With no snow in the mountains and warm sunny weather on the coast, we were confused. It is January, no? In either case, we headed up the coast to Mendocino County to soak up the sun.
As we prepared for the weekend getaway, we remembered the gray whale migration! Every year these massive creatures swim from their eatery in the Arctic to their cozy love nest in Baja California. All the way down, they hug the wondrous California coast. They have adapted to diving in shallow water to get food from the continental shelf giving us mere humans a chance to admire. Luke and I grabbed the opportunity by the blubber. We caught the Ranger talk on Saturday morning (every Saturday and Sunday at 11 AM until March). The program starts by the ranger station where a docent gives a talk about the beasts. Interestingly, males that are not chosen as a mate help the victor during the mating ritual by acting as a back brace. The whales travel 10,000 miles each year! When calves are first born, the mothers need to hold them above water since it takes them 30 minutes to learn to swim. The whales are heading South right now but in a couple of months they will be heading North again, this time with their tots en toe. Too cute!
Some of you might have read our attempt at whale watching last year. We headed to Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore and spent most of our time watching the Tule Elk, only glimpsing one or two blow holes. This trip was much more successful. After a short drive, the program re-convened on the shore. The NPS let us use their binoculars to see backs, fins, and whales traveling in pairs; it was incredible.
The other reason we came to this State Park was Glass Beach, a few miles down the road in Fort Bragg. For years and years, residents threw all their garbage off the cliff into the ocean. An environmentalist’s worst nightmare come true. Sure enough, nature fought back and created a wonderful retort. It spit the glass back on the beach; this time as worn down pebbles.
Finally in 1967, people caught onto their own stupidity and the North Coast Water Quality Board decided to build a dump elsewhere. In 1998, the private owner decided this beauty should belong to the people and began the 5 year cleanup process and eventually turned the land over over to the state. Unfortunately, we were unimpressed. Natural wave action, along with scavengers, has reduced the colors and sizes of the sea glass. By the way, it is a misdemeanor to collect sea glass from inside the state park. Take pictures and leave the glass for others to see until the sea wears it down.
The park also boasts the 10-Mile Dunes Trail which is currently being rehabilitated. Back before the invasion by the White Man, the area was home to Mendocino Indians. Then the White Man came and logged the heck out of it. Now, the CA State Parks, who opened the park in 1952, is removing the remnants of the logging road. The park is also trying to eliminate the invasive European beach grass and ice plant.
The beach grass inhibits the Western Snowy Plover from breeding. Since the preserve is an important spot for 50 of the breeders (there are only 2,100 breeding individuals worldwide), this project is pretty important.
Outside of the park, North Coast Brewing has a taproom in Fort Bragg, for those inclined to end their day with a treat.
For more state park adventures, visit our California State Park Guide.