Dan and Hannah Hike the Mendocino Headlands in northern California

mendocino-county-mapWith New England bracing for a monster snowstorm, we have delayed our flight home to Boston by twenty-four hours.  The Universe is smiling down on us as we are staying with friends Tree and Scott, who graciously welcome us for an additional night at their place on the northern coast of California. Nolan, our son Will’s best man, has offered to plow our driveway.  Our village is coming together on this late January weekend.

Taking advantage of the opportunity that the snow gods have given us, we drive 25 miles north to the Mendocino Headlands this late Sunday morning. The Pacific Coast Highway from Point Arena to Mendocino is classic hairpins and sparkling morning sunshine off the warm waters of the Pacific.  Enjoy the ride on the video below.

Moody's coffee shop and bakery in Mendocino

Moody’s coffee shop and bakery in Mendocino.  The place to chill with Internet access.

Surrounded on three sides by bluffs and cliffs, Mendocino is just off the beaten path (the Pacific Coast Highway); we park easily on Main Street. Mendocino is the mama bear of climates; not too hot and not too cold. Summers have frequent fog and highs in the upper sixties. Their winters are in the 50s with no frost or snow. A popular home to bed and breakfasts, art shops, and funky neighborhood restaurants, Mendocino is New England on the West Coast.

Along the bluff trail looking back to town

Along the bluff trail looking back to town

Home to transplanted New Englanders in the 19th century, Mendocino has many Victorian-style homes. Mendocino served as the fictional town of Cabot Cove, Maine for the hit TV series, Murder, She Wrote.

Mendocino water tank

Mendocino water tank

Famous for its water towers, Mendocino used windmills to power these towers built at the end of the 19th century. All one needed was a windmill tall enough to catch coastal breezes to power the pumps and a tank positioned high enough to provide adequate water pressure. Today, most of the windmills have disappeared, but less than a dozen of these towers are still standing, ranging from completely restored to the precarious.

Catchment tank

Catchment tank

One year ago, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors declared a Local Emergency and Imminent Threat of Disaster due to drought conditions. Dealing with the drought that all California is experiencing, Mendocino is offering 5000 to 50,000 gallon catchment tanks for landowners and organizations. Drought-stricken California, which just had its driest January ever, will smash another dismal record next month: the hottest February.  In March, Governor Jerry Brown will require mandatory water conservation after a winter with 6% of the normal snow pack in the Sierras.

On the Mendocino Headlands bluff trail

On the Mendocino Headlands bluff trail

From Main Street, hikers can walk just a few hundred feet to the Mendocino Headlands bluff trail. Some 50 or 60 feet above the shoreline, the bluff trails are serpentine paths through the heather and brush. On this sunny Sunday morning, we have many other hiker/walkers for company. Though fog does not come in today, it will tomorrow and drop temperatures fifteen degrees.

Looking out to the Pacific

Looking out to the Pacific

This three mile bluff trail within an arm’s reach of town lies above rich abalone grounds. This is not a trail on which I would take our preschool grandsons, Owen and Max. Though not perilous for adults, the trail is two to three feet from sheer cliffs dropping sixty feet or more to the beach below. As with most bluff trails, there is little elevation gain so it’s a “walk in the park” along the ocean for us today.

In addition to other wildlife, there are VCU Rams on the trail

In addition to other wildlife, there are VCU Rams on the trail

The trail winds to the north of town with cliff side views. We return to town along Lansing Street. The early afternoon has me sitting behind the Methodist Church on a bench just taking in the sunshine in this lazy funky town.  Good weather on vacation makes me think, I could live here.

Our front yard on Chases Pond Road

Our front yard on Chases Pond Road

The coming blizzard is now predicted to be 12+ inches. Virgin America Airlines has changed our red-eye from Monday night to Tuesday night for no charge. The Fox Rent-a-Car company is not so forgiving.   Though I mention that our flight has been cancelled, they are charging us a $29 penalty for bringing the rental car to the San Francisco Airport a day late.

Their inflexibility is countered by Tree and Scott’s embrace.  Another fine meal awaits; this time adult macaroni and cheese with penne pasta, ground turkey, and mixed vegetables.  They and their outside Jacuzzi warm us through and through as evening temperatures dip into the low 50s.

Cradled in the arms of our amigos on the northern California coast, we are indeed the lucky ones. Let it snow. New England can wait.

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3 thoughts on “Dan and Hannah Hike the Mendocino Headlands in northern California

  1. Another lovely Saturday morning read. I’d send a photo of Mitch and me walking that bluff trail, but it would take all of this beautiful Saturday morning to find one, so I’m just thinking of us all there.

  2. Brings back many mems and a lot of smiles as we begin our last full day here. Four months since we left home on Dec 15 has flown by.

  3. It almost never snows where I live, either! But not such spectacular views around here. Loved your little video…sure hope Hannah was driving, then! That road reminded me a tad of places near the OR coast, when visiting my sister and hubby.
    Hope you get some Spring weather soon…I’ll give you 10 degrees…we’re close to
    90 today!

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