Pacific Coast Highway (Rte. 1)
There's a pretty good chance that, if you're making a trip up or down the California Coast, you'll spend some time in Fort Bragg. This is largely because it's just about the biggest town in these parts--so it has all those things you need, like gas stations, fast food restaurants, and motels. Oh, and it also has a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.
I spent the night in Fort Bragg, after a tiring drive down the northernmost section of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was dark, there were lots of curves, and I was glad when this tiny city finally came into view. By the next morning, I was anxious to complete my drive down the coast to San Francisco, but I decided to take just a few minutes to explore.
I found a place on the north end of town that promised "beach access", so I checked it out. In order to access the beach, you have to walk along the edge of Pudding Creek, which travels underneath the train trestle, and out to the water.
I suspect that trestle is the end of the line for a popular local attraction known as the "Skunk Train". Despite the unappealing name (which they earned back in the 1920's, when gas-powered engines were put into service), you might want to consider spending half a day aboard the train, which travels inland, through redwood groves and hilly terrain. Check out their website for schedules and fares.
Follow the stream and you end up here, on a rocky beach that, at least on the day of my visit, is pretty much empty.
Looking to the north, you can see the southern end of Mackerricher State Park, an area also known as Ten Mile Beach. I'd imagine the park is quite nice, but I don't know if there's an admission fee. No matter, where I was, was free, and I was ready to move on to the next coastal town.
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