Here’s the thing: in the big city, you’ve got roller coasters. On the coast, we’ve got big (20-30 foot) roller waves. In the city, your jammed cheek-to-jowl as you hang out at your favorite theme park. On the coast, there is no waiting, no crowds. Just fresh air and lots of beauty. Our attractions:
The view from the restored rail cars is pretty much unchanged: towering trees, deer drinking from the Noyo River, an isolated fisherman’s cabin peeking from the forest. With occasional whistles as it chugs through tunnels, over bridges and past open meadows, the train follows the coastal “Redwood Route” as it has since 1885.
Built as a logging railroad, the Skunk line began that year as a logical vehicle for moving massive redwood logs to Mendocino Coast sawmills from the rugged back country. Steam passenger service was started in 1904, extended to the town of Willits in 1911, and discontinued in 1925 when the self-powered, yellow “Skunk” rail cars were inaugurated. The little trains were quickly nicknamed for their original gas engines, which prompted folks to say, “You can smell ’em before you can see ’em.”
The train runs all year lots of holiday specials. What a special trip for Father’s Day? The Skunk Train has it. Looking for Easter Week fun? The Skunk Train has that too. Interested in riding the train with a kayak, getting dropped off at the Noyo River and paddling back through paradise? Of course, the Skunk Train offers that, too.
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens: 47-Acres of Horticulture Heaven (from http://www.gardenbythesea.org):
Over 60,000 people a year experience the wonderful and often mysterious journey through the Gardens. It is a place to play, to contemplate, to learn, to relax, to touch, to smell, to feel, to enjoy, to be inspired, to walk your dog, to experience the fragile joys of life, to respect, to conserve, and to love.
The Gardens is known for its tender species rhododendrons that produce some of the most fragrant blossoms of the year. Native to the cloud forests of Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, these gems are restricted to a narrow band along the northern California coast in the U.S., where they thrive in the foggy, coastal climate.
The Perennial Garden is a delight with bulbs,flowers and grasses blooming from spring to fall. Visitors are often surprised that a mild and sometimes foggy climate can accommodate cactus and succulents, yet many grow well here.
The collection of heaths and heathers is a national treasure as are the species camellias. Equally if not more important, the natural areas of the garden harbor six different rare and endangered plants.A wonderfully weird forest of pines leads to the breezy bluff of the coastal prairies and views of the Pacific Ocean in all of its moods.
The Gardens has become a haven for bird watchers with the list of bird species now at over 150. It’s rare to spot a red-throated loon or double-crested cormorant in spring, but in summer they are common, as are the black oystercatcher, which frequents the rocky coastline year-round. Ospreys, hawks, sandpipers, plovers and Canada geese are also regulars. If you’re vigilant and look carefully, on very rare occasions, you might even spot an ash-throated flycatcher, a savannah sparrow or a red-breasted nuthatch.
MendocinoFun.com Partner Bruce Lewis is actually one of lightkeepers at Point Cabrillo, where the original 1909 Third Order Fresnel (frey-nell) Lens has been restored and is working as a federal aid to navigation under the U.S. Coast Guard. The entire light station was restored between 1999 and 2006 and was the winner of two prestigious awards for historic preservation. Hard to believe, but a six-inch halogen light is projected 14 miles out to sea by the Fresnel Lens.
There are trained docents in the gift shop and Lightkeepers House Museum to help guide you through more than 100 years of history. Besides a gift shop in the lighthouse, you also will find a museum about the history from the Pomo Indians and Frolic Ship Wreck to the present.
This is the best spot on the coast to whale-watch, is dog-friendly, offers spectacular picnic spots, great museums, flat hiking trails and wonderful sunsets. All of this for a $5 / person donation.
The B. Bryan Preserve: A zoo in Point Arena? Really?
Not exactly, but Dr. Frank and Judy Mello have won acreditation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for their private animal preserve, the B Bryan Preserve in Point Arena, which is home to Sable, Roan and Greater Kudu Antelope as well as rare and endangered Grevy’s Zebra and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra. Read more.