Updates to the Northern California Coast

(May 7, 2008)


The 360 Panos region Northern California Coast and North Coast Ranges covers everything between the Sacramento Valley and the coast, from Arcata south to the northern edge of the Bay Area. Its unifying features are the redwood forests and the dramatic coastline.

When I first started arranging my VR panoramas into "guidebooks" (regions) back in 1999, the area covered by each one was much smaller than now. Through a process of gradual amalgamation, this guidebook evolved from earlier separate guidebooks for Eureka, the Redwood Highway, the Lost Coast, the Mendocino Coast, the Sonoma Coast, and the North Coast Ranges. Maybe I have overdone it - there are now 47 localities with 251 panoramas .

In November I made a trip to update the sections on Fort Bragg and Mendocino, and in January/February did the same for Eureka, Shelter Cove, and Sinkyone. There are still some areas up there that I want to fill in or update (notably Arcata), and the stretch of coast from Mendocino to Salt Point needs a lot of new panos. I want to hike the Lost Coast again, both the northern (Mattole River to Shelter Cove) and southern (Sinkyone Wilderness) stretches, and climb King Peak.

The Redwood Highway section needs to be completely redone, and supplemented with Headwaters Forest and Grizzly Creek. I currently have nothing at all from the higher coast ranges (Yolla Bolly, Snow Mountain) or the Clear Lake area, nor from the beautiful vineyard valleys of the upper Russian River. So this guidebook is far from complete.

Here's a review of the new additions to this guidebook.

Samoa is an old company town, formerly the property of the Hammond Lumber Company. Now it is famous mostly for the Samoa Cookhouse, but most of the old buildings are still in good shape and there are plans for redevelopment. It is located on North Spit, site of some big industrial properties and a long stretch of dunes and beach.

Eureka is one of the under-appreciated small cities of California. There is the commercial port and a newly developed waterfront. The impressive historic section known as Old Town is rivalled only by Old Sacramento and Port Angeles (in Washington). Downtown Eureka boasts some fine old buildings and a vibrant arts scene.

Ferndale is a true gem of a small town, a Hollywood favorite (Outbreak, The Majestic). I managed to reshoot it in the last hour of winter daylight.

The Lost Coast Headlands are something new, recently acquired by the BLM and opened to the public. This is a notoriously unstable bit of coast and one stretch of road dropped down 400 feet a few years ago. It could be a new and vital link in the California Coastal Trail, which now goes far inland here.

Shelter Cove is an isolated development in the middle of the Lost Coast. Laid out by real estate developers in the 1960's, it features an airstrip, golf course and campground, a few motels and small stores, and a scattering of houses with more under construction. Its wild and lonely location makes it worth the long winding drive over the coast ridges from Highway 101 at Garberville.

I photographed the old Cape Mendocino Lighthouse ten years ago in its original location by trespassing, so it was nice to see it restored and relocated to (Mal Coombes Park in Shelter Cove. Also of note is the Black Sands Beach just north of town.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is one of my personal favorites. I made a special trip there in February and was blessed with a sunny day followed by a foggy day, both with 15-20 foot waves. The northern section, Whale Gulch, is pictured here in the fog, a very common condition.

The center section of the park features the old Needle Rock Ranch. I was fortunate to be able to walk right through the herd of Roosevelt elk that lives there on my hike back from Whale Gulch. I camped at Barn Camp (that's my van parked by the barn, my tent in the trees, and spent an hour shooting the sunset from the clifftops.

From Needle Rock a dirt road leads south to Bear Harbor. My favorite shot here was taken on a dangerously unstable cliff edge above the roaring surf.

The last day of that February trip I started to work my way south along the Mendocino coast starting at Westport, but the bone-chilling fog quickly discouraged me. I will pick it up again at Cleone and McKerricher, maybe next fall.

The famous and very interesting central Mendocino coast has already been covered in this blog (see Weekend Trip to the Mendocino Coast).

Fort Bragg and its picturesque port Noyo get better all the time, making a long transition from the old economy of timber and fisheries to a new one of tourism and art. Mendocino itself (properly Mendocino City, but nobody calls it that) is widely recognized from movies and television and well established as a venue for art. Actually, most of the artists now live elsewhere, notably in Fort Bragg.

Back in November I also managed to photograph a few places in the coast ranges inland from Mendocino, the pygmy forest and Albion River, and one of my favorite redwood groves, Montgomery Woods. I used one of the redwood pictures as my entry in Best of 2007 on the World Wide Panorama site.

Though I took them over a year ago, some panos of Sonoma Coast State Park and Bodega Bay have only just been added to the site. And finally, a token few shots of the wine valleys, specifically Boonville and Anderson Valley.


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