Mendocino for the soul

Leaving Tommy the Tripper to the winds of chance, we got back in Ronda, our little red rental car, and headed over beautiful Highway 20 towards Mendocino. We still had some road munchies from the Ashland Food Co-op (coconut chocolate goji berry squares, or some such awesomeness) but as we passed Clearlake I had to stop at The Grub Shack, whose red lettering said “Country boy American food” and there was a gigantic barbecue on the deck cooking the largest rack of beef short-ribs I’ve ever seen.
I sat and ate the most delicious hamburger I’ve had in years, listening to disappointed country lads being told the ribs smoking outside wouldn’t be ready for another few hours. Sorry K, but I’ve never been happier to be a meat-eater. Gotta go back someday for the ribs.

Driving through redwoods to the Mendocino Coast felt like entering my religion’s cathedral after years of pilgrimage in heathen lands. Those trees. I don’t mean to be polemic or offensive, but I don’t understand how anyone can sit in a normal church if a forest is nearby. When you look at those giants, how can you think God lives in a little human-built box? In a world with natural beauty like that, how can anyone think The Divine gives a beautiful little rat’s ass about what hat you wear, how you pray, or who you love?

We were staying in another airbnb property, this time a palace of light wood, tall windows, and forest light. Our room was on the second floor, with high ceilings, and waking up in the morning felt like we’d slept in the world’s most comfortable treehouse.

The weather this whole trip has been perfect, sunny on walking days and raining in the forest, and our first night in Mendo we sat in the outdoor hot tub, 104 degrees F, listening to the light rain in the redwoods and feeling it dancing in exuberantly cool opposition on our faces. Tangible Beauty. Ineffably Holy. (Not a smidgeon of dogma in sight.)

We ate good food again, saw the small-town hippies walking their dreadlocks, dogs, and dogs’ dreadlocks, and strolled about the epic Mendocino Headlands on a blustery day when waves exploded into the air around us and an older couple gifted us with smiles and “you guys remind us of ourselves, 40 years ago.” The woman walked carefully with a cane, he remained close by her side out of love not obligation, and I loved them immediately.

We went for a walk in Van Damme State Park, strolling in bliss beside a clear stream, redwood drips blessing us with every step, smiling effortlessly and sincerely at any passing travelers and ferns. I thought the damp little walkers were fire bellied salamanders, but now I reckon they were Taricha granulosa granulosa, Rough-skinned Newts.

Leaving the park we crossed the street to stare in awe at the Pacific, leaping off the craggy rocks of the Northern California Coast.

I could go on for far longer than you want to read, so suffice to say, I’ve seen a lot of amazing places (I‘m looking at you Sahara, Himalaya, Pyrenees, Scottish Highlands, Caribbean…), and nothing beats the Pacific Northwest. Being there feels like home base for the soul.

Leaving was hard, especially since I was unable to see my favorite 8 and 5 year olds in the world, who live in the area, but the fact that we were headed down to the family and friends of the San Francisco Bay Area put a glowing goal over the horizon to reach for.

I love that feeling.