Along the northern coast of California, the former Fort Bragg forest town is once again turning into a paradise for gourmets, beer lovers, and thrills. Here is our four-day weekend guide to maximize your thrill.
Jeff Laxier’s rules are unbreakable and a little nervous. Before I can take his three-hour kayaking lesson in the ocean, I must wear a full body wetsuit (with booties), a life jacket and a helmet. What am I getting into?
But all this makes sense after we go out into the middle of Fort Bragg Nooy Harbor and begin to contemplate the formidable sandy “sea stacks” that focus on the coastline of California’s northern coast. These are disgusting stones encrusted with shells and, apparently, deadly for any fool brave enough to try to swim around them. Laxier, co-owner of Liquid Fusion Kayaking, is going to teach me the art of what he calls rock gardening, that is, to ride on the white water that circles around these sea stacks in the adrenaline and spray festival. If it looks dangerous, it is because it is a bit, although Laxier swears that injuries are rare. I tighten the straps on my helmet.
Two hours later, the moment of truth comes. The front of my kayak is aimed at a cut in the rock, about two times wider than my craft. Laxier watches the waves behind me, waiting for the perfect swell. He whistles, shouts “go!”, And I begin to swim insanely, right on the rock of doom. A split second before everything is lost, I feel the wave roll under me and I throw a few feet above the spine of the rock in a swirling cloud of foam and smoke. This is the funniest thing that I had more than I remember.
And this is just one way to have fun at Fort Bragg, a coastal enclave 165 miles north of San Francisco. All the standard pleasures of Northern California are within easy reach of this city of 7,300 people: fantastic craft beer; assortment of cannabis dispensaries; wineries with stunning ocean views; hiking, bicycles and fishing. But what distinguishes Fort Bragg from more well-groomed tourist destinations further south in the Sonoma and Napa counties is its rough edges: harsh coast, cold summer fog, a general mahogany feel that has not yet formed due to a dilapidated economy. figured out in the 21st century.
But all this is a feature, not a mistake. Fort Bragg feels real, lively and responsive to his surroundings like a wine country does. The ocean kayak boat – a passionate embrace of the coastline that is not generally considered user-friendly – reflects Fort Bragg’s significant ambiguities better than anything else I've come across. This is a place where, unlike most other California coastal communities, there really is a place to try something new.
For two decades, Fort Bragg has been faced with an existential problem. The collapse of the local forest industry at the turn of the century, by far the largest employer in the region, destroyed the economy. The city itself, a collection of unremarkable one- and two-story buildings, surrounded by the Pacific coast highway, can hardly be called charming. The question hiding beneath the surface of every conversation with local restaurant owners, brewers and outdoor gurus is clear: how can a city stimulate the growth of tourism that it desperately needs without smoothing out the bumps that make it an exciting change in pace in the first place?
Should the future bank experience the old California nostalgia like the Skunk train, which rushes along the restored railway tracks to the magnificent remains of the giant mahogany forests that were the original economic reason for the existence of this city? Or should Fort Bragg go all-in, betting on establishments such as the Living World Culinary Institute, a culinary school that is believed to be home to raw gourmet vegan cuisine? In fact, it does both.
Old Georgia-Pacific Mill occupied hundreds of acres of first-class coastline between the center of Fort Bragg and miles of primeval cliff. This area provides a rare opportunity for visionary development. The first leg, a seven-mile coastal trail that was completed in 2015, offers breathtaking ocean views for tourists and bikers with a sense of peace and intimacy, simply inaccessible in the south. Other plans include a marine science center and a possible expansion of the Skunk Train line. While we sipped vintage red wines together on her Pacific Star Winery, winemaker Sally Ottoson, a third-generation Fort Bragg resident whose father worked at the mill all his life, proposed an aquarium to compete with the famous Monterey complex.
Laxier, for his part, told me that "the harsh beauty of Fort Bragg cannot be fully utilized." He is confident that a healthy future is within reach of Fort Bragg – if we just listen to what the wilderness tells us. Indeed, ocean kayaking, as Laxier taught, requires suggestion in a strong philosophy of life. Avoiding disasters means being prepared to submit to the power of the waves. “You have to feel the pulse of the ocean,” said Laxier. He means that it’s stupid to try to impose your will on the North Pacific. The trick is to align yourself with its unrestrained power so that through the tiny spontaneous adjustments of the paddle and body weight, your kayak is in flux. It is easy enough to extend this principle to cover the challenge of Fort Bragg. Work with water, not against it.
4-day weekend at Fort Bragg
Where to stay
The Noyo Harbor Inn service is embodied in the thoughtful provision of earplugs – to protect the cacophony of the local flock of sea lions (from $ 235). Beachcomber Motel offers cruiser bike rental (starting at $ 159).
Where to eat and drink
Start your day with a tofu game at One Café, which has a hippie atmosphere. Don't miss grilled oysters at the Princess Seafood Market and Deli in Noo Harbor.
Where to get high
North Coast Brewing Company is one of California's oldest brewing companies. Pacific Star Winery offers views of the whales and bonfires at night. Sovereign Dispensary supplies the best products of the emerald triangle.
What to do
… cycling along the coastal trail. Be careful not to fall when looking at epic views.
… Wandering State Marine Sanctuary, the strip of true NorCal wildlife, with not a single trace to be found.
… get in a kayak and play chicken with white water.