We had a slow morning with another brewpub just up the road. It was nice to not rush and even nicer to arrive at much anticipated Bear Republic for lunch. The little town of Healdsburg was charming and the brewpub was a fantastic bustling affair. The food was nothing short of fantastic, the beer even better and the bartender perhaps best of all. We left a couple hours later with a box full of beer for our cooler, wishing we could afford a room within walking distance of this beer mecca.
Thankfully distances were short on this leg of our trip and we had spotted a cool sounding place on the map that had a campground called Lake Mendocino. It was in the general direction we were headed so we made our way up there, passing beautiful vineyards en route. Though we were enjoying the amazing craft beers of the region, for most the area is more noted for wine.
The lake was pretty though not as close to the campground as we had envisioned but it was nonetheless scenically situated right on the sun dried golden hills that are the hallmark feature to those who know California well. It also being right in the middle of 4th of July weekend was very busy though we managed to get a nice primo spot. It was obviously a very local place and most of our neighbors were big Hispanic families out enjoying the holiday, with ample food and Latin music blaring.
After setting up our tent, we put out quite a feast of our own with cheese, salami, and crusty bread gathered in Healdsburg and, of course, our stash of goodies from Bear Republic. Doreen could enjoy the beer more here as she again had been the designated driver from the brewery to our current digs. As the sun went lower in the sky, our surroundings glowed and no, it was not just all the good food and beer going to our heads. We had found another beautiful place to camp and we lamented no more about not breaking down and getting a room closer to town. (continued in Fondest Memory below)
Northern California is full of gems like Mendocino. A road trip in this part of the golden state is an all-too-missed pleasure, with great natural scenery on both the coast and inland. Toss in lots of great places to eat and drink and a lack of crowds and you have the perfect getaway.
Fondest memory: The phrase “short but sweet” gets overused but that's just what our all too brief but thoroughly enjoyable time in Northern California had to be called. First, we had the brilliant idea of leaving Sequoia National Park on the 4th of July. It was a Friday and so we reasoned, anyone that was away for the weekend would already be there and if we waited till after the weekend, we would be stuck in traffic with them.
We cruised to and into San Francisco in dream-like fashion. I don't know if any big city was ever so empty. After a quick lunch in Chinatown, we set our sights on Santa Rosa, where we had a reservation for a room and a date with renowned brewpub Russian River. It had been a little over two weeks since we had experienced either and we looked forward to it eagerly. The traffic again was minimal and even though it was only a Motel 6, it was tough to pull ourselves from our room but great beer and food were calling. We were soon sitting at the bar at Russian River and after a few weeks of tent camping, it was nice being served our food . The beer list was so long I was grateful for tasting size portions. Beers like Damnation and Pliny The Elder lived up to all the hype, an old fashioned jukebox cranked out songs even I could remember and we stayed probably far too long, at least for my wife who had the dubious task of driving us back to the motel. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
North Coast Brewing was another place I had stopped 15 years prior but it was not on my list of places ro return to, not for any reason other than money and time. You can only do so much, even in six months. We had a wonderful meal, the beer was even better than remembered, and the laughter and conversation flowed. We returned to the campground and continued on well into the night, with talk of politics, nature, and life itself. Though I rarely got together with this part of my family, I have more in common with them than most far closer. It was surely the latest night of the entire trip and one of the most fun too.
We awoke early as campers do and I offered to make up breakfast burritos to everyone's great approval. We dazzled them with our camping efficiency, especially breaking down our camp and packing in a matter of minutes. That's what so much practice will do. We then went into Mendocino with them and discovered yet another place we wouldn't mind calling home. Charming is another overused term but it fits this town well. Later, it was sad to say goodbye to family you don't see nearly enough but redwoods were calling, short but sweet, short but sweet.
The next day found us again in no hurry with our goal a coastal meeting with my cousins and yet another brewery to stop at on the way. It was a gorgeous day and drive through an area that many visitors to the state miss with undulating golden hills and small quaint towns dotting them. I had been to craft beer legend Anderson Valley Brewing some 15 years earlier and though not high on my list of priorities, it would be tough to drive right by especially at lunchtime. It had moved from a small pub in town to the outskirts for expansion purposes but they had built a nice tasting room. They did not serve food but they conveniently had a very charming garden in the rear and we relocated there with our beers. I fetched some of our leftover picnic supplies from the car and we soon had the makings of a great and less expensive stop. It was one of those perfect California days, full of sun, warm but not too hot, no humidity. Sitting under the trees was paradise.
Tearing ourselves away to meet my cousins was no easy task but we were soon back on the road to Van Damme State Park where they had been camping all weekend. The truth was if it were not for them being there, it would be next to impossible to camp on the coast in California on a summer weekend, let alone the 4th of July. We arrived to find them out and about, a note on their picnic table explaining they would be back shortly. Rather than look for them, we settled into what was admittedly a stunning camping spot, set right in the dense coastal forest.
They soon arrived and welcomed us warmly. It had been 15 years since I had seen them and their little boy was now in college and towering over me. We enjoyed a few of our Bear Republic beers and though I was ready to cook, my cousin insisted on taking us to dinner at, you might have guessed it, another brewpub. I guess my reputation precedes me. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Enjoy the scenery of the Redwoods to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West. A strolling tour of the town will take you to artist's workshops, galleries and excellent restaurants. Pack a picnic lunch (San Francisco sourdough bread, hard salami, cheese and wine) to feast on while overlooking the pounding surf below the cliffs.
Fondest memory: We first visited Mendicino on our Honeymoon as part of a weeklong trip around Northern California. We fell in love with the area, returning several years in a row. Time and money got in the way for a while, but we returned in June of 2000 for our 25th Wedding Anniversary. It was a treat to find it had stayed quite the same. Please enjoy my travelogues on the town of Mendicino, the Little River area, The Heritage House and the Albion area (all close to Mendicino). (Little River, Heritage House and Albion are under construction.) Live, Love and Remember ...
Walk around the town and enjoy the historic buildings. Only two are open to the public, the FORD HOUSE which is also the Visitor Center, and the KELLEY HOUSE MUSEUM. Both are located on Main Street.
Fondest memory: Absorbing the atmosphere of this charming little town. I don't know what these buildings were in the pic...
Favorite thing: See the Masonic Hall built in 1866. The statue on the roof is carved out of a giant Redwood trunk and is Mendocino's best known landmark. The true meaning of the statue is kept secret by the Mason's. The lodge master, Wilber Wade, stated in a LA Times article that 'The figures depicted are used by the Masons' in their ritual work and thereby unknown to person's except Masons.' Another Mason stated that all parts of the statue together mean 'time, patience, and perserverance will accomplish all things.' In the same LA Times article, Assistant Grand Secretary of the Grand Masonic Lodge stated 'That statue really should not be there. It should never have been done. Technically, according to our beliefs, it is something that should not be publicly displayed.' Makes you wonder...