Monday, March 24, 2014

Bodega Bay – March 2014

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It was surreal. We were heading west Friday afternoon. Every mile took us further into spring as we dropped in elevation. It was so different. The hillsides were covered in new green grass. The trees had green leaves. Our internal calendars were no longer valid. We were out of sync.

We were off in search of an ocean fix, the pounding of surf, the smell of salt in the air. Deciding on going the week of the trip put us against the wall. All campsites were booked up. The California coast is a popular place and visiting most places requires staying in a campground and all that brings to mind, for us at least – close quarters with other people. It would be so different than our recent trips into Nevada. The loss of solitude and abundance of population was the price of admission. But the ocean was calling.

Our friend Ted suggested Sonoma County’s Westside Campground. It is a bit like a parking lot but has a few non-reservation sites. It isn’t as popular as Doran or Bodega Dunes, but is within walking distance of Bodega Head and Ted’s favorite place to get fresh crab.

We set up in one of the non-reserved sites and were glad we arrived around six because when we returned from an orientation walk, we found all the sites around us had filled in that short time.

The campground is just south of Spud Point Marina. After a quick dinner, we walked in the night, explored the marina and points further, and left everyone behind. It was wonderful to take just a few steps and be alone.

The varied assortment of fellow campers always requires a good measure of tolerance. On our orientation - take a look around - walk we saw two large trailers in adjoining pull throughs. They were obviously together as a large group. We noticed faded prayer flags stretched along the awnings between the trailers and hoped this indicated these neighbors would be interesting and cool people. As we approached in the fading light we realized our mistake as each flag boldly read “Coors Light.” We figured this explained the two extremes all weekend from this campsite, either deathly quiet or full on loud.

We slept, actually slept well through the night. On our walk with coffee Saturday morning we noticed a nice old classic camp trailer.

The woman was filling a water jug at the campground faucet and we fell into easy conversation. It was a 1964 Sportsman.

She explained how happy she and her husband were to be able to purchase it. “It was even featured in a book about camp trailers!” she explained.

“And I have a Scotty too!”

We got a tour of the very well kept treasure and stories were told of all the places they had been including Indianapolis, “For the races!”

When we answered her inquiry, “Where are you from?” she replied, “I know where that is!” and went on to explain she had taught school up there, started her teaching career, and told us the name of the school. “I teach at that school,” the Lady said. “I’ve been there for over 31 years.” A series of “Whatever happened to?” questions were asked and answered. Reminisces filled the conversation. Photos were taken to share with others and evidence of the chance encounter.

We said our goodbyes and headed out on our day’s hike. We passed a fellow at the dumpster spooning contents of a large cooking pot into a plastic bag. I asked, “Did you make too much or wasn’t it any good?” He looked up and smiled, “I made way too much! It was good, but it’s always good when you’re camping!” We continued on our way. The Lady drew close to me, “You know we’re turning into campground people, looking at other people’s campers and talking about cooking.”

The tide was out. We walked south along the bay as far as the University of California’s Ecological Preserve study area. We encountered a large group; many of them were out on the tidal plain. They were oceanography students from American River College in Sacramento. Two young women we spoke with said they were having a wonderful time, except for getting their shoes sucked off in the ooze.

Our next stop was an overlook of the Hole in the Head, the proposed site of a large nuclear power plant, right atop the San Andreas Fault.

With our twenty-twenty hind sight and several major nuclear disasters later, this proposed project is so obviously foolish. I wonder how many of our current ideas will play out with the test of time?

We had a nice view of the sand bar protecting Bodega Bay from the Pacific.

We worked our way around the edge of Bodega Head.

The Lady took us to the highest point where a solitary raven waited.

We returned to the edge and worked our way around making the turn to the north.

We passed the full parking area at road’s end. It was beautiful weather on the coast. As much as we do not like to run with a pack, this is a wonderful place. The parking area should always be full with people enjoying our natural treasures.

We continued north from the parking area and quickly left most behind. We stopped at the Horseshoe Cove overlook and the view of UC Davis Marine Laboratory.

Tours are offered of this important facility. Check ahead and make it part of your visit.

We discovered a trail that returned us close to Westside Campground. We dropped our packs and changed out of our hiking boots. We were going to checkout Ted’s favorite place for fresh crab for an early dinner.

The pots were steaming outside.

The Lady decided on the famous – winner 4 years in a row – clam chowder and I had a crab sandwich, of course we shared.

A gentleman provided easy listening blues on guitar and harmonica in this laid back setting.

Well fed and happy, we rambled along the marina.

Big johnsons were out.

A gull was keeping a woman away from her car reminding us that the Bodega area is where Hitchcock filmed his horror movie, The Birds.

And, it looks like fun times are coming to Bodega.

We returned to camp for our showers. We passed this……………………….

…………and laughed  because women see big trucks, big tires, big lifts as a man's attempt to compensate for small size elsewhere. Me, I see it as close the American male comes to growing antlers, all just for display.

As a safety note, after our evening showers we found each of us had a tick attached. The coast, especially in the spring, is a hotbed for ticks. Pay attention, learn about ticks, and quickly remove them.

We had the quiet of the evening –away from the campground – ahead of us. We walked north. Crab pots were just about everywhere.

We checked out the State Park’s Bodega Dunes Campground. There is a nice shower building. The showers are free, no coin machines, and individual rooms so we could save water by going together. Many sites were filled by the students on the oceanography field trip.

The light slowly faded as we worked our way back.

Well into the night we wandered back to the marina.

We walked out to the end of the narrow sea wall and took in the view across the harbor.

After another comfortable quiet night in our camper, we were again up early. It was overcast and foggy over the water.

As we watched the sun come up, the Lady reported that one of her students excitedly told her we should eat at The Birds Cafe. The Lady suggested we eat breakfast out.

The café was closed but we found the nearby Sandpiper open complete with delightful service staff. The breakfast was very good.

We enjoyed the rest of the day exploring the coast to the north. We looked at campgrounds for possible future stays. We wandered along Goat Rock Beach, one of our favorites. It is at the mouth of the Russian River. Ospreys were overhead and Harbor Seals enjoy a protected nursery at the north end, all backlit with the pounding surf.

This was a good ocean fix.


  1. Looks like you had a lovely weekend at the coast and were able to stay within walking distance of such interesting sights.

    Much better weather, too, than last time I was at Bodega Bay.

    1. Bill, we did spot check of the weather forecast. It looked good so we went for it. Bodega Dunes also looks like a good place to hike from. The long South Salmon Creek Beach is to the west and looks like a nice place to put in some "ocean time." Thanks for the comment

  2. There are times when enjoying the solitude is everything you could wish for, and times when people's company is a good thing. Seeing the ocean and meeting the breeze after a long time is something to be thankful for.