Fort Bragg is a proud workingman’s town, settled by rough and ready loggers and pioneers in the 1850s. Residents celebrate this heritage every year with Paul Bunyan Days, held over the Labor Day weekend. The festival includes a parade, logging show, and the Belle of the Redwoods contest. Logging is still a major industry here, and the Georgia Pacific mill occupied the entire coastline of Fort Bragg for more than a century. The mill closed in 2002, and after extensive clean up, the former mill site was transformed into a spectacular oceanfront trail for all to enjoy.
The southern part of the trail can be reached from Cypress Street, and the northern end from the world-famous Glass Beach. Once a trash dump, time and the tireless power of the ocean transformed broken bottles and jars into smooth, multi-colored beach glass. The glass washed up on the beach and created a wonderland of sparkling jewels among the rocks. From Glass Beach, trails lead to Pudding Creek and north across the Pudding Creek toward MacKerricher State Park and the wonders of the Lost Coast.
More wonders can be found at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, one of the few public gardens in the country which has an ocean view. Wander the nearly 50 acres, where something is always blooming, from rhododendrons in the spring to dahlias in the summer and camellias in the winter. The Gardens are a haven for more than 150 species of birds, and free guided bird watching walks (with binoculars supplied) are held every month. At the holiday season, the Gardens are transformed into a magical, sparkling spectacle for the annual Festival of Lights.
If you’re ready for some indoor fun, head to the C.V. Starr Center, a world-class recreation center named for local son Cornelius Vander Starr, best-known as the founder of financial giant AIG, whose Foundation helped to finance this amazing facility and give back to his hometown. The Center boasts two beautiful pools, one for laps and one for swimming lessons and classes, as well as a water slide. There are also exercise classes, workshops, and family movie nights – fun for everyone!
Nothing is more fun than a ride on the Skunk Train! Named for the smell of burning fuel, locals used to say you could smell the train before you saw it. Today, the smell is gone, but the thrill isn’t. You can ride vintage trains into untouched forests of ancient redwoods, along tracks laid in the 1880s, with the scenery looking pretty much exactly the same as when the tracks were new. Railbikes are the latest Skunk Train adventure, pedal powered vehicles that get you up close and personal with the primeval trees, a whole new way to enjoy the experience.
The heart of historic Fort Bragg is right where it always has been, generally from Redwood to Laurel, between Franklin and Main. In the 1800s, this area was alive with brothels and more than 100 saloons, of which just one, The Golden West, remains as a witness to those pioneer days. These days, you’ll find a wealth of shops and galleries in this area, and a year round Famers’ Market. The Market is on Wednesday afternoons starting at 3:00 pm at the corner of Franklin and Laurel most of the year, and inside the old recreation building at City Hall during the winter. Take a quick detour to 430 North Franklin to see the only remaining building from Fort Bragg’s army post days. The former commissary is now Congressman Jared Huffman’s office. The past is never far from the present in historic Fort Bragg.