From Moro Rock to the memorable Bixby Creek Bridge, beauty abounds along the Pacific Coastal Highway in the form of uninterrupted expansive views extending to the beryl-blue horizon.
The road from Pismo Beach to Half Moon Bay is a series of sharp curves and steep dips inches away from vertical drops hundreds of feet to the surging surf. The potential hazard from tsunamis posted on the evacuation signs is easy to disregard when each rise affords 180-degree pristine panoramas.
Natural disasters are easily dismissed when climbing the wildflower-draped ledges overlooking one of the first designated underwater preserves along six miles of coastline thick with bull kelp forests at Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County.
Easily ignored while hiking the 20 miles of trails through Douglas firs and redwoods and across windswept meadows where a century-old surplus of blocks quarried to cobble the streets of San Francisco has been left in stacks.
Easily forgotten when picnicking out on sea-sprayed bluffs without sight of road, buildings, boats, airplanes or traffic.
Undisturbed, I explored the park's pygmy forest and adjacent Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve without a thought to the precarious location, where many a treacherous wave has slammed the shoreline.
This was the first park along my coastal trek north to Seattle that seemed to have been overlooked by the millions who flock to California’s state parks in the summertime. Given its unspoiled isolation ninety miles north of San Francisco, limited facilities and constant chilling winds, there were but a few campers even in June.
Those that were there had come to dive despite the fact that several divers drown each year. Divers are forewarned that death can be easily avoided by remaining calm should entanglement in the kelp occur, which apparently is common due to dive knives, fin buckles and snorkels that protrude from the otherwise streamlined wetsuit. Staff assures visitors that with a few precautions, even novice divers can experience the preserve safely. (Obviously, however, the most assured way of preventing entanglement in the kelp is to not dive in it.)
Several historic lodges within twenty miles of the park provide accommodations for those seeking more refined amenities. Seventeen miles south is one of the Woodside Hotel Group’s six distinguished luxury hotels, the seaside Bodega Bay Lodge, offering rooms starting at $175/night with fireplaces and bay views, spa packages, and walks along boulder-studded white sand beaches.
Chefs at the onsite award-winning Duck Bill Restaurant serve gourmet meals from local, sustainably farmed produce, seafood and meats.
Cedar-shingled Sea Ranch Lodge, set high on untamed bluffs, overlooks the Pacific thirteen miles north of the park. Their Black Point Grill offers fresh local fare in its ocean-view “rustic organic” environs, for which they’ve received acclaim.
The Sea Ranch development spurred the creation of the Coastal Commission and the preservation of California’s coastline. Legendary sculptor-architect James Hubble was commissioned to design the Sea Ranch Chapel, the only publically accessible spot in the private community.