In the middle of May I went on a one-night camping trip with some coworkers in Sugarloaf Ridge and immediately found myself dreaming of more outdoor adventures. With Memorial Day Weekend fast approaching I knew I needed a plan to get outside. After some deliberation, Jon and I settled on heading north, to explore around Mendocino.

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Since this trip was so action-packed, I’m going to split it into two separate posts. This one will be focused on the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, while the next one will be about Russian Gulch.

Glass Beach

We arrived in Fort Bragg after a short drive from our campsite in Jackson Demonstration State Forest. We heard some of our neighboring campers talking about Glass Beach and decided to check it out.

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Years of dumping recycling into the ocean – a common practice for coastal cities back in the early to mid 1900s – has produced this beautiful phenomenon. Because of the way the large rocks are formed on this beach, the glass that is thrown into the ocean constantly tumbles about until it is washed up on shore with a smooth and frosty look.

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Look what I found!

Of course, after visiting this unique beach (technically there are three glass beaches; we were at Site 3!), we had to head over to the Sea Glass Museum.

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Located only 3.5 miles up the road from Glass Beach and run by Capt. Cass Forrington – a retired sea captain – the free Sea Glass Museum is a must see. The museum is loaded with cases of rare sea glass, including descriptions of what kind of object the glass came from.

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Some of it even glows in the dark!

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There is a whole room of black lights for the glow-in-the-dark sea glass.

After buying some handmade jewelry, we talked to Captain Forrington for a while. He told us that it is actually much better for the environment to throw our used glass into the ocean because once it is there, it will eventually wash up on shore where people collect and repurpose it for jewelry and crafts. According to the captain, Fort Bragg has been been trucking their recycling up into the mountains and burying it, which is harmful to the environment because of the resources required. Captain Forrington’s goal is to raise awareness and bring the sea glass back.

At the Sea glass Museum, you can actually buy a bag of glass to throw back into the ocean at Glass Beach to help replenish the supply. Of course, Jon and I had to partake.

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Bags of “seed” glass for sale, $5 each
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A piece of “seed” glass, ready to be thrown into the ocean.

Of course the sea glass isn’t the only great thing about Glass Beach. It’s also a picturesque coast line spotted with tide pools that are teeming with life.

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Collecting Glass

There tends to be some confusion when it comes to the legality of collecting the sea glass. Pure and simple: it is not illegal to collect sea glass. As for if you should, there seems to be two schools of thought:

  1. The glass should be enjoyed by all who visit, so it is wrong to take the glass home. Since recycling is no longer thrown into the ocean, the sea glass is not being replaced, so taking it means that someday the Glass Beach will no longer have its unique charm.
  2. Taking the glass and upcycling it encourages governments to recycle their glass in a green way, plus it adds flair, charm, and tourism to Fort Bragg this was Capt. Forrington’s argument!).

My opinion is that you should do what feels right to you. However, if you do decide to take some sea glass home, please head over to the museum to pick up a bag of seed glass to restock what you took.

Getting There

Glass Beach is located in Mendocino right off of Highway 1.

The Sea Glass Museum is also located on Highway 1 a little to the south of Glass Beach and is open every day from 10am-5pm.

 

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