Believe it or not, it's been 22 years since that wonderful day in 1991 when we pledged to spend the rest of our lives together. Time to celebrate with some of our favorite activities together: hiking, photography and geocaching.
On our way up to Oregon for Mark's memorial last October, we stayed at a motel in Ukiah, CA, only a couple of hours from home. The motel had a flyer for the Skunk Train. That sounded like a lot of fun, and exactly the sort of thing Eric, who loves trains, would especially enjoy. I made plans to spend our next anniversary in the Ukiah area and ride the Skunk Train. A weekend in Mendocino (a scenic county north on the California coast north of the Bay Area) would also give us an opportunity to visit the lighthouses at Point Cabrillo and Point Arena. As we were visiting the lighthouse in Crescent City the next day on the way to the memorial, I thought this would be particularly fun.
Unfortunately, as they so often do, things failed to work out as I planned. I usually make our anniversary plans right after BayCon (Memorial Day weekend), but that wasn't soon enough to get a reservation at the perfectly train-themed Featherbed Railroad Company. Lucy Policek's wonderful Offbeat Overnights in California also listed the Howard Creek Ranch in the area. It was off on the coast, but Lucy said the Beach House was especially nice and very private. It was kind of a splurge, I admit, but Eric had just gotten a new contract for the next six months, so I went ahead. Lucy has never let us down, and it was indeed a wonderful choice.
The approach to the Beach House from the farmhouse, showing the little group of windows where the kitchen sink pokes out.
The Ranch's web site describes the ranch as "alive with the rural splendor of sweeping ocean and mountain views, sixty acres of peace and beauty on the beach near the Lost Coast, a sixty mile long wilderness. The Ranch was settled in 1867 as a land grant of thousands of acres and included a sheep and cattle ranch, and a blacksmith shop. Horses, sheep, llama, and a pygmy goat graze the pastures. The buildings are constructed from virgin redwood from the ranch forest." Sounds fantastic, doesn't it?
The Beach House had an electric heater, but also this wood stove with beautiful tile.
Looking in toward the bedroom from the entry area. Note all the gorgeous redwood, including the wainscotting.
Eric took a picture of the small kitchen with cute dishes. It wasn't a full kitchen, but it had a sink, refrigerator and microwave.
There was a ladder going up above the kitchen. What could be up there?
We really enjoyed this adorable, romantic loft.
Looking down into the rest of the Beach House from the loft. Note the inadvertent self-portrait.
Eric took a picture of the view out the loft window, looking toward the beach. The bridge is famous CA 1.
Having had a bad experience with loft rooms, box springs and saws, I asked Sally, one of the proprietors, how they had gotten the bed into the loft. She said they put it up there before the walls were in.
The porch of the beach house, with hot tub. Photo by Eric.
While we had the Beach House all to ourselves, most of the guest rooms were in the nearby historic Carriage House.
The Carriage House had beautiful communal rooms for guests.
I especially loved the staircase.
Eric found a World War II-era copy of my favorite magazine.
He also found this teddy bear, who was old when my grandfather was born.
He had me place my fingers next to these giant chess pieces for scale.
The Howard Creek Ranch is divided, unsurprisingly, by the Howard Creek. While the Carriage House and Beach House are quite near the historic Farmhouse as the crow flies, in order to get an automobile from one place to the other, you have to drive all the way back out to Highway 1 and around to the other entrance. On foot, the Creek is most often crossed on a fantastic swinging bridge.
Eric took my picture on the swinging bridge. We needed to cross over the creek to get to breakfast, since it was served in the Farmhouse.
Sally keeps a resplendent garden at the Farmhouse. Photo by Eric.
It was just a riot of color.
The Ranch is a working ranch where they raise chickens for eggs, sheep for wool, and goats for some purpose, perhaps clearing brush. The mammals are free to roam the property, but generally avoid guests. We didn't see any of them.
We did see a cat.
Eric took my picture on this alternative bridge, originally meant for wagon traffic. While you can walk over it, it won't stand up to the weight of your car.
We were served a great breakfast each morning. Each breakfast had a still-hot bread, a fresh cooked fruit, fresh cold fruit, some sort of scrambled egg dish made with the farm-fresh eggs, and frozen sausage. (The proprietors are vegetarians.) We had a nice time meeting the other guests, many of whom were Californias, but some of whom were from other places. The server was very friendly.
Since it was so close, we took a little time to walk out and explore the beach. The beach is part of Westport-Union Landing State Beach, so it is open to the public.
Looking back at the Carriage House from just beyond the fence.
The Howard Creek, as it runs into the Pacific Ocean.
To get to the beach without getting your feet wet, you have to cross over the creek on this log bridge. Photo by Eric.
Westport-Union Landing State Beach at Howard Creek.
I mentioned early on that this trip has not worked out as I planned. The major failure of my plan was that the Skunk Trains (which had been the primary focus of the trip) were only making limited, short trips due to tunnel maintenance. Furthermore, the operators were still charging $20 for a limited, short trip, as opposed to the usual $25 for the regular trip. I decided maybe it would be better to come back to Mendocino County and ride the train some other time. Right up until the trip, though, there had been some possibility that the trains would start running again by the time we got there. Thus, I didn't do enough alternative planning, and we left Friday night without a plan. What would we do?
On to MacKerricher State Park.