Spring means renewal and the options for rebooting mind and body in Mendocino County are plentiful. Offering the ultimate landscape for recharging, the region boasts equal parts wine, waves and wilderness making a getaway to this Northern California destination the ideal escape hatch. Linger on the Lost Coast, hike among the wild flowers or celebrate the season at a film, food, or wine festival. Boasting 90 miles of prime Pacific coastline, 90+ wineries and 23 state/national parklands, the options for unplugging are endless.
SPRING FLINGS IN MENDOCINO
FINDING THE LOST COAST:
Escaping to the Emerald Forest just got a bit easier. Mendocino’s “Lost Coast” is debuting a new trail within its 80-mile stretch of pristine green comprised of King Range National Conservation Area, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, and a stretch of legendary surf breaks. Nearly 1,000 acres of wild lands have been protected by Save the Redwoods League, which in partnership with Mendocino Land Trust and California Coastal Trail, now offers a humbling experience for adventurers seeking the ultimate reboot, rife with untamed coastline, sprawling old-growth Douglas firs, majestic Roosevelt elk and brain-freezing peace. The latest trail in the preserved stretch, owned by the Save the Redwoods League, is called Shady Dell and will put visitors up close and personal with untouched vistas, ancient redwood groves and the mind-blowing mysteries of the candelabra tree forest. This spring, the 2.3 mile trail will connect hikers to the eye-popping candelabra-shaped redwoods and arteries leading to the fabled coast with new bridges, a boardwalk, interpretive signs, benches and parking. Named “One of the top #10 American Adventures” by National Geographic Traveler, the raw and rugged Lost Coast is the call for outback enthusiasts seeking a final frontier. Cost: Free. For more information, visit www.mendocinolandtrust.org.
HOOF IT IN HOPLAND:
Mendocino’s quaint border town—once a top hops producer and now better known for its vineyards and olive orchards—is home to a series of free, docent-led hikes certain to put a spring in any hiker’s step. The UC Hopland Research and Extension center debuts its new hiking series “Hiking Hopland” every second Saturday in 2016. Hikes for all abilities are available from short, family-friendly hikes to seven-mile treks for the more intrepid explorer, including over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Visitors can choose from several hikes through the spring season including: “Secrets of the Turkey Vulture,” Wildflower Wander,” and tagging along with the Peregrine Audubon Society where wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy a wide diversity of birds on a two-mile trail. The pristine 5,358-acre sanctuary is also home to resident lambs, which are often included in the family-friendly hikes. Free; www.hrec.uanr.edu.
Mendocino’s majestic coast buds with thousands of wildflowers each spring and summer, dotting the diverse terrain with brilliant color. The county’s numerous state parks are prime places to explore the many species of colorful blooms, including blue lupine, the California poppy and bush lilac. Down south in Point Arena, daffodils are the prime attraction, blossoming throughout the area in beautiful shades of yellow and orange and signaling the advent of a sunny new season.
The crashing surf and misty sea air of the North Coast provide the perfect backdrop for the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. The 47-acre garden by the sea hosts an astonishing array of natural beauty with manicured gardens, fern-ringed ponds, hidden pocket gardens, coastal pine forests, and wildflower-strewn bluffs at ocean’s edge. Here, roughly 15,000 California Gray Whales cruise the shores, ospreys circle above one of the richest marine environments in the world, and spectacular flowering terrain spans from the Pacific to the historic Shoreline Highway. Spring brings a riot of color with stunning rhododendrons and magnolias. The gardens also serve as a haven for more than 150 species of birds and a harbor for rare and endangered plants.
Visitors enjoy dramatic blooms, small town charm, local art, and shopping. A seasonal cafe offers made-from-scratch meals with ingredients picked straight from the organic Vegetable Garden.
The Gardens are home to a number of annual events such as California’s largest Rhododendron Show with more than 1,000 entries. The 39th Annual John Druecker Memorial Rhododendron Show takes place Mother’s Day weekend, May 7 and 8. Once a year, Retro Sunday (June 5, 2016) gives visitors a taste of the good ol’ days with $1 entrance fee and $1 single-scoop ice cream.
GET YOUR GOAT ON:
Pique the palate with a visit to newly-opened Pennyroyal Farm Tasting Room and Milking Parlor. Pennyroyal Farm is a 66-acre family farm where goats and sheep are happily raised on a diet of wild grasses and pennyroyal mint to produce the fresh milk that is transformed into their handcrafted fresh and aged cheeses. Here visitors will find Velvet Sister, Bollie’s Mollies and fresh Laychee goat cheese on tap, as well as guided tours showcasing farmstead dairy goats and sheep in a constant state of play. Ideal for families, the alfresco hour-long tour includes behind-the-scenes stints at the creamery, barn, and production facility, culminating with a complimentary cheese tasting. Cheesemaker Erika Sharfen and owner Sarah Cahn Bennett (of Navarro Wines family) do double duty serving Pennyroyal’s first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Rose. Tours: $15/adult; $10 children; www.pennyroyalfarm.com.
FESTIVAL & FAIRS:
Mendocino hosts a number of fairs and festivals celebrating the Spring and Summer seasons. Be sure to mark your calendars and plan your next getaway around an upcoming event in Mendocino County.
Showcasing Pinot Noir from more than 35 wineries in Mendocino County and local food pairings, the Pinot Noir Festival takes place May 20-22 in the rolling hills of Anderson Valley. The party celebrates a single varietal from a single appellation backed with barbeques, a grand tasting of 50+ wineries, winemaker dinners and open houses throughout the rugged valley. Guests will have the opportunity to interact with grape-growers and winemakers while enjoying amazing food, wine and music. This is a cellar-stocking opportunity! $105.00 – $125.00; www.avwines.com.
The 11th Annual Mendocino Film Festival
rolls out the red carpet May 27-29 and June 2-5 showcasing more than 50 films in a variety of venues from coastal Mendocino and Point Arena to Willits. Top picks include the popular Cinema in the Vineyards, hosted in wine-centric Philo (pop. 349), a kickback town quietly creating caché among urban trotters for its top notch line-up of 17 tasting venues and chic lodging. Spotlights include the Seabiscuit Legacy Film Series, Films for our Future and Films on the Arts. Grab a glass and go! $11.00 – $25.00; www.mendocinofilmfestival.org.
Celebrate summer Mendocino-style with The World’s Largest Salmon BBQ in coastal Fort Bragg. This old-fashioned BBQ takes place on July 2nd and features food, drink and merriment. The funds from this special event go toward helping local salmon recovery. Come and enjoy delicious food, listen to great music and spend a delightful afternoon in beautiful Noyo Harbor. For more information, visit www.salmonrestoration.com/the-world-largest-salmon-bbq.
A two-week long festival taking place July 9-23, the Mendocino Music Festival features a range of musical performances in the Concert Hall Tent on the Mendocino Headlands including orchestral, chamber, jazz, Celtic, bluegrass, opera, and other music from around the world. The 2016 series promises to enchant with a piano series featuring an array of talented artists, informative pre-concert lectures, an operatic performance, and an emerging artist concert and more. For tickets and information: www.mendocinomusic.org.
The Mendocino County Fair & Apple Show takes place each September and is perfect for the whole family with a wild rodeo, horse races, barrel racing and sheepdog trials, country music and dancing, a colorful parade of locals and even a cider competition. Once a year, since its start in 1924, the Mendocino County Fair and Apple show has continued the tradition of an old-fashioned harvest festival, showcasing the bounty of the Anderson Valley. There are displays of award-winning local produce, including the giant pumpkins, well-groomed livestock and jars of home-canned specialties and home-baked goods vying for the blue ribbon. Sample locally produced cider and wines, and apple pie, of course. The fair also offers a tasty variety of food and beverages, along with amusing side shows, a parade and carnival rides. Fun for the whole family! www.visitmendocino.com.
MORE ABOUT MENDOCINO
Mendocino County welcomes nearly 1.8 million visitors annually who explore its 90 miles of prime Pacific coastline, 90+ wineries and 10 diverse AVAs (earning the highest percentage of organic and biodynamic vineyards in the United States), 23 state/national parklands and 450+ unique accommodations. Straddling scenic Highways 1 and 101, “The Redwood Corridor,” the County delivers an ideal vortex of waves, wines and redwoods laced with historic villages and outback adventures. For more information, go to www.visitmendocino.com.