Now that July (AKA the best month of the year) is a wrap, I officially feel that I have accepted being 27. This is the year that I am officially okay with being in my late-twenties. I don’t know what this feeling officially is…but after giving it some thought, I don’t think I was ever fully jiving with being 26. I think it partly has to do with the anxiety that is a result of the arbitrary goals our younger selves put on our future selves. I figured at around 10 years old, the idea of turning 25 is OFFICIALLY OLD and that life should be figured out by then. But I’ll tell 10-year old Melissa right now that it seems that LIFE NEVER GETS “FIGURED OUT.” There’s no official formula…and that’s the fun part. Regardless, here I was, all of a sudden 26.
Granted, I am in no way dismissing the things I have achieved thus far. I am grateful for the steps that have led me to being able to purchase a car with the amenities I wanted, help support my parents, pay down my student loans, still have some to save and maintain the lifestyle that I do. But, the grass is always greener right? There will always be more that I thought I would have achieved by “this time.” But don’t fret 10-year old Melissa…we’ll get there.
I think part of navigating my 26th year has been realizing that the hustle-till-you-drop game is a double-edged sword. Being goal-oriented is perfectly fine. Surrounding myself with other goal-oriented and motivated people inspires me to do better. But I’m so done with the imbalance that is being hyper-focused on career/life goals that you forget to enjoy the process. I’ve come to realize that the truest achievement is getting through all of it, while maintaining a level head on your shoulders. I’ve let go of so much unnecessary stress by simply processing that work is work and that it will be there tomorrow regardless of how I feel about it. There is no reason why I should be coming home from work everyday crying and losing sleep over it. That’s ridiculous. There are so many other issues and projects that warrant my stress and tears more than work. However, that sentiment comes from my specific experience and perspective. I’m fortunate enough to even have the brain space to explore that concept. Some people are out there hustling day-in and day-out to simply survive – and that’s their story to own.
Wow. Okay…Anyways, this is supposed to be a post about the wonderful end-cap weekend to my birthday month. I just wanted to preface it with some tidbits of perspective and growth that have led me to this point. I love my life for all of its oddities and I’m excited for the year of 27.
One of the ways I stay motivated is to plan things that I can look forward to and break me out of my routine. As a birthday treat to myself, I wanted to escape Los Angeles for a weekend to a place that was not a major city and had healthy access to nature. I simply wanted fresh air and different scenery…so Mendocino seemed to fit the criteria.
Mendocino County is known for it’s variety in landscape. The coastal cliffside views, the estuaries (learned what those were that weekend), the redwood forests not too far up the mountainside, the meadows in-between. The commute included a short flight into San Francisco and a mini three-hour road trip further north, with amazing views along the way. I was also very spoiled and did not drive once that weekend, so I was able to fully take a nap (lol) and fully take in the views…thanks MB2 ❤
Pro tip for my motion sickness-inclined friends: bring Dramamine. Windy roads ahead.
The Hideaway Cottage
There is a healthy amount of bed and breakfasts, seaside inns and boutique hotels in the area. However, I opted for an AirBnb. I wanted to have the freedom of ample space and a full-sized kitchen to cook. I also think this decision stemmed from the fact that I’m an introvert, so I crave space and value my privacy. Yes to less human interaction LOL. I chose a spot that was a short drive from Mendocino’s downtown area (which is more of a quirky, quaint town) and a 5-10 minute drive from their well-known State Parks (Russian Gulch and Van Damme).
I loved everything about this house in the woods! The large windows that let in the sunlight that filtered through the surrounding redwood trees; the high-vaulted ceilings; the natural wood finishes; the fully-stocked kitchen where we cooked dinner on Friday night; the front deck and table where we enjoyed Saturday morning breakfast; the comfy couch in the living area where we watched a movie, enjoyed dessert and sipped on wine; the claw-foot tub where I enjoyed a nice bath (I never take baths!) while sipping on more wine. All of it contributed to the pure disconnection I was craving and it was glorious.
If you are interested in staying at this exact AirBnb, see the official posting here: Mendocino Hideaway Cottage. Thank you Bill and Marilyn!
Wine to Unwind
Apparently, Highway 128 is also known as “Wine Road.” On the way into Mendocino, we passed a number of vineyards and wineries. If you aren’t set on an itinerary, I think it would be a fun way to spend the day: pulling off the road to enjoy a tasting at one of the wineries and then jumping to another after that. But of course…drive safely my friends.
We spent the afternoon at Pacific Star Winery in Fort Bragg, about 15-20 minutes north of Mendocino. After an intriguing California wine history-filled tasting (shout out Don, fellow SoCal native turned NorCal transplant), we bought two reasonably priced bottles (one for now, one for later) and headed to one of the many available seating areas that overlooked the seaside cliffs. The property grounds are fairly large, so where we decided to stake our wine bottle felt like our own little spot. We were able to enjoy the scenery and talk without disturbing or overhearing others. I don’t think I’m capable of accurately describing just how surreal the view was. The sound of the ocean crashing against the rocky shoreline, whale watching in the distance, the hum of the bumblebees doing their day’s work on the native brush that lined the cliffside. I also can’t accurately describe just how healing wine, sunshine, a coastal breeze and great company is. TAKE ME BACK.
After our wine session, we headed back down towards Mendocino, but stopped over at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. I looked at so many gorgeous pictures of the colorful sea glass during my research, and set that as my only real must-do during the trip. I think the history of the beach is actually quite beautiful. Up until 1967 it was once a designated dump site, but after its closing, many cleanup programs to reverse the damage and years of the waves crashing and tumbling the glass and pottery pieces to make colorful sea glass, it became known as Glass Beach. But, I’ll be honest and say that I was slightly disappointed when I saw it. I’m convinced that the rise of the beach’s popularity may be the culprit of the lack of sea glass that I actually saw when I went. After some deeper research, I found several other reviews noting the same thing: little-to-no sea glass. 😦
Regardless, it was still a nice pit stop before heading back to Mendocino for a late afternoon hike. Except that we made another pit stop at the AirBnb and I knocked OUT for a few hours. I blame the sun and wine. Anyways, after my semi-unexpected slumber, we went for a quick evening exploration of Russian Gulch and enjoyed a mixture of crisp evening forest air and sweeping coastal cliffside views. Golden hour was gorgeous. I highly recommend not being like sleepy and wine saturated me and take advantage of the full hike. If I hadn’t slept we probably could have made it to the waterfall. But, we didn’t want to risk being in the forest when the sun went down. NO MA’AM.
We also went into Van Damme to see the pygmy forest on Sunday morning before we headed back on the road to San Francisco. What’s a pygmy forest you say? It’s a forest of really old trees, but instead of towering high above you, because of the nutrient-deficient soil, their growth was stunted. Interesting history once again! We cheated by skipping the hike and driving directly to the entrance of the pygmy forest. But, we were on a tight schedule, so we did what we needed to not miss out on it. I would think it would be an awesome morning hike.
I don’t really have photo evidence of the wonderful eating we did in Mendocino – except for what we did eat at the AirBnb. But before I get into my thoughts on the restaurants we visited, I will say this: it’s worth it to go into their local grocery shop in town to do some of your own cooking; granted you are staying in a space that has a capable kitchen. We did that for Friday night, which was perfect after our day of traveling. We wanted to have some time to settle into the AirBnb, unwind and rest up for the full day of activities ahead of us. So a night in was a good call. We ended up cooking up some veggies and rib eye on the iron skillet…and we of course brought back some local wine to accompany it all.
On Saturday night we went to Trillium Cafe, located in their little downtown. I read a number of great reviews during my research and it really did live up to them. While the food and drink were on the upscale end, the restaurant itself felt cozy and unpretentious. I think it has to do with the fact that the restaurant is operated in tandem to an inn of the same name. The space definitely felt as if it was formerly a house – think The Attic in Long Beach, except more intimate, a small seaside-facing deck and way better/non-gimmicky food (Ooh, the SHADE). We were seated at a corner table inside and my view was of the colorful flowers and little bits of sunlight that were left, filtering through the window frames. It was fully night time when we finished, and the short walk back to the car under the starry night sky (sans light pollution) was an idyllic way to close out the evening. EXCEPT – we set ourselves up for even more success by copying the couple next to us and ordered a dessert to-go. We got the peach tart with sweet cream ice cream and enjoyed it while watching a movie back at the AirBnb. We ended the night with a wine cap of course. WIN.
On Sunday morning, we went for breakfast at Circa ’62, located in Little River, before officially hitting the road. The restaurant is also adjacent to an inn called: Inn at Schoolhouse Creek & Spa. Views overlook – you guessed it – the ocean. I will never get over how picturesque everything we did that weekend was. I recommend trying their huevos rancheros and what they call their “slow death on a raft.” You’ll thank me later.
After that, we departed on our drive back to the hustle-and-bustle of San Francisco. Such a stark difference in just pace alone. Then it was back to reality. I am grateful to have spent a weekend to recharge for the busy months ahead and end my birthday month on a high note.
It was my kind of perfect ❤
BONUS: Check out the short collage of clips I put together from the weekend!