Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Photo of the Week: Pacific Coast

This is the view from a typical roadside pull-out on the Pacific Coast Highway (U.S. 1) just a few miles south of Crescent City. Being so close to Oregon, this stretch of California's coast has many of the same characteristics - steep drops and imposing, weather-beaten rocks.

It's a far cry from the beaches of Hawaii, Miami or even Southern California, but the rugged North Coast has its own beauty and charm. The intermittent beaches are frequented by surfers in full-body wetsuits, beachcombers and families out to let the kids play in the sand. Some of the braver (or more cold-blooded) jump into the green-hued waves to body surf, but I'm usually content to throw the ball for my dog and watch the sea.

The towns along the North coast are numerous, and many of them are great places to spend a day or two. Bodega Bay was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, has a supposedly haunted schoolhouse, and even boasts a restaurant that straddles the San Andreas Fault, called the Sandpiper. A fishing village, Bodega Bay is a great place to get fresh seafood, and watch the humpback whale migrations during the season. Camping at the Bodega Dunes Campground will put you close to the beach and a few minutes by car from the town.

Mendocino is another of the towns that tourists should see. Full of quaint shops, a day will probably be enough, but it's always popular and similar to its southerly cousin, Carmel.

Fort Bragg is another fishing village, and the same whale migrations that can be viewed from Bodega Bay can be seen from the bluffs around this small town. Staying at the Harbor Lite Lodge in one of the rooms facing the harbor will give you a good view of the fishing boats as they set out in the mornings and return with the day's catch.

Finally, Crescent City. It feels bigger than the other three, but I'm not convinced it actually is. Another good place to see fishing vessels and the occasional whale, Crescent City's charm centers around its lighthouse, which is built on an island accessible during low tide, when the island becomes a peninsula. At one point, I ran into the painter Thomas Kincaid as he sat painting the lighthouse. Inland from Crescent City are California's famous redwoods, which stretch for several miles down the coast.

A visit to any of those four towns, as well as others I didn't list, will give you a good sample of California's northern coastal living. I've always had luck traveling there in January, as it might rain, but is usually not very foggy.

As much as I like to travel abroad, it's nice to be surrounded by so much beauty in my own state. I spent many fun weekends camping with my family along the coast as a kid, and even now, and I'm happy that I don't have to drive very far to find myself in such a great place.

1 comment:

CODY K said...

Oh, Crescent City. I'll never forget the time I had to help bail out some random guy's boat there (gf's grandpa's friend) ... or when I discovered how easily I get seasick.

I am a big fan of that giant wave-breaking thing that got tossed out onto the shore by the tsunami, though.