Fort Bragg, CA

Pomo Bluffs

The views below are taken from Pomo Bluffs Park, 25 acres of land on the southern bluff overlooking Noyo Bay. Harbor RV Park sits adjacent to the Bluffs and our RV backs up to the park fence.

The red circle below shows the whereabouts of our RV…

A fishing vessel enters the harbor. That’s Noyo Headlands and Beach in the background.

Noyo Headlands

The name No’Yo is a Native American Pomo word meaning “under the dust.” It originally referred to a seasonal campsite where the Pomo settled further north of Fort Bragg. When the tribe relocated here they brought the word with them. (plaque on Pomo Bluffs)

These 3 gravestones in a pioneer cemetery on the headlands are believed to contain the remains of 3 soldiers from the Fort Bragg army post.

And here’s a view of the Noyo Bridge, Noyo Beach, and Pomo Bluffs… Look closely to see the white recreational vehicles at Harbor RV Park.

Noyo Harbor

Fort Bragg had an established lumber port at Noyo Harbor by 1873. The Union Lumber Company was founded in 1891 by absorbing most of the smaller lumber mills in the area. In 1901 the Union Lumber Company incorporated the National Steamship Company to carry lumber, passengers, and supplies. Manufactured creature comforts and necessary staples such as sugar and coffee were delivered by steamship because the wagon roads were long and impassable, especially during winter.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake caused fires that threatened the saw mills and city. Coincidentally, however, the earthquake also brought prosperity as the mills furnished lumber to help rebuild San Francisco. (en.m.wikipedia.org)

Of course commercial fishing has also played an important role as a major economic resource. Tuna, salmon, rock cod, and ling cod are abundant in the ocean waters outside of the harbor. Today sport fishing helps support the local economy. (plaque on Pomo Bluffs)

Fishing vessels leave early in the morning and return throughout the afternoon, providing fresh seafood to local markets and restaurants. The Noyo Fish Company offers fresh salmon and rock cod to go as well as the catch of the day. Princess Seafood Market and Deli offers hook and line caught seafood by an all female crew of girls gone wild.

Several restaurants and cafes offer everything from fine dining to clam chowder, to fish tacos, to fish and chips… and for the landlubber, hamburgers. (visitmendocino.com)

The Noyo Harbor Inn sits above the riverbank and features a restaurant, bar, conference room, deck, and sitting gardens.

Dolphin Isle offers RV sites, vacation rentals, and boat slips.

Sacred Woods is a garden of outdoor sculptures, Buddhas, and furniture. Two gift shop showrooms are loaded with mystical art and whimsically divine gifts from Thailand and Indonesia. (visitmendocino.com)

Glass Beach

Between 1906 to 1967 the three glass beaches were city trash dump sites. Cars, batteries, bottles, cans, and appliances were pushed over the cliffs into the ocean. This was a common practice of seaside cities throughout the world for many  centuries. Battered by wind, waves, rocks, and weather, the trash eventually broke down into smooth, colorful sea glass. (fortbragg.com)

The website cautions visitors to snap a photo, but leave the glass behind for others to discover.

So, you can imagine my disappointment when no colorful sea glass was evident ANYWHERE!

Highway 1

The California Coast

From Fort Dick and Crescent City we continue south on Highway 101 until we pick up Highway 1 in Leggett.

What are we thinking? …The curves and swerves, twists and turns, narrow and steep roads of Highway 1 in a 35-foot motorhome towing a car on a dolly? The bungee cord on the refrigerator pushes the doors of the appliance open from the weight of beverages on a shelf. Then something flies off from somewhere as we hear a noise and see an airborne disc on the camera view of our car and tow dolly. We pull over when we find some turn-off space and I walk back along Highway 1 looking for our missing object. And there it is lying in the middle of the road… the base plate of one of our leveling jacks.


But these spectacular views make it all worthwhile…


After a long, stressful day of driving, (Jeff, you have earned the nickname Mario) we reach our 2-night destination in Fort Bragg.

According to en.m.wikipedia.org, Fort Bragg was founded prior to the American Civil War as a military garrison where troops were stationed to guard the home base. It was never intended to be a military fortification for defending the territory.

But before all this, the area was home to Native Americans most of whom belonged to the Pomo tribe, prehistoric hunter gatherers who lived along the northern coast of what is now California.

In 1856 the Mendocino Indian Reservation was established along the Noyo River. A year later, Lt. Horatio G. Gibson from San Francisco established a military post on the Reservation and named it after his former commanding officer Capt. Braxton Bragg. During the Civil War, Bragg became a General in the Army of the Confederacy. In 2015 members of the California Legislative Black Caucus unsuccessfully petitioned the mayor of Fort Bragg to change its name due to its links to the Confederacy.

In October of 1864 the military post was evacuated and abandoned. The Mendocino Indian Reservation was discontinued in March of 1866. By 1869 small lumber mills were built at the mouth of every creek. The land of the Reservation was returned to the public and sold for $1.25 per acre to settlers who established ranches.


After crossing the Noyo River you can see where we will be staying. Notice the RVs in the upper left hand corner in the picture below.

Harbor RV Park in Fort Bragg

We are backed up to the Pomo Bluffs Park. See that dot of red in the center of the picture below? That’s Jeff, and to his left is our Georgetown Motorhome.

The view from our back window…

And here’s a view of Noyo Beach and the channel leading to the harbor…

The Pomo Bluffs…

Unfortunately the clouds interfere with the sunset. Instead of colorful swirls of orange, pink, and magenta, all we see is a bright white disk sinking below the horizon. We fall asleep to the lullaby of the constant foghorn announcing the approaching harbor… 💤

Fort Dick, CA

Our first stop is only 15 miles south of the Oregon-California border and 5 miles north of Crescent City. But we can’t leave northern CA without visiting the amazing redwoods.

Redwoods RV Resort

Just off Highway 101 on the Del Norte  coast, this RV Park is nestled under the tallest tree species on earth.

The Redwoods Camping Mascot Woodrow Redtree guides visitors throughout the grove of cabins, RV spaces, and tent sites.

Creek Trail

A short trail in the park starts by crossing an old planked bridge.

Life is always “looking up” when redwoods tower overhead.

A fallen coastal redwood looks like a wall.

Look at the size of these shallow roots. That’s all that was holding up this giant.

Here’s the other side of the log. Even fallen redwoods provide habitats for plants, shelters for animals, and enrichment for the soil.

Sooooooooooo big!

At the end of the trail I pick blackberries and carry them in my always handy dandy black bandana. I look forward to eating these with some Greek yogurt and honey we bought locally.

Revisiting Stout Grove

Two years ago Jeff and I stayed at Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park and first experienced the majesty of this ancient coastal redwood forest. We needed to renew our awe and amazement again.

“In 1929, Mrs. Clara Stout donated this 44-acre grove to the Save-the-Redwoods-League to save it from being logged and to memorialize her husband, lumber baron Frank D. Stout. A walk along this .5-mile loop trail reveals colossal redwoods thriving in rich soil deposited during periodic flooding of the Smith River. Here, waist-high sword ferns carpet the forest floor and normally flared tree bases stop short, covered in river soils. Flood waters inhibit the growth of understory trees and plants… leaving the 300-foot redwoods on display. A short spur trail leads you to the serpentine waters of the Smith River.” (nps.gov)

T-h-iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-s much and more!

The Smith River…

This bridge becomes impassable during winter rainfalls.

As quoted on a memorial bench in the grove…

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” Shakespeare 

So true!

Heading Down the Coast

Our RV Spirit Guides

The remains of our dog Murph/Murphy… our first road trip without him…

Our pot head from Weasel and Fitz in Madrid, NM along the Turquoise Trail…

And our alien from Roswell, New Mexico…


Today we pack up tchotchkes and secure cabinets and fridge as we depart Port Orford and slowly head to Thousand Palms Oasis. Our first stop is just across the border into California north of Crescent City.

But before we can hitch the car onto the tow dolly and drive away… RV glitches stall us. First, the magnet needs to be attached to the screen door so that our entry steps can go up and down. Jeff tries a glue gun, duct tape, mailing tape, and tacky craft glue before realizing where the magnet needs to be placed. Then the hydraulic jacks won’t ascend properly. Finally the jacks cooperate but Jeff discovers a problem with one of the rear jacks.

Finally, we are on our way to a new adventure at Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve outside of Palm Springs, CA.


Jeff and I are volunteering as co-hosts in this lush oasis on the San Andras Fault from October through April.

Nestled into the Indio Hills on the northern side of the Coachella Valley, Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is a day-use area with 30 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, oases, wildflowers, wildlife, and a rustic Visitor Center. Check out the website to find out more about the Preserve.


Our driving itinerary is an unconventional one in an RV. We plan on taking Highway 1 from Leggett, CA to Santa Monica where we will connect with Interstate 10 and head southeast to Palm Springs.  I’m sure we will encounter some iffy moments leaving us asking ourselves WHY. Who drives a 35-foot motorhome towing a car on a dolly on the narrow shoreline highway with twists and turns? We do.

Lasting Impressions

Of Port Orford

Fuzzy flora…

Tall blooms…

The Port Orford Heads on Dock Day (June 16th)…

The Morrison Dancers on July 4th…

The dinghy races on July 4th…

Port Orford’s dock…

Battle Rock Beach at low tide and through the fog…

A foggy view of Humbug Mountain from Battle Rock Beach…

A beached jelly fish…

Bull kelp at low tide…

Hubbard Creek cutting through Battle Rock Beach…

Waves…

Fish caught by our friend Kenneth…

Agate Beach and low tide debris…

My friend AJ’s car…

The Street Fair organized by our friend Steven…

The Spoon in Langlois…


By now you know how much Jeff and I love Port Orford. The sea either calls your name or lets you pass by. Three summers ago Port Orford beckoned us like a mythological siren. It is simple and pure… raw and refined… small but large with an underground network community… isolated but social… SPECIAL!

Please take the time to view this excellent video about the uniqueness of Oregon’s southern coast from Bandon to Brookings with Port Orford in between.


Bye bye, so long, farewell Port Orford… See you in June!

Cape Blanco Lighthouse Docent

Finding My Niche Part 3

While I was busy pursuing volunteer venues in Port Orford, Jeff made his own phone call, answering an ad on the local radio station for a cashier at the  Cape Blanco Lighthouse. On Thursday, May 24th, Jeff met Steve Roemen, Executive Director of the Cape Blanco Heritage Society and began volunteering once a week at the Lighthouse Visitor/Gift Center.

Jeff soon learned that Steve was looking for a docent in the lantern room of the lighthouse on Mondays to relieve him.

On June 4th I shadowed Steve and a few hours later I was taking 5 people at a time up to the lantern room to share information about the fresnel lens and the nighttime duties of the lighthouse keepers.


So, without more ado, let the tour begin…

Welcome to Cape Blanco Lighthouse home of:

  1.  The oldest CONTINUALLY operating lighthouse in OREGON (December 20, 1870 the lantern was first lit.)
  2. The most WESTERLY lighthouse in OREGON (The tip of Cape Blanco is the farthest west you can go in Oregon.)
  3. The HIGHEST lighthouse ABOVE SEA LEVEL in OREGON (The focal plane of light is 245 feet above sea level.)
  4. The FIRST FEMALE lighthouse keeper in OREGON (Mabel Bretherton was served as 2nd Assistant Keeper from 1903-1905.)

The tour starts downstairs in the office/workroom and oil room. A seam in the ceiling indicates the room was once divided by a wall separating the 2 areas.

The lighthouse keepers began their days fulfilling office duties and completing any repairs on lighthouse equipment.

Eight 100 gallon drums, originally filled with lard and later mineral oil, were heated by a potbelly stove. Before sunset, the 2 keepers on night duty carried pitchers of oil, a supply of wicks, and lantern replacement parts up the 59 spiral steps to the Watch Level.

Right before sundown they ascended the ladder into the lantern room, opened the fresnel lens, and lit the fire that would guide ships around Cape Blanco at night. It’s possible its light could be seen 23 miles out at sea on a clear night.

After lighting the wick, they descended onto the Watch Level again to adjust the series of flues along the upper brick walls to ensure the fire was burning bright and steady.

But enough talk… the main attraction awaits us up the ladder… the fresnel lens…

Please remember to stay on the black mat, to refrain from touching the lens, and to ascend and descend the ladder facing its steps.

As people step up into the lantern room the oohs and aahs and wows begin as they get up close and personal to the rotating fresnel lens installed in 1936 and still functioning today in 2018.

This lens is not the original one of the lighthouse. The first fresnel lens was a little bigger, did not rotate, and the focal plane was a drum panel. Both lenses, however, were designed by Henry Lepaute and manufactured in Paris, France.

The lens you are viewing weighs one ton. Eight bullseyes rotate slowly around a 1,000 watt halogen bulb. The second bulb is the backup. On a clear night or day the light can be seen as far as 26 miles away. That’s the magic of the optical physics of the fresnel lens. Prisms bend the waves of light and concentrate them into a focal plane.  Every 18.2 seconds the focal plane of light emanating from a bullseye appears for 1.8 seconds.

There’s much more I could share with you but I hope you will someday visit Cape Blanco Lighthouse. The lighthouse is open from 10 am-3:15 pm Wednesday through Monday April through September. If you visit on a Monday my friends from the Heritage Society, Steven, Bob, Judi or Steve, might be giving tours.  The State Park’s volunteers are docents Wednesday through Sunday.

As we descend back down into the office/work/oil room let me say a few words about the weather here.

Sometimes thick fog shrouds the cape and beaches.

Sometimes the winds almost knock you over.

Sometimes it’s so cold and windy that you need to don hat and gloves.

And sometimes it’s sunny and clear in Port Orford, like this picture taken from Paradise Point. But notice the fog and marine layer surrounding Cape Blanco and the lighthouse…


My friend Daisy sent me this link from August 25th of The Oregonian, the oldest continuously published newspaper on the U.S. west coast. (There’s that word continuously again!) Blogger Steven Michael shares his 2014 visit to Cape Blanco and Port Orford.

It’s a well written article with great pics. I hope you will take the time to read it!

Redfish Rangers

Finding My Niche Part 2

The local radio station and signs posted throughout Port Orford advertised a volunteer opportunity as a Redfish Ranger… a person outside of the Battle Rock Wayside providing education and outreach about marine reserves, specifically Redfish Rocks, one of the first two reserves in Oregon.

So… of course, I made a phone call and the next thing you know I am attending an all-day training at the Oregon State University Field Station in Port Orford on May 31st.

The Field Station overlooks Battle Rock Beach.

I take a close-up of Battle Rock from the porch of the Field Station. Humbug Mountain rises in the background. The red arrow points to 2 of the 6 rocks that are called Redfish Rocks. (Five emergent rock islands are always visible from shore. The 6th rock is the small shadow to the right of the arrow and is often not visible.)

Why the name Redfish Rocks, you ask? The preponderance of red kelp and the yellow, orange, pink, and red hues of the rockfish species living here cast a red spell on this underwater habitat.


Redfish rocks:

From the docks…

From the overlook at Battle Rock Visitor Center…

From Battle Rock Beach…

Walking south along Battle Rock Beach…

At the mouth of Hubbard Creek…


The Redfish Rangers are a group of trained volunteers who communicate the unique values of the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve to the public and generally engage people on issues of marine conservation in Oregon. Max Beeken of South Coast Applied Ecology secured a grant to educate the public about the ecological, physical, and cultural aspects of theRedfish Rocks Marine Reserve and Marine Protected Area.

Unfortunately Jeannette, the original Volunteer Coordinator, had to step down due to an unexpected illness.

On May 31st I was one of four volunteers who attended the first training session. Sitting next to AJ, she and I became instant friends. She was a docent at the Hughes House and I was interested in becoming one at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

On June 29th a second training session was held with Maya Holiman at the helm. Three more volunteers attended.

July 4th was our official kickoff date but AJ and I tested the waters, so to speak, on Saturday June 30th.


Part of the grant requirement is to survey visitors at Battle Rock Wayside Visitor Center. We find out where folks are from and where they are headed. As we stand and admire the beautiful coastal view together,  we share our connection to Port Orford and point out the 5 prominent rocks of Redfish Rocks one of five marine reserves in Oregon.

AJ and I soon learned that a clipboard and pencil was a deterrent in approaching visitors. So, donned in our jackets (and eventually red caps) we simply walked up to people and started a conversation… Sometimes short and sweet and sometimes so much more…


I know you want the “so much more”…
What

Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve is a living undersea laboratory dedicated to conservation and research. The Marine Reserve is a 2.7 square mile “no fish/no take” area of kelp beds, large boulders, complex rocky reef, and soft bottom reaching to a depth of 131 feet. No extraction of fish, crab, and red sea urchin is allowed.

An additional 5 square miles beyond the Reserve is the Marine Protected Area where crabbing and salmon trolling is allowed.

Why
  • Protect and sustain seas for future generations
  • Conserve marine habitats and biodiversity
  • Provide a framework for scientific research and effectiveness monitoring
  • Avoid significant adverse social and economic impacts on ocean users coastal communities
  • Invest in the future profitability to provide more fish
  • Offer educational opportunities for students, residents, and visitors
Who and when

In 2009 the state of Oregon enlisted the help of Port Orford’s  commercial fishermen and local community to take part in a pilot project to establish an ocean reserve. After 3 years of “give and take” discussions and meetings between the local community, fishing community, and the state, the Port Orford fishing community picked the location and established the boundaries and rules. After submitting their proposal to the state, the legislature approved and adopted the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Oregon State University (OSU), and the local fishing community began collecting baseline data in 2010. Research monitoring includes: the Fishtracker Project that studies the movement of fish implanted with transmitters, Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) controlled aboard host vessels that allow researchers to monitor habitat by recording video and taking measurements of habitat features and fish species of the reserve, SMURF (Standardized Monitoring Unit for the Recruitment of Fishes) that collects juvenile fishes at the reserve and comparison sites, and hook-and-line surveys conducted inside and outside the reserve to measure the size and distribution of fish species.

Restrictions began in January of 2012.

Will prohibiting fishing in the Reserve benefit the ocean ecosystem? Will the Reserve contribute to a more sustainable fishing industry for Port Orford?

Data is up for review in 2023.


Other interesting facts:

  • It takes 1,000 pounds of kelp/seaweed to grow a salmon
  • Rockfish can live for 50 – over 100 years
  • Rockfish give birth to live babies
    • very small, like plankton
    • vulnerable to currents
    • adrift for about 90 days before settling as juveniles
  • BOFFFFs
    • big old fat fertile female fish
    • as rockfish females age they produce more offspring
    • as rockfish females age they produce more viable offspring


Check out redfishrocks.org to find out more.