This post was written by Stefanie Shank, a traveling mother of a three-year-old. It is a continuation of her experience at Fort Bragg, CA.
During our limited stay in Fort Bragg we combined our redwood exploration with our half day ride on the Skunk Train from Ft. Bragg to Northspur through the coastal forest. The round trip is 3.5 to 4 hours and costs $22 per child and $47 per adult. There is a short stop at Northspur where families can disembark while the engine turns around on the tracks. If you have young children, I do not recommend a longer trip. Passengers are able to move around the train cars and view the redwoods and wildlife from the observation car, but you will want to be prepared with other games or toys to help active children remain interested in the experience.
The highlight of the trip for our three year old was passing through a tunnel that caused a complete blackout within the train cars. My husband enjoyed this as well, taking the opportunity to sneak off and hide in a different seat to surprise us! I recommend doing it up with engineer caps, wooden train whistles, binoculars, and a flashlight, as well as a prepared scavenger hunt for train-related equipment and redwood forest plants and animals. If you have forgotten to bring toys or games, the train station gift shop has a great selection of train-type toys and books at reasonable prices. The train has a small restroom onboard, but I did not notice a changing area. We purchased our tickets at the station the day before our trip and did not have any trouble reserving a spot. It was a rainy Sunday, and as it turns out, one of the best adventures that a family could have in Ft. Bragg on a rainy day. A dining car offers hot dogs, pretzels, sodas, coffee and tea, and a variety of snack-type foods for purchase, or one can pre-order a boxed lunch with a sandwich, side salad, and drink. Outside food is not permitted, but given my family’s finicky food preferences, we brought our own snacks and were not approached about having done so.
As we approached the station in Ft. Bragg, the sun was finally making an appearance, so we decided to try our luck at whale watching with a visit to Point Cabrillo Preserve just a few miles south of Ft. Bragg on Highway 1. The Preserve includes a historic 1909 Light Station as well as 270 acres of coastal bluffs and prairies. We enjoyed the half mile walk to the light station from the parking lot, but if you have very young children, I recommend a stroller or backpack, or being dropped off at the station via the paved, narrow access road. Restrooms can be found near the parking lot as well as near the lighthouse keeper’s home.
Our daughter enjoyed coloring a picture of a grey whale in the children’s corner of the station where artwork and poetry of local students is displayed. I enjoyed perusing the historical photos and information about the light keeper’s families in the station. A small tide pool aquarium can be found just outside of the light station. The light keeper’s house has been converted into a private bed and breakfast, and special events can be held on the grounds just outside of the keepers’ homes. If you are interested in coming out for an event, the Whale festival is held in March, and Heritage Days are throughout the month of May. The anniverary of Point Cabrillo lighthouse is June 12th, National Lighthouse Day is August 7, and Cabrillo Day is Sept. 25th. Heading out on these days might make a fabulous trip.
For more on trains, check out Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday
Photo credit: flikr and www.pointcabrillo.org/