Our camp at Van Damme State Park was approximately ¾ mile from the beach, and we awoke to a sunlit morning. But down at the coast itself, we were confronted with the first fog and chilly breezes in several days. For us the heat wave that has been lingering over the north coast was gone.
With day leader Bob Lorentzen, we walked down to the lighthouse, now carefully restored to working order, and as the light rotated above us, we listened a bit to another visitor, Mark Spence from Seattle. It turned out that Mark is the grandson of the last lighthouse keeper, Bill Owens, and he spoke warmly of his grandfather and the work he did. It was good that it was foggy here; the gloomy atmosphere and diminished visibility gave increased reality to the lighthouse, and the work it did before modern navigation systems were put in place.
We made excursions through Russian Gulch State Park, spent some time in the town of Mendocino, and finished up the day walking through Van Damme State Park and beyond to nearly Buckhorn Cove. It's Saturday, and the beaches are full; the most common marine-aquatic animal today is the abalone hunter. We have three in our own contingent: Si Durney, Peter Breyfogle and David Schneider have come up from Sonoma County bringing a number of relatives, and their expertise at prying the muscular abalone from its watery home. As I write, our abalone dinner is being prepared! Along with the abalone hunters, came the game wardens. We had a nice chat with Gary Combes and Edward Ramos of the California Department of Fish and Game, who were out to make sure that we adhered to the State's game laws.
That is what we did today, but that really isn't the "story" for today. The tale that needs be told is that of road walking. Today is not our first major bout with it and it won't be our last -- tomorrow is ALL on Highway 1 -- but it is turning out to be exceedingly unpleasant; and even with our caution and appropriate attire in orange safety vests, it is extremely dangerous business. It is no place to have a trail. In this part of Mendocino, the lands west of the highway are an admix of public and private. We take little U-shaped excursions down one side and up the other of the public parts with a walk at the bluff top to finish off the U, but these little sightseeing journeys end at PRIVATE PROPERTY and No-Access gated communities that are unwilling to share their private roads with the Coastal Trail hikers. Add to this, extremely high (beautiful) bridges with a short and almost transparent railing next to a very narrow or non-existent sidewalk, and the beauty of Mendocino County is often lost to us as we focus on one step at a time, and one fast moving vehicle after another. (Jon Breyfogle; photos, Linda Hanes)