Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Howard Creek Ranch Inn

Susan and I spent the weekend at Howard Creek Ranch Inn in Westport - a little tourist town on the California coast, slightly north of Fort Bragg - to celebrate her birthday, slightly belatedly. We were so delighted by the inn that we agreed that we want to come back again (perhaps next summer?) and perhaps stay longer than the two nights we stayed this time. It's a 60-acre property located directly on the ocean, but also containing dense redwood forest, hiking trails, and more things to do than we found time to take full advantage of.

This building shown (both above and below) is the farmhouse, where we checked in and ate breakfast with the other guests. Breakfast was huge, delicious, different each day, and served at three dining tables on the ground floor. We were spared from having to make much conversation with the other guests by the fact that our hostess spent much of the time answering questions about how she and her husband bought the farm and got started as innkeepers - it was actually quite fascinating. The owners live in the far right portion of the building. (And they have kittens there!) We stayed in a separate building all by ourselves - the Meadow Cabin. In the picture above, you can see a tiny bit of the roof of the Meadow Cabin, behind and to the right of the farmhouse. It's a very small outbuilding, basically a shed, and it's the cheapest accommodation the inn offers - yet we found it delightful.

Here is the entrance to the farmhouse, which was built in 1871.

Here's what you see after passing through the entrance gate.

Here's the deck of the farmhouse.

And some plants in the gardens. I have no idea what any of these are, because I don't know much about any non-native plants, especially not the ones adapted to growing on the coast.

Here is the Meadow Cabin, where we stayed. (You can see my car parked next to it.)

Here's a closer view. The tall portion that you can see clearly is actually the back deck. The shorter portion that we actually lived in is almost completely engulfed by the rosebush growing in front and on top of it. The cabin is currently under construction; the section that is now the back deck will soon become the bedroom, and what is currently the only room will then become a sitting room, while the little courtyard to the right (not visible here) will become a bathroom. For now, we had just enough space for a bed, a sink, and an enclosed shower just outside our front door. For a bathroom, we used an outhouse hidden in the blackberry bushes nearby, or the farmhouse bathroom that the owners use.

Here is our bed, with the skylight above it. The main quilt for the bed is much more elegant-looking and matches the pillows you see here, but we covered it up with the more informal quilt you see below, to prevent the dogs from damaging the more valuable quilt.

At the foot of the bed was the sink. The skylight above the sink was completely covered up by the rosebush, as you can see reflected in the mirror.

In the corner diagonally opposite the bed was a wood stove. This being summer, we had no need for its heat, but Susan arranged the dogs' food and water bowls at the base of the stove.

Ganymede spent a lot of time sleeping behind the stove.

Here's the remaining corner of the room, with a little bench where we stored my purse, Susan's suitcase, and the towels the inn provided. In the mirror at the far right, you can see Boston standing on the bed and peering out the window. She was probably watching the flock of sheep that wanders throughout the farm. She wanted to try her hand at hunting and eating them, although they're much bigger than she is.

Here is the back deck, with some boxes left on the table by the construction workers who are slowly transforming the deck into a bedroom.

Beyond the deck was our patio. We ate dinner Friday night at Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, but Saturday night Susan didn't feel like going anywhere, and I always prefer eating Susan's cooking to eating in restaurants, so I drove to the store and bought charcoal, steak, corn on the cob, potatoes, and butter, and Susan made dinner on the barbecue here, under the alder trees.

Surrounding our patio on three sides was the lush green remains of what must be a pond most of the year. It had dried up for the summer, but the flat green mossy stuff that remained still gave the impression of water.

Two guestbooks left on the table inside contained journal entries written by former Meadow Cabin guests, dating back for about a decade. This entry from April 2005 suggests that one guest was fatally attacked by a mouse-like creature wearing red and grey striped pants. Many of the other entries described honeymoons or 10th, 20th, and 30th anniversaries; some were studded with bizarre language about spirituality, such as: "Ten is the number of study and meditation. Six is the number of healing and contact with the ethereal sphere." (Susan suggested that someone must have watched too much Sesame Street and developed a religion around statements about what number today was brought to us by.) I added an entry about our own visit, mentioning that although we are unable to get married until Prop 8 is repealed, so we can't yet reserve the place for our own honeymoon as so many of the other writers had done, we did still enjoy walking the dogs on the beach and in the redwood forest. I also gave the address of this LiveJournal entry.

Here is a view of the beach in front of the inn, as seen from higher up on the 60-acre farm property.

And another view from down lower.

To reach the beach, we had to cross Howard Creek. Here is the 75-foot swinging bridge in front of the farmhouse, leading across the creek. It's so old and rickety that only one person can cross it at a time. We didn't dare try to take the dogs across it, so we instead took them across a wagon bridge about 25 feet away - it was also old and had signs saying that we would be using it at our own risk, but it was wider and didn't swing around when we walked on it. It wasn't as photogenic as the swinging bridge, though.

Here is a view of Howard Creek from the swinging bridge.

On the other side of Howard Creek is the Carriage House, which houses most of the guests and also has an interesting common area, with a collection of old books to read and a jacuzzi. We didn't use the jacuzzi, because Susan forgot her swimsuit and I was more interested in hiking in the redwood forest. But Susan did borrow two books to read, and thoroughly enjoyed them.

The end of the Carriage House that faces the ocean is heavily covered with birds' nests.

The beach is typical of the northern California coast, with sheer bluffs usually partly obscured by fog.

Boston had a great time digging in the sand. She digs a hole, deliberately drops a rock into it, digs some more until the rock flies out behind her, then digs a new hole wherever the rock landed and repeats the cycle.

She tried to explain the concept of digging to Ganymede, but he didn't really get it. He did make one brief effort to dig a hole of his own, but he was so tentative and delicate about it compared to Boston's enthusiasm that his effort made us both laugh.

Ganymede also doesn't yet have any concept of "fetch." But Boston certainly does. She spent lots of her time chasing the little rocks that Susan tossed for her. (I tried to toss a few, but I have no ability to throw. Susan laughs at me every time I try.)

Boston found a little dog-sized cave in the bluff and curled up in it with a rock in her mouth.

Susan sat on a boulder nearby and watched her.

Ganymede asked Susan to pet him.

Then he wandered over to join Boston in the dog cave.

Boston always smiles for the camera, but Ganymede takes no notice of the camera, so I have to wait and see what he does and hope it turns out to make a good picture.

Boston is an incredibly photogenic dog.

Her neck and tail areas had an extremely amateurish haircut a week or so ago, because they were full of stickery weeds. Now they're already full of stickery weeds all over again, and she'll probably end up with an even worse haircut. But it doesn't look half as bad in photographs as it does in real life.

Ganymede has no such haircut problems, but he tends to make rather goofy expressions.

These two pictures of him came out pretty well.

Boston spent most of her beach playtime down near the water.

Ganymede is terrified of water, so he spent most of his time on the bluffs at the landward edge of the beach.

But sometimes they played together in the middle.

That was fun! What shall we do next?

Like Ganymede, I stayed mostly near the bluffs, because that's where the plants were. I think this is Mendocino coast Indian paintbrush (Castilleja mendocinensis).

The succulent here is bluff lettuce (Dudleya farinosa).

Here it is again, this time with more yellow flowers protruding up from it on red stalks.

This is seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus).

Here are some plantains. They're actually prettier when they're not green.

And here are some succulents I haven't identified.

We came back at low tide - first Susan, while I was sleeping, then both of us - to explore the tidepools. We saw starfish, sea anenomes, and mussels everywhere.

Here is Susan hugging Ganymede. (She's wearing the new tennis shoes I gave her for her birthday. They're now permanently infused with sand.)

But there were many other areas to explore on the 60-acre farm than just the beach. I took the dogs out exploring while Susan tried to nap. (We were both sleep-deprived because the dogs kept waking us up at 5:00 a.m., but Susan was more severely sleep-deprived because she was the one who actually got up to walk them at the crack of dawn. At home, the pet door I bought last summer allows them to wander freely in and out all night, but in the cabin, every time they wanted out, they woke us up.)

The few short paved roads at the entrance to the property intersected with numerous walking trails mown into the coastal sage scrub on the hillside.

Many of the trails led to informal sitting areas with plastic chairs or wooden picnic tables, but this was the most informal sitting area of all.

I saw a deer just outside the property line.

I found pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), a native that is often used as a background accent in bouquets of cut flowers.

And native Western morning glories (Calystegia purpurata). These were growing almost everywhere - almost as widespread as the blackberry bushes.

Here's another kind of coast Indian paintbrush (Castilleja affinis).

Here's native ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor).

And sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus). The sticky monkeyflowers that grow natively close to home (around Lake Oroville) are a quite pastel shade of peach, but the ones on the coast are a rather fluorescent yellow-orange.

Raspberries were less ubiquitous than blackberries, but also abundant. Both plants are armed with dangerous thorns, but I noticed that wherever the blackberry thorns scratched me, they left an intense stinging reaction that was more than the actual wound seemed to justify. Susan got a blackberry leaf stuck in her pant leg and felt like her whole calf was on fire for about half an hour, even after she removed the leaf and I rubbed Benadryl cream all over her calf to try to stop the allergic reaction. We didn't notice the same problem with raspberries (shown below), but then, neither of us got a raspberry leaf stuck in our pant legs.

I think this is native Ithuriel's spear (Triteleia laxa).

This is a non-native foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), naturalized among the berry plants.

Partway up the hillside, the coastal sage scrub changed rather abruptly into dense forest. One moment there were shrubs and grasses, and then came a tree.

It was not a single tree, but connected to a huge mass of other trees. The maps of the inn property refer to this as the Enchanted Forest.

It's hard to tell in the photograph, but that blue you can see through the trees is the ocean.

It's classic coastal redwood forest.

I first explored the forest with the dogs, then later brought Susan with me to sit in the two little chairs I'd found placed near the end of the trail, in the perfect location for enjoying this view of the ocean through the trees.

Back in the cabin, Susan relaxed on the bed with both dogs at her side.

Ganymede groveled in the sun.

On our way back home, we stopped at this field of lupine in the middle of Jackson Demonstration State Forest.

Susan photographed me in it.

She also photographed me in the forest, with Ganymede wrapping his leash around me.

And I photographed her. Several times, because I was trying to get one in which the dogs didn't ruin the picture by pulling her over or other such shenanigans. The best shot I managed to get was this one. Look, it's my beautiful fiancee - and our dogs' rear ends, while Ganymede is peeing on a tree!

We walked on the Chamberlain Creek Demonstration Trail, which had a kiosk full of pamphlets that gave us a sort of guided tour. I photographed these native coral bells on the trail.

And these yellow flowers, which I don't think are native.

Tags: native plants, photographs, susan

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