Fort Bragg, CA: The Lost Coast

Here we are on California’s Lost Coast, a mostly undeveloped area, so named after experiencing depopulation in the 1930s, but also maybe because you’re blessedly lost from civilization here, only accessed from all directions by difficult, narrow, twisty/turny roads, and 90 minutes from the nearest large town.

You’ve heard of Fort Bragg, perhaps, but probably not THIS Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg, North Carolina is the largest military base in the U.S., but Fort Bragg in California is a place of jagged cliffs, windswept beaches, and a plethora of state parks and coastal trails for people who love the great outdoors.

The beauty of the coastline is not lost on the state parks people … area parks, like Russian Gulch State Park and Mendocino Headlands State Park, are all long and skinny to take advantage of coastal views.

Predictably, a certain type of little-bit-hippie person who wants to escape from civilization is attracted to the Lost Coast. It’s a place where everyone has a slightly salty odor and a message to share, and not only do they grow microgreens for the farmers market, but they even make ’em just a little bit artsy.

Lost trash becomes lost treasure at Fort Bragg’s most well-known attraction, Glass Beach. Inexplicably, there used to be a coastal garbage dump here. (Two words that should never go together … coastal, and dump.) The ocean has since pounded broken glass from that dump into beautiful sea glass pebbles, mixed in with the sand and rocks. Glass Beach is found by looking for people hunched over, staring at the sand, during low tide.

There’s no way you could get lost while biking the Coastal Trail, a fabulous 8-foot-wide, multi-mile path winding along the coast with zero traffic interference … just you, and the briny sea air, and nothing blocking your views.

If you hope to keep your love from being lost, you’ve got to lock it up and throw away the key; here, on the Pudding Creek Trestle Bridge, north of town. We had a few of these made up on Etsy for cheap (seriously, like $9) and carry them in the RV … just in case an Emergency Declaration of Love situation should arise.

If you hope to lose all your cares on the Lost Coast, Noyo Harbor is the place to go. Gentle breezes, local beers, fresh fish and crabs — just-pulled from the sea, just for you — and watching ships and seals float by, can be found at Noyo Fish Company.

If you want to cook your own, try Princess Seafood (weekends only), or maybe just make friends with the fishermen in the harbor and hope for an invite to an all-you-can-eat seafood bonanza.

At the pretty little Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, signs keep you from getting lost … and also from getting in a bad situation. Which route to take ….??? Hmmmm, decisions, decisions ….

Having recently tried hand-pump railbikes, we decided to give the foot-pedal railbikes a shot. In Monterey: although fun, it was also exhausting, route along the freeway, no time to explore, no guided tour, no scenery to speak of. In Fort Bragg, we experienced the opposite: a leisurely, effortless ride, surrounded by redwoods, knowledgable and hilarious guides, and a pretty little destination where we could get off and hike, snack, and hang out … lost from civilization, even if just for a little while.

If you want to lose your sobriety and possibly even your virginity, on Fri and Sat nights the hottest “party” destination on the Lost Coast can be reached via these same tracks. The Skunk Train people use their 130-year-old train as a shuttle to go back and forth to Glen Bair Junction, a charming outdoor venue, where there’s a bar, food, roaring campfires, live music, cornhole, and more. Having arrived via railbikes in the daytime, we settled for a picnic lunch instead.

If you get lost on the way to Fort Bragg, you might end up in Mendocino, 10 miles south … a charming, Victorian-inspired small town with gorgeous gardens, hidden walkways, and interesting architecture.

Lastly, we lost no chance to view nightly showings of spectacular ocean sunsets out the front RV windshield, or via a short walk to the cliff edge, from Harbor RV Park, situated on the bluff at the mouth of Noyo Harbor.

We now head inland to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, and then north from there to Mount Shasta, which many Native Americans consider a sacred site and the center of the universe! I’m happy to have been lost on the Lost Coast for five days with the center of MY universe!

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