Silvers at the Wharf

We had had a busy day – all in the blustery wind. We had done the Skunk Train, walked around Mendicino, visited Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and climbed the rocks at Glass Beach. Now we were hungry. The first night in town we had eaten at an Italian Restaurant which wasn’t bad, but we wanted something “oceany.”

We asked at the desk and they told us to go the wharf where there was a lot of restaurants – but where was the wharf? We had seen trains and gift shops and the ocean … but no wharf. Turns out the wharf was tucked into a small bay, surrounded by hills – hidden away from the main thoroughfare.

The wharf looked exactly like you would expect a wharf to look – no tourism here, just some fishing companies and a few restaurants. We headed for Silvers and asked for a seat overlooking the water.


This is the view from our table - the flowers were on the table.
This is the view from our table – the flowers were on the table.
We did have an Olallieberry cobbler. What's an Olallieberry, you ask? An Olallieberry is a cross between a loganberry and a young berry which are crosses between blackberries and in the case of the loganberry - a raspberry - and in the case of the young berry - a dewberry. Very berryish no matter how you look at it.
We did have an Olallieberry cobbler. What’s an Olallieberry, you ask? An Olallieberry is a cross between a loganberry and a young berry which are crosses between blackberries and in the case of the loganberry – a raspberry – and in the case of the young berry – a dewberry. Very berryish no matter how you look at it.
After dinner I took a picture of the bay from the road.
After dinner I took a picture of the bay from the road.


DSC03353When Cindy asked if I wanted to put Glass Beach on our itinerary, I immediately said, “yes.”

When we first moved to Wisconsin, we used to spend hours walking along the Lake Michigan beach, picking up glass.  We’d fill up jars and put it on our windowsills and the sunlight sparkled in beautiful colors. However, the last few times we were in Wisconsin, we looked but couldn’t find any glass. I guess when they turned North Beach into one of the best beaches in the country, that included cleaning up the sea glass.

So seeing the Fort Bragg Glass Beach seemed like the thing to do.

Although I think the Wisconsin glass was mostly from people having picnics and late night campfires on the beach (illegal or not), but the Fort Bragg Glass Beach is a result of people back in the beginning of the 20th century actually throwing garbage over the cliffs into the water.  In fact, at that time it was called “The Dumps.” Every once in a while, fires would be set to burn the trash. However, as the beach was cleaned up, the waves would bring in the broken glass, rounding out the sharp edges to smooth pieces.

They even have a Glass Festival. (And are thinking about replenishing the glass.)

But even though they make it known that you are not supposed to take glass from the beach, many people do. Reading the Trip Advisor reviews, many said they didn’t see a single piece of glass left.

So don’t get too excited.

The wind was extremely chilly on the day we went and walking on the high bluffs of course, made it even more windy and chilly, but we made our way across the bluff and then had to climb down some rocks. They weren’t too treacherous, but it wasn’t a well laid-out path either. I’m guessing many would choose not to climb down.

The part of the beach we headed for was small and in between some rocks (that you couldn’t get over), but there was at least some glass there.  And the ocean view through the rocks was pretty.


Point Cabrillo

Once we got off the Skunk Train and back on land, we headed to Mendocino and walked around town.

Ok, this is weird. I took a couple books with me to enjoy during the vacation days. And the one I chose to read was, coincidentally about Mendocino. As we were walking around town I saw a store called Corners of the Mouth. The name stuck out with me because I wondered how mouths could have corners.

But one of the people in the fiction story worked at Corners of the Mouth.

We passed a small Baptist church.

The girl in the story talked about attending her “small Baptist church.”

Kind of interesting.



We then started back to Fort Bragg with a stop at the Point Cabrillo lighthouse. Actually it was when an opium brig wrecked off Point Cabrillo back in 1870 that led to the exploration of the area and the discovery of the nearby redwood forests and thus the beginning of the lumber camps in the area.

The lighthouse was built in the early 1900s and started service in 1908.

The parking lot is about a 1/2 mile from the light itself – so first you walk to get to where you’re going. The wind was still whipping around and the closer we got to the point, the whippier it got.

I have seen beautiful lighthouses  (the one we lived by in Racine is one of the best) – this lighthouse was more on the “cute” side (if lighthouses can be cute).  However, the point itself was beyond compare. Standing on the edge of the bluff overlooking the Pacific and listening to the waves splash against the rock was beyond compare. I think heaven will have some scenes like that.

I wish I could have put it all in a box and brought it home. Pictures don’t begin to tell the story.

DSC03343 DSC03350 DSC03349 DSC03348


The Skunk Train


DSC03337Outside of the coastal town of Fort Bragg, California, train tracks head through the redwood forest (but new growth redwoods, not as magnificent as the trees in other areas), along Pudding Creek and then along the banks of the the Noyo River into the town of Willits, forty miles away.

The track, part of the California Western Railroad,  was originally laid in 1885 to carry redwood logs to and from the lumber camps. The approximate halfway mark is a stop called Northspur.

Originally the trains were powered by steam but were then replaced by gas-power. People said you could smell them before you saw them, so the name “Skunk Train” became popular.

Now the Skunk Train mostly carries tourists, although some of the people who live in isolated houses on isolated land along the isolated route, still depend on the train to bring needed supplies. I think (not positive) the conductor also said that some of the kids from the few camps along the route get to ride to camp on the train. (Again, not sure, but that’s what I understood.)

Because of the season – the train (on the day we rode) only ran from Fort Bragg to Northspur where we had lunch and then returned to Fort Bragg. We went through a deep and VERY DARK tunnel (which collapsed last year and almost closed down the railroad. Enough donations were given to fix it and last August, the train again began to run). The tunnel was dug by hand back in the day.

From what I’ve read, the second half of the ride between Northspur and Willits might be the more exciting – the train travels up the mountain until it reaches a tunnel at the top. (The train actually travels 8.5 miles of switchbacks to go less than a straight-line mile.)  The first half (from Fort Bragg to Northspur) was pretty, but to be honest, not spectacular.   Don’t get me wrong. I truly enjoyed it and would do it again, but it did not have spectacular scenery such as, for instance, the Georgetown Loop Train out in Colorado.

But I’m thinkin’ that second half might have had some spectacularity to it.

The ride did a lot to simply help me relax, however, after going nonstop the past couple months.  I needed that and that made it all worthwhile. We passed some interesting mining camp remains, had good narration by the conductor and were serenaded by a young man who specialized in train songs. (I’ll see if I can post a video.)

After about an hour and a half or so we arrived in Northspur and had a 45 minute break. You could purchase hotdogs, brats and hamburgers and fortunately, hot chocolate, since it was a just a little cold. The food was grilled right there in front of a miniature train set.  The place smelled like camp … which is a good thing. Picnic tables were set up – but it was damp and cold so we didn’t sit very long.

Then we got back on the train and returned to Fort Bragg.

Up the Coast

After checking out what the Golden Gate Bridge looks like under the clouds, we headed up the coast on the windy Route #1.  We passed miles of beautiful shoreline – and headed for Bodega Bay. We had heard there was a great little restaurant there – a great place to get fish and chips.

And we found the restaurant, but both got the clam chowder bread bowl. Wow! Very, big-chunks-of-vegetables delicious. Even though it was a little chilly and cloudy, we ate outside on the patio.

A great Pacific Coast meal.

The Mist of San Francisco

Last Sunday morning we left from Castro Valley and headed north along the coast – but first we needed to go over the Oakland Bay Bridge (think earthquake), pass Fisherman’s Wharf and then the Golden Gate. Gray clouds rolled across the sky, covering the city in dismalality (I just made up that word.) The wind whipped across the bay and tourists huddled as they took pictures at the park.

But it was the ocean and it was beautiful. We headed down the trail to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, watching the waves smash against the rocks and explode in a clouded mist. The endless ocean stretched out on one side of the trail, the city on the other. A tunnel was carved in the rocks to reach the lighthouse point.

The brochure says, “Discover Point Bonita’s wild landscape, geology and fascinating history. A secret jewel of the Bay Area, Point Bonita is still an active lighthouse.” (The lighthouse was built in 1855.)

Alas, not on this cloudy Sunday morning. In fact, we didn’t even see a glimpse of the lighthouse. The tunnel was locked and our only option was to retrace our steps.

Yet, how many mornings in a year do I get the opportunity to walk along an ocean path?


The Munchkin and Her Monkey

The almost-12-year-old likes sock monkeys.

A lot.

About a year ago I was checking out Midway Village in Rockford. I had seen a sign for it on the way home from “up north” and wondered if it would be a fun place to take the kids so checked out the website. At which point I learned something I didn’t know before (and actually, do not remember ever wondering about) – I discovered that Rockford is the home of the sock monkey. Truly.

But what grabbed my attention was the Sock Monkey Madness Festival. Sock monkey enthusiasts come from all over the country and even the world to celebrate the stuffed monkey.

Some of the earliest sock monkeys - from the 1920s
Some of the earliest sock monkeys – from the 1920s

I am not really into sock monkeys, but am into doing fun things for the kids’ birthdays, so I put the 2014 Sock Monkey Madness Festival on the schedule. (We had missed the 2013 festival.)

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I mean WHAT do you do at a Sock Monkey Madness Festival on a cold March day? How mad can you get with a bunch of sock monkeys? I pictured a room of booths selling all things sock monkeys.

And that’s exactly what it was. Some of the monkeys were cute. Some were sort of not so cute. Some booths sold clothes (apparently sock monkeys need an extensive wardrobe) and an author of a book about sock monkeys was signing autographs. Truly monkey madness.

The sock monkey when the Nelson Knitting Company started making them in the l950s
The sock monkey when the Nelson Knitting Company started making them in the l950s

We wandered around for awhile and then headed down a hallway to the museum part of the building which told about the history of Rockford and the history of sock monkeys. (Truly, did you know sock monkeys had a history?)

Then we discovered we could make our own sock monkey. The lady said it would take an hour and a half to two hours, so we only purchased one kit.

What we received for $20.00 was a plastic bag containing a pair of socks and sock monkey instructions.

Our bag with our socks.
Our bag with our socks.

The room was set up with long tables, crowded with people making sock monkeys. (About 200 monkeys would be handmade by sock monkey fans during the fest.)

Some were novices (like us) and others obviously came to the festival each year because they had the past years’ sock monkeys lined up at their work stations. One man was saying he had 54 sock monkeys.

The munchkin and I read our instructions and got started on our project.

Other supplies were on the tables: scissors, stuffing, yarn, buttons, etc.

Our instructions.
Our instructions.

The munchkin began by cutting one of the socks and stuffing the legs.

The munchkin stuffs the monkey.
The munchkin stuffs the monkey.

After the sock was adequately stuffed. I sewed the stuffing inside the monkey and then we tied yarn around the top to form the head. So far. So good.

DSC03200About this time, two delightful young ladies came and sat across from us – Andrea and Liz. We discovered they worked at the Rockford Visitor’s Center and often told people about the Sock Monkey Madness Festival, but had never actually been to one and never before had the privilege of making a sock monkey.

We had so much fun talking with them – we felt we had made two new friends. In fact, the munchkin and I ended up on the Rockford Visitor Center blog  – just as I am sharing a picture of them right here! (If  you check out their blog – be sure and watch the video, too, and see the munchkin with her monkey.)

Andrea and Liz make their sock monkeys.
Andrea and Liz make their sock monkeys.

We had a good time laughing with them about our less than stellar efforts at sewing the arms, legs and mouth on the monkeys. (Rather tricky, actually.)  But we did it! Two hours later – this is what we had!

DSC03211 The munchkin even made a bracelet for the monkey and for Andrea’s and Liz’s monkeys, too.

We emerged from the room to find out that it had snowed the entire time we were there and was still snowing. (How unusual this winter.)

We had many miles to go – so we headed home.

But a good time was had by all and a new sock monkey had entered the world.