I did not see evidence of ancient video tape technology, but their DVD selection was impressive. The Sea Glass Museum was cute and small, and featured collections by color that had been curated over a lifetime of combing Glass Beach.

Lots of sea glass on Glass Beach

Richard was convinced that Glass Beach would not have any glass left, but he was so wrong. There is something about the tides that makes this stretch of shore particularly perfect for collecting all sorts of sea glass. Everyone who goes there seems to know the drill. You crouch and sift and pick up little pieces of glass, keeping an eye out for anything that seems unusual or rare. But in honesty, none of us has any real idea of what would be considered rare. Someone said lavender is rare. We did not find anything lavender. But we did find little camouflaged fishies, and more hermit crabs, and a nice sunset.

This satisfied my unfulfilled pizza craving from Booneville

We could have eaten out at any number of places in Fort Bragg that seemed fun. But I was content with a Mushroom Grilled Cheese with a pear and mixed greens salad. We cut into our apple pie too, to get a head start on Thanksgiving. And it was amazing.

Whales at sunset!

I would come back to this campground in a heartbeat. And after sending photos of the dice selection in town, combined with the information that it never gets hot here, our daughter has decided Fort Bragg is definitely the place she wants to some day live. We would certainly not mind coming to visit. Of course, she would need to get some kind of job or something. Maybe the dice guy is hiring.

Sea plants that look like perfect homes for Sneeches

This area rates a ten out of ten in my book. It is fun and right by the ocean. I did about 12 miles of flat, easy biking on the multi-use trail, and was able to get to town and back with no problem. We even got some shopping done to top up the milk and paper towels. The campground is perfectly situated and has other loops that were closed for the season. I didn’t see any jaw dropping premium type sites in our loop, and the ones that would have gotten solar were also pretty non private. Ours was fine, just dark. The dual lithium batteries are holding up well, but we will need to do some generator charging on our next stop.

And lots of sunset opportunities just a short bike ride away

Total miles from Hendy Woods: 45.0, 18.0 mpg, 1 hour 55 min. Site 71. No solar, no hookups. Ok dump but fresh water is on the wrong side. Our hose reached, but it was close. Ok cell service for ATT, not so great for Verizon from the campground. Super cell service in Fort Bragg.

Hendy Woods (4)

Deep redwoods campground

Welcome to our Van Trip Do Over Thanksgiving Break. This time two years ago, I had lined up all kinds of wonderful reservations down the coast. Then we lost Dory. But rather than slip into a despair coma and lose the reservations, we rented a van and made do. So this is our chance to do this trip the way we normally would.

Mission #1: Gowan’s Oak Tree for the Best Apple Pie in the Whole World

First stop: Hendy Woods, where our ulterior motive is to pick up an apple pie from Gowan’s Oak Tree. And sure, we’ll do some hiking or biking too. But mostly, we’re here for the pie.

Me: After this next bend, it’s going to be all straight and flat through Anderson Valley. Or maybe after the next bend.

Sign after bend: Windy road for next 12 miles

Richard: (not saying a thing because he’s smart)

I took a half day off on Friday so that we could arrive in daylight. That was a great call. The only thing about the trip worth noting is that I have an ingrained memory of Highway 128 as being “mostly flat and straight after the initial curves.” Do not listen to my bullshit. That is all false. The only strip of 128 that is flat and straight is about three miles in Booneville. The rest is curvy swervy. It’s totally fine for trailers, but it’s best to be prepared appropriately. The other hiccup was that I missed the turn into the state park. It is well signed, except for the fact that it said “Hendy Woods 1/2 mile” with an arrow pointing to the left. You are supposed to turn left there, obviously. But, to my mind, at the last minute, it said to me, “Go another 1/2 mile, and then turn left.” That is also don’t listen to my bullshit. I was able to awkwardly turn around at the next winery, but only because they luckily had an exit gate. If they hadn’t, I’m not sure how I would have gotten out of that parking lot. No harm, no foul, but I lost many “trust the driver” points on that approach.

Nature’s Air Conditioning

Redwoods are magical organisms. They resist fire, can survive in environments other trees can’t, and they make the most effective natural refrigerators. In the dead heat of summer, a redwood forest is going to be cool. However, with November not being summer, what we found was that it was dark, really cold, and relentlessly damp. Our weather apps said it got a bit below freezing overnight, and I mentioned many times, out loud, how much I love having dual propane tanks. We just ran the heater with abandon all the time.

I have super Otter spotting powers

We did the Big Hendy Grove hike, hitting all of the loops. That is a beautiful stroll through the forest and a must do for anyone wanting a redwoods experience. Bonus: I spotted a river otter splashing around in the Navarro River.

Navarro Beach

We also did the biking/SAGing thing up Philo Greenwood Road, out to Navarro Beach. That got Richard some quality biking time. I met him at the Navarro General Store and we drove the rest of the way. He enjoys the backroads more than biking 128, but it sure is a pretty drive. It goes right through Navarro River Redwoods State Park, and hugs the river most of the drive. That road is my favorite way to get from the inland valleys to the coast.

Booneville is super cute, but sadly, all closed on Sunday, or short staffed because it’s the week before Thanksgiving.

I wanted to take a little jaunt into Booneville for maybe a dinner out, but we timed it poorly. Sunday most places were closed and there aren’t that many to choose from. Richard had earned an ice cream, so he got that, but I decided it was better to just head on back to Dory for one of our Blue Aprons.

But we did pretty well with our Za’atar-Spiced Chicken & Couscous with tomatoes, cucumber, candied walnuts, sour cream, and fresh mint.

We packed for 9 days’ worth of dinners, knowing we could eat out if we wanted to. We chose 5 Blue Aprons, packed 3 pan dinners, and frozen Chicken Cordon Bleu for a “fancy” Thanksgiving dinner. That’s about the limit for our fridge, but we also will need to probably go shopping at some point to replenish milk. Add to the full fridge a frozen apple pie and that’s a good week right there. I wasn’t totally sure the pie was going to go in, but it turns out Dory2’s fridge is exactly the same kind and size as the one in the rented van. So now we know our maximum dinner + pie capacity.

Well stocked fridge

Next we hit the coast!

Total miles: 138.8, 17.0 mpg, 3 hours 49 min. Site 43. Other good sites: 61, 64, 68, 11, 12, 19, 25, 43. No solar anywhere. No hookups. Good dump. Water spigots, nice bathrooms. Some LTE and sometimes 5g for both of us.