Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Saturday in Mendocino

Usually I don't do hiking, but one day Seth came home from work and told me about how one of his co-workers went hiking in Mendocino and saw this place called the "Pygmy Forest" where the trees were dwarfed because of the acidity of the soil. This sounded like something neat to see, so I immediately looked it up online.

The Pygmy Forest is located in Van Damme State Park, which is in Mendocino County, California. The park's website said it would be a seven-mile hike, roundtrip. Still, I was intrigued, so last weekend we went out to Mendocino.

The hike itself is really pretty, especially if you like trees and ferns. The trail splits off about a mile in and you can take a path that's about 1.2 miles to the Pygmy Forest, or you can take a 2.3 mile hike on the Fern Canyon Trail. Since both trails lead to the same spot, we ended up taking the shorter route in, and then the longer route out. The shorter trail is steeper, while the longer trail has more bridges and stairs (yes, stairs in a forest). The trees are dense and tall and block out most of the sun, until you get to the Pygmy Forest. Then all of a sudden you can clearly see the sky, and there is just a different kind of foliage.

The forest itself is a bit of a letdown. I think we were both expecting smaller trees covering a large mass of land. Don't get me wrong, the trees are small and skinny, but my mind processes them as just being young trees. It helps to read the posted signs which talk about how tall Bishop Pines normally grow, and just how old the trees are (some of them have been around for a century). The Pygmy Forest does not cover a huge tract of land, and apparently other such forests existed in the area, but we humans have destroyed them.

All-in-all, it's a great way to get some exercise and see part of the California coast. After you finish the hike (it took us about three and a half hours), you can drive to Mendocino or Fort Bragg and enjoy a nice lunch. We ended up grabbing a quick bite at the Mendocino Bakery & Cafe (try the clam chowder, but skip the deep dish pizza), and then drove back on the 128 to Handley Cellars for some wine tasting.

They were having a wine and food pairing that day, so it was too bad we had just eaten a late lunch. We did enjoy the wine tasting part (it's free by the way), and we ended up picking up a bottle of their Riesling to take home. The tasting room has a neat atmosphere, and you should definitely ask about the decor (a nice story, and a bit of family history I think).

After Handley, we stopped at Meyer Family Cellars and tried their Syrah and Port. The 2004 Syrah was nice, and we came home with a bottle of that as well. By now we were ready for a shower and a relaxing dinner, so we tried Healdsburg. Unfortunately, everyone else was staying in Healdsburg last weekend, and the only rooms available were $250+, and we ended up driving back to the East Bay. Maybe next time we'll stay out in Mendocino and Fort Bragg and visit their breweries.

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