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Day 197 - Russian River & Fort Ross (Photo's Added)

We're not making very much progress, but are really enjoying the coast along Northern California's Hwy 1! We visited Jenner, where the Russion River ends and then Fort Ross, the Russian Settlement from the early 1800's.

sunny 60 °F

The wind blew hard all night. This morning, it was cold as well as windy, so I decided not to play in the surf at Bodega Bay afterall. We did enjoy walking along the beach, but were well bundled up of course! Before leaving the Bodega Bay area, I stocked up on gas and groceries as well as more brochures at their visitor's center. They had a flier for a Saltwater Taffy shop, which sounded like fun so of course I checked it out (chomp, chomp).

Soon we were driving north again but past beach after beach of well marked, spectacular and rugged CA coast. It seems Sonoma County really likes to show off their beaches - and they didn't charge for the drive nor for the parking! I tried not to stop at each one but you might enjoy a couple of my rocky surf pictures from this stretch...



Slowly we moved north and drove down a curvy stretch of road (OK, it's all curvy around here - steep too, probably am getting terrible mileage). This led us to a bridge across the Russian River - very special place where a large river empties into the Pacific Ocean. There is also a very small community here, under 200 people I think, called Jenner.


Also turns out to be a Harbor Seal rookery. We found parking at a nice overlook and took some pictures, then decided to turn around and head back across the river to a side road that would actually take us down to the beach. First though I stopped at the visitors center and met Pat, a volunteer who explained what some of the wildlife was (not just Cormorants, but Pelagic Cormorants)...


That was Pat, of course, and these are the Pelagic Cormorants...


...and this is the end of the Russian River, where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. I'm not sure why, but I found this quite fascinating.


If you look closely on the far side of the river, just to the right of the rocks is the group of seals. They haven't started having pups yet but will shortly.


In addition to lounging on the beach keeping warm, there were several seals in the surf. They seemed to be just playing, but also could have been taking advantage of fish caught up in the surf for an easy meal.


However even before you get out to the beach, you encounter this warning sign - much more explicit then most! I wasn't even tempted to challenge these waves.


Well maybe playing in the surf is out but a little beach combing is always in order?

A couple of hours later, we finally headed north again - 10 more miles to Fort Ross. The ranger at the main gate saw Mom's handicapped hanger and let us in for only $3! She also directed us to another road that allowed us to park almost at the Fort's gate, much easier for Mom then the main parking lot 1/2 mile back. Actually, there's no way Mom could have made it from the main parking lot, so we were both glad they had the special handicapped access.

Fort Ross was built by the Russians in 1812 to provide food for their Alaskan settlements. It was also used as a base to hunt seals. However, it was never as profitable or successful as the Russians hoped and they sold it to John Sutter in 1841 for $30,000. Since it was built out of wood and was located in a very rugged and wet climate, most of the structures did not survive long. The Rotchev House is the only original structure remaining today (although substantially restored of course). There are a number of writen descriptions of the fort as well as sketches and some photographs from the late 1800's so that the replica buildings and stockade are pretty realistic.

Hwy 1 actually ran through the Fort at one point, it has been rerouted to the east. The state has also aquired much more land around the Fort and built a separate Visitor's Center & Museum to the North. So if you haven't visited Fort Ross in a long time (or have never visited it), it's definitely worth a look. The museum provides a lot more background information on the Russia America Company and the experience of the Russians at the Fort.

This is the main gate as currently used (the west facing gate)


On the far right of the stockade is one of the two blockhouses built for defense.


Through this, you can see the restored Rotchev House, which was built about 1836.


The building that probably gets the most attention is the Chapel.


While the Fort was active, there were nine buildings within the stockade as well as numerous outbuildings. Only six are within the stockade today, including the Rotchev House and five replica's of original buildings including the Chapel, the officials quarters and the Kuskov House. The latter two can be seen at the far end of the compound below.


Both of these buildings are furnished with period appropriate items that make them seem to come alive. You almost expect the occupants to walk in at any moment and resume their daily routines.


The small, sandy cove outside the fort was not used as a port, large vessels had to land in Drakes Bay 10 miles to the south. However small kayaks and boats used the cove. From these shots you can get an idea just how close it was to the Fort from the cove, much more convenient for transporting things then a 10 mile trek overland. However, this is much too small and not nearly protected enough to be used by serious sailing ships during the 1800's (or today for that matter).


It was still not quite 4:30 when we left Fort Ross, so I figured maybe I'd better try to make some miles north today. I passed up the first campground Mom found, Salt Point, and headed for one a little farther up the road in Manchester. When we got there, there was a KOA on the same road as the State Park. It looked like the park was a little closer to the ocean, but I went ahead and stopped at the KOA first to get Propane. They guy was really nice and noticed that, yet again, my tire was nearly flat. He didn't have the reversing type of air nozzle I need so called his friend to borrow his nozzle. Then he cut us a really good deal on their campground fee, so I decided to go ahead and stay here for the night - besides we can also get a little laundry done and get everything charged up really good. There is no cell phone service again out here (seems to be a constant along the rugged coast up here), so am taking advantage of the KOA's wireless internet to get some work done on blog.

Some things don't work out well, some things just do. Can't say enough good things about the Manchester KOA - if you're ever in this neck of the woods, check them out!


Miles Driven - 84, Cumulative - 18,550
Camped at Manchester KOA

Provisions Procured: Gas $51 (Ugh!) for 13.424 gallons at 128,360
Salt Water Taffy, some groceries

Posted by jl98584 20:51 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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