Along the north coast of California, just west of the little town of Mendocino, lies both the brink and birthplace of continents, a place geologists call the “Triple Junction”, where three tectonic plates in the earth converge and contend.
To those who dreamt the first dreams here it may have been the spot where Abalone Woman, also called Changing Woman, fled the grasp of Eagle to sit, gazing westward, towards the source of a deep and transformative power.
“Eagle came down the coast, they say
He came to where she was, facing west she sat, they say
Eagle whipped her with fire, they say
He went back. Back to the ridge he went, they say
Then he looked back, looked west, they say
Eagle saw her sitting there still.“
In 1860, when a stagecoach service ran between San Francisco and the Mendocino Coast, the trip was, reputedly, a bumpy, dusty, cramped, unpleasant trip.
By 1878, when a weekly steamship service first linked the two cities by sea, passengers still had no wharf upon which to disembark. Instead, women were hoisted via cable over the side of the ship in a suspended chair, whoile men would simply climb down the rigging.
Today the winding drive through Anderson Valley to the town of Mendocino boasts verdant vineyard views like this one near the town of Philo, the Greek word for love.
Boonville Hotel’s Table 128 is a roadhouse restaurant that serves family-style prix fixe dinners Friday through Sunday, with Paella also served in their courtyard on Sunday afternoons during the warmer months.
When the town of Mendocino was founded in 1850 as the site of a sawmill, old growth redwood forests still covered more than 2,000,000 acres of California.Today 96% of those forests are gone forever. Thus it was both poignant and profitable for a local doctor and arbophile named Arky Ciancutti, when he was able to salvage several hand-sawed old growth logs, or “pumpkins” as they were called, from the bottom of Big River where they had lain for well over a century. He used the precious redwood with its deeply-grained and variegated hues of cinammon and nutmeg, to build the Brewery Gulch Inn which now sits perched on a bluff overlooking “Smuggler’s Cove”, just north of where Big River meets the sea.
In a misty field behind the Inn one may listen to the wind.
At the Inn’s nightly dinner buffet guests can sample a variety of local wine, including owner Guy Pacurar’s extraordinary Fathers+Daughters Cellars reserve Pinot Noir crafted with fruit from Anderson Valley’s storied Ferrington Vineyard.This brilliant Pinot offers up spicy-floral aromas, bright notes of red fruit and tobacco, and a long, lively finish.
Breakfast options include omelettes of local organic eggs served with seasonal berries, heirloom tomatoes, house-made pastries, and a wonderful mango Lassi enlivened with lime juice, calamansi and cardamom.
Five minutes down the road at the very commodious Stanford Inn awaits a world-class vegan restaurant called The Ravens.
The certified organic gardens that supply the Raven’s kitchen has been tended continuously for well over a century.
A twenty minute drive up the coast, past the sleepy town of Fort Bragg, sits the Inn at Newport Ranch on a grassy bluff overlooking the sea.
With its miles of hiking trails, stunning seascapes, and a gracious staff keen to maintain an atmosphere of solace and serenity, the Inn is an ideal spot for contemplation, conference, or conjugal celebrations.
A century ago the ridge and bluff where the Inn sits was the site of Newport, a tiny logging town with its own “port” , ie. a system of chutes and pulleys.
Today with a proper harbor just to the south in Fort Bragg the little town which once stood here has disappeared back into the mists of history.
And history seems far mistier here than in most places. For roughly ten thousand years before Europeans arrived this was a seasonal gathering site for salt, mussels, and abalone.
The indigenous people who first frequented the ridge called the mussel-gathering site Lilem. Their ancient middens, still full of broken shells from those bygone feasts, can still be found buried along the cliffsides.
Today guests of the Inn enjoy both local meats and superb area seafood often sourced from Noyo Harbor’s Princess Seafood & Deli.
Visitors bound back for San Francisco might consider the purchase of a whole fish here. For an extra $10, the staff will cut, pack, and ice the prize for safe passage to your kitchen.
Meals at the Inn also feature superb: kale, squash, potatoes, sweet purple peas, chard, arugula, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, and sundry herbs and edible flowers, all of whicdh are harvested from brimming garden boxes by their gardener Felicia Brown.
For a stellar area wine to bring up, or to take back home, consider Anderson Valley’s Handley Cellars.
Their reserve Pinot Noir, sourced entirely from estate-grown organic-certified fruit, features toasty aromas of cherry, plum, and violets, notes of strawberry and cinnamon, and the silky tannins and scintillating acidity that is so characteristic of California’s Anderson Valley Appellation.