Just a few miles out to sea from California’s rocky North Coast, lies the spot geologists like to call the “Triple Junction”, where three tectonic plates deep withiin the earth’s crust converge, contend, and eventually subsume themselves in an eternal congress.
For the First Nation people who foraged along this rocky coast for roughly ten millenia, it must have seemed to be the spot where Abalone Woman, also called Changing Woman, came to escape the clutches of Eagle and find sanctuary, facing westward, towards the source of a deep and transformative power.
“Eagle came down the coast, so they say
Came down where she sat, facing west,
He whipped her with fire on the coast, they say
Then flew back, they say, to the ridge,
Then Eagle looked back, he looked west, they say
And saw she was sitting there still.“
In 1860, when stagecoach service first connected San Francisco to the Mendocino Coast the trip was a bumpy, dusty, and unpleasant affair. By 1878, when weekly ocean-going steamship service finally linked the two cities by sea, visitors had no wharf upon which to disembark. Instead, women were hoisted down the side of the ship in a makeshift “chair” and men were forced to climb down the ship’s rigging to reach the shore.
Today, the winding drive through Anderson Valley down to the sea offers visitors verdant vineyard views as they pass through the little town of Philo, the Greek word for love.
Boonville Hotel’s Table 128 is a roadhouse restaurant serving family-style prix fixe dinners. On weekends during the warmer month, Paella is prepared and served here in the courtyard.
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 and huge numbers of redwood logs—some more than 16 feet in diameter—were transported in massive flows down Big River towards waiting ships at sea. Some of these giant logs, called “Sinkers” never made it down river but sank to the bottom.
Around the turn of the last century a local doctor named Arky Ciancutti who lived by “Smuggler’s Cove” at the mouth of Big River, heard some bridge workers at a local bar talking about finding redwood shavings in their drill bits. Acting on the tip, Arky spent the next few months out on the river in a pontoon skiff. Using nothing but a 5-ton hand winch, he managed to salvage several hand-sawed redwood logs, also known as “pumpkins”, from where they had lain on the river’s bottom for well over a century.
It was with this precious trove of mineralized tight-grained redwood, rich in variegated hues of blond, burgundy and cinnamon, that Arky built the Brewery Gulch Inn.
Behind the Inn lies a misty field where one can stand quietly and listen to the wind.
The nightly dinner buffet offers vegetarian options and includes some great local wines. Anderson Valley Pinot is some of the world’s best and the Inn offers Pinot Noir from Fathers+Daughters Cellars with its bright floral and berry aromas, notes of cherry jam and cola on the palate, and a long, lively, mineral-tinged finish.
Generous breakfast options at the Inn include omelettes made of local organic eggs served with seasonal berries, heirloom tomatoes, house-made pastries.
Beverages include a lovely mango Lassi enlivened by lime juice, calamansi, and cardamom.
Consider having lunch just a five minute drive down the road at Stanford Inn‘s superlative vegan restaurant called The Ravens. The restaurant sources all its produce directly from the rich soils of the Inn’s certified organic gardens which have been in continuous cultivation on thishistoric site for well over a century.
Just 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 over the vast blue Pacific.
The bluff was once the site of the small town of Newport which once served as a loading site for loggers. A system of chutes and pulleys once hoisted logs, cargo, and travelers down the cliffs and onto to the decks of Doghole Schooners. As Fort Bragg’s harbor to the south grew in stature, the town of Newport dwindled in importance, eventually disappearing into the mists of history.
Today, vistors to the Inn at Newport Ranch can rove the coastal trails and hills of the property and give themselves a rich and lasting sense of the beauty and character of the site. There are also momentous sunsets to enjoy at dinner each night, and a hot tub on the rooftop to sip wine and watch the stars.
Ten thousand years before Europeans set foot on this coast it was a popular gathering spot for salt, mussels and abalone. Yuki people once called this mussel-gathering site Lilem, and ancient middens full of mussel shells from their seaside feasts still lie buried among the rocky outcroppings.
The Inn’s menu features seasonal local fruits and site-grown produce including Kale, squash, potatoes, peas, chard, arugula, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, and a variety of herbs and edible flowers. Amazingly the bounty is all culled from brimming garden boxes tended by the Inn’s talented gardener Felicia Brown.