(We take a Farm Bill break these next two weeks, to have a little fun and report on an enchanting weekend getaway; part of our ongoing series Travelin’ Solo)
The Northern California coast is calling you.
I’ve driven from San Francisco to Mendocino at least six times and thought I had seen it all.
Tame, Maim and Claim the Wild Sea Vegetable (Sonoma Coast State Park)
The Thrill of the Hunt (Mendocino)
Humboldt Grown (Arcata / Humboldt)
So, it was surprising how awe filled my senses on a recent trip up to the small town of Elk and to Mendocino County. I had forgotten how the north coast can stir one’s soul.
Seeing new places was the goal. Entering from Bodega Bay, you want to stock up on local produce, cheese plate delicacies and gas from Surf Market in Gualala, because there are few other provisions driving north. The selection is terrific.
Pulled off Hwy 1 at Schooner Gulch State Beach and was greeted by a charming surfer with a deep brown ocean glow and sparkle in his eye.
He: Take the trail to the right (of the parking lot) and walk a ½ mile. You came here at just the right time.
Me: Well, aren’t you my guardian angel today.
He: flashes a super cute smile and I head out thinking hmmmm…
Now you won’t see them till the tide resides,
But when it does,
Schooner Gulch is filled with 100+ sandstone bowling ball “concretions,” molded from millions of years of sea tides and weather. What a magical place! Plan to spend at least an hour for the hike and viewing.
Next stop home: the Elk Cove Inn & Spa, majestically perched above the coast, just south of the little town of Elk.
Gorgeously renovated suites garnished with wood interior, comfy big chairs, an eco-groovy fireplace and sounds of waves crashing below. Enjoy the welcome basket and sampling of Mendocino’s finest red. Explore the unique property and discover special places to read or write your memoire. Prop up hike-weary muscles on your coast-hugging balcony. It’s a quiet and alluring area – a perfect spot to let your mind run free with yummy alone time, or to share with your favorite travel partner.
Took the winding path down to the beach and immediately connected with another solo traveler, a travel nurse out exploring. If you have concerns traveling on your own is nothing but lonely, think again. It’s so easy to connect with others travelin’ solo. They notice you; you notice them and usually a simple hi starts off the conversation. We hit it off immediately, and Sarah ended up joining a winter hunt with my dear friend Francesca from Mendocino. Travelin’ solo tip: Mix in visits with family and friends who live in the area.
Our mushroom hunt was scheduled with the Stanford Inn (a full-service Mendocino inn with Ravens, a renowned farm-to-table, plant-based restaurant). Mycologist Adrienne L. was our guide. Picking is not allowed in state forests, however the public can access certain areas, such as Jackson Demonstration Forest, with a permit. Contact the Stanford Inn to book an excursion, or apply for your own permit, well in advance of your trip.
The weather was still fitting in February, although best hunting is found from the first rains of November – January. Let Stanford Inn know if you prefer hunting for edibles or variety. We found a few Chanterelles and Candy Caps, but I was most excited by the Turkey Tails and Red-Belted Conk harvested for homemade mushroom tea (both fungi are known to reduce inflammation). Both these fungi are accessible even later in the season.
Turkey Tails have white bottoms
Red Conk grows on trees
Individuals can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and bikes from Stanford Inn. You must check out the bike path that runs along the ocean between Fort Bragg and Mac Kerricher State Park.
The beach around Elk is also great for boogieboarding. Travelin’ solo tip: plan outdoor adventures that get you out of your car and take you new places.
After the hike, drive 3-minutes to the coast side town of Mendocino – a solo traveler’s delight. So many cute stores to explore and live music at night. Catch happy hour or dinner at Flow (Fresh Local Organic Wholesome) overlooking Mendocino Headlands State Park, with bluff trails you want to explore.
For dinner, Sibo at Elk Cove Inn entertains with the killer view and meals of freshly picked produce harvested from the Inn’s organic garden, as well as breakfast brought to you by resident chickens. It’s a quaint space where everyone feels like family – don’t be surprised if the entire dinner is spent conversing with the table next to you. Chef Victor Passalacqua has been practicing his art of deliciousness for 35 years. He and his wife Melissa Boon are Elk Cove’s Innkeepers/Owners who live onsite and are super available for questions about the area and ideas on how to make your trip truly memorable. The couple offers old fashioned, caring hospitality.
Melissa serves a hearty salad of winter greens (the Inn grows Russian kale, blue and red kale, spinach, beet greens, romaine, chicory and roquette),
followed by their locally harvested mushroom risotto (porcini, black trumpets, hedgehogs and chanterelles),
finished with one of chef’s special desserts and a personal favorite– homemade tiramisu.
After a post-dinner stroll to the beach, catch the sunset from your private balcony.
Next week we pick up the trip in the charming town of Elk; then onto explore the Anderson Valley on our way back to the Bay Area.
Elk Cove Inn and Spa
6300 CA-1, Elk
Sibo restaurant: open to public Thursday – Monday 6 PM -9 PM
Breakfast served daily to guests only
Call ahead in case of changing hours
The Stanford Inn
44850 Comptche Ukiah Road, Mendocino
Call the front desk to reserve adventure trips or meal reservations: 800-331-8884
5040 Main Street, Mendocino
10 AM – 9 PM Thurs. – Mon.
- photos by LSIC