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Traveling north: Mendocino, Part II

August 11, 2011 |  6:00 am

Continuing our series of travel tips from the north country.

There is no shortage of places to stay in the town of Mendocino. The place may have more bed-and-breakfasts per capita than any place on earth. But we always reserve one night at Alegria, run by Eric and Elaine Wing Hillesland. They’re great hosts, always ready with tips on things to do, and the rooms have a rough-hewn charm … let’s just say if you remember the ‘70s, you’ll love it as much as we do. 

Alegria is perched on the edge of the headlands, right where Big River meets the Pacific Ocean and it is one of the few places in Mendocino that have beach access. This is the view from the back porch of Cove Cottage, where we stay, of the path that leads down to the water. See the wooden swing? From there to the sand is almost nothing but wild blackberries. Just saying.

Just across Big River from Alegria is Catch a Canoe and Bicycles, Too, which rents pretty much just what you’d expect. I’ve kayaked from there before, but this time the owner persuaded us to take one of their outrigger canoes, beautiful little wooden boats hand-built over in Potter Valley. We planned on just a short trip up river--an hour up, an hour back--but one thing led to another: an osprey diving for a fish just behind us, a ginormous lazy harbor seal lounging on a log, all kinds of water birds, and even a sinuous river otter sliding silently along the bank.

Harbor seal Finally, after two and a half hours, we decided it was time to head back. But first, a picnic -- a crusty loaf of Café Beaujolais bread, some stinky cheese and a bottle of Husch Chenin Blanc (all that paddling works up a thirst).

Another discovery: the wide covered crossbeam on the outrigger makes a perfect dinner table.

--Russ Parsons

Photo credit: Russ Parsons