The Allure of Hummingbird Island

Hummingbird Island Stairs

California’s Second Largest Salt Marsh Elkhorn Slough stretches seven miles inland from Moss Landing Harbor, forming the second largest salt marsh in California. Since the mid-nineteenth century, it has hosted roadhouses, ranches, sugar beet plants, dairies, bootleggers, whaling stations, salt ponds, oyster farms, gun clubs and power plants. Throughout, its usefulness as a shipping channel via land and water has threatened the thriving habitat of over 700 species of animals. The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve sits near the slough’s terminus. It features numerous hiking trails and endless opportunities to spot a variety of wildlife. Returning from a recent trip to Monterey, my wife and I stopped at the Reserve and spent several hours hiking and observing wildlife. While there were many worthwhile points of interest, we found ourselves most captivated by the spit of land known as Hummingbird Island. Art, Conservation, Refuge Part marsh and part hillock, the island Continue Reading →

Albion: Petri Dish of the California Lumber Boom

Passing through the village of Albion in Mendocino County, it’s hard to believe it played a pivotal role in one of the most dramatic periods in California history. Traveling north on Highway 1, you’ll reach a stretch of road that is mercifully free of the endless hairpin turns that plagued you farther south. You’ll settle into a relaxed drive through undisturbed ranch land as the Pacific Ocean disappears and reappears in darting vistas on your left. You’ll cross the picturesque white bridge over Salmon Creek, noting the tranquil Whitesboro Cove at the creek’s mouth. In a few hundred yards, you’ll see a sign for Albion. Then two roads — one winding up to Ledford House on a bluff to the left, the other climbing a hill to the Albion Store and Post Office on the right. In another click, you’ll blur past a scattering of houses that trail down the Continue Reading →

Bronze Prize — 2014 Solas Awards

Hawk Tower at Tor House in Carmel

Travelers’ Tales, publishers of the Best Travel Writing anthology series, just announced the winners of their Eighth Annual Solas Awards for best travel writing of the year. My travel memoir “Inside the Tower” was awarded Bronze Prize. “Inside the Tower” is a story of discovery, one that begins in a bookshop, browsing a poetry anthology, and ends as a quest to understand the late poet during a visit to his home in Carmel. The story has been published on the Best Travel Writing website and may be included in one of the yearly travel anthologies.

Five Places to go Medieval

From Robin Hood to Star Wars, the Middle Ages have kept a tight grip on our imaginations. We’re drawn to the clash of steel against steel, the pageantry of a royal court, or the bawdiness of a peasant tavern. Whether you want to take a deep dive into medieval life or a momentary trip back in time, here are five portals into the gothic past. 1. Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga In 1995, vintner and modern-day Don Quixote, Dario Sattui, began a 15-year quest to build an authentically styled 13th century castle in Napa Valley. The resulting 121,000 square foot compound boasts a drawbridge, secret passageways and 107 rooms. General admission includes a tasting in the main bar and roaming access to part of the castle. Or take the full guided tour which also includes a private tasting. Open daily except Christmas Day. 4045 N. St. Helena Hwy. (707) 967-6272. 2. Knight School, Ramona (San Continue Reading →

Five Places to Squeeze Out a Tune

Smythe's Accordions, Oakland

Glass sculptor Dale Chihuly collects them. Well-known practitioners include Charles Dickens, Richard Nixon and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). Long associated with lederhosen and bubble machines, the accordion is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and is showing up in modern music in imaginative, new ways. Accordions are hip and increasingly ubiquitous. Whether you want to get your arms around this hot new trend, or just catch a live gig, here are five places to dive into squeezebox culture. Petosa Accordion Museum, Seattle The Petosa family has been making handcrafted accordions since 1922. Adjoining the factory, which is open to visitors, is the largest accordion museum on the West Coast. A collection of 100 instruments are on display, including some that date back to the nineteenth century. Factory and museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. 313 NE 45th Street. (206) 632-2733. Jim Boggio Monument, Cotati This statue of Jim Continue Reading →