Among the RedwoodsBy David Downs
Explore the primal scenery surrounding Mendocino’s lone “Bed, Bud & Breakfast”
“Cannabis Always Welcome” reads the sign above the doorway to the cottage in the woods. Chickens cluck, a bluebird sings, the slightest breeze rustles through 300-year-old redwood sentinels, and we know we are home.
Qualifying patients should feel morally obligated to make a pilgrimage to Northern California’s Mendocino County at least once in their lifetime. Just a three hour-drive north of San Francisco, “Mendo” is a global Mecca of cannabis culture, with an estimated two-thirds of the local economy based on the herb’s cultivation.
Its Proposition 215-friendly “Bed, Bud & Breakfast” and the city of Mendo’s well-stocked dispensary, Love In It, would be enough to write home about, but rugged nature makes herb here a mere accessory. We could spend weeks hiking, fishing, kayaking and scuba diving, and more treasures would still remain.
Leave Highway 101 for the coast, and Mendocino’s enchantment begins with a blurred race to the beach through towering, lush redwood forest cathedrals right out of the speeder bike chases in Return of the Jedi. Lucas filmed the moon of Endor scenes in the redwoods north of here.
In a blast of sunlight and salty air, we see the coast, and begin a sickening climb to the blufftops of Highway 1, a paved goat trail cut from the primeval cliffs. This mountainous, moist intersection of three tectonic plates was settled by Pomo Indians. Later, the Spanish gave Mendocino its name, and the county became part of the California’s founding in 1850.
The timber industry cut through swaths of the region before conservationists stepped in. Pot growing took over in the ’60s. As the War on Drugs began strangling international supplies, local growers turned the northern wilderness into a clandestine, “Emerald Triangle”—the capital of domestic marijuana production. The liberal county has a high tolerance for the quasi-legal revenue generator, and in 2011, the county’s lone “Bed, Bud & Breakfast” popped up.
The quiet, private cottage is set off a country road, four miles from the beach. Very affordable compared to other spots, the cottage sits on the front of property surrounded by forest, and the silence is therapeutic.
We often found fresh, locally grown organic dahlias, freshly picked organic apples, strawberries, veggies and even fresh eggs waiting for us in the clean, well-furnished, two-bedroom rental. Grateful Dead posters and cannabis plant illustrations were hung in frames on the walls. Upstairs, a master bedroom with queen-sized bed fronted a balcony amidst the trees.
The owners proudly respect state medical marijuana law, and provide listings for tons of local activities as well as the county’s lone dispensary, Love In It, located 15 minutes north up Highway 1 in downtown Mendocino (population: 894). The relaxed, professional, family-owned collective carries dozens of strains (Chemdog, Pineapple, Sour Flower, Girl Scout Cookies, outdoor Lavender-Blueberry and top-shelf Pure Kush), concentrates and edibles. While in town, try whale-watching from the rugged headlands, sample fine local wines and microbrews like Scrimshaw pilsner and book a kayaking tour of the local sea caves.
Better yet, come to the county prepared for day trips into the 200 square-mile Mendocino National Forest, or fishing for rainbow trout in the county’s dozen rivers. From undersea preserves, to towering waterfalls, Mendocino County’s primeval wonders rival Kauai’s North Shore.
The scenery can make anyone consider a permanent retreat from modern life. For now, we’ll settle for occasional tastes of the place where cannabis is “Always Welcome.”