Sunday, September 29, 2013

California Highway 1: The long and winding road

I called our next potential destination -- MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg, California -- to see if we could possibly get a spot on Saturday without a reservation.   "If you get here early,"  said the ranger.  So Saturday morning we woke up early (for us -- 6 a.m.), got the rig ready, dumped the tanks, filled up both the rig and the tow car with gas ($4.19 a gallon!), filled the tires with air (which took longer than it should have) and took off south on US 101.

MacKerricher State Park is on California Highway 1, which I'd never been on before.  We were only on CA-1 for 40 miles.  Most of that distance Jim was humming "the long and winding road" while I was keeping my finger on the window open/close button in case I  needed to throw up.  It was, indeed, one long and winding, up and downing road with several daunting switchbacks.  In fact, motor homes over 40 feet in length are prohibited from traveling on CA-1 because they can't make those kind of turns.   

During three tight turns, the speed limit was posted as 15 mph.  Then I saw a speed limit posting for 10 mph and closed my eyes.  Jim just kept humming.  The ranger here at MacKerricher promised that if we continue on CA-1, the rest of it is just as scenic with fewer curves.

Anyway...MacKerricher is a lovely, if some what unkempt, state park.  It's very close to the ocean and a very short walk takes us to wonderful ocean views.  Our campsite is large.  A great hiking trail is nearby.  But the place is just not well taken care of.  I asked the ranger (same one that I talked with about Highway 1) if there had been cut back on staffing and he said yes.  "Used to be," he said, "that we had 6-8 rangers on staff all the time.  That way we could have two people at the check-in station and the rest could be out doing projects and fixing things.  Now we only have 2 and 1/2 staff positions." 

It shows.  For example, when something breaks (parts of a boardwalk or a bathroom, for instance) it looks like they slap a hand-made "closed" sign on it instead of fixing it and the bathrooms were a mess. Jim and I discussed that when a place looks shabby, for some reason people who visit are more inclined to abuse it.  And visitors who tend to obey the rules and love their parks  avoid those places.  Both make the situation worse.  However, considering 2 1/2 people are keeping up MacKerricher -- which has 143 camp sites -- it's pretty darn nice.
Near the entrance station is this gray whale skeleton.  Gray whales swim by the park as they migrate between the Bering Strait and Baja, California. It's not migration time so we didn't see any whales, but we did see lots of harbor seals bouncing in the ocean.  The ranger told me that harbor seals and dogs are related.  
Our campsite at MacKerricher State Park.  The place was packed Saturday night, but we are pretty much by ourselves tonight.
This wooden box on stilts is near our campsite.  At first I thought it was a bear box that a bear could make short work of in about 30 seconds.  But it's actually a food storage locker to protect a tent campers' food from raccoons and other small critters.
MacKerricher State Park  has nine miles of coastline. It was once the ranch of a man named Duncan MacKerricher, who moved here from Canada in 1864 and raised cattle, hogs and draft horses.  In 1949 his heirs sold the property to the State of California.
This succulent-looking plant is a larger version of the very same ice plant I grow in my garden at home in Salt Lake.  It's all over the dunes near the beaches at MacKerricher. A sign we read said it's an unwelcome invasive and competes with endangered plants for nutrients.  
A cloudier ocean-view photo taken today, with ice plants in the foreground getting their fall colors. 
My obligatory " water crashing on the rocks" photo.  Today the waves looked about eight feet high and we saw some surfers taking advantage.
Cleone Lake at MacKerricher State Park is very close to our camp site. 
Jim at the North Coast Brewery in Fort Bragg where we had pizza and watched the first half of the Buckeyes v. Badgers game. (Ohio State won 31-24.  And Oregon State beat University of Colorado 44-17.) North Coast had three buildings on a street corner in Fort Bragg: their brewery, this pub, and a gift shop.  The pub was pretty upscale (for us, anyway) with lots of entrees in the $25-$30 range, which is why we got pizza.  Fort Bragg is a very cool and interesting little town with lots of shops.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly many states, and hence their state parks, are cost-cutting. You're spot on with observation that care begets abuse and disrespect. Beautiful photos! Happy trails.