Exploration of the California Coast Continuation

Before we continue our exploration of the California Coast and our visit to Año Nuevo Point and Island, Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, and the Town of Pescadero, a brief update about our absence from WordPress.

As I write this, it is November 4, 2020, the day after the quadrennial presidential election, and the results of the election are still up in the air. Are we all biting our fingernails? We spent the past month in Utah, Arizona, on the eastern side of the California Sierras, and Nevada. Often we lacked reliable cell and WiFi service that hampered our ability to publish posts. The lack of connectivity was not always a bad thing. It kept us unaware of the pandemic marching across the nation and away from the bickering political campaigns for large chunks of time. We’re back in the real world now, and will publish future articles on our October 2020 COVID-19 Adventure.

Until then, here’s a look at what else we encountered along the California Coast in September. To see the first article, click here.

Año Nuevo Point and Island

We had visited Año Nuevo State Park several years ago and were excited about seeing this unique location again. The park includes the Año Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve, which protects the breeding colonies of northern elephant seals. The seals are year-round residents that peepers like me can normally view by permit or guided walk.

Trail leading toward Cypress Dairy
Trail to and from elephant seal viewing area

We took the trail to the preserve, walking through walls of poison oak trimmed back from the trail. Little blue daisies dotted the path along the way.

Poison oak and blue daiseys
Poison oak and blue daisies

At the end of the trail, a ranger told us that guided walks were canceled because of COVID-19. The sound from the other side of the hill made me think the seals were having a party and enjoying their secluded cove without the prying eyes of tourists. I so wanted to watch them in action. I’ll be keeping tabs on the website for when the viewing area reopens. These eyes want to pry.

We walked around the short trail while fog hung close to the shoreline, partially obscuring the view of the nearby hills and pelican colonies that breed on the little islands.

Foggy view of coastline and flying birds
Foggy skies
Coastline with islands
A touch of blue

Along the way, several species of birds enjoyed splashing in a freshwater wetland, cleaning their feathers.

Birds in a lagoon
Wetland attracts birds of all types

Other features at Año Nuevo are the historic buildings of the Cypress Dairy. Edwin and Effie Dickerman built the farm in 1881 to make butter and cream. In the 1930s, the family switched to growing artichokes and Brussels sprouts, crops which still grow in the area today.

White farmhouse
Cypress Dairy house

The State of California added the farm to Año Nuevo State Park in 1968 when they purchased the ranch. We enjoyed being the only ones walking around the buildings and taking photos. Had the buildings been open and docents nearby, I’m sure we would have heard interesting stories about the Dickerman family.

Wagon wheels in a garden
Cypress Dairy farm equipment on display

Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park

A short distance from where we stayed at Costanoa stands Pigeon Point Lighthouse, one of the tallest lighthouses in America at 115 feet. The lighthouse began service on November 15, 1872, when the five-wick oil lamp was first lit. An automated LED beacon replaced the original Fresnel lens and is still an active U.S. Coast Guard navigation aid.

Coastline with Pigeon Point lighthouse on a bluff
Pigeon Point lighthouse across the bay

The lighthouse has been closed for repairs since December 2001 when the iron belt course fell off of the exterior. In August 2019, California State Parks announced funding for the stabilization and restoration project to begin the spring of 2020. In mid-2020 a request for proposals was to be released for the $9 million projects. Maybe next year they can start the project.

Lighthouse and buildings
Pigeon Point lighthouse
Lighthouse close up
A whole lotta rust up there

We missed out on seeing the elephant seals at Año Nuevo, but the harbor seals sunbathing on the little island near the lighthouse did not escape our notice.

Harbor seals on rocky island
Soakin’ up the rays

Next to the lighthouse are three rental houses for up to 10 people at a nightly rate of $350 to $500, depending on the time of year.

Hostel houses for rent
Hostel houses for rent

Twelve ships wrecked along the shore between Año Nuevo and Pigeon Point, between 1853 and 1953. The Point Arena, a steam schooner built in 1887, carrying cargo along California’s central coast, was one of the twelve ships that succumbed to the power of the sea.

Remnants of Point Arena hull
Remains of the Port Arena schooner

While loading tanbark at Pigeon Point, rough seas forced her on the rocks and tore a hole in the hull. The sailors watched in horror as the waves ripped her apart. They burned the remains to prevent danger to other ships, and everyone thought there was nothing left. Eighty years later in 1983, a five-ton section of the hull washed ashore at Año Nuevo as a testament to the power of storms and oceans. They hid from view a five-ton hunk of a hull for eighty years and then spit it out one day.

Pescadero, California

I had the pleasure of working near Pescadero a few times during my accounting days and was introduced to Duarte’s Tavern, where I remember having one of the best pieces of pie.

Duarte's Tavern building and sign
No pie for us. Duarte’s was closed.

We drove there expecting to buy a slice to take home. Unfortunately, they were closed. A couple walking by told us the restaurant hadn’t kept regular hours since the county enacted pandemic health restrictions.  I hope they survive the restrictions and the economic downturn. I’d sure love to taste the best pie I ever ate again. Will it taste as good as I remember?

The Country Bakery building and shops in sheds
Shops in sheds

A plaque on the building dated September 29, 1990, states the Duarte’s Tavern is run by the third and fourth generations of the Duarte Family. The plague also states that Frank Duarte started it all when he brought a barrel of whiskey from Santa Cruz in the 1890s and set up his bar.

Grocery building
Popular place for groceries and sandwiches

Closed during prohibition, Duartes reopened and expanded with the restaurant in 1937. The original building burned in 1926, but the bar was saved and is still in use today.

Old-fashioned white house with green trim.
House in Pescadero


I recently learned there’s a name for people like me who like to wander around cemeteries. I’m a taphophile, a person who is interested in cemeteries, funerals, and gravestones. I’m not so enamored with funerals, but cemeteries and gravestones pique my interest. And the more historic, the better. Pescadero has two cemeteries side-by-side on a hill at the end of the downtown area.

Bridge leading to a cemetery on a hill
Cemetery on the hill
Mt. Hope Cemetery sign
Mt. Hope Cemetery’s sign fell down

Mt. Hope Cemetery and St. Anthony’s Catholic Cemetery are not your typical modern-day cemeteries. No manicured grounds there. One must walk carefully around the plots to avoid tripping over a molehill or twisting an ankle in a gopher hole.

Trees and headstones in a cemetery
St. Anthony’s Cemetery

Family plots, containing generations of ancestors and relatives, are sectioned off. Some plots are well maintained while others appear abandoned. New headstones, small and large, mix in with the faded and eroded markings from historic eras.

Trees, lillies, and headstones in a cemetery
Lillies add color to this family plot

Why do I like cemeteries? I’m intrigued by the people buried there. Each grave represents a person who lived on this earth, who was loved, who was special in their own right. There are so many stories buried in graveyards, and I yearn to know them all.

Headstones in a cemetery
Old and new

What kind of life did they lead? What were their goals and achievements? What were their hardships and struggles? Who did they love? Did they have big families or small families? What were their views on politics, religion, and faith? Did they suffer, or did they lead happy lives?

Tree, crosses, and headstones in cemetery
Older family plot

And when I see a grave that holds the remains of a child, my heart breaks to think about the pain suffered by the parents, or the life that never grew and matured and loved.

Trees on a hill with gravestones
Tree protects the headstones

Maybe it’s the emotions that attract me to cemeteries, the happiness I feel for the person who lived a long life, the sadness for the person who did not, combined with the stories I imagine in my head from reading the names, the dates, and epitaphs. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll continue to turn my head whenever I pass a cemetery and want to stop the car, get out, and walk through the graves.

Well, that concludes our brief visit to the California Coast. Next up we’ll start our October 2020 COVID-19 Adventure.

Stay Safe