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Book Review by Jeane Slone - "Shaping the Sonoma-Mendocino Coast"

Book review by Jeane Slone

Having made his home at The Sea Ranch for several decades now, seasoned geologist Thomas Cochrane introduces us to the ground beneath our feet in his just-published book, Shaping the Sonoma-Mendocino Coast – Exploring the Coastal Geology of Northern California, which is already available at over 40 retail locations in the two counties, including several state parks regionally.

Outdoor enthusiasts will be particularly drawn to a unique aspect of this new title – namely its 85-mile “Road Log” which utilizes highway mile markers in leading the reader on a self-guided geological tour up Highway 1 beginning in Bodega Bay and concluding in the tiny hamlet of Elk in Mendocino County. The Executive Director of Sonoma Land Trust, Dave Koehler, wrote an enthusiastic endorsement for the book on the back jacket. Not only does the Road Log bring to life the first part of the book’s overview of the complex and interconnected natural (and sometimes manmade) forces which have shaped our stretch of California’s shoreline. It delightfully includes information on best hikes, picnics, campgrounds, parking access, restrooms, and restaurant recommendations sprinkled in. Unlike most geology road logs, which only offer a dozen or so spots to check out, this book offers a whopping 150 stops in all.

To further flesh out the telling of our region’s coastal story, Shaping the Sonoma-Mendocino Coast also contains over four dozen maps, diagrams, and gorgeous color photos. Cochrane is a former teacher and definitely has a knack for distilling complex earth science into digestible information for the average reader who knows little or nothing of this topic, making the material easy to understand…and enjoy.

After our miserably soggy winter, grab a copy of this book and hop in the car now that the sun’s returned to engage in some firsthand exploration of some of our nearby fascinating geological oddities – among them sea stacks, “gargoyles,” and the truly bizarre and puzzling Bowling Ball Beach among numerous other locales. There’s also an entire chapter on our ever-present worry, the San Andreas Fault, providing information as well as insights which help us better understand the over-arching role it continues to play in shaping the coast we see today. Rounding out this “primer for those interested in the often mysterious interplay of water, wind, earthquakes and other geologic events, processes, and stressors at work in the natural world” is a final chapter recounting human impact on our fragile coastal region.

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