Thursday, April 27, 2023

Mendocino Virtual Office

Trip date: October 2022

The last time I went to Mendocino with my friend Aaron, it was during a pandemic, I had to drive 818 miles, and we ate outside on the deck at Michelin-starred Harbor House.

This time I flew down to Santa Rosa, had a house rental with friends Aaron and Albert, and ate inside at the Harbor House... twice!

I started off in the Alaska Lounge, which is so great for breakfast and a mimosa before flying out of SeaTac. I had checked my bag because I was bringing some cocktail makings so I didn't even realize until I was onboard that this wasn't the small prop plane I was used to for the flight to STS. This time I was on on new Max 737-800 and was even upgraded to Premium! 

STS airport is going through some major renovations and at the time I was there baggage claim was outside under a tent! Aaron and Albert met me to wait for my bag to come off a small truck and then we headed to Unti Vineyard for a tasting.

I've been a big fan of Unti for years but I hadn't visited in a long time. They have a lovely new-to-me tasting room; no more sipping in the warehouse! We grabbed a picnic table outside, as the guys had picked up sandwiches from Loveski Deli for our lunch, and had a delicious time eating, drinking, and catching up.  

It was a 2-hour drive from Sonoma to our Airbnb in tiny town of Manchester. But most of it is through gorgeous redwoods! Once the redwoods end, the road twists and turns along the stunning Mendocino County coastline. It's truly such a beautiful drive!

We had a big 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, right on the cliffs overlooking the sea, with a full length deck and a hot tub. The house had a real 70s vibe (think paneling and bronze fixtures) but the views made up for the lack of modern decor. 

Dinner that night was in the small town of Arena at Izakaya Gama, which is owned by some friend's of Aarons. Albert's and Aaron's friends from LA, Amy and Lena, met us and we basically ordered the entire menu. The food here is fantastic! If you are in the area, I'd say it is a do-not-miss. Trout sashimi, chawanmushi with the sweetest uni, karaage, and this amazing strawberry "shaved ice" dessert were highlights for me. But really, everything was awesome!

Back out the house we tried out the hot tub and took in the incredible sky full of stars. It had been a great first day!

The next morning was Monday and as this was a working trip we were all on our laptops for a while. Just before lunch, Aaron, Amy, Lena, and I went for a great walk on Irish Beach. It's a beautiful stretch of sand and no one else was there, except for a sea lion!

We all then had lunch at Harbor House! Except for Aaron and me it was everyone's first time and it was so fun to see their reactions to the beautiful location. 

It was a very good 4+ course lunch with my favorite dish being the black cod with fermented cucumber. It was so simple looking but the flavors were just perfect, relying on the quality of the fish which was exceptional. 

After lunch we had our garden infusion (tea) on the deck and went for a nice walk around the grounds and down to the beach. It was a super fun and beautiful lunch!
That evening I made us all cocktails for happy hour which we had outside on our deck. Aaron grilled up sausages for dinner and we had a big salad to go with. And the cherry on top was the most dramatic sunset! Such a fun day with everyone!

Amy and Lena were leaving the next day so I got up early (for me), took Aaron's car (with permission of course) and met them for a morning beach hike. This time we went to check out Bowling Ball Beach which I had seen lots of photos of. Unfortunately I hadn't read that you can only see these rocks at low tide. And it wasn't!

We climbed down the hill and had a nice walk on Schooner Gulch State Beach instead. I wouldn't go out of my way to walk here, as it's pretty short, but it was great to see the girls again before they took off. 
Before I headed back to my office, aka the Airbnb, I stopped at the Point Arena Lighthouse. There's a small entry fee and luckily they took tap-to-pay as I only had my phone on me!

While waiting for my tour to start I went through the very interesting museum. I learned that this lighthouse was powered by a first order Fresnel Lens; the largest of its kind at over six feet in diameter and more than six tons in weight. It's not used anymore but it's still there to see.

The museum has lots of info on shipwrecks in the area as well as destruction caused by earthquakes. If you aren't doing the tour you can still go through the museum and gift shop.

It's 145 steps up to the top of the lighthouse; the tallest on the west coast. The views from up here are gorgeous and the gentleman who was working at the top pointed out the site of the last shipwreck as well as the erosion of the ground that the lighthouse is on. 

The rest of the week went pretty much the same; morning coffee in the hottub followed by work and then afternoon hikes and outings. We cooked at home in the evenings and enjoyed the views.

One afternoon Albert, Aaron, and I did a short hike out to Manchester Beach. The trail starts at the campground there and leads straight out on a dirt trail that turns into a sand trail. It was late in the day when we went and we were the only ones there! Stunning!
One afternoon we headed to the town of Mendocino; my first time! It was about a 45 minute drive up the gorgeous coast. 

We started with delicious smash burgers in the garden of The Brickery This is such a pretty spot! I hear good things about their dinner options too. Highly recommend a stop here.

We wandered around town a bit and then did a short hike on the Headlands. It was such a gorgeous day and the views were awesome!
We made it a loop by walking back through town and past the "Angela Lansbury" house. Just as we were heading back to the car thick fog started rolling in. Within an hour there was zero visibility! 

Before heading home we drove out to visit our friend and talented potter, Cliff Glover. We had a lovely visit over some tea in his garden and then did a bit of shopping!  
The next day we woke up to complete, white-out foggy conditions so after our morning work we visited Sanny Ceramics and met Jason who is another very talented potter. No one's wallet was safe!!

We stopped at the Elk Store for sandwiches and while eating outside in the chilly foggy weather we decided to head inland and go for a hike in the redwoods at Big Hendy Grove in Anderson Valley. This ended up being a wonderful plan as there was no fog and it was sunny and warm!

Hiking amongst towering trees is one of my very favorite things. The smell of the forest, the way the tops sway, the silent majesty... I absolutely love it! 

Afterwards, we stopped in for a wine tasting at Navarro Winery which has been producing wine since 1974. It was a lovely setting and there was no tasting fee!

Finally, the reason for the trip! Dinner at Michelin 2-star Harbor House! Unfortunately the fog was still laying low on the coast completely hiding the lovely view. Fortunately dinner was so very good that we almost forgot about it. We were seated in the gorgeous wood paneled dining room, right in front of the fireplace. Absolutely perfect for the cool evening.

The tasting menu was 9 or so courses and Aaron and I did the alcohol pairings (wine, beer, saki) while Albert did the non-alcoholic pairing (juice and tea). 

Service and dishes here are both wonderful. Most courses were assembled tableside which was a great touch, and we saw some Cliff Glover pottery in use!
It had been a fantastic week on the coast, even if we couldn't see it for the last two days, and this was a great way to end it. 

The next morning we packed up the car and checked out. As Albert was putting out the garbage he found a (live) racoon in the bin! YIKES! We left the lid open and called the property owners to make sure they would send someone over to release it!

The guys were driving me back to the airport before heading to LA. We stopped in Healdsburg and did a little shopping around before having lunch at Little Saint. The setting is super cute (it's in the old Shed space) but I wasn't overly excited for lunch as the resto is vegan. 

But I have to say everything was very good! 

After we shared some ice cream from Noble Folk and then I did a quick wine tasting at Lioco

And then the lovely week was over; time to say goodbye to Aaron, Albert, and CA. While I was doing a bit of work at the airport I was notified that I had been upgraded to First Class! A perfect ending.

All photos from this trip here

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Lake Quinault Virtual Office

Trip date: February 2023

The Seattle Times had an article about a BOGO deal that Lake Quinault was running and I thought that sounded like a great virtual office opportunity. Since I was looking for weeknights, there was actually quite a bit of availability. 

My friend Leslie lives out in Humptulips, which is just 30 minutes from Lake Quinault, so we made plans for me to come out for lunch before heading to the lodge. Washington had a fair amount of snow on the days leading up to my trip, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to go as I drive a sports car! But that morning Leslie said the roads were mainly clear so I loaded up and drove the 3 hours from Seattle out to the Washington Peninsula. 

Leslie's house actually has a gorgeous stained glass window in it that use to belong to the Lake Quinault Lodge! 

Her guy made us a delicious lunch and then we went out to explore her property. It's very beautiful out there on the banks of the Humptulip River. And her miniature donkeys, baby cow, and chickens could not be cuter! Check out Lucky the cow photobombing!

By the time I left for the lodge it was snowing pretty hard, but the roads were still clear so I didn't have any problems. I got checked in and made my way to the lakeview Fireplace Rooms, which are in an adjoining building to the main lodge. 

There is wifi throughout the property but you only get 30 minutes a day for free so I bought the upgraded package for $16, which included multiple devices and 5GB, since this would be my office for the next few days. The room didn't have a desk but I just moved some furniture so I could work on my laptop in front of the fireplace. My room also had a mini fridge, coffee maker, balcony with adirondacks, and fairly recently renovated bathroom with heated floors. 

When it was time for happy hour, I moved down to the Great Room and grabbed a seat in front of the enormous fireplace.

This lodge was built in 1926, designed by a Seattle architect, and was completed in 53 days! I had camped nearby a long time ago, so had been inside briefly, but to relax in this gorgeous room with a cold martini in hand was truly a wonderful experience. 

I had dinner in the Roosevelt Room, named because the President visited here in 1937. The menu looked pretty good but the prices are ridiculously high! As I was still full from my late lunch I just had the Caesar salad with smoked salmon which was very good. 

I had brought some provisions with me for my room, so headed there after dinner for a glass of wine and to read my book. The lodge is very quiet which was excellent!

The next morning I worked in front of the fire with my coffee and the gorgeous view of the lake for a couple of hours before heading down to the dining room for breakfast. Even if your room doesn't have a view, the dining room is a wall of windows so you will not miss out. 

It had snowed lightly most of the night but the day was partly sunny and I was excited to go on a hike in the beautiful Olympic National Park! I had chosen the Gatton Creek Trail as it is one of the trails that goes right from the Lodge. I had wanted to do the Quinault Loop but it was mostly closed due to down trees.

Hiking in the Olympic rain forest is soooo gorgeous! The moss is 100 shades of green and the trees reach tall to the sky. There was no one on on the trail that morning so the forest was quiet and very peaceful. There was just a bit of snow on the trail and I thought it was beautiful!

But almost as soon as I crossed the bridge at Falls Creek the snow on the path was much deeper. I mean it was still just up to my shoelaces but I was surprised. The trail only had an 800 foot elevation rise but as I went up the snow was deeper; completely obscuring the trail. 

I kept expecting it to clear, not sure why! But at the ½ way point the snow was up to my ankles and I was also having to duck under branches laden with snow. Luckily someone else had hiked the trail the day before and since it hadn't snowed much I could still see their footprints. It was the only way I was able to stay on the course!
This "easy" hike ended up being a real slog! And because no one else was around, and I had spotted some cougar tracks, I was also a tad nervous and was whistling non-stop in order to give any kitties warning of my approach. 

As I came down from the modest elevation the trail was fine and the surrounding trees were stunningly draped in moss again instead of snow.

By the time I made it to Rain Forest Village I was exhausted and my touque and puffer were soaked. Luckily my new waterproof hikers did their job and my feet were dry and toasty. 

I stopped by the 1,000+ year old "World's Largest Sitka Spruce", which has lost its top and is looking pretty bad compared to the last time I saw it, and then walked along South Shore Drive back to the lodge. 5 ½ miles later I was done!

The lodge doesn't serve lunch on weekdays in the off-season so I changed into dry clothes, grabbed my laptop, and headed to the Quinault Internet Cafe in nearby Amanda Park. I was able to get some work done and have a pretty decent taco salad! Back at the lodge I worked for the rest of the afternoon in front of my fireplace. 

Before heading to the Great Room for a martini that evening, I walked out to the lakeshore to take in the view of the setting sun. The light was just incredible!

Sitting around the fire, the other guests were very talkative, kinda like when you are on a cruise! ­čść Everyone was giving each other advise on what to do and see, as well as talking about all their prior visits to the lodge. And everyone complained about the dining room prices! I was happy just to sip my drink and listen. 

I had some excellent (and still completely overpriced) fish and chips in the restaurant that night before heading back to my room. There aren't a lot of other options in the area, especially being off-season, but next time I'll try the Salmon House restaurant, which is just a short drive away. 

On my last day I had arranged a late checkout, so I spent the morning working and then hit the dining room right before they finished their breakfast service for my "brunch". 
I had such a nice time at the lodge and will definitely take advantage of the BOGO again, maybe this fall. It's such a beautiful property and they also have an indoor pool which I didn't have time to check out!

Before driving home, I followed South Shore Drive out to Merriman Falls. The 40 foot falls are right next to the road so no hiking required to view.

From here I drove another 5 ½ miles to Bunch Falls; South Shore Drive turns into a dirt road out here,which was quite slushy. I hadn't realized how far these falls were so I was a little concerned driving my sporty car on the icy road with not another car around. But passing through this section of forest was very pretty.

Bunch Falls are right by the Olympic National Park sign and before you get to the bridge which takes you to North Shore Drive. As the roads out here were pretty messy, doing the Lake Drive Loop was not an option. 

It was time to hit the road and get back to Seattle. As I drove out, next to the river, I slammed on my brakes when I spotted the largest bald eagle I've ever seen, sitting high in a bare tree. I mean I have seen hundreds of bald eagles and this one's size really shocked me!
As I got back into my car I spotted another huge one down the road! And on the drive out, one more! No matter how many times I see one I'm always in awe!

Lake Quinault offers the BOGO deal yearly October thru March. 

All Lake Quinault photos here

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