Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bodega Bay and the Armstrong Redwoods

When we travel we usually pick a "base" location and branch out in all directions from there. When we visited the Napa/Sonoma area a few months ago we picked Windsor as our base camp. From there it was about a 40 minute drive to anything we wanted to see. On our first full day there we decided to head to the beach. Now, if you have been reading this blog at all, you know I'm a huge beach fan so I was totally delighted to be heading to Bodega Bay. From Windsor we took the 12 through Sebastopol to the Bodega Highway which meets up with Highway 1.

If you say the name 'Bodega Bay' to a movie buff the first thing they will say is 'The Birds!". Alfred Hitchcock filmed his famous horror film here with Tippi Hedren and the place plays it up. Driving into town I immediately recognized this building from the movie. In real life it's the old Potter Schoolhouse.
 We wound our way through the touristy part of town, where references to the movie are plentiful, and made our way to the water where coastal details are plentiful!
 That's not to say that there are not souvenir places on the actual bay. We did find a couple like Patrick's Salt Water Taffy! I couldn't resist going inside this dime sized store and buying up some of the candy for my sister who adores it. If you also adore it then make sure you don't miss this place. The prices are reasonable and the selection is amazing!
While the others played inside the other store at this location I enjoyed the view of the bay. You can see that there are no waves here in the harbor section, just the gentle lap of the water to keep you company.
That's not to say that I didn't fall in love with some of the merchandise I could see from the parking lot while they fell in love with the merchandise in the store. I adored this little bee while my grandson loved the "pick your own rocks" section. He walked out with a bakers dozen of colorful polished rocks in a little drawstring bag for just a few dollars. 
After this little shopping trip we headed out to have lunch. Off of the 1 you take the East Shore Road to the Bay Flat Road to get down to the Marina. We'd heard that Spud Point Crab Company was amazing and we had to give them a try. Unfortunately there really isn't a lot of room here for diners and the line at the SPCC was HUGE. However, we noticed this sign right next door and decided to give it a try instead.
The parking was plentiful and we found a bench picnic table right out front for our entire family. And Fisherman's Cove didn't let us down...not even a tiny bit! This bait and tackle shop is actually a wonderful dock side deli chock full of fresh seafood everything!
 All of the food was very reasonably priced and saying it's very good is an understatement. They had the usual clam chowder...hard to go anywhere along this coastline and not find a version of this creamy soup...but this was rich and thick and filled with clams. SO good!
 Ambiance isn't missing here either. Inside, and there are seats indoors as well, it really does have the ambiance of a tackle and bait shop but outside you have the views of the bay and little pieces of coastal art here like this ancient mariner.
When my crab salad sandwich arrived I was fairly amazed. As expensive as crab can be you usually end up with more "salad" than crab in your sandwich but this was stuffed with big chunks! The dressing wasn't a plain mayo either but tasted like maybe dill and lemon were added??? And served on focaccia bread that's been lightly toasted it is just such an amazing treat! 
 While enjoying our delicious food we were able to enjoy the bay, the view (like these buoys) , the birds and the sea air and just relax into our afternoon.
 This is right on the Marina so you get to enjoy the boats that are moored there as well. We watched as the weekend sailors made their way in and out of the harbor. All in all a really great way to spend an hour for lunch. 
 We headed back up the 1 and found that the Sonoma coastline is simply stunning. There are plenty of places to park and enjoy the beach. Some of these accesses require some agility to get down into, and back up out of, but some of them have easy parking spots and entry right onto the sand.
 The waves were fairly small that day and the afternoon was growing cold so we decided to enjoy the sand and not the water. 
 One of the unexpected parts of our journey was finding that the 1 doesn't just hug the coastline all the way up but actually detours past gorgeous wetlands. You can just see the fog moving in for the night and get some idea of how chilly it was getting.
 Due to our long, hot summer the blackberries were already dried on the vines but there is plenty of places where you can park, take a little hike, and enjoy the wetlands before heading back to the coast if you want.
Coastal cypress trees and eucalyptus dot the highway. Even on a Saturday it wasn't terribly crowded and traffic wasn't heavy heading North.
 But the views. Stunning cliff faces down to grey sand beaches were made even more dramatic by the high winds and waves.
 Sea palms fight against the crashing waves and stubbornly hold onto the lava based rock right off shore.
 Because these ancient beaches are formed from a lava based rock the sands are dark grey. Not quite the black sand beaches of Hawaii but not the tan or whiter sands that you can find along this same coastline if you were heading South instead of North.
But we were headed North to the 116 East towards Guerneville to see the Armstrong Grove. This beautiful grove of Redwood trees will take your breath away. You can spend as much or as little time as you like here. Have a picnic or take a hike. We were there at the end of the day so, while we didn't have much time, we did enjoy touring the small area we had time to visit. As with all State Parks, there is an entrance fee. Right now that's at about $10 but you can also get the kids a Jr. Ranger pack (comes with a pin) so they can work a scavenger hunt while in the grove! Our two had lots of fun with that.
 If you have never visited a redwood grove before be prepared for very tall trees, very old trees and very, very BIG trees. You should also be prepared for the serenity you will find there. Along the paths there are benches where you can just sit and enjoy the quiet of the grove while your little ones have room to run and play.
We had the kids with us so part of the trip was educating them about the grove, about the trees and even the plants, like this curly moss, that grows on everything there. Our 3 year old grandson was fascinated by the pattern left behind even when the moss is gone from the log.
Deeper into the grove is the amphitheater where you can have your picnic or just, as this woman did, take a nap in the great outdoors. There was even a very large family there having lunch they had picked up in nearby Guerneville before heading to the grove. 
 For us, it is always the amazing height of the trees that keep us coming back for more. At points we would just sit down and look UP. It takes your breath away.

The wonderful thing about this little day trip is that since it was only 40 minutes from Windsor to Bodega Bay and then about another 45 minutes to head north to the 116 to the grove and then back to Windsor we were able to spend a lot of time enjoying our shopping and our lunch as well as our afternoon at the grove without having to get up really early or coming back to the room really late. 

Next week I'll take you along with me for a winery tour! We hit a couple on our tour of the area. I'll also give you a few surprises that we found along our way! 


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