We woke up in Gualala for our last day on the road. It would take most of the day for us to drive back south to Alameda, so we planned to break up the drive along Highway 1 with stops at Point Arena Lighthouse and Headlands, Schooner Gulch, and Salt Point State Park.
It was a chilly morning, but we were packed and on the road by 9am. The sun was out and shining, a beautiful way to end our week on the road! Within an hour we were at Point Arena Lighthouse, and took another hour to explore the Headlands.
Destination: Point Arena
Trail: Headlands Trial
After a quick view of the lighthouse, we explored the headlands trail. It was a large expanse of relatively flat ground, and appeared to be a cattle pasture, with hoof prints in the soft mud. The grass was short and the sun was becoming hot, providing us with an entirely different landscape than we had experienced all week! The pasture walk took us to the rim of the bluffs, where we watched the wave action and erosion at work. We climbed muddy hills, down the rocky shore, and back up, before walking back to the car and continuing our journey.
Next stop was Schooner Gulch and Bowling Ball beach. All I'll say is we were rather disappointed, but perhaps it's more exciting at low tide when the shoreline is actually accessible. Otherwise, it was a rather muddy walk down to an ocean overlook providing not much else than a good leg stretch for a few hundred feet. Onward. Our last park of the trip was much more exciting, and we didn't have nearly enough time to explore all it had to offer.
Destination: Salt Point State Park
Trail: Bluff Trail to Smith Cove
Salt Point was easy to access, with the park entrance right on Highway 1. We stopped to get a trail map, and found a trail from the parking lot to the bluffs, and to Smith Cove. The geology and rock formations very incredibly interesting, and the trail took us through gorgeous tree groves with tall ferns. There were points where you could heard water cascading down the bluffs to the sea below, and we climbed out from under the brush to explore. There were so many other areas of Salt Point State Park to explore, so we made mental notes for a return trip.
It was the perfect temperature, the perfect amount of breeze, and the perfect amount of sunlight. What a way to end our exploration of Northern California!
As we drove through the Sonoma Coast along Highway 1, it only reinforced my love of the scenic stretch of road as it wove along the hills with a constant ocean view to the west. I made more mental notes of beautiful beaches to visit for the next trip to California... Stillwater Cove... Goat Rock Beach... Portugueses Beach... Schoolhouse Beach...
We stopped in Petaluma for a complimentary wine tasting at Sonoma Portworks. Neither of us had experienced a good port before, and we were so impressed we both bought a bottle of their "fun" blends: the Decco with dark chocolate infusion, and the Duet sherry with hazelnut. We were back in Alameda in time to unpack, clean up, and have a relaxing dinner.
Photographically, there were a number of things I had wanted to shoot during the week but never found the right opportunity. With the cloudy weather there was never a colorful sunset or starry night. With the itinerary structured the way it was, we were pitching our tent after dark most camping nights. All these things have left me with a list of things to improve upon, so it wasn't time lost, only lessons learned.
All in all it was a trip well spent! Quality family time, time spent outdoors, an introduction to the many wonders California has to offer, and a laundry list of parks to explore next time... because 6 days on the road was just not enough! While we were rather bummed about getting rained out for a couple of days, we still made the most of the time we had. California has left me with a feeling of just wanting more.
For anyone looking to venture north of the bay area, I'll leave you with a few of my favorites:
Favorite Stretch of Drive: Highway 1 through Sonoma Coast
Favorite Campsite: Wright's Beach in Sonoma Coast State Park
Favorite Park: Mendocino Headlands
Favorite Hike: Russian Gulch
Favorite Unexpected Discovery: (tie) Little River Blowhole & Glass Beach
Favorite Redwood Grove: Rockefeller Loop