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