Where do I begin? Was it the fact that the only flight available left at 6 am from an airport 35 miles away? Was it the maniacs on the road driving 90 miles an hour at 4 in the morning? Or was it the truck drivers who couldn’t stay in their lanes? Maybe it was the 300 year old DC9 with sealed up ashtrays that I don’t think were emptied before they were sealed.
I love air travel.
Since we had spent so much time hiking along the coast, it was only natural that we developed a craving for seafood. Our evening quest was to find a seafood restaurant that also provided a good sunset view. We found just the spot in Bandon, Oregon. We pulled into Bandon at the perfect sunset photo time. While hunting for the best seafood restaurant, I discovered a small pier that presented a great setting for pictures. We then found the Wheelhouse Restaurant where we had some yummy clam chowder and dungeness crab sautee.
After a wonderful breakfast at Hotel Carter (fresh herb frittata, fresh fruit), we continued our journey up the west coast to Floras Lake, Oregon. We checked in to the Floras Lake Guest House, a beautiful property right on Floras Lake which also provided convenient access to the ocean beaches. From here, we were able to travel to a number of hiking trails leading to fantastic coastal views. Our first hike was out to Blacklock Point for an elevated view of the ocean and Oregon shoreline. The view was great, but it was difficult standing upright – the wind was tremendously strong. I think the wind is as much an attraction in this area as the scenery. The owner of the guest house also runs a kite surfing shop and training facility at the lake where you can often see a number of kite surfers in action.
If you make it to this area, I would highly recommend staying at this guest house. The rooms are spacious and homey, the breakfasts are tasty and healthy (except for the sticky buns and french toast), and the hosts are gracious and fun to talk to. The grounds of the guest house are beautifully landscaped and the view of the lake is spectacular.
We reached our final destination for the day – Eureka – around 6pm and checked into the beautiful, Victorian-styled Hotel Carter. After a quick tour of the hotel, we dropped off our bags, made a dinner reservation for 8:30pm and started a walking tour of Eureka. 20 minutes later, we were back at the hotel – not much to see in Eureka once you’ve found the 6 restored Victorian homes and the old town shops that close at 5pm. Fortunately, we were able to move our dinner reservation up an hour. With dinner at Hotel Carter, we experienced the most pleasant surprise of the entire trip. The restaurant at this hotel is worth the trip to Eureka even though there isn’t much else to see. We took advantage of the chef’s tasting menu and wine pairing, which treated us to the best meal of the whole trip (so far). Since I know you’re going to ask, here’s the menu:
- Truffled Veloute of Summer White Corn with Avocado and Cilantro
- Sonoma Valley Foie Gras with Fruit Gelee, Toasted Brioche and Saba
- Country-Style Pork and Veal Pate – A Terrine of Pork, Veal, Pistachios, and Cognac with a Pickled Vegetable Relish
- Grouper with Israeli Melon Salsa (not on the menu, so the description isn’t as frou-frou as the other entries 🙂 ).
- Pickled Ginger and Scallop Mousse Stuffed Dover Sole with Yukon Gold Potato Cake, Baby Bok Choy and Lime, Ginger Beurre Blanc
- Brioche Ravioli with Dark Chocolate Filling and Brandy Mint Creme Sauce
While enjoying this delightful feast, we discovered that the owner of the hotel – Mark Carter – was dining with a friend at the table next to us. We heard a gasp of surprise from his friend and realized that Mr. Carter had brought out a 1966 Chateau Latour Pauillac (which goes for about $750 a bottle right now). We couldn’t help but watch the poor waiter (who works for Mr. Carter, of course) make a valiant effort to coax the cork out of this venerable bottle of wine. Even the finest sommelier would have been nervous with this task. Mr. Carter was very gracious in providing advice to the waiter and after a few tense minutes, the bottle was open and decanted. After we finished our dessert, Mr. Carter’s friend asked the waiter to pour a taste of the LaTour for us!! He said that since we had witnessed the fanfare of the uncorking, we ought to have a taste. Quite a generous treat and it lived up to all expectations. I have a feeling that we won’t be topping this experience during the rest of the vacation.
After our hike, we decided to head into Mendocino for lunch and to check out the shops and galleries that we heard so much about. (Does it sound like I’m setting things up to describe another disappointment?) We did have a nice lunch featuring fresh dungeness crab – after walking around forever looking for a restaurant. Maybe we were looking in the wrong place? After lunch we strolled around looking for galleries. I guess Mendocino just isn’t our style since we didn’t find much to our liking. It also seemed more crowded and touristy than we we like. Rather than hanging around (with nothing to do) until dinner, we decide to find some wine and cheese to enjoy back at the inn while relaxing on our balcony. We found Wine Shop of Mendocino, a nice little wine shop with a good selection of interesting wines. The woman running the shop not only helped us with recommendations for wine, she also suggested wineries to visit on our way to Eureka and pointed us to a little organic grocery store to pick up some wonderful cheeses. So, we bought some wine, stopped at the grocery store for cheese and crackers, and returned to the inn for a quite evening watching the sunset. Even the disappointing Pygmy Forest didn’t seem so bad anymore.
Today’s big adventure was a hike through Fern Canyon, along the Old Logging Road Trail to see the Pygmy Forest. We’ve been told that the Pygmy Forest is quite interesting – a natural growth of miniature, bonsai-like trees. The Fern Canyon trail was very nice – cool, quiet, and green with a small creek running along one side. The same could not be said for the Old Logging Road Trail. Of course, one shouldn’t expect an old logging road to be very scenic, but we figured it would be worth it to see the Pygmy Forest. Wrong again. While some may have seen fascinating natural bonsai trees, we saw shrubs – rhododendrons, azaleas and a few unfamiliar, scraggly things that sorta looked like small trees. At least we didn’t pay for it. Well, that’s not entirely true. The 1.5 miles of the Old Logging Road Trail was all uphill at a roughly 5 degree grade.
After smelling the cows – I mean – viewing the historic ranches on the way back to Point Reyes Station, we continued our way up the coast to the Little River Inn located in – surprisingly – Little River, California. If you ever make your way out to this area, I would highly recommend this inn. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and, even though it is on the east side of US 101, it’s located on a hill that blocks the view of the highway. Instead, you get a beautiful view of the ocean and Van Damme State Park beach. Our room had a deck with a couple of Adirondack chairs so we could sit outside watching the surf. The inn also has a nice restaurant with fresh seafood dishes and a decent wine list. Not a bad way to end the day.