Somewhere just west of the little town of Mendocino lies the spot geologists like to call the “Triple Junction” where three tectonic plates deep in the earth’s crust converge and contend.
For the First Nation people who foraged freely along this rocky coast for ten millenia or so it must have seemed the spot where, so they say, Abalone Woman, also called Changing Woman, fled the grasp of Eagle to find sanctuary by facing westward, towards the source of a deep transformative power.
“Eagle came down the coast, so they say
He came down where she sat, facing west,
He whipped her with fire on the coast, they say
Then flew back to the ridge, so they say.
Then Eagle looked back, he looked west, they say
And saw whe was sitting there still.“
In 1860, when stagecoach service first connected San Francisco to the Mendocino Coast the trip was, so they say, a bumpy, dusty, unpleasant affair.
By 1878, when weekly ocean-going steamship service first linked the two cities by sea, visitors to Mendocino still had no wharf upon which to disembark.Women were hoisted down the side of the ship in a makeshift “chair” and men were forced to climb down the ship’s rigging in order to reach the shore.
Today, the winding drive through Anderson Valley offers verdant vineyard views. Especially near the little town of Philo, which is the Greek word for love.
Boonville Hotel’s Table 128 is a roadhouse restaurant serving family-style prix fixe dinners on the weekends. Bounteous plates of Paella are prepared here in the pleasant courtyard on Sunday afternoons during the warmer months.
The little town of Mendocino was founded in 1850 as the site of a sawmill. At the time, old-growth redwood forests covered more than 2,000,000 acres of California. Today 96% of those forests are gone forever. Twenty years ago a local doctor named Arky Ciancutti who lived by “Smuggler’s Cove” at the mouth of Big River, overheard some bridgeworkers as they were drinking at a local bar.
He heard them recount tales of how they were finding redwood remains in their drill bits as they plumbed the depths of the river. An avid arbopohile, Arky knew just what this meant. All through the following winter, using only a skiff and a winch, he was able to find and salvage several hand-sawed redwood logs, or “pumpkins” as they were called, from where they had lain on the river bottom for well over a century. It was this precious redwood, with its deeply-grained and variegated hues of cinammon and nutmeg, that was used to build the Brewery Gulch Inn.
Behind the Inn lies this quiet misty field where you can quietly listen to the wind.
The Inn’s nightly dinner buffet includes both vegetarian options and local wines such as the reserve Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley’s Fathers+Daughters Cellars featuring spicy-floral aromas, notes of tobacco, and a long, lively finish.
Bounteous creakfast options include omelettes of local organic eggs served with seasonal berries, heirloom tomatoes, house-made pastries, and a mango Lassi enlivened by lime juice, calamansi and cardamom.
Just a five minute drive down the road lies Stanford Inn’s world-class vegan restaurant. The Ravens is supplied by certified organic gardens that have been tended continuously here for well over a century.
A twenty minute drive up the coast, a few miles past the sleepy town of Fort Bragg, the Inn at Newport Ranch sits perched on a grassy bluff staring out at the vast Pacific.
Here you can enjoy miles of stunning seside hiking trails or hours of quietude assisted by a charming staff keen to maintain an authentic atmosphere of solace and serenity.
The bluff where the Inn now sits was once the site of Newport, a tiny logging town that boasted a crude system of chutes and pulleys designed to hoist logs, cargo, and travelers over the bluff and onto to the decks of waiting Doghole Schooners. As Fort Bragg’s harbor to the south grew, the little town dwindled, eventually disappeareing into the mists of history.
And history is certainly mistier here than in most places. Ten thousand years before Europeans ever arrived it was already a popular gathering spot for salt, mussels and abalone. Yuki people called their mussel-gathering site Lilem, and their ancient middens, still full of mussel shells from those seaside feasts, lie buried in the rocky outcroppings.
Today, meals at the Inn feature site-grown kale, squash, potatoes, peas, chard, arugula, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, and a variety of herbs and edible flowers. The produce is culled from brimming garden boxes tended by the Inn’s talented gardener Felicia Brown.
For a great wine to buy on the drive up, (or to bring back home0, consider Anderson Valley’s Handley Cellars. Their reserve Pinot Noir is sourced entirely from estate-grown organic-certified grapes and features the silky tannins and bright acidity so characteristic of Anderson Valley fruit.