Categorized | Northern California

Point Arena and Anchor Bay

This excursion started with a magazine article about Point Arena depicting its many charms. It made sense to take a short road trip up there since a bunch of us were already in the beautiful community of Sea Ranch  (located on the northernmost tip of the Sonoma County coastline, along Highway 1).

I’ve been to Sea Ranch several times. I have several family members who go regularly and I’m lucky enough to be able to tag along each time.

Hiway 1 to Sea Ranch

Highway 1 is full of gorgeous surprises.

My first time there was soon after chemo ended.  I don’t usually drink, but I had my father fix me several screwdrivers during our visit. I felt I had earned them. Needless to say, I was a big mess. I slept a lot and was often short tempered, a behaviour pattern that lasted for some time after chemo ended.  Subsequent visits saw me with more hair and behaving in a more socially appropriate manner.

Over the years, each visit has had its own character, its own pace. We take walks, cook, watch movies.  We go to the legendary Two Fish Bakery for sandwiches at least once during our visits.

Our saddest visit was the one right after my father died.  My father had been scheduled to go on that trip, but had died unexpectedly two weeks earlier.  His last week of life had been exhausting for everyone in the family. We didn’t do much of anything that time, mainly slept, ate, read.

Early Morning at Sea Ranch

This time, however, we were feeling adventurous.  A recent travel magazine article had appeared hailing Point Arena as the perfect road trip destination, so we decided to check it out.

Our first stop, however, was Gualala.  My mother had heard that there was a flea market there and wanted to see it, even though – to the best of my knowledge –  my mother has never once evinced any interest at all in flea markets. Let’s just say “change is good”.

Gualala Flea Market

That said, it appeared that everyone else on the North Coast likes flea markets and this one was packed.  Not only were there items out in the parking lot, but there were rooms and rooms filled with “stuff”.  There was a clothing room and a book room and a furniture room.  Fortunately, I did not have any money on me or I would have bought a second hand book I saw there entitled “Why Men Love Bitches”.  I still might get it. I think I could learn something from it.

The trip up north on Highway 1 passes ranches and farms, the hills and meadows green with the recent rain. I wish I could tell you how long it took to get from Sea Ranch to Point Arena, but as usual, I was talking the entire time, so I wasn’t paying attention. BTW, when I am not torturing my travel companions with my lively discourse, I am usually sleeping. Either way I never know how long it takes to get anywhere, and – often – how we even got there. I marvel at how lucky I am to have people who put up with this.

metal dinosaurs

We saw some dinosaurs on the road north

From time to time, we passed by clusters of homes and wondered how people made a living up there, or maybe they don’t make a living up there.  It has always intrigued me.

I really liked this Buoy House in Point Arena

That said, a few years ago I had a really sexy, good looking boyfriend who lived way up in the mountains in Mendocino County. The dirt road to his house alone took 20 minutes to drive.

All of his friends also lived up dirt roads. I know this because we visited many of them. They were equally sexy and good looking. Or maybe I just like that “type”.

Outhouses, composting toilets, and other off grid living features were not uncommon. Somehow – in spite of what seemed like insurmountable obstacles – everyone had jobs and lives and managed to get where they needed to go – wild animals, fallen trees, and flooded roads notwithstanding.

The Outhouse in the Mountains

The outhouse window faced a beautiful valley

So I guess everyone figures it out.

Point Arena was once a thriving lumber town.  In addition to the surrounding forests that could provide ample amounts of lumber, the geography of the coast line also helped establish the local economy.  Point Arena had a small cove that provided a relatively safe place for lumber schooners – an important asset since the northern California coastline was – and is – brutal and dangerous. In 1870, Point Arena got its own lighthouse as well as its own Wharf Master.

Point Arena Street Scene

Downtown Point Arena

After all the excitement about Point Arena generated by the magazine article, we were a little surprised by the reality.  Point Arena is foggy and cold. No one was on the street. All the stores were closed. None of them looked like they were going to open any time soon.

Point Arena Store Note

The downtown had the potential to be charming, but many of the buildings were abandoned and empty, including the two motels flanking either side of Highway 1 as you drove in. Everything was closed, including a bakery that was touted in the article. Many of the buildings were brightly colored and I wondered what we were missing here.

Jesus for sale sign

Even Jesus was looking to get out of town.

I felt a strange, moody, abandoned feeling in Point Arena. According to Wikipedia Point Arena’s reported economy is largely geared toward “servicing the summertime tourist industry and marijuana growth“.  So it wasn’t summer and we don’t smoke pot, so maybe that was the missing link here for us.

Point Arena Doorway

The one place that was hopping was the movie theater.  There was some sort of early morning event that was bringing nicely dressed senior citizens into town. We discussed this multiple times during the morning  – what was going on? Who were these people? What sort of event was bringing everyone out so early in the morning? It would have been effortless to simply ask someone but then we would have missed the fun of speculating endlessly.

Point Arena Movie Theater

We walked up and down the main drag, took some photos and looked in some windows.  Then we got in the car and drove to the Point Arena Lighthouse to check that out. You can read about our visit to the Point Arena Lighthouse here.

Point Arena Street Scene

On our way back, we decided to stop in Anchor Bay, just because it looked welcoming.

Marijuana Pharmacy

Happier times await in Anchor Bay

While we were there we met a young man named Eric in front of the laundromat.  He was a local and had lived in the area his whole life. I asked him if I was correct in my diagnosis of Point Arena as being clinically depressed, or if I was just playing doctor again.

He said Point Arena definitely had issues, the biggest one being that it is located on the most western point of the Continental USA. The fog, the cold, the isolation, all contributed to the sense of moodiness that we felt in Point Arena.

Maybe things would be better if Giannini’s opened for cocktails again

I wish Point Arena well.  I would like to revisit Point Arena again, a different day, a different season…


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