The aptly named Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California, is one of the most unique beaches in the world, not only due to nature, but also due to the fact that is believed to have the highest concentration of sea glass in the world. How? Why? Suffice it to say that a visit here is a lesson in humility and proof that given time and the opportunity, nature can and will correct all of man’s mistakes.
We are in the midst of an RV Roadtrip that spans the entire West Coast. And I have to tell you, Glass Beach is beautiful, there is no denying that. The landscape offers a ruggedly peaceful setting and wildlife is abundant. If you commit to climbing up and over the rocky cliffs, you can find solitude amidst the tourists. You can find that perch from which to meditate on the wonders of the world.
But the most traveled, the most visited areas of glass beach are almost devoid of glass. One must trek far and wide to find a plethora of decent sized pieces, and even then, collection is prohibited. Of course, most don’t heed that rule as we saw the majority of tourists collecting glass pieces in clear plastic bags. And, unfortunately, this means the glass is slowly being removed from the beach.
History of Glass Beach
Back in the early part of the century, from around 1906 to as late as 1967 acceptable practices for residents included heading to the cliffs and dumping their trash into the ocean. And by trash, I mean everything from glass bottles to old vehicles.
Eventually, the town of Fort Bragg put a stop to this dumping and ordered a clean-up of the beach. But by then it proved impossible to eradicate all the glass. What remains are tiny pieces of gem-like glass adorning the shores.
Yes, Even Folklore at Glass Beach
As with every factual account, other takes, other stories take place. One such story, which my daughters loved, is that the sea glass is not actually trash, but rather “Mermaid Tears.”
Rumor has it that every time a sailor is lost at sea, the Mermaids cry out, and the sea glass is their tears washing up on shore.
I love what this does to the imagination, especially when standing on the beach. I know it’s just a story, but stories, in addition to historical fact, add character to any location, right?
I mean, this story certainly got the imagination of myself and my daughters churning. We imagined what it would be like to be a sailor. We talked about what it’s like to live on a boat or ship. How difficult and lonely it may be sometimes, as well as scary during bad weather.
We also imagined the residents of Fort Bragg back in the day, dumping their trash into the ocean. Maybe meeting up with some of their neighbors, having a beer on a Saturday afternoon, and throwing the bottle down when they finished.
This is one of the things I love the most about travel. It is so very conducive to creativity, exploration and history comes to life before your very eyes.
Exploration of Glass Beach
So Glass Beach, as stated, is getting kind of low on glass, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a destination. Glass Beach is a great place to let go of tourist expectations and explore. You will love it, your kids will love it and it proves to be very educational.
I admit I was slightly disappointed in the lack of glass, my expectations were that it was feet deep in the sand, and while that was true years ago, it doesn’t still hold. But in travel, as with life, adaptation is a necessary skill and one that children excel in.
Our kids spent no time lamenting the glass situation, instead they turned it into a scavenger hunt and instead of being an easy task, they revelled in the challenge. They also immediately recognized that Glass Beach was a haven for exploration!
We climbed rocks, scaled the cliffs, discovered caves, went hunting for HUGE crabs, watched huge elephant seals, took some sick photos, touched sea anemone, met tourists from Germany and Japan, learned there is some crazy looking seaweed, made art in the sand with the glass we found … I mean, there is so much to do.
Becoming One With Nature
My daughter, Kady, and I kind of escaped the crowds and climbed up and down rocks to find a secluded part of the beach. We both have hippy hearts, we find nature to be more beautiful than anything man made. We laid down on top of some big rocks and took the whole landscape in.
You know, the only place where one can truly be in an elevated place of peace and inspiration is in nature. If you listen, if you feel, you will escape the stresses of your daily life and just be.
Nature is not boring, it never disappoints, it sings and it fills your soul with wonder and awe.