Just a mile east of Mendocino’s coastal village, campers will find Richard Childs’ RINC Ranch tucked away in the redwoods. RINC Ranch takes one RV at a time, guaranteeing campers a peaceful and private experience in their own redwood grove. Campers will experience the light pouring through the trees at sunset, and a grey mist greeting their camp in the early morning. Surrounding this redwood haven are dozens of public lands that provide outdoor experiences for riders, beach goers, and hikers.
From glampsites to indigenous lands, wineries to working farms, Richard Childs is part of an emerging community of landowners and camp hosts who have generously opened their land to the next generation of campers. Dive in to learn more about RINC Ranch, the surrounding public lands, and a peek at his camp in our interview below.
Hipcamp: Why did you join Hipcamp, and allow campers to stay on your land?
Richard Childs: When I bought this place I was just going to live here, but I realized I had a piece of land around me. I actually started off having people’s horses here. Then, I was looking around one day and thinking maybe I should take the paddock down, but I spent a lot of money to put it up, so I wonder what i could do with it. Suddenly I thought, maybe I could rent it out to horse people. And oddly enough, I’d received a couple of inquiries where people wanted to trailer their horses up here, stay in a bed and breakfast in town, and have somewhere to keep their horses. I thought, okay there’s an idea, so I did a little of that. And then I began thinking about maybe doing a campsite for people. I realized that this place isn’t ideal for tent camping, so then the idea came to me about RV’s. One thing led to another, and in doing some research I looked up websites and that’s how I came across Hipcamp.
HC: Why did you decide to allow one RV to camp here at a time?
RC: I decided to just have one RV here because of the size of the property, it’s an acre and a quarter. There is one good spot for somebody to camp in. And it’s a better experience to only have one RV here at a time.
HC: How did you find this property in the redwoods?
RC: I’d been looking for properties in this area for some time on my limited budget. And this property actually showed really badly. The house was buried in the forest. It’s a fairly small house and so when you drove up to it, it looked pretty ghastly. But, it was what I could afford. So I bought the place and then started clearing around the house and started fixing the house up. I realized it had these lovely redwoods on it, so over time it’s coming back to life. It’s what I love doing, working on the property, so I’m going to continue to do that and hopefully just keep making it better over time. But it was a diamond in the rough. [laughs]
HC: In your listing you talk about the history of Mendocino as a lumber town. What signs are left of the logging days on your property?
RC: If you look around the property you’ll see second growth redwood. If you look closely, you’ll see they’re growing out of the remaining stumps of original growth redwood which would have been logged, probably in the late 1800’s, possibly the early 1900s. What you’re also seeing around here is a lot of underbrush that’s sprung up because the original redwoods were cut. The good thing about the underbrush, if you could say that, is that it does provide you a lot of privacy. The bad thing is that if a wildfire came through here we’d be all hosed because it would burn very hot and it would be pretty devastating. But we’ve got the fire department that’s just a mile down the road. Two miles up the road we have Cal Fire. I actually used to be on the fire department locally and I know whenever there’s any hint of fire anywhere, especially in the summer, everybody comes out and jumps on it right away. But this does lead into another issue which we won’t get into but it’s the whole issue in the West of fire suppression and what it does to the landscape and the fact that if a fire does break out it can be way more devastating. But this is the dilemma we’re in because if you live in those areas you can’t be doing controlled burns.
HC: Being only a mile away from Mendocino village and close to tons of public land, what are some activities campers can participate in while camping at RINC Ranch?
RC: There’s a lot of activities around here from hiking and mountain biking. You can ride [horse riding]. There’s canoeing. I’m a big walker so I usually get a walk in everyday. I go for a hike somewhere and usually do about two to three miles. South of mendocino we have Van Damme State Park which is connected to this huge property called Spring Ranch, that’s actually part of Van Damme but it’s a beautiful walk along the coast. There’s the Mendocino Headlands State Park which is the park that’s basically attached to Mendocino village. And then north of us we have Cabrillo Point State Park where the Point Cabrillo lighthouse is. And north of that is Jughandle State Park with a trail that runs inland. And then a little further up north of Fort Bragg is MacKerricher State Park and you can actually ride on the beach there. It’s called Ten Mile Beach. It’s 7 miles long [laughs], and you can ride your horse out there so that’s pretty cool. A little further afield back through into Anderson Valley is Hendy Woods State park with some beautiful redwoods out there.
HC: I read in your listing that RINC Ranch also offers horse stabling for people visiting Mendocino. What are some horse trail opportunities for riders?
RC: From the property you can ride two miles up the road and you can go into Jackson State Forest. There’s a lot of trails out there, which you could easily get lost in, so a guide is probably a good idea. But if you do know where you’re going you can ride downhill, it’s pretty steep, but you can ride down to Big River. Then you can ride along what’s called Haul Road which runs along the river, it’s an old logging road. It’ll bring you back to the Pacific Ocean. And then from there you can actually ride about 200 yards up Highway 1 and just ride back up the road to the property. And coming back up the road there’s a few little hidden trails that you can take to get off the road.
HC: If you don’t own a horse are there any guides around Mendocino where you could go on a riding tour with them?
RC: Yes, in Fort Bragg there’s Ricochet Ridge Ranch which offers trail riding on the beach. That would be for anybody who wants to do a nose-to-tail trail ride. That’s about a 45 minutes to one hour trail ride out to the beach, which a lot of people do here. If you’re a more experienced rider they will take you out to Jackson State Forest and you can do some longer endurance rides.
HC: When is the best time of year to visit RINC Ranch?
RC: The best times of year would be probably from April and then until the summer ends, you know it can be September, it could be October. It’s really until the first rains come and that’s even been as late as November some years. It doesn’t get that warm here, so if you’re from the Central Valley you might like that. But it’s a similar climate to San Francisco. Up here it can be sunny like it is right now, and it could be foggy down in the village.
HC: As a new host what are you most excited about having recently joined Hipcamp?
RC: I like the idea of meeting people, but having said that I know that you want to give people their privacy, so I’m happy enough just to say “Hi and welcome and if you need anything let me know!” We meet a lot of travelers coming through this area and even just taking my walks in town I’ll often run into people and just start chatting to them. So that aspect of it really appeals to me, just meeting people from all over.
HC: Are there any questions you’d want to ask fellow Hipcamp hosts?
RC: I would actually be really interested to sit down and just chat with people about how they do what they do. Probably one question would be about interactions with guests, and I suppose some of this is common sense, how you might tell that some guests are happy to socialize, and other guests would probably rather be left alone. I think possibly one of the skills, and this is something I would ask other hosts, is being able to determine that as a host and judging how much space somebody needs. I would actually be really interested to communicate with other hosts and maybe that’s something Hipcamp could arrange!
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Lisse Lundin is a photographer based in San Francisco. You can follow along with her adventures via Instragram.
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