Follow the coast north of Fort Bragg, California and you’ll run into the most beautiful garbage dump you’ve ever seen. Once a dumping ground for city residents in the early 1900s, Glass Beach is covered with small pieces of glass smoothed out by decades of waves. We stopped there on our California beach road trip, and despite the cold winter weather and wind at 7 a.m., we were thrilled to see this wonder created by both nature and man.

Growing up in Mendocino County, James had been to Glass Beach as a child and remembered big glass pieces scattered over a large beach. We were there during high tide, so much of the beach was underwater and of course, glass smaller than he recalled. Baby J, after visiting so many sand beaches, was particularly interested in the colorful glass, so smooth and ripe for picking by toddler hands.

Now that the beach is within MacKerricher State Park, you can’t take home any souvenirs. Still, we looked for big or telltale pieces to help construct a vision of what it may have looked like when it finally closed for cleanup in 1967. It’s a cool beach to photograph, from the perspective of the glass and from above the beach.

All the photos were taken at Glass Beach except for the last one of the bridge, which was taken farther north as we left Fort Bragg. It’s one of James’ favorites, so I wanted to include it.