A solitary seagull perched atop the highest rock, watch-ing the waves at Westport Union Landing State Beach. The gull and I were on the same wave-length. After three days of solid hiking, I too was happy to sit on a rock and be transfixed by the pounding surf.
Located twenty miles north of Fort Bragg, the park features two beaches, separated by a one and a half mile road in-side the campground. The park website states that many of the facilities and campsites are closed due to California's fiscal crisis. I have a different theory though. I think the reason big chunks of the park are no longer vehicle accessible is because big chunks of the park's road have fallen back into the ocean!
Westport Union Landing is still slated to close on July 1. However, the State is work-ing on an interagency agree-ment with the Cahto Tribe, an indigenous nation with strong ties to the local lands. This would be the first time Cali-fornia State Parks would enter into a an arrangement with an independent nation. On June 2, a Native Gathering was held at the beach, a free event with sweat lodges and dancers, in an effort to raise awareness about the park closure.
The southern entrance was closed and locked. So we entered through the north end of the beach, where I now sat watching the seagull flit back and forth from his rock to the shore. A couple of camera shy sea-lions popped up in the waves from time to time, and a single Cormorant shared the water with my gullfriend.
Just as a primo wave was rolling in, the Gull gave a loud cry from the shore as if to say "Surf's Up!" He took off over the water, making several dives but not coming up with any dinner as far as I could tell.
Patty and I climbed the stairway to the road that connected the two beaches. The crumbling road was almost as dramatic as the rocky coastline. Signs warned to stay back from the edge of the eroding cliffs and deteriorating road. I have to think that the cost of fixing the road was a factor in selecting this beach for closure.
Here and there a chunk of asphalt from the road could be seen lying halfway down a cliff. At one point the yellow line that marked what was once the middle of the road, ended and then picked up again a few yards later.
No cars were allowed on the road and parking on the narrow Highway 1 was not an option. Walking was the only way to get to the second beach. Now we understood why the southern gate was locked.
So,ho-hum. We were forced to walk the mile and a half of gorgeous Mendocino Coastline, with it's typical rocky shore and lush plant life. Poor us. Somehow we made due!
Westport Union Landing was named for two early day communities. Westport, a sawmill town, is still in existence and Union Landing now consists of only a few buildings. Both of these settlements were famous for supplying lumber and railroad ties, and Tan Oak bark to the schooners which anchored offshore. The schooners were loaded with forest products by means of intricate cable tramways and chutes from the bluffs.
In no time at all, we reached the second beach, as pristine as the first, and not a soul on it. We saw a few cars pull up to the locked gate, then turn away.
The walk back was accom-panied by Ravens and the beginning of sunset. Many picnic tables were strewn about a large open field of dry grass where there used to be campsites.
I am both curious and hopeful about the proposed partner-ship with the Cahto Tribe. With any luck, the Raven's infamous quote of "Never-more" won't apply to Westport Union Landing State Beach.
I hope to see you at the state parks.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.
Alvin David Dick
April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012