When I was a kid, we camped a lot. My parents were young and un-monied, with three children and families who lived far away. Several times a year, we packed our car with tents, sleeping bags, and our big wooden camping gear box, and hit the road visiting state parks from California to Washington to South Dakota. We went to the desert and the mountains, camped with friends and with family, and wore our olive green canvas nine-man tent into the ground. I have many fond camping memories from my youth, but after I left home, I never camped again. Until last weekend.
Moving to California unearthed Sean’s Mountain Man desires, and we’ve been stocking up on camping gear for the last five months, just waiting for summer. In March, we reserved a spot in Mendocino County with our friend Eunice and started getting excited. And finally, the day came. We packed up the car, hit the road, and drove up through Sonoma County, the Anderson Valley, and Mendocino before we reached our site at MacKerricher State Park, just north of Fort Bragg.
This was my first time visiting Mendocino (despite all the California camping adventures I had as a child), and it is stunning up there. The ocean is wild, the trees are craggy and crooked, the air smells fresh and clear. Even though we didn’t have the very best weather, we had a fantastic time.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and set up camp. Our site was nicely sized, and we only had neighbors on one side, which was nice. Our little weekend home was easy to set up, and I had fun settling our sleeping bags in the tent and arranging our gear around the site. Yes, I am totally domestic even when I’m outside.
While we waiting for Eunice and Brandon to arrive, we walked down to the beach. The sun was struggling to come out and the surf was feisty. We spotted lots of Harbor seals, and even saw a mama and her sweet little seal pup napping on a rock.
The wisps of fog resting on the trees felt cozy, like the sky was hugging us in. It was much warmer than we expected, so despite the overcast skies, we were comfortable.
The colors out at the beach were amazing.
I also love how varied the landscape is out at the beach in Mendocino. I grew up in Southern California where the beaches look pretty much like you imagine California beaches look: sunny and sandy and stretching out long and warm. These were rocky and rough. The surf does not look welcoming. The tide pools are sharp and deep. And stretching out above the ocean are wide, grassy meadows. The park service built a smooth wooden foot path through the meadow, leading out to several viewpoints over the cliffs. It was a lovely walk, especially early in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand.
The sun came out just in time for Eunice’s arrival, and we sat around in the sun, drinking beer and reveling in sunshine and fresh air.
Our first night we had a hard time getting the fire started because our wood was a little damp. But we prevailed (er, Sean prevailed) eventually, and we had a fine night drinking beers around the campfire.
I woke up bright and early Saturday morning to find that everything was soaking wet. It was foggy and overcast, but luckily not too cold. I eventually managed to make a pot of decent coffee and some scrambled eggs for breakfast.
We kept waiting for the fog to burn off Saturday, but it never happened. That didn’t stop us from checking out Glass Beach, or from relaxing at our campsite reading for a few hours, or from clambering around the tide pools in the evening.
This is my friend Eunice, who made our first California camping adventure so much fun.
Eunice took this picture of me at Glass Beach.
We stopped at a trestle just north of Fort Bragg for some picture taking. It was really foggy.
We had another fun night around the campfire on Saturday. Our fire was much more successful.
Of course, when we woke up Sunday morning it was bright and sunny and stunning.
We had breakfast, and started packing up camp.
We said goodbye to MacKerricher and headed back down highway 101. We did make a few stops on the way home, in Mendocino and in Healdsburg. Northern California is amazing.
I’m looking forward to a lot more camping this summer, and to more visits up the California Coast. I have more pictures of our Mendocino camping adventures on Flickr, if you’re interested.