Welcome back to Travelin’ Solo – Elk and Mendocino County (part 2).
Give a click here for part 1.
One of the travelin’ solo tips we’ve discussed in past posts is bringing a book on tape for the drive. Whether it’s a topic you want to learn more about, or mere entertainment, the choice can set the stage for a theme or perspective you want to focus on while out and about. Think of solo trips as an opportunity to explore both your outer and inner world. With busy-crazy lives pulling in many directions, solo outings lend the opportunity to learn more about OUR selves and OUR needs. Time spent discovering you is never wasted. The book I chose was This is Your Brain on Food, by Uma Naidoo, MD and nutritional psychiatrist. Science can now read the chemical clues of digestion, and guess what? Foods best for healthy bodies are also best for healthy minds! Understanding has grown on how food influences our moods and depression. For a Cliffs note, think Mediterranean Diet with much less sugar and ultra-processed foods. The book deserves a Food Party! all its own. We’ll tackle that another day.
When we last checked in, we were checking out of captivating Elk Cove Inn. Drive about a mile north and reach Elk. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
Small but charming, park at the ocean side lot, hike the park trail down to the beach and breathe in the view. Catch lunch if the restaurant is open or grab a sandwich at the grocery deli. Walk over to the Artists Collective and browse an extensive collection of fun to shop, all-price-range local works, or pick up regionally harvested mushroom teas from Alison Gardner, in-house tea master and author of The Wild Mushroom Cookbook. I chose Triple Reishi blend, purportedly good for inflammation reduction (one tablespoon tea per 2 cups water; simmer 15 minutes). The smell is woodsy and comforting. Not bitter – kind of like Bancha tea. I like it. Let’s see how it tackles the inflammation.
I also have my recently harvested Red-Belted Conc. It grows on trees but was still surprised to discover the fungus is woody and not spongey like a mushroom. So I sliced it with a small saw and dried the shavings to make my own tea when Triple Reishi blend runs out.
After Elk, turn right onto Highway 128 to start heading back south. With cool coastal weather that blows up the basin, you are now driving through Anderson Valley, a Pinot and sparkling wine mecca. Wine, beer and cider fans (nonalcoholic and hard) might consider spending the night because you won’t want to leave this charismatic region. Bring a bike and pedal your way to the 30 + wineries or choose a designated driver.
Pull off at the iconic town of Boonville, known in the history books as a counterculture enclave with its own language of Boontling. For a population near 1000, Boonville has a surprising number of restaurants, cafes and cute shops – enough to fill a solo afternoon with fun. Make sure to stop at Disco Ranch. Word on the street ranks it best specialty wine shop in northern CA. Owner Wendy Lamer’s wine program is anchored with Mendocino favorites, sparkling wines, international classics and in-the-know selections from local wineries that don’t even have a tasting room. Purchase cheese plate fixins to enjoy on the outdoor patio. And don’t forget to check your email while in town – there are many cell dead zones in Anderson Valley.
For a special wine tasting, look to Fathers + Daughters Cellars, a boutique winery exploring three of the best things in life: fathers, daughters, and wine. Cellar owner Guy Pacurar (father of Ella) is former owner of Mendocino’s Brewery Gulch Inn. Co-owner and wife Sarah (Ella’s mom) is the daughter of Kurt Schoeneman, owner of the storied Ferrington Vineyard which flanks the winery. Kurt’s rolling hillsides of Pinot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc supply grapes for Fathers + Daughters, which also produces a sparkling Chardonnay, and Apple Kobler hard cider. Opened in 2012, this friendly family vineyard produces around 600 cases per year. With no official tasting room, look for their wines at Disco Ranch or online. Weather permitting might find visitors on a bumpy and wild adventure up the picturesque mountain side.
Hold on tight to the Kawasaki 4-wheeler
and arrive at a tasting like no other.
Contact the winery at least 72 hours in advance if you’d like to plan a visit.
The evening brought dinner at the Boonville Hotel. With a weekend prix fixe meal more than this solo eater wanted to experience on my own, I snuggled up to the bar with a friendly bartender who welcomed me. A local who recently returned to the area, this gal had all the neighborhood scoops!
Me: How has Boonville has stayed so small for so long?
She: Internet has been poor in the area and 5G not available, (sigh) until now.
She expects the town to develop like Truckee and other small CA towns that remained off the beaten path until Covid changed work possibilities and blew up the population. How kind of Boonville Hotel to allow a glass of their Zinfandel paired with a pizza I got from across the street. We talked all through dinner.
Travelin’ solo tip: Sit at the bar. You meet fascinating people with interesting stories.
I got an overnight stay at Hendy Woods State Park. The plan was to tent camp among the redwoods, (starting at $45) but rain put me inside a cozy cabin instead (starting at $70 – must bring bedding). Hike through two groves of towering old-growth (Big and Little Hendy Groves); 100 + acres of mostly level or easy-grade trails that crisscross the park. Wheelchairs maneuver well on the All Access Trail.
The next day brought a stop at Scharffenberger with their five beauties tasting. I love their sparkling wine and enjoyed yet another engaging conversation with the tasting room host. Sit inside or outside and BYOP (bring your own picnic). Travelin’ solo tip: Solo outings offer more time to connect with new people. Be open to this. Travel has magic, especially when we are on our own. Let the journey show you new possibilities.
Keep heading south and you might consider Gowans Cider. Yummy! Taste among old trees of different varietals– Gowans has been growing apples for over 100 years. Sample 8 types of hard cider (some sweet, some dry) or ask for the nonalcoholic version. It’s so to find fresh nonalcoholic cider in N. CA. Take a quart home.
Before leaving the valley, consider a quick stop at Anderson Brewing Company. Maybe you buy their beer at home, but the tasting room samples unique styles like Bourbon Barrel Stout and Black Rice. Look for the bottles labeled Bahl Hornin which means It's good drinkin in Boontling. Enjoy a large yard and disc golf course which runs the entire property (BYODisks). It’s a great place for kids and dogs to run around before the drive home.
Here’s the upcoming calendar of events in Anderson Valley, including the Pinot Fest in May:
Travelers: make sure to check hours before you go. Things change with the seasons; fewer businesses are open less often during the winter.
6031 S. Highway 1, Elk
Open 7 days a week
14025 Hwy 128, Boonville
The Boonville Hotel and Restaurant
14050 CA-128, Boonville
Fathers + Daughters Cellars
P.O. Box 29, Philo
Visit by appointment
Hendy Woods State Park
3 miles west of Philo
Reservation at www.parks.ca.gov or 800-444-7275
8501 Highway 128, Philo
6320 CA-128, Philo
- photos by LSIC