Tag Archives: Bolinas

Dogtown, Marin County – Part 1

Dogtown, California

Dogtown, California. Population 30, oops, I mean 33

For an anniversary surprise I booked a weekend away in Dogtown. Everybody I told had no idea where Dogtown was. In fact I had never heard of it until I picked up a book at Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes Station on our last visit. It was called ‘The Dogtown Chronicles – Our Life and Times with Sheep, Goats, Llamas, and other Creatures’ by Doris Ober. It was a fascinating read about a couple in Dogtown and their animals. When I went online to find out more about Dogtown, I found a vacation rental, The Loft at Woodville Ranch, and decided it would be the perfect location to spend our anniversary.

Update 1/21/2013: Sorry to say that the loft is no longer available.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

Where is Dogtown I hear you ask? It is on Highway 1 just north of Bolinas. When we set off after the rush hour on Friday morning, Tom had no idea where we were heading. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I told him to take the Highway 1 exit towards Stinson Beach. That narrowed the choice of our eventual destination.

The forecast for the weekend was not very promising. Rain was likely Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That Friday morning it was overcast and once in Marin it started to rain.

We stopped at the Pelican Inn for a drink and hurried inside out of the rain. The Pelican Inn is the nearest to a British pub I’ve seen in California. The bar is small and the furniture, with its pew like seats around the wall and small round wooden tables, feels like home away from home. The barmaid even knew what a shandy was without me having to explain how to make it. On the walls were black and white photos of the Royal family from a few years ago. A sign in the restroom amused me which warned that the plumbing was ‘Authentic English Tudor style.’ Obviously tongue in cheek as there was no such thing as plumbing in Tudor times. A mass communal pit would have been more authentic.

Bolinas Lagoon

The beautiful Bolinas Lagoon

It had stopped raining by the time we left The Pelican Inn and we enjoyed the ride along Highway One. The road twisted and turned with occasional glimpses of the ocean. Even though it was still overcast we were able to see the Farallon Islands quite clearly.

Tom thought our destination would be Stinson Beach but we drove straight through. The tide was in and the Bolinas Lagoon was full. It was an amazing ride driving the length of the lagoon and observing all the birds on the water. We drove past the turning to Bolinas and Tom was puzzled. Where else was there to go? The next stop, he thought, was Olema.

When I saw the small green sign which announced we were entering ‘Dogtown – population 30, I told him to get ready to turn left. Then when I saw the sign saying ‘Woodville Ranch’ I asked Tom to turn into the drive. We had arrived. To the left stood the main house and ahead was the barn. Our home for the next three days would be the loft above the barn.

The Loft at Woodville Ranch

The Loft at Woodville Ranch. Beautiful setting, beautiful place. Everything was perfect.

We knocked at the door of the main house. The door opened and Anne Sands greeted us. She took us to the barn and showed us the loft. On the way we saw the beautiful Arabian horses who reside there. The loft is a marvelous place – long and with lots of windows. At each end there are long windows which stretch from the ceiling nearly to the floor. In the bedroom, a four poster bed and antique furniture. There was a full size kitchen, a small eating area and a sitting room. Everything you could wish for in a holiday home.

Anne explained that there were a couple of stores in Bolinas, including a co-op behind the community hall which sold local organic produce. I asked about nearby walking trails and she showed me some beautiful, hand drawn maps of the property and surrounding area. There were a couple of trails on the property and many more in Point Reyes National Seashore.

After we’d settled in, we drove into Bolinas along Mesa Road. One of the maps was of Bolinas and showed that the Coastal Trail starts at the end of Mesa Road. Mesa Road turns into a gravel roadway running past the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and ended in a car park. We ventured only a little way along the trail. We would have liked to have gone further as it looked interesting but we thought it was gong to rain. We did go of on a short spur which led to a fabulous view from the top of a ridge overlooking the ocean. The Farallon Islands, although still visible, were slowing disappearing into the mist.

trunk of a eucalyptus tree

Foot of a giant prehistoric creature or the trunk of a eucalyptus tree?

We felt raindrops as we made our way back to the car and we were able to reach it before we got too wet. When we got to the sign for the bird observatory I noticed it said ‘Visitors Welcome’, so we turned into the driveway. At the end was a car park and a Visitors Center. Inside there was a lot of information of the work they do there to catch and band birds. They use a misting net. Most mornings the activities can be viewed but not at 4 in the afternoon unfortunately. We walked around the small museum with, amongst other things, a collection of bird skulls. On display were the skulls of a pelican right down to a hummingbird. It was amazing to see how small and fragile the skull of a hummingbird is. They also have guided bird tours from time to time. We plan to return for another visit sometime.

Back in Bolinas we found the co-op where we bought some organic carrots for the horses.  Feeling hungry, we went to the Coast Cafe for an early dinner but unfortunately it was closed.We went a nearby store and asked if they knew what time it opened and were told 5 o’clock. By this time it had started to rain in earnest and we did not really want to hang around for three quarters of an hour until the cafe opened. We decided to buy some food in the store and returned to the loft to cook our own supper. Earlier we had bought a dozen eggs from Anne and with an onion, a large potato and some mushrooms we made and enjoyed an omelet.

We spent a cozy evening watching a DVD and listening to the pounding rain outside. We wandered whether we would be able to get out for a walk the next day or whether the rain was set in for the weekend. We retired to our marvelous comfy bed for an early night.

Duxbury Reef at Agate Beach County Park, Bolinas

Duxbury Reef

Duxbury Reef

Neither Tom nor I had ever heard of Duxbury Reef so we were intrigued when we saw mention of it. Once we found out where it was – Bolinas, and there were some wonderful tide pools there, we just knew we had to check it out.

If you are going to explore tide pools, then the best time to visit is when there is a low tide. A minus low tide is even better. To find out about tides, you have to consult the time tables. An online timetable is here. Consulting the tide tables can be a bit confusing. First you need to know where the nearest tide readings are taken. For Duxbury Reef it is either Point Reyes or Bolinas Lagoon (both of the links will open up in Bolinas Lagoon). Then you look for the date. As we have to visit on a Saturday or Sunday, it narrows our choices considerably. Then you check for time of day you will be visiting and look for a minus sign which denotes a minus tide. One other thing to check, make sure the year is correct. First time around on another site, it was for the year 2006 so I had to search to see how to change the year. The Saturday of our visit the tide was -0.7 at 7.29 a.m. – the lowest early morning weekend tide for the rest of the year.

Saturday morning we were up at 4.15 and on the road by 5. Tom checked the weather so knew we would probably encounter fog. And we certainly did. San Francisco was shrouded with the stuff. Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge the towers were lost to view with only the merest hint of Alcatraz off the the right. Negotiating Highway 1 in the Marin Headlands was a challenge and as we zig-zagged our way along the coast we were aware that the ocean was nearby but only caught odd glimpses of the water through breaks in the fog. The steep drop-offs were passed without my stomach plummeting.

It was gratifying to see that indeed there was a very low tide, especially when we drove past Bolinas Lagoon. Vast mud flats were visible out in the middle. Lots of egrets were paddling in the mud searching for their breakfast.

Just past the end of the lagoon, we turned left towards Bolinas. There aren’t any signs, you have to know that Bolinas is there. At the next junction, where we turned left again, there was a sign which simply said – ‘Entering a socially acknowledged nature-loving town’. This sums up Bolinas.

Of course we checked out where Duxbury Reef was and even looked at a map. It seemed easy enough to find but, you’ve guessed right,

Heading down to Duxbury Reef

Heading down to Duxbury Reef

we became a little lost. We took a few wrong turns and ended up a couple of times in a cul-de-sac and once the road was completely closed off due to a landslide. Eventually we returned to Mesa Road and somehow found our way to Elm Road. At the end of Elm Road we turned left onto Ocean Parkway and ran into a fairly large car park at the end of the road. Success, we had reached the right place.

There was just one other car there. I did expect there to be more people around. After all it is the weekend and a minus tide so why weren’t there more people? I can only assume that it is a combination of not many people having heard of Duxbury Reef and it being difficult to find.

A short trail led down to the beach and there in front of us was a large area of exposed tide pools. Only one other person and his dog were in sight. It was a bit chilly on the beach and visibility out to sea was not good but with my hooded sweatshirt on it wasn’t too bad.

Duxbury Reef tide pool

Duxbury Reef tide pool

I started out to explore the reef. The rocks were covered with slippery seaweed so walking and clambering over them was a slow process. It didn’t matter though as I was not in a great hurry. There were lots of lots of tide pools ranging from tiny crevices to larger expanses of clear water. Negotiating a route to the edge of the ocean was not in a straight line. Some of the inlets were quite large and finding an easy way across at a narrower point or by using stepping stones took time. Of course each tide pool had to be scrutinized as I passed. To get the most out of them, you have to stand very quietly for about five minutes as minute fish swim under cover and tiny crabs scuttle out of sight as you approach. By not moving for a while, they all venture out again and you can then study them.

At first I thought some of molluscs were attached to the rock but then noticed that some of them were moving very, very slowly. Then a tiny leg would appear and then another and I realized that they were hermit crabs. I read a fascinating fact about hermit crabs. As they grow larger they need to move into a bigger shell and a sort of line develops around an empty shell so when one hermit crab exits its too small shell for a larger one, there is already another hermit crab waiting to inhabit the one that had just been vacated. I wonder how they communicate to each other?

I noticed that there were a lot of one sort of mollusk which I couldn’t identify. When writing this post I tried to find out what they were. I can tell you what they weren’t – cockles, mussels, whelks, barnacles or limpets. Comparing our photographs with images online, we think they were sea snails but if anybody out there disagrees, please send a comment. We saw a lot of sea anemones clustered together on the rocks. When they are closed they look very nondescript and uninteresting. Brush against them with your shoe and they tighten up even further. But when they open up they are beautiful. We saw several large green sea anemones waving their tentacles. Don’t be tempted to touch them because they sting.

Bicycle and stuff in the charming little village of Bolinas

Bicycle and stuff in the charming little village of Bolinas

For most of our time there we had the place to ourselves, then a couple and their four children arrived and were busily exploring the tide pools. The children were fascinated by everything they saw. Not that they were close enough for us to hear what they were saying but could tell by the way they were crouching and pointing excitedly. It was a pleasure to watch them.

While Tom continued to take photos, I walked back up to the beach and wandered further along the sand. As it was called Agate State Beach Park, I was on the lookout for agate. I wasn’t quite sure what agate looked like but that didn’t stop me looking. I don’t think I found any agate but I may have seen a small piece of amethyst in a piece of honeycomb rock. Just wish I’d taken a photo of it. Tom caught up with me and I showed him the rock. He didn’t know whether it was anything to get excited about.

On the way back to the car we took a little detour along a trail that led to the top of the bluffs. We couldn’t see down to the beach very well but we think the reef extends some way down the coast. Perhaps we did not explore all the tide pools. Maybe if we had walked south along the beach we would have discovered more. The trail took us back to the car park.

Time to go and find something to eat . We drove into Bolinas and went into Coast Cafe. We have eaten several times there and like the food. Even though it is a little pricey, the quality of the food and the ambiance is well worth it.

Coast Cafe, Bolinas

Coast Cafe, Bolinas, CaliforniaIf you ever find Bolinas, this is a great place for breakfast. Mind you, today it’s gone 11 so I suppose your could call it brunch.

The Coast Cafe is easy to find in the middle of town. There is seating inside and out and it has a very pleasant, laid back feeling about it.

This is not your typical diner sort of breakfast joint. As this is Bolinas, it is bound to be different. For a start, there are no booths or seats at the counter, just lots of wooden tables and chairs. There is even one very big table that seats 12. While we were there, several small groups ate at this table and, even though they didn’t know each other, they happily chatted together.

We decided to eat inside and could sit anywhere we liked. Our choice was a long table for two at the back near the counter. Our order was taken soon after we sat down. I ordered oatmeal ($4.50) with a side of wheat toast ($1.75). I asked if they served steelcut oats, this being a very organic, environmentally conscious community, but they didn’t. Tom ordered a French Omlette from the Specials List ($10) with English Muffin.

Let me tell you about one of the locals who was standing near us at the counter. She was a lady wearing a paint spattered jacket, old jeans and non matching, multicolored hiking boots. Round her neck she had a garish, wooden parrot on a rope. But the one thing that really caught our eye was her hat. Obviously her own creation as it was made out of twigs, newspaper and string. People like this are a common sight in Bolinas and nobody turned a hair. It’s a place where you can wear and do whatever you like.

Now to the decor. Definitley coastal. From the ceiling are suspended 12 surf boards, mostly old fashioned, wooden ones and some of them are huge. Glass floats in net bags and assorted floats are everywhere. There are several original paintings and framed photographs on the wall. A nice touch were the shelves attached to the walls filled with books, dolls and assorted objects. But the best feature is the old fashioned, pot bellied boiler in the corner which was lit and provided a real homely feel to the place.

We didn’t have too long to wait for our food. My oatmeal came in a big, deep green ceramic bowl on a huge red plate. The brown sugar and raisins came in small white ceramic pots. The milk in an old fashioned silver jug with a lid. The jam was home made strawberry. It was all scrumptious. Tom’s omelette had goat cheese, green onions, mushrooms and tarragon in it. The home fries had a seasoning on them which added to the taste. His verdict – excellent. We both loved the jam.

I asked for directions to the restroom and the server pointed to the floor and told me to follow the frog footsteps. How charming. They led out of the door, across the patio to the restroom. Inside was an entrance room with two doors leading to two stalls. In the entrance were two old bar stools and a blue wooden cupboard with a mirror on the front. The stalls could only be described as rustic. No decoration at all but an unusual touch was the toilet roll holder and the paper towel container which were both made out of small planks of dark brown wood.

We really enjoyed the food, the service, the ambiance of the place and it certainly is near the top of our list of places to go for a great breakfast. Needless to say, we will be back.

Mount Tamalpais…almost

Today was forecast to be a beautiful sunny day so we set off at 6 to go to Mount Tamalpais (or Mount Tam as it is affectionately called). As we had eaten late last night (we met up with friends Dirk and Maria with their sons Jason 5 and Jacob 11 months for a meal at Dish Dash in Sunnyvale). we were not particularly hungry so we stopped at Peet’s on Geary Street. Tom had a coffee and muffin and I had a cocoa. No paper to read because there were none available in the stands outside.

As we came out of the door just after 7 am, it was to see a meter attendant in a small electric car place a ticket on the car. We were parked at an expired meter but we thought the charges didn’t apply until later. It said on the citation that the violation was under Section TC37C Street Cleaning, though we saw no signs up giving that information and we were not the only cars there. This was not a good start to the day but it gets worse.

We head north over the Golden Gate bridge and turn onto Highway 1 towards Stinson Beach. Marin is waking up as we drive the uphill, twisty road and turn right into the Mount Tamalpais State Park. The road continues uphill with spectacular views down to the city. The sun is in our eyes looking south and the skyline is in silhouette. Looking the other way there were marvelous views of the ocean and the Farallon Islands were the clearest I have ever seen them. Unfortunately there are no suitable places to stop and take photos.

This is an amazingly twisty road. As we round one bend we come across a flock of wild turkeys in the road. There were about eight females and three males. The males were doing their courting display. We stopped, fortunately there were no other cars around, and took photos. Tom’s camera was in the trunk so he used mine because it was quicker and he didn’t want to disturb them by getting out of the car. Just a bit further on we surprised four deer who were about to cross the road. They turned and raced back the way they had come down the hill.

We came to an ideal spot with a view southward where we could pull over so Tom could take some photos. I decided to stay in the car and start writing but when I reached down for my bag it wasn’t there. It suddenly dawned on me that I left my bag, complete with my wallet containing credit cards, driving license, green card, car keys, journals – in fact my whole life was in there. ‘Thomas’ I screamed, ‘I’ve left my bag in Peet’s’. He immediately jumped back into the car, did a Uturn and we hurtled back down the hill at break neck speed to get back to the city. Even though we made good time, after all it was only about 20 miles, the journey seemed endless. Of course I was thinking the worst scenario would greet me when we arrived, that someone had walked off with it and I would have to go through the painful process of canceling all my cards and arrange replacements. At best I was hoping that an honest person had handed it to one of the baristas behind the counter.

Imagine my shock and surprise when I rushed into Peet’s exactly one hour after we had left to find my bag in exactly the same place I had left it. Oh, what a relief.

We had to abandon our plans to climb to the top of Mount Tam and then drive the back roads to Bolinas. The light was past its best for taking photographs and besides the place would be crowded. We decided to have breakfast and visit the De Young Museum. Mount Tam and Bolinas will have to wait for another day.

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