Noyo Headlands Park

Our new favorite walk in Fort Bragg

Noyo Headlands in the afternoon

 It would appear that we like walking along the ocean. We find ourselves talking about it again and again… and again. But do we ever get bored of it? No! The ocean is so glorious and ever-changing, and there are so many trails and lookout points, that we are constantly rediscovering fresh vistas and just as constantly excited to share them with everyone we can.

 Of late, we’ve found ourselves starting almost all of our ocean-side strolls at the Noyo Headlands Park trailhead located on the southern section of the Coastal Trail that runs along the western edge of Fort Bragg. Why? Ummm…. it’s gorgeous. Plus, its broad, easy paths make it the perfect option when meeting up with friends pushing strollers or with family members that have mobility issues – or for anyone who likes to stare out at the crashing waves without worrying about the possibly disastrous meeting of unwary feet and the bumpy cliff-top dirt trails that abound around these parts. This past week, we ended up out on the trail three different days, all at very distinct hours, and each visit left us wanting another.

 On Monday morning, we drove through the Noyo Headlands gates before the sun was up, determined to get in a good, solid run before the duties of the day overtook us. Our headlights were still visible in the semi-darkness of early morning, and the solid cover of grey clouds threatened rain. A stiff coastal wind rocked the car every so slightly as we arrived at the parking lot… which was completely empty except for us. Not exactly the most auspicious start. Well, we refused to be discouraged! We zipped up our sweaters and pulled down our ear muffs, then we jumped out of the car and hit the trail. Once we finally settled into our rhythm, following the gentle up and down of the path, we untucked our chins from our collars and looked up at the slowly awakening world around us. The clouds were being whisked away by the wind, brightening from steely grey to a fresh, clean white as the sun rose. The sky and waves were both turning a gorgeous springtime blue. We inhaled deeply as we finished up our run, savoring the aroma of dew damp grass and salty ocean spray – what a way to start the morning!

Sunset on the Noyo Headlands

 The next day, we met up with a friend at the same trail head for a midday power walk. It was gloriously sunny, and her baby boy was observing everything with bright eyes made brighter by the invigorating, salt-kissed breeze that fanned our cheeks. We were greeted on the trail by quite a few other walkers out to enjoy the day – lone meanderers with ear buds plugged in, a big group of older women on the lookout for whales, young parents with bouncing children, and a particularly low-slung basset hound hop-skipping along to keep up with its owners. We footed it at a brisk pace, delighting in the warm sunshine on our backs. We exclaimed at the brilliantly blue sky, the crashing waves, and the wildflowers spotting the abundant grasses with their lively colors. We could see rain falling on the mountains far off to the north, and we were more than happy to be right where we were.

 Then on Wednesday, we found our way out yet again to the park for a quiet evening stroll. The clear light of late afternoon was quickly softening to gold as the sun started to sink in the sky, touching the tips of the waves with deepening colors that matched the glowing horizon. The breakers at the base of the cliffs rumbled out their soothingly resonant cadence. Other sunset seekers drifted across the path, some perching on the artistic benches sprinkled along the bluff tops as they gazed west. There was a sense of peace hovering over everyone, the peace of a full day coming to a close. It was a bit nippy as we walked back to the car, but we just smiled and tucked our hands deeper into our pockets, knowing full well that we would be back before too long for another dose of the view at Noyo Headlands Park.

Written by Laura Hockett