Monday, August 27, 2012

The Lost Coast - 26 August 2012

Between Rockport (just above last night's stop at Westport) and Bodega Bay is a section of largely undeveloped and sparsely populated wild coastline, known as The Lost Coast, which Hwy 1 hugs as it twists and turns around the cliffs and bays.

There are a few small towns and only one large city, Fort Bragg which has cheap (for California) petrol, very welcome as we were running out.  After a refuel and coffee stop we began our day with a walk out to Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.
The First Assistant Lighthouse Keeper's house has been restored to the way it would have been when the Lighthouse Station was constructed in 1909.  The station was established after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake damaged a number of lighthouses along the coast leaving this area totally "in the dark".

The house is open to the public and was an enjoyable diversion.  12 of the original 15 buildings at the station remain and most are restored but with different uses now.  The lighthouse which is functional once again, after being retired in 1972, is open as a information centre and gift shop to raise funds for the restoration project.

The next significant settlement down the coast is Mendocino which, again, is proud of its historical buildings and provides a walking map to showcase them.  The interesting difference is the number of towers in the town.
Originally the town was dotted with then, each topped with a windmill to pump water up into the header tanks in the towers.  Only a few remain some, still with water tanks but most have been converted to viewing platforms for looking out to sea.

While looking around Mendocino the morning sea-fog finally lifted leaving us with another brilliantly sunny day to journey on down the coast spotting a wide variety of coastal dwellings.

A particular surprise was to stumble into Russia at Fort Ross  (from "Rossiia").  Originally founded 200 years ago (the celebration was held yesterday) as a trading outpost to supply food to Russian-American Company employees in Alaska and as a hunting post for sea otters, it was "de-commissioned" in 1848 as it was no longer economical.
The site had a number of subsequent owners and uses until it was created as a State Park. Only one original building remains, the others have been reconstructed, or repaired after damage in the 1906 quake, such as the quaint little Russian Orthodox Church.
The Russians established friendly relationships with the local Indians, brought with them some Aleutians from Alaskan, maintained a deterrent threat to the Spanish from the south and never had to fire the cannon situated in the fort's defences. They left of their own accord and the whole time appears to have been entirely peaceful unlike most other colonial outposts established in that era.

Driving south our attention was caught by an amazing building and turning back we discovered that we could drive to it as it was a Chapel open to the public.  The Sea Ranch Chapel is an absolutely stunning piece of design, beautifully executed by local contractors and craftsmen.
It was a gift of two local residents who wanted to provide a non-denominational space for prayer, meditation and spiritual renewal; and simply entering the building lifted the soul, it is so inspiring.

After a few more miles of coastal twists and turns it was time to head inland to Petaluma, just north of San Francisco, our stop for the night.

170 miles today, 6966 total trip. States: California

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