Photo: Nik Schulz

Last week I whisked my girlfriend, Natalie, away for a few days on the Mendocino coast. We’d read about a couple of nice places to stay and went up to have a look around.

In its current incarnation, Mendocino is mostly known for its new-age outlook, its hippies (which are locally avaialable in both M-series-BMW-driving and gritty-original flavors), and, according to Natalie, for a dried-seaweed snack known as “Sea Crunchies.” What is perhaps lesser known is Mendocino’s swarthy, seafaring past.

Why seafaring? One word: Timber. The town took off in the 1850s when the Gold Rush triggered a huge building boom. Money flowing down from the Sierras built San Francisco (and rebuilt it again after the 1906 earthquake) with the help of a billion board-feet of redwood taken from the nearby Big River watershed. Most of it left by sea and the remains of this seafaring history can still be seen today.

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