Dean Clough

October 5, 2021

Portico Darwin: The Sea Ranch Travel Guide

It had been a long time - so long, in fact, Ol' Purple Label was still on husband #2, she and Fi Deuce still worked at Gap Inc., and I was just starting Casa Integration.  Early aughts.  It had been that long since we had visited The Sea Ranch, an extraordinary master-planned community dating to the mid 1960's.   Here's a wonderful article on its history from Dwell magazine.

To get your bearings, here's where The Sea Ranch is located.  It's only 100 miles away, but figure on a 3 hour drive from SF proper, more from other parts of The Bay Area.  That's because the coastal part of the drive - about half the trip - is spectacular but two lane and very twisty (some, looking over the precipitous cliffs plunging hundreds of feet into the raging Pacific, would call it "treacherous").

sea ranch ma.jpg

Why make the drive?  Well, here's what The Sea Ranch looks like, everywhere.  At least when it's not foggy, which it was not once during our visit. 

The Sea Ranch is made for a certain kind of weekend.  There is nowhere to go - almost literally, although I guess there's stuff in Gualala.  But we never care and a 3 night trip here is a true getaway.  There's nothing but the preternatural beauty and solace of being a long, long way from homeless, crowds, politics, or light pollution screwing up your view of The Milky Way. 

As happens occasionally, The Sea Ranch as a vacation destination gets both a Textbook and Diamond Certified rating.  It is old-school Cali, but at the same time an in-your-face reminder of why there just aren't many places quite like my beloved Golden State.

We discussed this extensively with our traveling companions, the spa shopper Arthur and his exotic beauty of a bride, Mrs. Crup, and we agreed an Airbnb or the like is the way to go.  While I am prepared to give our place (found on VRBO) only a Serviceable rating (its insanely perfect location and Killer hot tub/deck didn't outweigh its need of a general refresh, especially the kitchen, and WTF VHS tapes?), it was still wonderful.  Having the privacy and space to luxuriate in all of what makes The Sea Ranch special is vital.  We had that and more, including a rafter of some of the fattest wild turkeys I have seen, and plenty of hawks and deer.  And those stars!

There are few other options, lodging-wise, apart from renting a home or condo.  The whole shebang got started with The Sea Ranch Lodge, but it was bought a couple of years ago and is still under renovation.  I bet it will be very special and very expensive when it's finished, probably with good reason.

Nearby, there is Timber Cove Lodge, which is down Highway 1 near Jenner.  I must say, from the road it looked great and in researching it for this Travel Guide, it really looks nice, if spendy.  Our thing is that you're then captive to their restaurant, bar and service, and the inherent costs.  Heck, a single bottle of wine there would likely cover my entire Weissbier intake (almost!) for 3 days at our own place.

Yes, yes, and LOL.  We ate and drank plenty, thank you, but all within the cozy confines of our Airbnb, from its massive decks, or in its ideal hot tub.  Mrs. Crup wowed us with two different Thai dishes, a Killer curry on Thursday, followed by an equally Killer breakfast porridge on Saturday morning.  Arthur - a pitmaster - worked up his magic with a very special rub on the BBQ chicken and with corn on the cob that appeared from nowhere (I was buzzed, though).  If either/both would be so kind to share the recipes, I'll publish them here.  They likely won't since they're both so talented at cooking they make these meals up on the fly and from memory.

Me?  I flew the Darwin flag and served two of my favorite dishes:

I handled a breakfast, too, but it was just smoked salmon, real-deal bagels and all of the trimmings.  Ho hum, but there was Prosecco.

Other drinking?  I think we had one or two over the course of 3 nights.  We did feature another cookbook entry, this one from Cookbook Volume III and a little drink called The Sea Containers Cocktail.  Mrs. Crup cut the rug bigtime after downing a couple, if you're curious about the drink's efficacy.  

I honestly have no idea if there are any restaurants nearby or if they're any good.  We treat this as a camping trip and bring everything we want or think we'll want.

Other shopping?  Here?  Are you fucking kidding me?

I must confess that we only went on two hikes, one around the airstrip that was nearby our house, and another down to one of the many beaches that offer public access.  Neither was more a mile in length, and frankly, while they were both great, I'm sure there are better. 

So while I'm not going to list any specific hikes based upon our own experience, I can share with you this beach trail guide that we brought with us and completely ignored.  It looks great, and now that I think of it, we kind of blew it by not taking advantage of having two cars, such that we could have hiked between access points.  Next time!

north-coast-map.pdf 1.56 MB

We also went to The Sea Ranch Chapel, which was tiny and also beautiful.  It was well worth getting out of the hot tub for, if only to model my new line of shirts.  The very first reader that asks for one and tells me their size gets one for free; I normally wear a medium but a large fits me best for these.  Here's a link to what they really look like.

PorticoDarwin Sea Ranch.jpg

Shocker, but a trip like this means an extra focus on music.  I loathed the stupid '90's Bose Lifestyle system they had in the house, but I made it work.  This was our go-to at the hot tub, however, and I say I remain astounded at the performance of this thing, especially its low-frequency response.  Indispensable at $100.

And in honor of The Sea Ranch, a KLUF bonus, but it's just a song.   But OMFG what a song, and try as I might, I can't come up with anything better, but it is indeed a repeat.  Here, with a song that to my ears never stops going farther and farther, and a leading contender for the 2021 Song of the Year Portico Darwin Award, is Santana and "Waves Within".  Is there a better coastal song out there? 

Here it is on Spotify, in case of an emergency.

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