Jug Handle SNR – Mendocino Coast

Jug Handle SNR - Mendocino | Smiling in Sonoma

The hubs and I like to explore a little further away from home when there’s a long weekend. We had been planning a day trip up to Mendocino for a couple weeks and had suggestions from a former local, researched which hikes and had our route all planned out. Friday morning I bent over to pick up a shirt and poof, there went my back. Lower back spasms that I have fought so hard not to have began. It’s just that easy. At work on Friday I carefully walked, sat, stood, stretched and probably took a little too much ibuprofen but I was determined for this to not hinder our completely packed weekend!

We skipped the music in the park Friday night and stayed home to rest. Up early Saturday morning I could barely walk so I got out the heating pad and laid down on it for the next hour while stretching then was able to get up and get ready. Showed the hubs the video for putting KT tape on my lower back and off we went!

Our first stop was Glass Beach. We had been wanting to go there for quite a while and today was the day. It was perfect. We got out to the beginning of the super short trail and a kind old man that has lived in Fort Bragg for 70 years struck up a conversation with us. He was too cute! Ed, the cute old dude, became our personal tour guide! He walks this short walk every day to keep up his health. He was going at just the pace I needed to walk! We talked about his family, my family and the history of Glass Beach. One tidbit of history he gave us was the Island of Joy. It was a brothel back in the early 1900’s!! What?!?! Yep, below are some pics of Glass Beach and what I believe is the Island of Joy after it burned down almost 100 years ago. There were no historical markers, just Ed telling us about it and keeping the history alive. It made my day to have met such a sweet old man willing to put up with us tourists in his hometown!

From Glass Beach we headed south of Fort Bragg to Jug Handle State Natural Reserve. Thankfully this was a pretty easy 5.5 mile hike. I walked as slow as Ed did at Glass Beach but I made it through without too much complaining and not irritating my back too much more.

We started off from the mostly empty parking lot and headed straight out to the sea cliffs. The views of the Mendocino Coast were amazing! The water was this beautiful turquoise blue in the coves and deep blue out in the wide open ocean. Wildflowers still bloomed along the bluff trails in spite of the wind and chilly temps.

Rounding the bluffs we followed the trail to go under Highway 1 and down a beautifully built wooden staircase to a freshwater creek flowing into the ocean. This is an out and back trail with very little elevation gain which was very welcomed! You hike from coastal views to being in a forest for the rest of the hike. Large redwoods, shade loving plants, streams (some empty, some still trickling), on and off of a road winding through this beautiful forest. You can still hear the cars on Highway 1 then you hear nothing and it’s beautiful and peaceful. This hike took way longer than it normally would have but us walking slower allowed us to soak up all of the beauty around us.

Once we hit the pygmy forest we turned around. Those poor trees have been growing for over 100 years and were barely as tall as the hubs and I! I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have a healthy diet!

Heading back we saw a few more people and once we reached the beach it was totally crowded as was the parking lot. Glad we got there early! We made our way south on Highway 1 and pulled over at a look out spot and ate our scrumptious lunch we had picked up in Boonville that morning. We were going to try and do Hendy Woods as well but my back wasn’t having it. So, we will have to go back up another time! The drive on Highway 128 is beautiful in itself and worth doing if all you want to do is take a drive to a beautiful place for a picnic.

Glass Beach:

Free parking, get there early, restrooms, less than a mile to the beach, take only pictures, it’s deceiving so go down the stairs and play in the glass!

Jug Handle SNR:

Free parking, portable potty, beach access, 5-5.5 mile round trip self guided nature trail along the Ecological Staircase, very little elevation gain, dog friendly.

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