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Kids and the Country in Mendocino. by Lari Shea, Ricochet Ridge
"What unites us all is a love of the
out-of-doors, a spirit of adventure, and a passion for
It’s spring time! Foals, lambs and seal pups
are frolicking everywhere you look in Mendocino County. And
chances are, your own kids are bubbling over with energy that
could expand and flower if you could only “get outta town”!
It’s hard for us country folks to believe, but city,
and even suburb children may not really understand where that milk they
pour every morning comes from. Yeah, they know it’s cow’s milk, it
doesn’t really come from a factory…….but they have no intimate knowledge
of the process. The usual response on seeing the reality is “Oh,
…gross!” (Let’s skip talking about where the beef for their hamburgers
originates.) Some city kids would have a hard time answering a question
regarding wool and cotton: which comes from an animal and which comes
from a plant? OK, so your kids have watched enough Animal Channel to
know those answers, but do they know the differences between seals and
sea lions? Come to Mendocino County…….Free Ranger led eco-tours in our
many State Parks will answer these questions and more.
Where do kids get their energy? Take them for a hike
through towering redwoods for three miles inland to the waterfall in
Russian Gulch State Park. They won’t be tired. Drive down to Big River
Beach or Little River Beach, and let them run through the sand and
splash in the surf. At Little River, you could take them for a hike
through the unique Pigmy Forest.
Is all this beach sand walking getting you tired out?
Let your horse do the walking, while you listen to your tour guide
talking about the native seals, cormorants, and sea life along Ten Mile
Beach in MacKerricher State Park. This is a dramatic and secluded
coastline. After you have left the main park area, you are unlikely to
see anybody else for miles in the distance on the beach. Huge rocks
offshore make for gigantic wave crashes. Some horses delight in the
ocean water……you’ll have to steer to keep them from heading towards
China. Some are appalled by the idea of getting their feet wet. No
matter, at least they are keeping your toes dry. On longer rides up into
the redwoods, it’s not unusual to see deer, osprey, and turkey vultures.
More often than we’d sometimes like, we see black bear and mountain
lion. Heck, it’s a thrill even seeing their tracks and scat. And our
horse’s bulk and speed keeps us safe from these fellow woodland
citizens. Experienced riders find perfect footing for miles long canters
on needle covered abandoned logging roads through the forests, where the
springtime finds wild purple iris blooming by the thousands. It’s a
perfect way for a family to bond, feeling as free as the great out of
doors after a winter of being pent up at home and school. Bring your
favorite snack, because there’s no fast food in the forest.
When people think of the Mendocino Coast, they often
think “wine, art galleries, and theater”……..pretty much “adult”
pursuits. And not particularly aerobic. But you can intersperse a climb
down the stairs cut into the cliffside to explore the beach at the foot
of Main Street in Mendocino, or an excursion to Glass Beach at the end
of Main Street in Fort Bragg to burn off energy in between shoppe and
gallery hopping. If you need a break, take a Skunk Train ride, or rent a
kayak or canoe at Big River, Little River, Noyo River, or in Elk. The
rivers are flat water, safe, (you might be able to stand up, if you
should choose to jump over board) and spectacularly scenic. In Noyo, you
are bound to see sea lions surfacing just a few feet from your vessel.
At Little River and Elk, experienced outfitters can take you ocean
kayaking as they explain marine biology lore.
The Mendocino Botanical Garden ranges from Hwy 1 to
the ocean, with something sure to be in bloom every month of the year.
Surely you can find some tie-in with a school project….how many
different red flowers can you find? Which plants are native (indigenous)
and which are from other areas (imported or invasive)? Why does this
My own children were born and raised in Mendocino
Country. My son rode his first 25 mile endurance horse race when he was
six years old, and my daughter won her first 50 mile endurance horse
race when she was ten. They have since traveled the world. But the
“grounding” they incorporated into their beings literally came from
their toes squiggling into the earth on the beaches and trails every
opportunity we took to “get outta town”