Part Two, Davenport, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Santa Cruz

Part Two,  Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Davenport, and Santa Cruz

Our home port was Half Moon Bay for the four day holiday weekend, however, our plan was to explore the nearby coastline north on one day and south on the other.

Half Moon Bay and other cities north were visited in part one of a three part story. So for part two of our trip and on the second day, we are headed down the coast towards Santa Cruz. We hadn’t considered going all the way to Santa Cruz even though it was only about an hour away. However, the drive was mellow with virtually no traffic, so we continued all the way to this larger coastal city.

Old Highway 1, north of Santa Cruz, south of Half Moon Bay

During the scenic hour long drive on the iconic Highway 1, we stopped at many beaches and state parks along the way. All we knew at the beginning was that we wanted to stop at the small town of Davenport on a search for some sea glass. The rest of the trip would be open to wherever the wind blew us. At our hotel, the elevator door had a huge photo and map of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse taken against a gorgeous orange sunset, so now this was on the list of places to see too.

I have heard people call this part of California; “the Slow Coast” because it is filled with small sleepy towns and Davenport is certainly one of those.

I wanted to visit Davenport Beach, because I had heard it is known for its sea glass hunting. There are videos on the internet of people using long scoops to grab the incoming sea glass before it gets pulled back out by the receding wave. With the water so cold up in Northern California, the hunters wear wetsuits and brave the incoming waves that can easily drag you out to sea.  I wanted to see this in action although my idea of sea glass hunting isn’t quite that extreme.

We did pull aside to visit a turn off just short of the actual town and combed the sand for sea glass.
Staying higher up on the beach and avoiding any incoming waves, we still managed to find a few pieces. I didn’t see anyone else hunting but it could have been the tide situation or this wasn’t the place I saw on the Youtube clips.

We drove a little further and came up the actual town of Davenport with its population of under 500 and one of those towns where if you blink, you just might miss it. There is another beach right in front of this area that is probably where I have seen the videos of the extreme sea glass hunters. We viewed the shoreline from the bluffs but since we had already tried our luck just a few minutes earlier, we decided not to take the trek down the hill.

The small town of Davenport on old Highway 1.

Across the highway, sits a few restaurants, inns, bakeries, art galleries, and shops. We didn’t investigate because we were on a mission but it is yet another one of the quaint and charming towns you see in central or northern California.

I did skip ahead a little on this story because on our way to Santa Cruz and before Davenport, we had stopped at quite a few beaches and one rustic lighthouse. They were considered state parks but we never had to pay as they were closed for the day. It was pouring down rain but every time we pulled over, it subsided long enough for us to get out and put our feet, (make that shoes) in the sand.

The weather wasn’t optimum for picture taking, so hopefully with what I snapped, you can get the idea on how beautiful it is up here on the “Slow Coast.” The phone camera came in handy a few times in between the raindrops.

The beaches had tons of drift wood and the sand was beautiful even on this gray day. Through the raindrops you could see birds of every type hanging by a river entrance or sitting on a piece of broken tree. A lot of times there were rock formations out at sea and jagged bluffs adorned the shore.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse:
When we arrived at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, the weather was yet again our friend and the rain held off long enough for us to walk around. I was resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be getting a spectacular sunset photo as was featured on our elevator door, however, at least I could get some shots for posterity’s sake.

The 115-foot Pigeon Point Lighthouse is perched on a cliff and is one of the tallest lighthouses in North America. The lighthouse is old and tattered but is looks like it is receiving some much needed repairs. It is still doing well considering it was built in 1871 and still is an active aid to the U.S. Coast Guard for navigation.

Way back when, five families took turns in shifts to tend to the lighthouse which was functioning 24 hours a day. Very close to the lighthouse, individual rooms still stand today but have now become a youth hostel for travelers. I was thinking that it would be awesome to stay there but I am not sure about sharing the kitchen and potty with a bunch of strangers. It is hotels for me; leave the hostels for the young adventuresome spirits.

The lighthouse is listed as a historic park and can be viewed by the public for free, although at one time, tours were given.

There is also a gift shop and historic info on the grounds.

It was a nice place to stroll around while viewing the now water drenched coastline from the perspective of the bluffs.

The view from Pigeon Point

We continued southbound on Highway 1 and stopped as mentioned in Davenport, then it was on to Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz:
Santa Cruz is a larger town of just over 62,000 people and a popular destination point for visitors of every age. It is especially loved by the younger crowd in part because of its huge seaside amusement park!

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk began in 1907 and is one of few carnival style venues that are situated directly on the beach, just steps from the sand.

The boardwalk and a thrill ride in the background. Just feet from the sand.

The covered boardwalk was perfect as it protected us from the cascading raindrops of a now steady downpour. We gratefully stayed dry as we wandered through the numerous shops and game arcades. As with any amusement park, there were plenty of places to eat, sweets of every type, and plenty of carnival games.

A large carousal welcomed riders of any size or age to throw a ring into a clowns face to try and win a prize while nearby you can face off in a game of fast paced laser tag.

There were also roller coasters, and other thrill rides, and an outdoor ice skating rink.

The rain stopped for a brief moment so we slipped away to go down to the waters edge. It was a wide beach in every direction, and we all had the same question, “I wonder what it looks like in summer! I am sure it gets pretty crowded but there is plenty of sand and plenty of space.

Pelts of water started hitting our head so it was time to get back to the safety of the covered walk-way.

This is an awesome place to visit and even if you don’t like amusement parks, Santa Cruz is a pretty exceptional place with plenty of other things to do.

Not too far from the amusement park stands the 2,745 foot long Santa Cruz Wharf. This pier allows you to drive and park right on top of it, allowing you easy access to all the cute shops and restaurants.

The Santa Cruz Wharf

There are at least ten different places to eat and a handful of gift stores along the route. It was shopping haven for one of us while I preferred the view of the seashore. As the sun was slowly setting, a pale shade of pink was splashing across the fluffy clouds. The rain was long gone and it was a perfect evening to…have some clam chowder!!!!

Woodies Café provided just that as our window seat gave us a birds-eye view of the surfers who were vying for their last ride for the evening. To the north of the pier, Steamer Lane surf break is known for some of the best waves in California. As visibility was fading fast, we were amazed that there were still a few wet suited surfers still out in the water.

Santa Cruz also has an active downtown with bars and restaurants that I know from visiting before, but this time we were content on staying by the coast and enjoying all it has to offer.

You can view sea lions lounging on ledges at openings in the pier and as we were leaving for the day, we heard the distinct bark of a few in the distance. We had sea food in the belly (Yuk, not mine), salt air in our lungs, sea lions serenading our departure, and a rapidly clearing sky… It was a good day.

Tomorrow in part three, we head south slowly making our way home. First we stop in Monterey and then stay overnight in Santa Maria. On the way home on the fourth day, we sea glass hunt in Ventura, and shop in Camarillo. Stay tuned.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell


Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay, Part One

There is a moment when you realize you are no longer in Coastal Southern California and have now crossed the imaginary line into the central part.    It isn’t the road signs that give it away, it is a feeling.

That moment when the traffic has subsided, your jaw relaxes, you are no longer chewing on the side of your mouth, and your body feels less stressed.

Don’t get me wrong there is traffic in the larger cities of the coastal north too.  It is just that there are so many small, quaint, and mellow towns in the central or northern part that makes you feel like you are in a whole different world.

Our destination this time was Half Moon Bay.  It is a town I had passed by a few times on my way up north but one that I have always wanted to visit for a longer period.

So with four and a half days off from work, it was time to take the trek north and visit this town and many others as it turned out.

We took Interstate 5 to get there and were guided by GPS through a series of other freeways that eventually dropped us off in Half Moon Bay. It was a long trip that was not helped by the LA traffic with its stop and go.

We made a plan once we arrived in Half Moon Bay that we would investigate north one day and south the other.  On the third day we would slowly move our way south and visit among other places Monterey and Ventura.  We would spend the night in Santa Maria leaving us only three hours to get home on our last day.

It was a great plan and we never felt rushed.   Now all we had to do was try to avoid the rain that was predicted during our stay.

Part One starts at Half Moon Bay, then Pacifica, and eventually takes us over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to Sausalito.

Part One
The rain held off at least on this first day as we began exploration around Half Moon Bay. First stop was to hit the sand for some beach combing and sea glass hunting.

The bluffs were common place along the beaches in this area, making it very picturesque.  The towering and rugged cliffs contrasted against the pristine sand, while giant breakers came crashing on to the shore.

It looks like the water is going to hit JoJo, but there is about a three foot tall hill right ion front of her.

I was overwhelmed on how large the waves were as they formed huge peaks and then exploded on the beach.   There would be no way I would swim in that ocean or even to wade knee high!   It appeared as if the outgoing waves could pull you off your feet and send you spiraling out to sea only to be tumbled back to shore by another huge roller.     I am not sure if this is how it always is or if the waves were just big this day.

Regardless, it is an awesome beach so we took a leisurely walk for about an hour while alternating between enjoying the coastline and looking down at the sand for sea glass.  The Pacific Ocean was beautiful this day but there was no sea glass to be found. Continue reading “Half Moon Bay”

Harmony, California

Harmony, California

We were listening to a Dean Koontz book on tape that was getting spookier by the minute.  The author spoke of a small tranquil town on the central coast of California called Harmony Center.  However, it wasn’t as peaceful as it seemed as you discover while listening to the book.

Evidently an alien “being” was taking control of the minds of people in the town and getting them to do all sorts of weird stuff.  In some cases he took over the thoughts of people just passing through, but they were able to leave, the few residents couldn’t.

In the authors description of the town he depicts it as a short jaunt off of Highway 1 and just a few miles from the coast.   This small area had a gas station, a café, cottages, and one evil entity that was making residents slit their own faces or commit murder.

As the narrator was reciting the words from the final chapter of this book, we were driving on the central coast of California on Highway 1 near Cambria.  Just ahead was a sign for the upcoming city that read …Harmony, Population 18. Whaaaaaat?

So we just had to pull over and check out this little town.

I have to admit when I got out of the car, the hairs on my neck stood up.   I was thinking of that alien that takes over your mind.

Where we were, could have easily been that place.   This quaint little town was as charming as they get and a lot of it was as he described in the book.  Except this town had the feel of art and creativity!   I did a quick mind check and thankfully no alien was taking over my thoughts so off I went to explore more.

Along with a café, there was a pottery shop and a glass blowing store which gave this town that artisan ambiance.  At times they give glass blowing demonstrations but we weren’t’ there long enough to see this for ourselves.

There was also a welcome center complete with information and fresh coffee for the weary traveler as well as conversation or sitting areas scattered about.

It was a perfect place for a wedding as there was a cute little chapel and nearby there was plenty of space for the reception.   Lights were hung to enjoy the celebration through the night and quirky art statues added to the eclectic scene.

I would have really liked to stay longer and stroll around the shops but we had to leave. We were on a mission to get to our destination.

There is talk of restoring this town to be a must stop for travelers.  For right now, it is a hidden gem with lots of personality and I am glad we decided to stop and visit.

Five minutes later we were back in the car and listening to the last five minutes of that peculiar story.   I won’t tell you how it ends but I will tell you when in the central California area, check out the small stopover of Harmony, you will be glad you did.

Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell

Moonstone Beach, Cambria

Moonstone Beach, Cambria

Moonstone Beach, is just north of Cambria on the Central California coast.

Running parallel to Highway 1, Moonstone Beach Drive runs right along the picturesque bluffs of Moonstone Beach.    Since this is a popular area, hotels line the street with most of them featuring a sitting area out front for guests to enjoy the spectacular view.

I know from experience that the hotels are way more costly in the summer months as I tried to get a reservation during this time without much success.   They were booked pretty solidly through the warm months.

Across from the hotels you will find various entrances that lead down to the beach.  I say down, because you start on a bluff and descend from different spots.   Where we parked, it wasn’t that far to get to the sand,  while other areas had longer descents.

Wooden planked trails travel the distance of the bluffs so you can still enjoy the beach without actually being on the sand.   This is what I liked about the central coast, they always provide plenty of walking trails to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The beach itself is full of drift wood and one of the reasons that I feel makes it so spectacular.  From small pieces to large tree stumps, this beach had it all.  You don’t see a lot of drift wood in Southern California.

Continue reading “Moonstone Beach, Cambria”

Los Osos and Spooners Cove

Los Osos and Spooners Cove

We traveled to Los Oso only because we heard of Spooners Cove which we were told was a great place with plenty of rocks and sea glass!

However, while in the area, we also decided to drive around and see what this mostly residential town was all about.

Before we visited the town, our first stop was Spooners Cove which is a part of the Montana de Oro State Park.

From Morro Bay it is only about 12 miles and the drive is especially scenic. From various vista points you can see estuaries, Eucalyptus groves, golf courses, and the lengthy sand spit which is a natural protection for the bay,

When we arrived at the cove, there was a sizable parking lot with plenty of spaces open.  It was 10:00 am and there were only about 15 people this long stretch of sand and rocks.

The Rocks!
The texture to this beach was so different than what I have ever seen; it was filled with every size stone imaginable.  Where the waves hit the shore there were tiny pebbles no larger than a jelly bean while further up on the beach sat these amazing flat rocks.  It was nothing like I had seen in Southern California.

The larger and flatter stones had beautiful patterns and some had artistic lines traveling from side to side, while others were just plain.  They ranged in size with the largest being the size of a normal sized pickle, but flat.

The cove is surrounded by a sea cave and a long bluff jetting out on the south side.  Another example why I love Central California as this was yet another picturesque beach.

When we arrived, we heard live music coming from one of the caves. It was a drum plus a guitar performing in natural and perfect acoustics.   I can see why they chose this place to play or practice.

One of the caves

Continue reading “Los Osos and Spooners Cove”