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Fort Bragg & Mendocino

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Fort Bragg and Mendocino

150 miles or so up the Pacific coast from San Francisco, Fort Bragg is a sizeable tourist town with Mendocino a picture postcard much smaller town a few miles south. Because of the relative size of the two places, Fort Bragg has far more places to stay. Fort Bragg is also the western terminus of the Skunk Train which runs through the magnificent coastal range mountains to Willets 30 miles inland to the east.

Well thats the factual stuff out of the way, what are these places like to visit ? I have to say I was very disapointed when we visited, so much so that we cut short our planned 3 day stay down to one night and moved on. The problem was the weather. We had read that its cooler on the coast than inland, but the reality and understatement of that fact surprised us.

We drove south from Redwood in mid August, bright sunshine and red hot. At Leggett we took a right turn from the 101 and headed west onto the fabled US 1 coast road. I had looked forwards in particular to this drive. As we zigzagged through the coastal range of mountains hugging the sides of steep wooded valleys the sun was periodically blocked out and the temperature on the display inside our van started to drop. At Leggett it was a blazing hot 28 degrees C and by the time we got to the coast it was 12 degrees C ! There was low cloud a hundred feet or so overhead and everything looked cold grey and dismal. Thats the way it stayed all the way down to Fort Bragg which also looked dull, dismal and grey. It probably looks nice in the sun, if it ever gets any !

We stayed just south of Fort Bragg and were advised to go to Mendocino for our evening meal. By early evening the low cloud had become thick fog and it was a white knuckle ride with visibilty of only a few yards. Mendocino did look nice and picturesque although it is a tiny place and there were very few places to eat. We did enjoy the meal in a restaurant overlooking the sea next to one of the water towers that are the trademark of Mendocino, but the waiter set our minds to leave the next day. We enquired about the fog and low cloud thinking we were perhaps unlucky. "This is normal Mendocino weather and one of the things that attract people from the hot interior of California" he cheerfully informed us. "We had a heatwave a few weeks ago when the temperature got up as high as the low 70's (fahrenheit), but thats very rare". That was enough for us and the next morning we left the cold behind and headed to Willits inland to get warm.

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