Mendocino, California: A Favorite Town… The North Coast Series

A large, carved wooden duck that Peggy and I found gracing a wood-working shop on one of Mendocino's colorful streets.

A large, carved wooden duck that Peggy and I found gracing a wood-working shop on one of Mendocino’s colorful streets.

I’ve always been a fan of rugged, rocky coastlines. I’ve been fortunate in my life to live near the northern coast of California, which I define as starting down in Big Sur country and making its way up to the Oregon Coast. When I lived in Sacramento, summer escapes usually meant the Sierra’s, but winter escapes always meant the coast. Mainly I played along the 300-mile area of coast stretching between Monterrey/Carmel and Mendocino/Fort Brag on California’s beautiful, cliff-hanging Highway 1.

A view of the Mendocino Headlands, which host the town of Mendocino. The steep, rocky cliffs of Northern California, Oregon and Washington make up my favorite coast lines.

A view of the Mendocino Headlands, which host the town of Mendocino. The steep, rocky cliffs of Northern California, Oregon and Washington make up my favorite coast lines.

Now I live in Oregon, I’ve begun to explore the Oregon Coast. Over the years, I’ve also ventured along the Washington coast on occasion and made several trips to Canada’s Vancouver Island.

Last year, I wrote a number of blogs on both the California and Oregon coasts. I did a solo trip along the Oregon Coast while Peggy was off doing grandmother duty in Alaska and then a solo trip north from San Francisco while she was traveling to England with her sister, Jane.

This fall, my side-kick was with me on a couple quick trips: one visiting the town of Mendocino and then traveling north, following Highways 1 and 101 back to Southern Oregon. The second was over to Coos Bay, Oregon and Sunset Bay State Park. My next few blogs will cover these trips. Again, since Peggy and I are off in Connecticut and North Carolina visiting with our kids and grandkids for Christmas— plus making a side trip to Boston— these will be mainly photo blogs.

Mendocino is one of my favorite coastal communities. Founded as a logging town, it was discovered by artists in the 50s and 60s and today supports a thriving tourist industry. Through it all, it has maintained much of its original charm. Quaint buildings, lots of art, a great bookstore, and a magnificent coast all add to its ambience. If you would like to learn more about the town and see more photos, go here for the blog I wrote last year about the town.

Another view of the Mendocino Headlands, this one featuring a Monterey Pine.

Another view of the Mendocino Headlands, this one featuring a cyprus tree.

The Mendocino Headlands of Northern California.

Looking the other direction through the same cyprus.

A cliff from the Mendocino Headlands next to the town of Mendocino in Northern California.

Rocks, cliffs, and a pounding ocean: music to me on a dark stormy day.

We found these berries growing on the Headlands. T'is the season!

We found these berries growing on the Headlands. T’is the season!

The town of Mendocino, California as seen from the headlands on a rainy day.

Walking back toward the town from the Headlands, we caught this view of Mendocino. The town has done a superb job of maintaining its historic buildings.

Mendocino, California home.

I find the homes charming.

Pond reflection shot in the community of Mendocino on California's north coast.

This small, in-town pond provided a convenient reflection shot.

A landscaped walkway in the town of Mendocino, California.

Inviting walkways are found throughout Mendocino.

Woodworking shop in Mendocino, California.

This is the inside of the woodworking shop where we discovered the duck.

Early social media? Any idea what this is? It's an old fence that has seen service as a community message board for decades.

Any idea what this is? It’s an old fence that has seen service as a Mendocino message board for decades. You might say, it is a ‘staple’ of the community.

Veggies always add a little color on a cloudy day. Peggy and I found these in an old church that had converted to being a natural food store.

Speaking of staples, veggies always add a touch of  color on a cloudy day. Peggy and I found these in an old church that had converted to being a natural food store.

Mendocino, California rooster.

This rooster also added color, and character, to our day.

Not so colorful, but there is a story that goes along with this chicken wire Mendocino mouse. In my last blog about Mendocino, I had also included chicken wire sculptures. A person from Japan wrote to me and said he had also visited Mendocino, seen the sculptures in a shop, and wanted to know which shop it was so he could buy some. I was reminded of just how international blogging is...

Not so colorful, but there is a story that goes along with this chicken wire mouse. In my last blog about Mendocino, I had included a chicken wire cat from the same shop. A person from Japan wrote to me and said he had also visited Mendocino, seen the sculptures, and wanted to know which shop it was so he could buy some. I was reminded of just how international our blogging community is…

Tiki god in front of a house in Mendocino, California.

And finally, I’ll include this Tiki-like god sculpture we found protecting a house. Love the toothy grin. Or was I supposed to be frightened?

 

NEXT BLOG: A North Coast journey along California’s Highway 101.

Mendocino, California… A North Coast Treasure

 Jessica Fletcher's home in Mendocino

If you were a fan of Murder She Wrote, you might recognize this house. It’s where Jessica Fletcher lived in the imaginary town of Cabot Cove, Maine. It is actually found in Mendocino, California. Now you can stay there. It is the Blair House B&B.

Whenever I am near the small town of Mendocino, I make a point of visiting. It is one of my favorite communities on California’s beautiful and rugged North Coast. Its unique, almost quaint look, has made it a favorite among Hollywood movie directors looking for the ideal coastal location for their films. It has starred in several movies including East of Eden where it became California’s Monterey and The Summer of 42 where it was transformed into a New England town.

Its best-known role, however, was as the small Maine town of Cabot Cove where Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) lived and was forever solving crimes in the TV series Murder She Wrote. Nine episodes of the 12-year, 264 series were actually filmed on location and almost all of the episodes included shots of the town and surrounding areas.

This was Sheriff Mort Metzger's home in Murder She Wrote. Now it serves as the Mendocino Visitor Center.

This was Sheriff Mort Metzger’s home in Murder She Wrote. Now it serves as the Mendocino Visitor Center. The Pacific Ocean is in the background.

I drove south on Highway 1 to Mendocino from where I was staying in Fort Bragg for a few days on my North Coast trip in August. The region is filled with parks and lots of memories. One was particularly memorable. Peggy and I were camped in our van on a small river. It rained cats and dogs all night, or make that whales and elephant seals. I woke up and looked out our van window in the morning. A seagull was swimming by! Waves were lapping at our tires. We vacated the premises— quickly.

Dark and stormy nights have been particularly harsh on ships sailing up and down California, Oregon and Washington’s rocky coast, especially in the days before satellites and GPS. To counter the danger, a series of lighthouses and foghorns had been placed along the coast. In memory of the time our van Quivera almost became a shipwreck, I stopped off at Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park just north of Mendocino and walked the half-mile out to the lighthouse. It is still doing its duty but automation has long since put the lighthouse keeper out to pasture. His house has now become a museum and his assistant’s house has become a guest cottage that visitors can rent. I paid homage to the days of yore and drove on to Mendocino.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. Those are fog horns pointed out to sea that you see on the front.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. Those are fog horns pointed out to sea that you see on the front.

The automated, ever-rotating light on top of the lighthouse.

The automated, ever-rotating light on top of the lighthouse.

Where the lighthouse keeper once lived.

Where the lighthouse keeper once lived.

I took this photo on my walk out to the lighthouse.

I took this photo on my walk out to the lighthouse.

The community started out as a logging town with a dog hole port in the 1850s, as so many North Coast towns did. Dog hole refers to the size of the port. If you’ve ever watched a dog turn around to fit into a bed it has scratched out in the dirt, you get the idea. Like the dog in his hole, the ship had just enough space to turn around. Given the additional challenge of steep cliffs, logs were loaded onto ships via a slide that reached down to the deck.

7 Log Slide at Mendocin

I found this photo of Mendocino’s historic log slide in the Visitor’s Center. The end could be lowered to load the logs onto a ship that would then take them to San Francisco. I am not sure I would want to be on the receiving end.

Mendocino was first named Meiggsville after Henry Meiggs, a San Francisco entrepreneur who had come west to make his fortune in the California Gold Rush. Anything with dollar signs attached had attracted his attention. Redwood lumber needed to build the rapidly growing San Francisco fit the description— as did an opportunity to defraud the city. Before the sheriff could catch up with him, however, Meiggs had skipped out to South America where he made a fortune building railroads and became the “virtual dictator of Peru” according to Wikipedia.

Meiggsville was renamed Mendocino after the cape it is located on and did quite well for the next hundred years selling lumber until the timber industry crashed and it became a backwater town with little money and fewer people. Artists discovered it in the 50s, as they often do when a place is both beautiful and inexpensive. Tourists weren’t far behind. Inexpensive no longer describes Mendocino, but the town has retained its beauty and still has a thriving art community.

I did what I always do in Mendocino: walked up and down the streets, hiked along the coast, bought my quota of books at the Gallery Bookstore, and scarfed down a delicious meal.

An hour or so can easily be spent wandering around the small town. The historic buildings have been well preserved, and repurposed. This is the Gallery Bookshop, one of the best found on the coast. I always go there first.

An hour or two can easily be spent wandering around the small town. The historic buildings have been well preserved, and repurposed. This is the Gallery Bookshop, one of the best found on the coast. I always go there first. The sign features a bookstore cat.

Shops feature everything from crafts to very good art. I found this cat in a shop next to the book store and was amused/impressed by the creative use of chicken wire.

Shops feature everything from crafts to very good art. I found this cat in a shop next to the book store and was amused/impressed by the creative use of chicken wire.

Mendocino home

Mendocino features a number of gorgeous, historic homes. Many have been turned into B&Bs.

This early home fits the description of "tiny homes" being built today. There was a sign next to it I found touching:" Watch out for the old dog."

This early home fits the description of “tiny homes” being built today. There was a sign next to it I found touching:” Watch out for the old dog.” Had I seen him/her, its photo would be next. (grin)

But I found this 'old' two car garage a decent substitute.

But I found this ‘old’ two car garage a decent substitute.

13 Mendocin water tower

A number of water towers and even a windmill reflect the difficulty that original residents had in obtaining and keeping water. Their presence adds to the unique look of Mendocino.

Chinese were among the first inhabitants of Mendocino and this Chinese temple from the 1800s is one of the oldest. It was closed so I took this photo through the window.

Chinese were among the first inhabitants of Mendocino and this Chinese temple from the 1800s is one of the oldest. It was closed so I took this photo through the window.

The foggy, moist climate of the coast is great for growing things and attractive landscapes are found throughout the town.

The foggy, moist climate of the coast is great for growing things and attractive landscapes are found throughout the town.

And finally, the Mendocino Headlands form the backdrop for Mendocino. Any visit to the town should include a walk along the coast.

And finally, the Mendocino Headlands form the backdrop for Mendocino. Any visit to the town should include a walk along the coast.

NEXT BLOG: It snowed here on Sunday providing an opportunity for Peggy and me to go on a winter-wonderland walk. Photos from the walk will provide our holiday card to the great folks who follow this blog from around the world.