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A redwood "tunnel to the sea"; try this scenic, winding route to Mendocino.

Winding northwest from Cloverdale to the coast, State Highway 128 is a scenic route popular with travelers heading to Mendocino. Past the vineyards and small towns of the Anderson Valley, the highway begins to parallel the NavarroRiver, and big redwoods rise between the road and the water. This 11-mile corridor of redwoods was recently saved from logging and opened to visitors. Locals know the stretch as the "tunnel to the sea."

If you're planning to travel this route from San Francisco (at 2 1/2 hours, not the fastest, but the most picturesque), you can stop and admire the newly preserved second-growth Navarro redwoods or the impressive groves of virgin trees in nearby Hendy Woods State Park. And at road's end, where the river empties into the sea, a wide beach beckons for picnicking amid the driftwood or watching windsurfers.

Pull over to see old-growth redwoods

Three miles northwest of Philo on State 128 is Hendy Woods State Park. The size of the trees in this 845-acre park gives you an idea of what this valley was like before it was logged in the 1860s.

From the picnic area, a 1/2-mile self-guided trail leads through Big Hendy Grove, 80 acres of virgin redwoods. Along the way, you'll see a number of 300-foot, thousand-year-old giants that rival the more famous trees of Muir Woods. You may notice a few with scorch marks at their bases traces of a fire 150 years ago. Here and there, a fallen giant bares its massive root system. The trail is cool, shady, and padded with the trees' natural sloughings of bark and needles.

Once warm weather arrives, camping is very popular here (although the 92 tent sites are set back from the river); reserve carly. Cost is $10 per night. Call (800) 444-7275. Day-use fee is $3. The park entrance is off Greenwood Road, about 1/2 mile west of State 128.

Next stop-Navarro River redwoods

Just past Navarro, near the intersection of Flynn Creek Road, you reach the east boundary of the tunnel to the sea. The Save-the-Redwoods League bought the next 11 miles of redwood forest for $6 million in 1987, then transferred the property to the California state park system for half that cost. Since 1918, the league has donated more than $60 million to the state, thereby establishing 32 redwood state parks in California.

The area opened for day use (no camping) last October, but is so new that it has little development and no official name yet. Use any of some hundred pull-outs to get down to the river for fishing (license required), or into the trees for impromptu picnicking.

The trees here are smaller than at Hendy Woods; most are 125-year-old secondgrowth redwoods.

Not far from the western end of the redwood corridor, State 128 joins State 1. Just south of the junction, a marked turnoff leads to Navarro Beach County Park. At Navarro Beach, you can often see harbor seals around the mouth of the river (as well as windsurfers just beyond), and offshore several eroded sea stacks rise above the waves. It's often windy here, so dress warmly. From this point, it's 12 miles north to Mendocino.
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Date:May 1, 1989
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