Backroads Journal

Magical Mendocino

Rolling into Mendocino at dusk, after a long and circuitous drive up California 128 from Napa Valley, I could sense a connection to something deep in my psyche.  You know that feeling, when you instantly feel a comfort of place and everything seems right?  That was the feeling I sensed.  Maybe it was anticipation of being somewhere I had never been or simply being able to see the horizon again (you have to be from one of the plains states to understand that feeling), but I could feel the tendons in my neck beginning to relax as we drove through town.

This being day 12 of our three week journey out to California, we were more than ready for some quiet, rest and relaxation.  The last seven days had been a whirlwind of visiting old friends and touring San Francisco and the Wine Country.  Our inn for the next few nights had been somewhat of a splurge.  The Select Registry, our favorite country inn listing service, touted the Sea Rock Inn as having “individual ocean view cottages and suites on a hillside overlooking the sea”.  Trip Advisor, however, cautioned travelers about the traffic noise in the rear cottages, so, looking forward to our quiet, ocean view from the hillside, we plunked down the extra investment for Cottage One, closest to the waves.  We were not disappointed!  We spent the next three nights listening to the breakers and the sea birds and wandering the Mendocino headlands during the days.
Now, if I were one to uproot and relocate in a perfect world, there are two places I have found so far that would entice.  One magical place would be Door County, Wisconsin and Fish Creek, in particular.  Not sure why, but I have good feelings about that place.  It is familiar, eclectic and a hangout for artisans.  Mendocino has the same magical qualities.  Strolling the compact little community, you will find fine art galleries, special, unique gift shops, gourmet dining, funky ice cream and coffee shops looking like holdouts from the psychedelic 60’s, book stores and quite a few real estate offices.
Mendocino, established in 1850 as a log shipping port, has become one of those interesting, magical enigmas of part preserved historic community, part art colony, part quiet backwater burg and part tourist Mecca.  The sheer effort it takes to get there has kept it from the mainstream.  The setting has drawn those who appreciate the esthetics.  It was on the second day of wandering the town that I realized what had drawn me and had settled on my mind as comfort.  “It’s the water towers and windmills!”  One of those ah-ha experiences had hit me.  Of course, a boy from Kansas would feel comfortable among the water towers and windmills that sprout from nearly every block in Mendocino!  I just can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out.
The water towers, built to provide water pressure to homes and businesses in a town without a central water system, are still functioning.  The windmills, providing wind power to pump water up from the many private wells, are mostly history.  Electric pumps have taken over that function, but there are still a few maintained today.  The effect of the historical structures gives Mendocino a unique, rustic charm all of its own.  Not only is the rocky headland and magnificent ocean setting of Mendocino powerful, but gazing across the skyline silhouette toward the hazy sunset, the water tower structures in all their unique variations are unforgettable.  Just a magical place!


To get some fun facts about the community, check out,_California.

To visit Mendocino and find your own magic, go to for information.  We enjoyed our stay at The Sea Rock Inn,, but there are many other fine inns and bed & breakfasts to choose from.