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This is one of several small towns often overlooked by travelers, whose focus is generally on San Francisco. Sausalito is a wonderfully quaint town filled with shops and restaurants along its main street, which parallels the waterfront.

Dig more than a few inches below today’s sidewalks, paved roads, and parking lots and Indian middens, ancient mounds of buried shells and artifacts, are reminders of the Coast Miwok who first inhabited this entire region. The Indians’ name for this area was Lewan Helowah, or West Wind. When the Spanish arrived in 1775, they saw the abundance of clams, abalone, shrimp, and salmon, along with deer, elk, and bear, and immediately considered this to be a paradise. The Spanish called the area Saucito (Little Willow) because of all the small willows that grew along the nearby streams. The name was slowly Americanized to Sausalito.

William Richardson, an English seaman, married a Mexican citizen, the daughter of the Commandante of the San Francisco Presidio. It was common for English and American men to marry Mexican women during Mexico’s control of California. As a result of his marriage, Richardson was given a 20,000-acre land grant in today’s Marin County, where he built his home near Sausalito’s present downtown. He lost his land holdings in poor business deals, helped along by dishonest lawyers. In 1868 the land was sold to the Sausalito Land & Ferry Company, which laid out streets and subdivided the central waterfront into view lots. The ferry service was soon replaced by a rail line that attracted even more people to what had become a major transportation hub.

Even at this early date, Sausalito was becoming a community for San Francisco’s rich elite who built beautiful summer homes on the hillsides and moored their yachts in the harbor yacht clubs. Their elegant lifestyles contrasted sharply with the working class who lived on the town’s outskirts or in the cheap boarding houses. Portuguese boatbuilders and fisherman, Italian and German merchants, and Chinese railroad workers made Sausalito a vibrant, lively town.

When workers completed the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 and the town’s train and ferry services folded, Sausalito’s importance as a transportation hub for goods and people moved to San Francisco. Seemingly doomed to obscurity, Sausalito bounced back to life with War II’s need for construction of Liberty ships. Its Marin shipyard closed on September 18, 1945, having launched 93 vessels.

With world peace declared, the town returned to its pre-war size. As the 1950s descended on Sausalito, the creative element of society—the writers, artists, and philosophers—discovered this retreat, with its low rent and warm climate. Some people claim there remains a bohemian aura among the small colony of artists and writers. Today, those creative intellects who call Sausalito home have been joined by urban escapees, software developers, bankers, and Hollywood stars.

Bridgeway, the town’s main street, follows the shoreline of the bay as it winds along the base of the high bluff on the west. Driving, or better yet, walking its several blocks, is the best way to enjoy most of what Sausalito has to offer. Near the south end of the marina, near Plaza Viña del Mar, there is a small visitor center where maps and other information can be obtained. There is a walking tour guide available that is worth purchasing.

Across the street from Viña del Mar, is the Gene Hiller building, constructed in 1894 originally as a bakery, but later as the Bank of Sausalito. It also served for some 50 years as the Old City Hall, when during city council meetings a rowdy drunk might be escorted down the aisle to the small cell behind the council podium.

The Sausalito Yacht Harbor is one of the most intriguing such facilities anywhere. Tied here are watercraft ranging from ocean-going yachts worth millions to remarkably luxurious houseboats that serve as permanent homes for their owners. One easily noticed yacht is a splendid replica of the Taj Mahal.

Ark Row is just a half-block west from the yacht harbor and a short walk down a wooden footpath. The small, flat-bottomed bungalows along the shore, some dating from the nineteenth century, were used as floating, year-round homes by artists and writers. Others, generally more elaborate than these that remain today, were used as floating summer vacation homes and winter duck hunting blinds by the rich. When not in use, especially during winter, they were dragged onto shore.

At the south end of town, near the corner of Bridgeway and Second Street, is the Chart House. It was originally the Walhalla, a German beer garden in 1893. During Prohibition, it was rumored that bootleg whiskey was smuggled up from under its pier supports through a trap door behind the bar. In 1950, a well-known San Francisco madam looking for a more acceptable line of work transformed the old edifice into an elaborate Victorian structure she named the Valhalla. It soon became a well-respected restaurant and bar for the Bay area elite.

On the hillside above Bridgeway, about halfway between Valhalla and the visitor center, is the remains of a never-completed Castle. William Randolph Hearst purchased the property and began construction on a grand mansion, but his plans were thwarted by townspeople. Apparently, they disapproved of his mistress and refused to grant Hearst’s request that Water Street be rerouted in order to accommodate his grand design. After abandoning the project, Hearst put most of his mansion-building energies into San Simeon, soon to be known as Hearst Castle.

Most of the structures along Bridgeway are historic, with their own stories to tell. Today, the old buildings are being used as restaurants and shops and all are a joy to explore.


Directions: From US 101/Highway 1, take either the Bridge Boulevard Exit (north end of town), the Rodeo Avenue Exit, Spencer Avenue Exit, or the Alexander Avenue Exit (south end of town nearest Golden Gate Bridge). Follow any of the exits east toward the waterfront. An alternative, if in San Francisco, is to take the Blue and Gold ferry service from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

Activities: Shopping, kayaking, fishing, bicycling, boating.

For more information: Sausalito Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 566, Sausalito, CA 94966. Phone (415) 331-7262. Sausalito Visitors Center, phone (415) 332-0505. For ferry service schedules, phone (415) 773-1188.


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Sinkyone Wilderness

State Park



One of only a few wilderness areas within California’s State Park System, Sinkyone’s nearly 7,400 acres, with an adjacent 3,000 acres owned by the Trust for Public Land, offer numerous trails, backpacking camp areas, and a wild coast accessible only on foot.

For thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived, the Sinkyone Indians lived on this part of the coast. They occupied permanent villages alongside streams and rivers and moved out in family groups to hunt and forage in the hills during the summer. They spent time along the coast fishing, gathering seaweed and shellfish, hunting seals and sea lions, and harvesting the occasional dead whale that washed ashore. Fish were an important source of food during the winter. All kinds of fish were caught, but the seasonal salmon run was especially important, because once the fish were dried, they provided food for many months.

From the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, human activities stripped the land of natural resources. Grazing and logging were the two most common and popular practices. Game trails that once allowed elk and deer to reach fresh feeding areas were turned into rough roadways for horse-drawn wagons and pack mules, and later for logging trucks. Open marine terraces and inland meadows were filled with grazing sheep and cattle or turned into farmland. Bear Harbor became the main shipping transportation point.

Logging operations had the most impact on the area. Well into the twentieth century timber was shipped to makeshift port facilities via narrow gauge railroads constructed throughout the area. Today, areas that appear to be modern jeep trails are actually abandoned railroad right-of-ways from a past era. Several of the accessible coastal bluffs, where lumber schooners could safely anchor close enough to shore, were once used as temporary loading facilities. Steel cables or “wire chutes” were stretched between the schooners and the bluff to haul logs out to the ships. The block and tackle cable chute built in 1875 at Northport was one of the first to be used in California. The timber companies developed similar loading areas at Needle Rock, Anderson’s Landing, and Bear Harbor.

The park’s visitor center, which is located in a century-old ranch house at Needle Rock, should be one of the first stops visitors make in the park. Actually, it’s very near the end of the primary road into the area. The center is staffed by volunteer camp hosts, many of whom return regularly and have become extremely knowledgeable about the park and its miles of trails. There are also exhibits in the visitor center, along with a table filled with related books and maps that are for sale.

Camping is allowed only in the designated backcountry campsites. Some, such as the Railroad Creek and Orchard Creek camps, can be reached by a short, 0.25-mile walk from the roadside parking area. The Bear Harbor Cove sites, which are located near the edge of a meadow at the ocean’s edge, are a 0.4-mile, relatively level walk away. The trail passes through an area frequented by elk, so watch for them, especially during the fall rutting season when some of the big bulls can become a bit cantankerous—and dangerous if you’re not paying attention.

For those not into backpacking, there are two rooms for rent, each of which will sleep four people, in one of the old buildings at Needle Rock. All bedding must be provided by the renters, who must also clean up the rooms before leaving. There is no smoking, pets, or alcohol permitted. Most people who bear the rather arduous drive over a very rough dirt road and spend time here are looking to escape as many people and traces of civilization as possible. Advance reservations can be made through the park.


Directions: There are two primary entrances into the wilderness. To reach the northern end of the wilderness area, from US 101 take the Garberville or Redway Exit and head to Redway, located about 3 miles north of Garberville on Business 101. Turn west on Briceland Road (Mendocino County Road 435), and drive 12 miles, where you’ll take the left fork to Whitethorn. Continue another 3.5 miles to what is called Four Corners. At the intersection, continue straight ahead on a rough road filled with huge potholes. The road is narrow, steep, and twisting. Drive 3.5 miles to the visitor center. The last 3.5-mile section is generally not passable, especially for two-wheel-drive vehicles, when raining.

To reach the southern entrance to the park at Usal Beach, take Highway 1, 3 miles north of Rockport. Turn northwest on Mendocino County Road 431 and drive 6 miles on the unpaved road to the Usal Campground.

Activities: Hiking, fishing, backpacking.

Facilities: Visitor center, campsites with picnic tables, and pit toilets.

Dates: Open daily.

Fees: There are camping fees.

Closest town: Garberville, about 20 miles.

For more information: State Parks Management District, North Coast Redwoods, PO Box 245, Whitethorn, CA 95489. Phone (707) 986-7711 (recorded message).



There are numerous trails within the wilderness, most of which run north and south along the length of the park. The Lost Coast Trail, as it runs from Usal at the south end of the wilderness area, north to Bear Harbor, is not a trail for beginners. The trail is only 16.3 miles, but it generally takes the better part of three days and two nights of difficult hiking to negotiate its mountain valleys and passes. Taking a longer time to complete the trail is better than trying to rush along its pathway because on those clear summer days, when the fog remains far offshore, there is a plethora of incredible sights, including ocean views and redwood groves. Portions of the trail stay on the lower, western sides of the mountains, ranging up to about 1,000 feet above sea level, but much of it is along the coastal bluff, perhaps 250 to 500 feet above the pounding surf. The Lost Coast Trail continues north from Bear Harbor another 5.3 miles, through Orchard Creek and Needle Rock to Whale Gulch.


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Sonoma Coast

State Beach



While this stretch of Sonoma County’s coastline is referred to as a single state beach, it’s actually 16 miles of secluded, sandy beaches, dunes, rocky headlands, and natural bridges carved from ancient headlands. The public beach begins 2.5 miles north of Jenner at the mouth of the Russian River at Russian Gulch, a small creek. There’s a parking lot and a trail to the large beach area.

This entire stretch of coast is a great place to watch for migrating gray whales during winter and for several different species of gulls during the changing seasons of the year. Telling the difference between what most people simply call “sea gulls” can be challenging, even for experts. Gulls go through several color variations during the first few years of their lives, making immature birds especially difficult to identify. Heermann’s gull (Larus heermanni), California gull (Larus californicus), ring billed gull (Larus delawarensis), and the western gull (Larus occidentalis) are the most commonly seen. Equally easy to view, but much easier to identify are some of the other birds such as Pelagic cormorants (Phalacrocorax pelagicus), and western grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) which are often seen swimming in the waters just offshore. Common during summer is the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), a large, graceful flier that once teetered on the brink of extinction due primarily to the use of the insecticide DDT.

Goat Rock is a very prominent and popular stop for travelers along Highway 1, as well as for locals who like to fish along the beaches in the area. Rather than hiking down long and steep trails from the Highway, there’s a road that winds down to beach level from Highway 1, about 0.75 miles south of the Russian River bridge. The miniature peninsula has a parking area and restroom.

Be cautious about getting too close to the ocean when hiking along the beach, especially during winter. The beach is fairly steep, and sleeper waves are relatively common. Every year these large, periodic, and completely unpredictable waves sweep people from areas they thought were safe into the cold Pacific waters.

Duncan’s Landing is 1.5 miles north of Bodega Bay, just off Highway 1. It once served as a loading point for ships picking up lumber and other products produced along this area of the coast. Today it provides a great show during times of high waves, when the surf can actually crash up over the roadway that circles the area. And that makes getting too close to the lower cliffs very dangerous. During spring and early summer, the open coastal terrace is alive with wildflowers that contrast beautifully with the blue Pacific in the background.

Wright’s Beach is probably the most popular part of Sonoma State Beach, primarily because of the 30-site campground that is situated on the beach, at the base of the coastal bluff. A thick hedgerow of shrubbery around the campsites acts as a partial barrier against the ever-present winds that come off the water and can be quite cold most of the year, even during summer. The wide beach is a great place for exploring, fishing, or simply watching sunsets.

Bodega Dunes Campground is much more protected from ocean winds, although the summer fog that is common along all of California’s coast can still make tents and anything else left in the open very wet. Bodega Dunes has the advantage over Wright’s Beach in offering both open coastline, where the Pacific’s pounding surf can be experienced, and the more protected waters and tidal flats of Bodega Bay. Although the campground doesn’t actually bound the bay, it’s a short walk out the back of the campground and across Bay Flat Road to the water’s edge.

Bodega Head lies at the end of Bay Flat Road and overlooks the entrance into Bodega Harbor. At the parking area there are several short trails that lead along the rocky bluff. It is often windy and cold on the exposed bluff, so dress adequately. There are a few steep trails that lead down to sand and gravel beaches at the water’s edge along the head. Take Bay Flat Road from Highway 1, past Bodega Bay’s harbor.

Bodega Dunes Horse Trail has its staging area just off Bay Flat Road, behind the Bodega Dunes Campground. Horses are allowed on the beach, for a total of about 5 miles of accessible trail. It’s best to check at the Salmon Creek headquarters (1.25 miles north of Bodega Bay on Highway 1), for specific rules regarding restricted areas.


Directions: Sonoma Coast State Beach stretches from Bodega Bay, north along Highway 1 to just north of the Russian River.

Activities: Hiking, fishing, beachcombing, horseback riding, camping.

Facilities: Two family campgrounds, Wright’s Beach and Bodega Dunes.

Dates: Open year-round. From May through Sept., advance reservations are almost always required. Phone (800) 444-7275.

Fees: Moderate camping fees. Most day-use areas are free, with the exception of Wright’s Beach and Bodega Dunes, which charge day-use fees.

Closest town: Bodega Bay on the south and Jenner on the north end of the park.

For more information: Russian River/Mendocino State Parks, PO Box 123 Duncans Mills, CA 95430. Phone (707) 865-2391 or Sonoma Coast State Beach, phone (707) 875-3483.


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The Franciscans first came here in 1823 and constructed the last and most northerly of their missions. Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma served the religious needs of the citizens and the nearby Sonoma Barracks housed the troops of General Mariano Vallejo. There were varying efforts to establish a pueblo, but the local Indians weren’t particularly cooperative in allowing a village of Mexican citizens on their land, at least any distance from the protection of the Mexican soldiers at the barracks. But things would soon change.

As the Americans continued to push their way into California during the 1840s, Mexican control was quickly slipping. Soon after a rag-tag band of Americans stole a bunch of Mexican army horses, they quickly decided they should escalate their actions to a full revolution. The Americans seized General Vallejo at his home, with the general not objecting or attempting to convince the Americans that what they were doing was a bad idea. The Bear Flag Revolt, as it became known, was short-lived, lasting only a few weeks. It ended when the Americans landed in force in Monterey on July 6, 1846 as part of the war against Mexico.

Today, the Mexican soldiers’ barracks and several of the other historic buildings in the small town are part of Sonoma State Historic Park. La Casa Grande, Vallejo’s Sonoma home and the Blue Wing Inn, the first building north of San Francisco constructed specifically as a hotel, are only a few pieces of the town’s historic fabric. Within the barracks, now a museum and visitor center, are restored rooms and a small theater.

The center of Sonoma is a plaza park, surrounded by Sonoma Barracks, shops, and restaurants. The Sonoma Valley Visitors Center is also located across the street from the plaza, on the opposite side of the barracks. It’s a good place to get information about wineries in the area.


Directions: The town of Sonoma is located about 22 miles south of Santa Rosa and US 101, on Highway 12.

Activities: Hiking, picnicking.

Facilities: Museums, restaurants, hotels.

Dates: Open year-round.

Fees: There is a fee at Sonoma State Historic Park.

For more information: Sonoma State Historic Park, phone (707) 938-1519, or the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, 453 First Street East, Sonoma, CA 95476. Phone (707) 996-1090.


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Stinson Beach



Stinson Beach is operated by the National Park Service as part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It’s also the name of the small community that grew up around the beach. Located just south of Bolinas Lagoon, the town of Stinson Beach is a curious collection of old and new homes, a few B&Bs, cafés and restaurants. In many ways, it appears as one of several holdover refuges for some of those who have never quite given up on the 1960s.

It’s fun, it’s quaint, it’s a quiet refuge… except on warm summer weekends when the beach portion of Stinson Beach fills with people. It’s one of the more popular and car-accessible beaches for many miles, easily reached by people living in Marin County. The beach is one of only a few along the north coast with summer lifeguard service. There’s a small visitor center in the park.


Directions: Stinson Beach is located on Highway 1, about 11 miles north of the Highway 1 and US 101 junction, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Activities: Swimming, beachcombing, fishing.

Facilities: Seasonally-operated visitor center.

Dates: Open daily.

Fees: None.

Closest town: Stinson Beach.

For more information: Stinson Beach Ranger Station is operated only during summer. Phone (415) 868-0942 or (415) 868-0734 during summer. At other times contact National Park Service, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA 94123. Phone (415) 331-1540.


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San Francisco



San Francisco is one of the few cities in the world that captures the essence of everything a great city should be: sophisticated, beautiful, eclectic, enchanting, and certainly memorable. Five-star restaurants vie with tiny corner cafés featuring a wide variety of ethnic foods, while 100-year-old Victorian bed and breakfast inns compete with elegant suites in the city’s finest hotels. Cable cars climbing the steep hills and cars maneuvering Lombard Street, proclaimed the “crookedest street in the world,” add to the enchanting hustle and bustle of fishing boats at the wharf and the sounds and smells of freshly boiled crabs being cracked for eager diners.

The United States took possession from Mexico of what were mostly the pastoral hills of San Francisco, then called Yerba Buena (good herb), on July 9, 1846. While the U.S. Army saw the strategic importance of the old Spanish and Mexican presidio for protecting the entry to the bay, at the time there was only a trickle of American settlers coming to California. It was the cry of “Gold!” in 1848 that caused San Francisco to burst to life, seemingly overnight, from its most humble beginnings as a primitive western army outpost. Within a year, San Francisco became the primary entry port for tens of thousands of hopeful “49ers,” and as gold poured out of the rivers and mines, the city quickly became the center of commerce and banking that supported the gigantic economic boom.

One of many intriguing results of California’s gold rush was the deluge of sailing ships that landed in San Francisco Bay to unload supplies, passengers, and far too often, their entire crews. Unable to lure crews back from the gold fields, many of the ships were turned into floating hotels, offices, warehouses, and one even became a jail. During those early days, ships such as the Niantic, Euphemia, Bryan, Galen, and Thomas Bennet changed careers from sailing ships to land-locked structures such as docks with soil fill dumped around them, burying their hulls. Fires often raged throughout this floating wooden city during those early years, with the May 4, 1851 fire devastating much of San Francisco and many of the anchored ships. The hulls of some of these maritime relics are occasionally rediscovered during city redevelopment projects.

San Francisco’s relatively short history is as interesting as its buried ships. Fort Gunnybags, which was located at 243 Sacramento Street, was more formally known as Fort Vigilance. It served as headquarters for San Francisco’s 1856 Vigilance Committee. The committee took the law into their own hands during a time when the city was ravaged by crime and the general public consensus was that too many city officials were on the take. Following the popular lynching of two accused murderers, the city’s crime rate decreased significantly.


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Presidio of

San Francisco



For more than 200 years, the Presidio of San Francisco has stood as a sentry under three national flags, guarding the entrance into San Francisco Bay. The Spanish built the first protective outpost here, a modest adobe-walled compound, in 1776. They added a larger adobe fort in 1779, overlooking the bay’s entrance. It had two bronze cannons, which are now exhibited on the grounds of the main compound at Pershing Square. They are among the oldest known cannons in North America, cast in 1679 and 1693.

When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico’s new government occupied the Presidio, considering it an important defensive point. Mexico abandoned the Presidio, however, when the Russians moved down California’s coast and established Fort Ross about 80 miles to the north. The Presidio came under the flag of the United States in 1846, when the U.S. military occupied both San Francisco and the Presidio. The U.S. military officially established a full-time military reservation here in 1850.

What began as barren hillsides in 1883, Major William A. Jones proposed changing to forests that would “crown the ridges…and cover the areas of sand and marsh.” Over the next 20 years, the military planted 400,000 tree seedlings of pine, cypress, and eucalyptus, often in orderly, military-like rows. As the army transformed the landscape and constructed buildings to meet its ever-increasing needs, it was generally the officers who were the first to benefit from the improvements: “I went to the Presidio… where the soldiers live in barracks and tents. There are beautiful residences where the officers live and a wide cement drive where automobiles and carriages go, with dirt roads for the cavalry,” wrote author Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1915.

As the Presidio became more vital to the defense of the West Coast, barracks replaced tents for the enlisted men and comfortable and lavish Victorian homes were soon added for higher-ranking officers. Many other buildings were added, including a hospital and fire station.

Today, the Presidio is a National Park, with tree-lined streets and many of the historic structures restored. There is a 1-mile, self-guided trail that leads past a dozen stops on the main Presidio grounds. The visitor center (Building 201) has guide pamphlets available. It is located on Montgomery Street, across from the main parade ground.

Within the Presidio’s 1,480 acres lie many historic buildings and other sites: Crissy Field, the first airfield on the West Coast, Fort Point, the San Francisco National Military Cemetery, and the historic cavalry stables. The Presidio grounds are a favorite place for bicyclists, in-line skaters, walkers, joggers, and sailing enthusiasts.


Directions: The Presidio of San Francisco is located on the northwest tip of San Francisco, near the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Lombard Street (going west) turns into Lincoln Boulevard, which weaves through most of the Presidio. Highway 1 (19th Avenue in the city) becomes Park Presidio Boulevard as it passes through the Presidio before connecting with US 101 and reaching the toll entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Activities: Hiking, biking, in-line skating, sight-seeing, fishing.

Facilities: Historic buildings, visitor center.

Dates: Open year-round.

Fees: None.


For more information: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Presidio, Fort Mason, Building 201, San Francisco, CA 94123. Phone (415) 561-4323.


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Tomales Bay

State Park



Long and narrow, Tomales Bay marks one of California’s ongoing major geologic events. The San Andreas fault runs through the middle of the bay, effectively separating the westward-moving North American plate from the Pacific plate that is driving downward and more slowly to the northwest as the two grind together. Each year, the land on the western side, primarily Point Reyes National Seashore, moves approximately 2 inches. During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which was centered near the park, the two plates shifted 20 feet within a few seconds. It’s the combination of these movements that over thousands of years has moved the landmass of Point Reyes from its point of origin as part of the Tehachapi Mountains, to its current location more than 300 miles south.

The fact that there are two colliding tectonic plates separated by a flooded valley provides an opportunity to compare the different rocks found on each side. On the east side of the lagoon, the outcroppings are mostly Franciscan rock, sandstones scraped from the top of the Pacific plate as it moves under the North American plate. Rocks on the west side of the bay are part of the Salinian block, with its granite outcroppings as evidence of its one-time connection to rock formations in southern California. Much of the lower areas are buried under sedimentary rocks that were laid down when the granite was still beneath the sea, 10 to 20 million years ago.

Tomales Bay State Park spans a small portion of the land on both sides of the bay. The largest part of the park is on the western side, running into Inverness Ridge. The surrounding hills offer forests and woodlands to explore, while the main focus for many who visit is the park’s beach access. There are also a couple of short trails, including one that identifies the plants along its route. The park also has one of the last remaining virgin bishop pine (Pinus muricata) forests.


Directions: From Highway 1 at Point Reyes Station, turn west onto Francis Drake Boulevard for about 7 miles. Turn right on Pierce Point Road. The park entrance is about 1 mile on the right.

Activities: Hiking, swimming, picnicking, fishing, beachcombing.

Facilities: Picnic areas, six walk-in/bike campsites.

Dates: Open daily.

Fees: There is a small day-use fee.

Closest town: Inverness.

For more information: Tomales Bay State Park, Star Route, Inverness, CA 94937. Phone (415) 669-1140.


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The tiny community of Trinidad is a popular destination for many who visit Patrick’s Point State Park. It’s also a wonderful stopover for anyone traveling US 101 and who is in need of a short diversion. Spanish mariner Captain Bruno Hezeta discovered the site and named it for the day that he landed here, Trinity Sunday, 1775. It was another 75 years before the town was actually founded, and then only because it offered a well-protected harbor where gold miners and their equipment and supplies could be unloaded. Mining operations first took place inland in the Trinity mines and later at Gold Bluffs Beach to the north.

Today, the tiny community provides a multitude of services, including a few shops, several bed and breakfast inns, small motels, and restaurants. About two blocks off the main road through town is a well-marked turn-off to the Trinidad State Beach. The beach parking lot sits about 120 feet above the ocean, so it’s a short walk across the open meadow area and down through the trees to get to the beach. Two small streams empty into the Pacific here, making it a fairly popular place to fish.

The main street through town hooks around to a replica of the old lighthouse. The overlook offers a great view of Trinidad’s small harbor. The road continues down to the harbor and wharf where there’s boat launching, a pier for fishing, fishing trips, and a restaurant. There’s also a beach that’s popular in summer.


Directions: Trinidad and Trinidad State Beach are located just off US 101, 19 miles north of Eureka.

Activities: Shopping, hiking, picnicking, fishing, boating.

Facilities: The town of Trinidad offers groceries, gas stations, fishing, picnicking, and restaurants.

Dates: Open year-round. Fishing trips from the pier are available seasonally.

Fees: Trinidad State Beach is free.

Closest town: Eureka, 19 miles.

For more information: Trinidad Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 356, Trinidad, CA 95570. Phone (707) 677-1610. For Trinidad State Park contact Patrick’s Point State Park, 4150 Patrick’s Point Dr., Trinidad, CA 95570. Phone (707) 677-3570.


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California State

Railroad Museum



Proclaimed by many to be the finest railroad museum in the world, the California State Railroad Museum, from a historical perspective, is well situated in Old Sacramento. Prior to 1850, the railroads in the US were nearly all located along the Atlantic Coast, and they were relatively short, independent lines. When the “Big Four,” Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, and Mark Hopkins, formed the Central Pacific Railroad, they were acting in response to the 1862 Pacific Railway Act, which allowed the Central Pacific to begin building the western leg of the first transcontinental railroad. On January 8, 1863, the Big Four broke ground for their new railroad at Front and K streets in Sacramento, just two blocks from today’s railroad museum.

The Big Four became quite wealthy from their enterprise, although California and the Union also benefited. With the Civil War raging since 1861, California was guaranteed to remain part of the Union and not join the Confederate States. When the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, and the Civil War ended, California’s wealth, from gold and silver to its bountiful agricultural products, could be shipped to new markets in the East quickly and inexpensively.

Even for visitors with no interest in railroads or in railroading history, the museum offers visual delights that also happen to tell much about the industry’s history in California and in the US. Those delights begin as soon as the introductory film ends (worth the few minutes it takes to view) and the screen opens, revealing the full-sized diorama of a railroad construction site high in the Sierra. This is where the workers, mostly Chinese laborers, used up to 500 kegs of black powder each day, as they attempted to blast train tunnels through the Sierra’s solid granite.

Walk through the Sierra scene, and you enter the main gallery, where more of the museum’s 19 steam locomotives, dating from 1862 to 1944, are displayed. With its brightly painted steel and highly polished brass trim, the beautiful but diminutive Southern Pacific No. 1, the C.P. Huntington, does not look like a locomotive that ever saw much service—but it did. On the opposite end of the size-spectrum is the million-pound behemoth, Southern Pacific’s articulated cab-forward No. 4249. Unlike regular steam locomotives, with their smokestacks in front, the cab on the No. 4249 was placed at the front, so when traveling through the Sierra tunnels and snow sleds, the sparks and smoke would be released behind the engineer and not in front of his face.

Next to the big cab-forward is another of the locomotives that appears more like a piece of fine steel artwork than a hardworking machine. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad No. 13, Empire, has been beautifully restored and surrounded by mirrors so the brightly polished brass, new oak, and repainted steel can be better viewed and appreciated.

The museum’s numerous exhibits include rolling stock such as a mail car that once was the mainstay of the U.S Postal Service’s pick-up and delivery system across the country. Rather primitive but effective catch devices allowed the train to pick up mail at every small station without stopping. Arriving mail was simply tossed off in canvas mail bags as the train passed by. Docents demonstrate where and how mail was sorted, delivered, and picked up on the train’s trip across the country.

Another favorite railcar takes many older visitors back to their youth, when trains were the main form of long-distance transportation in the US. The St. Hyacinthe is a Canadian sleeper car built in the late 1920s. You can board the all-steel, Pullman-style car and walk past the tiny, curtain-covered upper and lower sleeping berths that line the aisle. At the end are the cabins that many people came to prefer. The sleeper car here re-enacts its night travels as it gently rocks back and forth. The methodical sounds of the clicking rails and the harshness of the passing signal bells can be heard as the train “speeds” toward its destination.

There is much more to see here, including additional steam locomotives, modern diesel-electric locomotives, a private luxury railcar, and a refrigerated freight car. Outside and across the open quad from the main museum is the Central Pacific Passenger Station. The re-created 1860s depot also has its share of old trains. From April through September, this is where (for an additional fee) you can board one of the museum’s trains for a ride along the Sacramento River. The museum also hosts various exhibits, periodic rail fairs, and other special events.


Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; last entry is at 4:30 p.m.; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Cost: Adults, $8; 6-17, $3

Location: Corner of 2nd and I streets, Old Sacramento

Phone: 916-445-7378



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PO Box 607 Orangevale CA 95662

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