The only Fort Bragg I’d ever heard of before now was associated with the Army Airborne, but just a few days ago I visited the one on the other coast in northern California, and I loved it. Giant redwoods, fascinating history, tourist trains, cute towns, stunning ocean views and great beaches-this place is a great two or three day stop. Here are three highlights of the trip:
Rail bikes-This was a first in my experience. These contraptions are basically carts which have been fitted with railroad wheels below and side-by-side recumbent bikes above. You provide the pedal power with an electric assist to move down the rails. It’s fun and easy to do for almost any age or physical condition. My only complaint is that the ride only takes about an hour-I wish we had more time to explore, but as we were in a group of about 7 or 8 of these things (with lead and follow bikes) to make sure we all stayed on track there was no way to explore on our own.
Glass Beach-Locals will tell you that the glass beach was the result of the county dumping the garbage directly into the ocean until 1959. The trash, including glass, washed down the sea until it was polished and rounded and deposited at this small section of beach. The trouble is, the supply is dwindling, having been cut off 60 years ago, but there are still plenty of small bits left if you have the patience to pick through the sand. Even if you don’t care to pick anything up, it’s still pretty, especially when the late afternoon sun flickers off the tiny multi-hued glass globules.
Fort Ross-OK, so this is actually a pretty fair drive from Ft. Bragg, but it’s too historically significant to ignore and the strategic location overlooking a remote section of the northern California coast make for a visually stunning side trip. This is the southernmost point of the Russian permanent settlements in north America. The restored stockade includes all of the walled sections plus an armory, well, officer’s quarters, watchtowers, and an Orthodox chapel (there’s also an Orthodox cemetery nearby). One interesting point is that the Russians made no forced conversions of the natives, either in CA or AK, but nevertheless my rough calculation is that Christian converts among them amounted to about 40-50% of the total. An important corollary to this, IMO, is that the Russians generally had peaceful relations with their Indian and eskimo neighbors. It was only after Russia ceded the territory to the Americans that the Pomo Indians were dispossessed of their land and forced onto reservations, where some starved.