Mendocino – California

Mendocino is probably our favorite town on the northern California Coast. I’m not sure why, because it doesn’t have fancy architecture we found in Eureka. Instead it’s loaded with white cottages and buildings with simple clapboard siding. It has more of a New England feel, which is why so many films and TV shows (Murder She Wrote) were shot here.

Mendocino From Across the Bay
Mendocino is probably the most New England town west of the Mississippi.

The town is on a coastal headlands above the Pacific. There isn’t a safe harbor so the local fishing fleet is in nearby Fort Bragg. There aren’t any wood mills or other heavy industry. The town seems more of an art  community. There are several galleries showing really nice local art, and the streets abound with posters for music and art gatherings.

Mendocino Volenteer Fire Department
What photographer in his right mind would pass up a red door on a white building?

Mendocino and the surrounding countryside offer plenty of inspiration. You can climb down the cliffs to the beaches on either side of the town and swim in the caves and grotto’s sculpted by the ocean. If you’re not into aquatics, you can just make space among the driftwood and listen to the waves breaking on the rocks while enjoying a bottle of Cabernet.

Church Back
A local church from the alley.

I could easily live here . . . but I’d need to pick better Power Ball numbers. As you can imagine, living in paradise isn’t cheap. Land sells for a premium and most of the buildings have historical significance. If you were able to find a place in town, there is an extra problem. As you walk through town, you’ll notice these odd-shaped towers. In Alaska, they could be bear proof food storage, but here, they supply your water pressure. Even in paradise, you gotta flush.

Garden Bench
A thoughtful gardener has provided a place to stop and smell the flowers.

Tomorrow we move on to Calistoga, located at the head of Napa Valley. It’s only three hours from here, but we want to get an early start. There’s wine to taste, and this is serious business.


Yakima – Washington

It felt good to leave the Seattle noise and traffic behind today. The weather was sunny and dry with highs near 90, but the evenings cooled down enough to sleep with the windows open. If you like to have background noise while falling asleep, the Seattle freeways do a great job of providing that.

This morning we climbed over the Cascades to get to Yakima. This section of road kept confusing my senses. It never felt like we were going up a steep grade. Several times, I thought we were going downhill, but the big trucks were lumbering in the slow lane and my mileage gauge kept going down.

The west side has dense forest with lots of lakes and streams. The tall trees on either side of the highway acted like horse blinders hiding everything behind them. The only clue that we were in the mountains was what little we could see of them through the front window.

Finally we reached the pass at West Summit, and began descending into the Columbia Basin and the northern reaches of the Great Basin Desert. Instead of dark green conifer trees, tawny low sage brush the terrain cover the terrain, and the views open in all directions.

As we drove through one curve, a great snow-capped volcano crowning the Cascades appeared in front of us. “Is that Rainier?” “No it can’t be, because it should be to the east of us.” Then a second one came into view to the right, “Which is that one?” “Don’t know!” Just then we passed a sign with two arrows and mountain names. It was like they knew what we were talking about. Rainier was on the right and Mount Adams was in front of us.

We left Interstate 90 at Ellensburg and picked up 82 south. We crossed another range of low hills that would make any Nevadan or Arizonan feel at home. After reaching the top, the road dropped into the Columbia Basin and Yakima. I wondered how they could grow crops here until we crossed the Yakima River. Duh! Apple orchards, hop vines and row after row of grape vines lined each side of the road.

Yakima Barn
An old barn along the Yakima Highway

The agriculture corridor runs along the Yakima River for about sixty miles and there are maybe a hundred wineries we could try if we wanted to go blind. We got into camp early enough that we had time to stop at a couple of nearby tasting rooms. I’m pleasantly surprised at how nice their red wines taste. We picked up a couple of bottles and got some recommendations for tomorrow. It’s been our experience that stopping at each vineyard along the road isn’t productive, because our taste buds get confused.

Yakima BBQ
A historic downtown Yakima building is a place for local BBQ.

On the way back to camp, we drove through old town. As you know, I love to shoot historic old buildings and I suspected that I might find some here. I was right, and I may have to get out early to shoot more in the morning. Some of the buildings have trendy restaurants, so it looks like coming here was a good choice all around.

Commercial Saloon
I love finding old painted signs on brick buildings and I think they should be preserved.


Michael Reichmann – RIP

This morning, as is my usual routine, I visited the blog The Online Photographer, where I read the sad news the Michael Reichmann passed away May 18th at the age of 71. Michael was a man of many accomplishments, most significant to me; he was the creator of the Luminous Landscapes Website of which I was a regular visitor for the last thirteen years.

During my transition from film to digital photography, the Luminous Landscapes (also nicknamed LuLA) was my textbook for growing my art. Most important to me were the lessons on color management and printing techniques. I’ve integrated these ideas into my workflow and use them to this day.

My heart goes out to the Reichmann family and to his many fans that share with me this great loss.