Poking around Mendocino

I got here pretty late last Saturday. The drive up 101 was slow due to heavy rain. The same heavy rain discouraged me from stopping anywhere on Highway 128 between 101 and 1 on the coast, even though 128 never looked more beautiful.

The sturdier folk who populate this rugged region carry on as usual.

He's fishing.

Taking a page from their book I decided to do the same and went for a hike in Van Damme State Park, which is also where I camped for the night. I haven't been camping for many, many years and these were not the most auspicious circumstances to give it a go. But I didn't come up there to get a room. My wilderness-exploring friend Emma had loaned me one of her tents and I was determined to use it. Surrendering on my first night out was not an option.

As they say, it was a dark, stormy night... I felt like I was sleeping in a snare drum with the constant rainfall and wind shaking the tent. The winds were actually strong enough to rip the velcro fasteners from the rainfly. When I got up in the morning, there were downed branches everywhere, including small ones on the tent and car. I had to drag a big one out of the way to get my car out in the morning.

Some rain seeped through the seams in the rainfly and the back of the tent got quite wet, but I was dry and warm in my sleeping bag--an extravagance I purchased in grad school but never really used. (Actually, I've used it a lot indoors. One of my last apartments in San Francisco was a Victorian flat whose windows didn't quite shut. I used the sleeping bag extensively from December through March for four years. That's a sad, little anecdote about the high rents in San Francisco during in the dot-com era: I was making at least $50k a year but couldn't afford a warm apartment.)


Before night fell I ventured about three miles on Van Damme's main trail. It was late in the day and the low-light conditions under the forest canopy rendered most of the pictures I took too blurry for blogging. I also didn't have daylight to get all the way to and back from the pygmy forest Van Damme is notable for. Here are some things that I did see.

Now is the time for Trillium. I saw them everywhere.

Even though the hiking trails were muddy and frequently submerged under large, pond-like puddles, the waterfalls were lovely.

Van Damme SP

Van Damme SP

Van Damme SP

Van Damme SP

I surprised and delighted to come upon Northern California's most picturesque outhouse exactly when I needed it the most.

Van Damme SP

Sunday morning I visited Jug Handle State Nature Reserve, home to Mendocino's famous ecological staircase:
The structure of the terraces at Jug Handle is a result of the movement of the earth's crust (plate tectonics) and the fluctuation of sea level during the Pleistocene. In the last several million years, the continent of North America has moved northwest, and the coastline along the Mendocino coast has risen slowly in relationship to the increase of the sea level brought on by the melting of the continental glaciers. These two factors are massive agents in the shaping of land forms and are rarely seen so clearly outside the desert regions of the world.

The principal sculpturing agent at Jug Handle has been the sea. During periods of the Pleistocene when the glaciers were retreating northward, sea level rose more rapidly than the land was rising. As the pounding waves were uplifted onto the land, they fashioned a smooth underwater terrace. With renewal of glaciation, the waves slowly receded as the sea level fell.

Deposits of gravel and sand (beach material) were spread across the emerging terrace by the retreating waves (Jenny 1973 p. 8). Continued uplifting raised the terrace clear of subsequent rises in sea level. In this fashion, new terraces were created where older ones had existed. Terrace No. 5 (the oldest) was once at the elevation now occupied by No. 4 and so on.

This repetitive sequence proceeded at intervals of approximately 100,000 years and involved about 100 feet of uplift to form each of the terraces. The higher the terrace the older it is, and the longer its beach materials have been subjected to weathering.
But it was freezing and I hadn't had coffee yet. I did not linger long.

Jughandle SNR

Jughandle SNR

Jughandle SNR

After tramping about for a few minutes, I set out to find breakfast at the Home Style Cafe in Fort Bragg and hit the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. Come back soon and I'll show you some pictures of that.

Breakfast in Fort Bragg, after a deadly first night of camping


Anonymous said...

Breakfast sure looks good!

chuck b. said...

Can't take your eyes of the biscuits, huh?

Brent said...

Loved the photos. Sounds like a really nice trip.