Crab and Whine–I Mean ‘Wine’–Days

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Fort Bragg, Pudding Creek in the foreground.

Our son Thom set up a weekend for us in Fort Bragg over the weekend–the beginning of Mendocino County’s annual Crab and Wine Days. The centerpiece event of the weekend was a crabcake cookoff in a big white tent on Fort Bragg’s Main Street. Attendees tried the various crabcakes on offer from local inns and eateries and voted on their favorite, then did the same for wines from county vintners. I will admit that after a while one crabcake seems much like another to me, but I did manage to savor and vote for both a favorite crabcake and a wine I thought was pretty good (neither my palate nor my appetite was improved by a mid-respiratory tract cold I seem to have come down with as soon as my time off from work started).

Much of the Mendocino Coast is given over to high-end tourism. Driving up Highway 1, you pass one small settlement after another that were once logging and fishing outposts and are now mostly given over to expensive inns and restaurants. A few places on the coast–Fort Bragg is one–are in the midst of a transition from dependence on timber and fisheries to tourism and nouveau agriculture (the latter term embracing both viticulture and winemaking and the not-legal marijuana industry). Fort Bragg’s past is everywhere, from its fishing port on the Noyo River (source of the crab harvest) to the barren, cleared parcels on the water side of the coast highway that used to house mills.

Anyway. What I forget in what might seem a bleak recitation of economic realities is the utter beauty of the place. Thom got reservations in The Beachcomber, a motel just north of town. Nice place, dog-friendly and not outrageously expensive, but its principal amenity is that it abuts parkland and beaches and looks right out on the Pacific. When Kate and I got there Friday night, we went out for a walk on the paved trail behind the place. Heading south into town, the path crosses a trestle over Pudding Creek, one of the few streams on this part of the coast said to still have a viable wild coho salmon run. Didn’t see any fish–this would be steelhead time, if any are showing up–but I saw plenty of opportunity for night-time picture experiments.

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Pudding Creek, moonlight.

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