Bodega Bay

For some reason I always wanted to visit Bodega Bay. I liked the name mostly because it sounds like it should be in a tropical locale.  It’s actually just about an hour up the rugged California coast above San Francisco. So, on a long Thanksgiving weekend, that’s exactly where I am headed!!!

As I was driving around the area, I was surprised on how big it was. Nestled on the 55 mile stretch of Sonoma County, the bay itself spans along the Pacific Ocean. However, beyond two jetties, sits a calm and protected inlet which is home to the Bodega Bay Harbor.  This is where the activity is and most of the city.

As of the 2010 consensus there are about 1,077 residents living in this tiny town.

At one of many marinas in the harbor, Spud Point is home to the small fishing and commercial fleet that has been operating for generations. These brave souls tackle the rough waters off the Pacific to bring home their fare for all to enjoy. Except me that is, yuk on seafood.  Too bad because they say it is top notch in these parts.

This was evidenced in Spud Point Marina where we saw a few lucky restaurants with at least 40 people lined up to either get in or order their food.  

The Scenery:

The road that winds around the harbor allows you views of rustic docks and quaint marinas as well as a clear view way across where all you see is open land.  You can easily find a place to rent Kayaks/SUPS or schedule a whale watching trip.  Private charters can also take you on deep sea fishing trips so you can try your hand angling for salmon, halibut, or rock fish.

There are abundant hiking and biking trails inside or outside of the harbor that offer amazing views.    We drove into the parking lot of one of the coves and were rewarded with a breathtaking scene and a colorful sunset.  It almost looked like a tropical locale!

 

The sun rays stirred up magnificent colors as trees sparkled, the cat-tail grass glistened, and the hills became a dazzling green.

More about Town:

For the more active of you, this protected inlet is a perfect place for windsurfing and kite surfing.

The town itself is about as charming as you get yet has enough to do for your everyday tourist.   Along the harbor are inviting shops, galleries, cafes, fine dining, lodging, etc. 

Colorful kite shops are just a stone’s throw from seaside restaurants where blissful diners are enjoying the panoramic view on shaded patios.

Some of the residents live on the hills above, giving them a bird’s eye view of the water.

Besides the many beaches along the ocean side, the Doran Regional Park provides miles of open sand where you don’t have to hike down a bluff.   You do have to pay to get in but a nominal fee to be that close.   However, there are plenty of cliff areas that provide parking, although you have to actually get out of your car and hike down a trail to the beach. 

We were too lazy for that, but we stopped in to enjoy the picturesque views.

Continue reading “Bodega Bay”

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Jenner Beach

From our hotel in Guerneville, we decided to drive about 25 minutes to the coast to Jenner Beach.  It is a scenic drive that takes you through tiny towns, redwoods, tree lined roads, until you reach your final destination at Highway 1.

Whenever you come in from an inland route and reach the coastline up here in Northern California, it is just enough to take your breath away.  The rugged shoreline is filled with rock formations, tiny coves, and beaches overflowing with small to large pieces of driftwood. On this day the sun was shining and illuminating the Pacific Ocean to a beautiful sparkling blue.

Once we reached the end of the road, we decided to head north first.   We were driving higher and higher and soon realized that the only way to touch the sand was to descend a bluff from one of the trails.

However, from this elevated vantage point we could see a few miles south, that there were people on the beach and nearby was a sea level parking lot.  Exactly what we were looking for!    That is where we will be going, but now how to get there?  The Russian River mouth divided us from our destination and there were no signs of a bridge, so we had to back track a little.

Driving away from the shore, we soon passed over the river and came upon a sign that said Goat Rock Beach…this had to be it.  We drove by hiking trails with scenic outlooks and even saw a deer or two along the way. We finally descended to what I had hoped…an easy access to the beach.

We found the parking lot that was seen from a distance and soon made our way onto the sand.

Goat Rock is an enormous flat rock formation that you can see from miles away. On research later, I read that it was named many years ago, when they used it for herding goats because of its flat surface.

Also nearby is Arch rock, a grand formation with the inside weathered away giving it its appropriate name. I looked through my telephoto lens thinking that it would be cool to take a kayak through it.   However, I actually saw waves breaking inside the arch, so I am thinking that’s probably not a good idea.

On this semi warm day in November, we chose to beach-comb along the long stretch of sand just north of the rock.  The sand was a darker color unlike its neighbor beaches in Southern California. The water’s edge on this day was sloped a little with the large waves fiercely crashing on the land. I knew to stay away but lifeguards from time to time had to remind beachgoers of the dangers, via loudspeaker.  You could easily get swept away and the currents here are really bad.

A few surfers were taking advantage of the sizable waves but not much else was happening in or near the water.  Everyone else was just enjoying the day, safe on the sand. 

As we moved closer to the river mouth, I heard the faint sound of a handheld whistle.  I looked up and, on the bluff, I saw that someone was waving their arms. I was not sure if they were waving at me or someone else.  Then I saw about 50 feet ahead of us there were about 10 seals basking in the sun.  I had heard that sometimes seals can be aggressive, so I was grateful for the warning, or they simply wanted us to leave them be.  I waved back and headed in the opposite direction.

Soon after, a man grabbed my arm and started pulling me along.  I was in a low spot where the ocean water actually flows into the river as the tide gets higher.   It wouldn’t have swept me in as it was only less than knee high, but I would have gotten wet. So, I thanked my hero and kept an eye out from then on in.

Beachcombing and sea glass hunting makes you keep your eyes down, but I have to learn to look up once in a while, especially at a new beach.   I read later that the shoreline in Sonoma County has very dangerous rip currents, undertows, and you can easily be swept off your feet as mentioned, especially children.

Jenner is a stunning beach where there is no mistake that you are in the more picturesque and less populated part of California.  There were dozens of rock formations offshore, in fact more than I think I have ever seen before.

We came back the next day because we loved it so much.

I didn’t get any photos of the town, maybe because there isn’t much of one.  With a population of around 150, there is mostly homes and a few cute shops, restaurants, and places to stay.  It is a romantic and quaint get-away location.

With the Russian river so close, you can also, rent Kayaks/Sups or hike on the many spectacular trails.

We drove around and saw some other beaches and actually started to drive north again but this time towards the community of Sea Ranch.  To get there from where we were, you have to drive the anxiety inducing Highway 1.   It twists and turns on super high sheer cliffs and in a lot of places there aren’t any guard rails.

I remember taking this road long ago when I wasn’t the driver.  On the outside rail, I looked down once at one of the higher points. I never looked down again, it was, of course an awe-inspiring sight but scary as heck!!!

 So on this day, even though I was on the inside rail going north, I knew coming back, I would be on the outside with it possibly getting dark… No thanks, I turned around while I could.

Afterall, I was on vacation and wanted to get the stress out, not add to it.

We headed back to our hotel in Guerneville and planned to go north to visit Fort Bragg on one of the next few days. However, it wouldn’t be from Highway 1!!!!!

See the past story on Fort Bragg here: https://staycationscalifornia.com/2018/09/05/fort-bragg-2/

For tomorrow it is on to Bodega Bay, see story here: https://staycationscalifornia.com/2022/01/20/bodega-bay/

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

Guerneville

It’s another four day weekend and we are anxious to get away from home yet again. The office is closed down so nothing to worry about for the entire time!

It had been a while since we journeyed up to Northern California above San Francisco, so that was the plan for this trip.

From friends posting photos on Facebook, I become aware of some unknown hidden jewels  along the northern coast . So the first stop would be a little coastal area called Jenner Beach, then Bodega Bay, and, possibly Fort Bragg.

Not wanting to grind the first days , we decided to stay in Kettleman City just off from the Interstate 5.  It was strictly a half way point and only for sleeping. 

The next day we set out for Guerneville. Yes ,Guerneville…a place, I have never heard about but is actually pretty popular with visitors from San Francisco.  This peaceful little village would be our home base for a few days while we spent each day visiting those aforementioned coastal cities.  We choose Guerneville because it is next to the Russian River and along with our mostly planned beach activities, just maybe we could try some river fishing

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A few miles from the 101 Freeway, Guerneville  (pronounced without the second ‘e’ )  is home to about 4,500 residents. This small and quirky town is situated in the Russian River Valley part of Sonoma County. 

The central area is a vibrant mix of unique shops and restaurants with colorful facades.

In parts,  we felt like we were in small town USA with old Rexall signs and theaters that looked like they were from the 60’s.  It was an eclectic mix of retro and now.  They even had a 5 & 10 market, one that you rarely see these days.

For wine lovers and beachcombers, more than 50 wineries are within a 20-minute drive while the coast is only about a half hour away.

On our first day in Guerneville, we set out down the road to a small sandy beach next to the Russian River to try our hand at fishing.  The slow moving river weaves around town under the watchful eye of the tall and majestic redwoods. Redwoods and an occasional tree changing color, makes for a stunning back drop.

The beautiful scenery made up for the lack of luck on the fishing line, not a nibble or a bite. However, river fishing isn’t our forte so we weren’t expecting much.   The locals told us that salmon and steelhead are what you catch mostly in these parts. It was still worth the time when you are out in nature  and in such an amazing setting.

On one of our days, we ventured up to Fort Bragg from Guerneville where our car’s GPS took us off the beaten path and through freshly blooming vineyards. The rows and rows of grapes were ablaze in color, while a newly launched hot air balloon was giving its passengers a thrill of a lifetime.

When you drive the other way, towards the coast, it is only 14 miles but it takes longer because of the zig-zagging roads, making for a slower pace.  Meandering through the two-lane road, you will pass by tiny communities and more of the towering redwoods.

The winter days in California are much shorter so we decided we had enough time and daylight hours left to head to the coast!   Now it was off to Jenner Beach!

See the Jenner story here: https://staycationscalifornia.com/2022/01/20/jenner-beach

Story and Photos by: Debbie Colwell

Parting Shots: Nearby Guerneville, an old theater still stand.