July 23 – August 3, 2020
As we left Garberville not knowing what the day would bring, it’s nice to appreciate now that although a long one, it was quite fun as we traversed the backroads of coastal northern California. Our first stop of the day would be Shelter Cove, twenty-four miles away along twisty curvy roads that would take us an hour to navigate.
Because of the very steep terrain on the coastal areas surrounding Shelter Cove, the highway builders constructing State Route 1 decided it was too difficult to build the coastal highway along a long stretch of what is now the Lost Coast. As a result, the Cove remains very secluded from the rest of the state, being accessible only by boat, that twisty road, or by the small Shelter Cove Airport.
Our destination in town was the Cape Mendocino Light, which now sits in a small park on bluffs overlooking the ocean. Originally built in 1868 on a cliff on Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point in California, this 43-foot tower was 422 feet above sea level at that time.
It was eventually taken out of service and in 1998 moved to Shelter Cove, 30 miles south of Cape Mendocino. After two years of restoration it was opened to the public in May 2000.
We walked around the tower and read the signs and then made our way down a set of wooden stairs to the beach. In direct contrast to the higher temperatures inland, it was a cool overcast day with a fog bank touching the top of the cliffs as they ran south of us, a moody backdrop that highlighted a small group of sea lions lounging on a rock outcropping just offshore.
Leaving Shelter Cove, we backtracked on the road that brought us in (only one way in and out) to Wilder Ridge Road which we followed for the 30 miles and one hour it took us to get to Honeydew, then heading west on Mattole Road through Petrolia to eventually land back at the shore in a section referred to as the Lost Coast, a destination for those seeking solitude.
From there we turned inland, climbing to a summit that overlooked miles of forest before descending into Ferndale in the flat lands below, a charming looking community, one we should return to if just for a night, that then led us to the outskirts of Eureka and our eventual destination, the Travelodge by Wyndham Eureka. This would be our first experience staying in lodging after the start of Covid-19 and not sure what to expect, had brought our own supply of disinfectant wipes and other cleaning materials.
As we would come to find out during this trip, lodging options are going out of their way to reassure travelers that the location has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. In some cases, high touch objects like a coffee maker or ice bucket are removed and available at the lobby. And we will likely see a halt to the practice of replacing individual toiletries with bulk dispensers.
And so, we felt reasonably assured that lodging would be a safe bet for us and honestly, the next two places we stayed did nothing to change that opinion. For dinner we decided to do some take out from Chapala Café, a Mexican restaurant just a few blocks away. We’d eaten out once at home, at Firestone Walker near the house and had felt quite comfortable doing so, but we ate outdoors that time, and Chapala didn’t offer it.
One minor benefit of Covid-19, if it could be said there is any silver lining to this disaster, is that one can now get alcohol delivered, so we ordered two margaritas (we’d done so a couple of times from Paco’s our local go to for Mexican food), a hard-shell taco, Chili Relleno, and tamale along with a bunch of chips.
One thing about ordering food to go, as most of you know, is figuring out which food types travel best, and which restaurants do a good job of packaging it for transport. Chapala did a very good job as the hot stuff was still warm, the cool stuff was cool and the margarita’s, well, they were the bomb.
Walking back from the restaurant to our room as I crossed the parking lot, I noted a group of guys standing in between work trucks, drinking beer, and watching meat cook on a small Weber grill. During our travels, we’ve spent quite a bit of time in motels like this one which are often the preferred lodging for work crews on assignment far from their homes. These folks appeared to be making the best of the situation, creating a bit of the feeling of home in a distant setting, enjoying comradery and food that reminded them of family and loved ones. I waved and got one back, which made me smile. It is truly a small and friendly world.
Cape Mendocino Light: https://www.californiabeaches.com/beach/mal-coombs-park-lighthouse/
Travelodge by Wyndham Eureka: https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/travelodge/eureka-california/travelodge-eureka/overview
Chapala Café: http://www.chapalacafe.com/