Sonoma County Coast



I spent a couple of nights on the Sonoma County Coast for Labor Day weekend. My friend, Hank, lives on a farm here. We had planned this 2 months ago and recently wondered if it would happen because of the fires. He’d been posting photos of fires on Facebook which he could see from his home. But thankfully for all, those are under control. This is another entry to be part of my sharing of life in Northern California.

This was my view yesterday morning at breakfast.

And that’s my view as write now as well. I came up Friday evening. In total it was about 3.5 hours including a stop in Cazadero to pick up pizza for Friday dinner. Never heard of Cazadero? Neither had I until I met Hank. Technically it’s his address but it was another 30 minute drive to his place from where I got the pizza “in town.”

Map showing my spot plus Santa Rosa and San  Francisco

The map above shows where I’m sitting now – literally – relative to some city names you may recognize. Just 87 miles north of San Francisco but 2 hours from there even because of the small roads.

Hank prepared a nice breakfast of fruit, granola, yogurt, coffee, OJ and we took our time catching up and getting ready for the day. Which also included him fixing chicken salad wraps for a picnic lunch he packed. We left probably around 10am.

Sign from Highway 1: Jenner Headlands Preserve

Our first stop was Jenner Headlands Preserve. Jenner is also the name of a town that sits where the Russian River dumps into the Pacific Ocean. A headland is a land formation characterized by cliffs meeting a body of water. Lots of that along this coastline.

And a bit about the Russian River. Until a trip Dan and I did along here in 2012, I never new there was a significant Russian settlement in these parts until we stopped and toured Fort Ross. Hank worked there as a guide for 14 years, a perfect job for him with his natural interest in history and experience living in Siberia for 15 years. All that to say: that’s why the river is Russian. You can follow the link if you want to know more.

Some history of inhabitants if you want to enlarge that mad read more.

This Preserve is 5630 acres of forest, chaparral, and coastal prairie along the Pacific coast. There was a nice variety of hikes to choose from.

We chose the Coastal Prairie Loop, that sort of circle towards the bottom of the trail map.

According to the map this was a 4 mile hike, which roughly matched what my iPhone logged. It was also pretty steep. When the day was done my phone indicated we’d walked and climbed almost 6 miles and 62 floors! Most of that elevation occurred here. It was pretty much 2 miles up, 2 miles down.

View of cliffs and rocks meeting the water from high above

This was a beautiful hike but most of the photos I took didn’t really do it justice so I’ll just post a few.

Photo taken in shade with edge of the tree at the top and ocean in the background

About an hour into it we were pretty hot and tired from the climb. This was about the summit and we found a cool place to rest and eat a bit of trail mix. The high temperature here was only mid 80s, but much better than the triple digit heat I was escaping in Sacramento.

The end of the hike from the other side. We are parked in that lot and you can see the start of the loop from the top left corner of it.

It was about 1pm and it was time for lunch. We headed north a few miles up.

Along the way we saw evidence of the recent fires. This portion of Highway 1 had fires on both sides. You can see a bit of ocean on the left.

The whole east side of the highway was burned for about a mile.

Hank took us to Sentinel Rock in Fisk Mill Cove, which is part of Salt Point State Park.

This area was officially closed to cars and campers, but nothing to stop you from parking in the highway and walking in. It was a nice walk through the woods to our stopping point

The trail ended with a little wooden bridge leading to a lookout deck.

The view looking south.

That’s Hank with the view looking north.

Unobstructed view south

This is the cove, looking down from where Hank was standing. Just a couple of people down there. The water was very clear and beautiful shades of blue and green.

Along the way Hank made several stops to drop off flyers about a farmers market he is working this morning. I stayed back at the farm to write this, and will stop by there on my way out to say goodbye.

From there we went to Stump Beach. This is another cove in Salt Point.

There were a fair number of people out in some places we went. One thing I can say is the vast majority wore a mask, or had it ready to put on before passing you. That’s Hank at the front of that line.

This was a nice little stop with some beautiful views. We spent a little while sitting at the far end of it watching the antics of a river otter playing about. It had approached us within about 3 feet; I wished I’d had my camera ready.

The land here was interesting, too. Here’s a headland for you: cliff against a small beach, with forest above. Classic north coast. See next shot for an interesting closeup.

I found the layers of rock here beautiful and thought provoking. So many distinct layers of geological history.

Having spent much of our day in and around Salt Point State Park, it was fitting that Salt Point Trail was our last stop. Paved for wheelchair access, this was more a walk than a hike, but a refreshing one. There was hardly any breeze at that last cove and it felt pretty warm. This was maybe half a mile south but it felt 10° cooler and the breeze was refreshing.

I don’t know what the story is behind this rock formation, but I wanted a photo of it because I have never seen anything like it. My head concocted stories of a prehistoric footprint of some kind. Although I doubt that’s the case. But fun to think about.

For some reason, we had cell phone service here and hadn’t had it since we left the farm that morning. It was now after 5 PM. We sat at a park bench on the Salt Point Trail and this was our view as we got caught up on various things happening on each of our phones. The breeze was amazing. It was a beautiful, relaxing, and productive stop!

Although we weren’t that hungry due to a pretty late lunch, we were out of things to do except to stop at a restaurant we wanted to check out which also had an interesting artifact.

Sign providing history of Bufano Peace Obelisk.

Bufano was an Italian artist. This is a 93 foot sculpture installed around 1970 just shortly before he died. He had started it just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, incorporating a variety of images to promote peace in the world. It’s called The Expanding Universe. It is installed behind Timber Cove, a lodge and restaurant.

This photo, with the people sitting in the foreground from the restaurant, gives you some perspective of its height.

A close-up of the side facing north. The face on this side is painted on. When it was originally installed the hand at the top was facing the wrong direction based on Buffano‘s vision. This face was painted on later to help correct that.

Ice plant is a form of ground cover that I have only seen along the California coast. Hank says it actually comes from Africa. It comes in a variety of looks but always has this succulent/jade sort of texture so it, which makes it easy to identify. Above is a photo of a field of it, with a close-up view below.

This is the south facing view of the obelisk. Notice the face is sculpted as opposed to painted.

There was a little park bench at the edge of the cliff just past the sculpture. We sat there for a few minutes with the above view trying to decide what to do next. Although we still weren’t that hungry, it was approaching 6 o’clock and we figured since it was a holiday weekend the chances of us actually getting a table would be pretty slim. So we decided to check out the menu and maybe do takeout.

We went into the restaurant and Hank dropped off his last flyer for the farmers market today, having a nice conversation with the guy behind the desk. I inquired with the hostess and she confirmed they were all booked for the evening. When Hank was done with his conversation, we approached the bar to see about a take-out menu. The hostess returned and offered a table that was reserved for 730 if we could commit to only staying for an hour and a half. That was easy. We actually ended up staying closer to two hours, but they acknowledged that was their fault for the time it took between courses.

Above and below are photos of the lobby of the lodge, looking in opposite directions.

Above and below captures the patio where we sat. The empty table at the foreground in the photo below was our table. It was a lovely setting and it got chilly enough to ask them to turn the heater on before we were done.

Since we weren’t too terribly hungry we just decided to split everything. We started with a local cheeseboard that was wonderful. The blue cheese was powerful and amazing. I forgot to take photos of the rest of the meal but it included grilled trout in a fennel and tomato broth. For dessert we had chocolate hazelnut gelato and a strawberry shortcake that was crisp and warm, just out of the oven.

Above is a photo of the outside of the lodge as we were leaving. Below is the last remnants of a sunset before we got in the car to head back to the farm.

It is now approaching 9:30 AM Sunday morning. Hank left around 8am to go work the farmers market. I change seats outside to get out of the sun. The above has been my view since he left. A lovely way to spend a quiet Sunday morning.

I will be leaving in a little while and will stop by the farmers market to say bye before I head out. I’m going to take my time getting home, may or may not do some thing blog worthy. We will see what I come up with. I hope you are all having a lovely and safe Labor Day weekend.

2 thoughts on “Sonoma County Coast”

  1. Karen Keene says:

    What a lovely weekend trip. The pictures were beautiful – the coast is awe inspiring. Karen

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a lovely trip to escape the heat and the smoke. I love that part of the world and your well described tour was almost as good as being there! Enjoy the rest of your journey.

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