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  Fort Ross
  August 1998

No visit to the North coast is complete without touring Fort Ross, the historical Russian settlement of the Russian-American Trading Company who came to the area in 1812 to hunt sea otter and grow crops for Russian settlements in Alaska. Not only does Fort Ross bring history to life, but the surrounding parkland provides an excellent place to experience the beauty of the coast . Located 11 miles north of Jenner on Highway 1, this beautifully restored and reconstructed fort is set on a grassy plain below forested hills with a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean - a view that has remained unspoiled by development of modern civilization.
The structures were built of redwood using joinery techniques that were typical of maritime carpentry in those days. A wooden palisade surrounded the site, in much the same configuration seen today, including two blockhouses complete with cannons. The interior of the stockade contained the two-story house of the manager, the officials' quarters, barracks for the Russian employees and various storehouses.
These Russians came to hunt sea otter, to grow wheat and other crops for the Russian settlements in Alaska, to trade with Spanish California, and to continue Russian eastward expansion which began some 250 years earlier during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, Russia's first Tsar.
In the early years, hunting of sea otters was the primary activity as the pelts were extremely valuable in the China trade. The Kodiak islanders from Alaska did most of the hunting using bidarkas (hunting Kayak) and atlatls (throwing boards for darts)
By 1820 extensive hunting had depleted the otter population to such a degree that agriculture and stock raising became the colony's main occupation. However, the Russian colony members in Northern California never fulfilled their agricultural goals due to coastal fog, gophers, mice and lack of genuine interest on the part of men who saw themselves primarily as hunters.
There is Russian spirit all over the place - Russian marks on the barrels, signs "Do not smoke" next to the powder...
The chapel was added in 1824. Outside the walls were homes of company laborers, a native Alaskan village and the dwellings of the local native Americans.
By the late 1830's the fort had become unprofitable to operate. Failing to sell the property to the Mexican government, the Russian-American Company reached an agreement with John Sutter of Sutter's Fort in the Sacramento Valley in December of 1841.
One of the attractions is the firing the canon. It is very loud and they asked us to close the ears.
On the bell there is writening in Russian: "Made by merchandiser (kypes) Michael Makarov"
A view that has remained unspoiled by development of modern civilization.
We camped at Sonoma Beach State park.
When we were driving along the shore we noticed something on the bank of Russian River.
The Harbor Seal, more common in this area, is 4-6 feet long and weighs 200 - 300 lbs. They are usually gray with white spots with no ear flaps, and dark eyes. On land they move in a caterpillar-like manner due to their non-rotatable hind flippers
We bought smoked salmon and rushed to watch the seals. The seals were great, the salmon - sweet and not tasty.
We did not finish the salmon and sea gal stoled the leftovers.
We return back to our camp after the sunset and prepeared extremily taisty salmon steak on the grill. The wind was blowing the sparks from the grill to the neihbours tent and I felt so bad for them. But I could not do a thing! When we were done we through all the charocol away, creating avelanche of sparks.
Photos by Dima Makarov