Updated: Jul 10
I’m definitely not a prolific writer. I often borrow words from people who are able to articulate the feelings I have that I don't know how to say. I created the blog 5 years ago out of a dark time, as a way for me to reminisce about my adventures and hopefully on the off chance it could help someone create their own travel moments and memories. After a 2 year global pandemic and a personal year of struggles and heartache - I find myself inspired to write and share again.
“Sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful too” (Beau Taplin)
I shared that quote on Instagram a few weeks ago as I was visiting Mendocino; during a time I was emotionally drained, struggling with situational depression and desperately seeking peace by reconnecting with nature. Did you know that doctors in Japan prescribe “forest therapy” to treat depression and anxiety? The scent of the trees enhances your immune system, which boosts resistance against stress. Nature truly heals.
The past 14 months have been, without question, some of the most challenging in my life. My family (including my boyfriend’s family) have experienced a series of difficult life changing events. When presented with repeated challenges, the unprocessed grief can become depression or sometimes something even worse. I lost my smile for a little bit, there were days I didn’t recognize myself, but it’s ok. This isn’t a pity post. One thing I do know is that sometimes it takes certain things falling apart, for better things to fall into place. There will be times that you won’t understand why you're going through what you're going through until you see the strength and growth it built inside you. I wrote the following words for a friend struggling through a difficult year too and I came to realize that others might need to hear the same, including myself:
Be proud of what you’ve overcome. Be proud of the moments you’ve had to humble yourself. The moments you’ve wiped your own tears. Be proud of your resilience. I’ve found that so much of what makes a person beautiful is what they have suffered and survived.
“There are many trees that require great fires to renew and to flourish. There’s wisdom in this''
I often wonder who I’ll be in my 40’s & beyond. I wonder how much I’ve changed since my 20’s. “How strange that the nature of life is changing, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be” (Elizabeth Leser). As I reflect on the year and all the personal and professional changes and challenges I’ve faced, I know in my heart I always did what felt right at the time. “In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you” (Andrea Dykstra).
As I found myself back in Mendocino, there was a part of me that knew I needed to ground myself on the land my grandfather was raised on, Pomo land. I wasn’t as close with my Native grandfather as I was with my Dutch oppie, but nevertheless I hoped walking amongst the redwoods and falling asleep to the crashing waves would soothe my mind and heart. I was burnt out. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, which means you can't cure it overnight. It’s not a “take a bath, read a book, eat some ice cream” kind of thing. It’s the result of repeated stress/loss, toxic work environments/management, poor personal boundaries etc. One hike didn’t cure that, but I do believe in the healing power of nature. If you are at all struggling or just want a breath of fresh air - I hope my below travel tips can help you escape to Mendocino.
With all that said, I’m happy to feel inspired again. A sense of uncertainty for anyone’s future can create anxiety, but also happiness. “I think we’ve been taught from such a young age that happiness is meant to be this big, all consuming thing. And so, we are always waiting. Waiting for this ‘aha’ moment where the wounds are all healed and the growth is all organized . . . I think real happiness, true happiness, exists in the acceptance of the fact that we will always be balancing what is light and dark within ourselves” (unknown). I bet you didn’t expect to read all that just to find out where to stay and what to do in Mendocino :) but thank you for reading along if you’ve come this far.
Well, if you are looking to get away from it all and soak in the Northern California coast - Mendocino County is a place with room to roam! It has 24 state parks and local parks, numerous trails, lakes, vineyards and powerful perches along 90 miles of Pacific Coastline. The county is divided between coastal and inland: as you drive from the north you will discover redwood forests and rivers, from the east, you will travel through rolling hills to the site of the ocean, and from the south, vineyards. There are 12 regions and towns that make up Mendocino county. Happy to announce as of January 2022 that ownership of more than 500 acres of a forest in Mendocino County was returned to 10 sovereign tribes who will serve as guardians to “protect and heal” the land. Read more on NY Times.
I’m an airbnb kind of girl - love a beautiful home with stellar views and I always look for a home with a hot tub.
Chapman Point House was amazing, rich with history and perched on the bluff of Mendocino Bay.
La Puerta Del Mar - comfortable and had a sauna and hot tub, which was so nice to enjoy after a long hike.
Find a place that fits your budget on Airbnb or VRBO.
Family Fun Lodging: Camp Navarro
Higher Price Point for a Resort Feel:
Camping Suggestions - I would recommend Van Damme State Park, one of many parks you can camp or RV.
I can’t fully recommend restaurants since we cook and eat at our Airbnb. However, when we drive up from the Bay Area to Mendocino, we typically pit stop at Korbel’s Cafe/Deli - they make great sandwiches and we usually kick off our trip with mimosas.
We also stop at Timber Cove on the way to or from Mendocino to grab a sunset drink or lunch.
After we check in we always go to Harvest Market, a fantastic market with local groceries and vegan options. We get everything for breakfast, packed lunches for our hikes and dinners.
There is a smaller market in Albion for last minute needs.
Other places to Eat & Drink
Parks & Beaches
Headlands State Park was a wonderful find, great for picnics, camping, and coastal trails. Watch out for the sinkholes! Big River Beach just south of Mendocino, is a local favorite. Dogs are allowed (on leash). You can hang out along the river on the east side of the road, or take the path under the overpass and explore the beach where the river meets the ocean. Big River Beach is part of the Mendocino Headlands State Park
Van Damme State Park is gorgeous, with easy parking and a nice beach, several hiking trails that require varying degrees of fitness, and a pygmy forest. Dogs are allowed in portions of the park, but must be on-leash. They are not allowed on trails, dirt roads, or hike-in sites.
Russian Gulch State Park is about two miles north of Mendocino. Here you can hike, bike, visit a 36-foot high waterfall, and take in views of wildflowers in the spring and gorgeous coastal vistas all year. We did the Fern Canyon Trail. It’s always great to check trails on All Trails
Navarro Beach, where the Navarro River meets the Pacific Ocean. There's plenty of free parking, and sometimes you'll see driftwood structures that beach visitors have built.
Navarro Point Reserve and Coastal Trail is a 1.2-mile trail with stunning views for sunsets and whale watching. There is parking for the trail, but no restrooms or garbage cans so plan to pack out what you pack in.
Point Cabrillo Light Station is another good spot to visit for beautiful views, a nice walk, and a good chance of seal sightings. There's no guarantee that the seals will be there.
Jug Handle is a really interesting area with a 2.5-mile trail that is described on the California parks site like this: "explores three wave-cut terraces formed by the continental glaciers, rising seas, and tectonic plates that built the Coast Range. Few places on earth display a more complete record of how geology, soils, and plants change over time." And the views are absolutely spectacular.
Glass Beach, we've been a little disappointed because so much of the sea glass has been removed.
MacKerricher State Park up north of Fort Bragg is a good spot for spotting seals and whales (during the migration season). There’s an easy walk on a boardwalk here, so families with a little one in a stroller will appreciate the flat surface.
Pomo Point Bluffs in Fort Bragg Pomo Bluffs Park is on a rocky bluff south of the Noyo River in Fort Bragg. This is an excellent spot for whale watching during the gray whale migration to cooler northern waters February through April.
Skunk Train offers family fun out or Rail Bikes on the Noyo, which my family wants to try next time.
For more things to see & do - peruse Visit Mendocino
All pictures taken by my brother, Marc Scarioni