Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Week 29 : Tomales Bay To Bodega Bay

Amy and I started our week by continuing our walk up the east side of Tomales Bay. "Bay" is a misleading description as it is a long flooded valley rather than a traditional seaside bay. But it is beautiful, and when the sun is setting there are some delicious views across the strip of calm water towards the low hills of the peninsular. You can get a good impression of the calm and tranquility of this wonderful little spot by looking at the video clip of the Tule Elk Preserve which is part of the "Sunrise Earth" on-line project. But as you listen to the birds singing and watch the elk peacefully grazing along the banks of Tomales Bay, just remember that the mighty San Andreas Fault line dissects the bay. Calm and tranquil it may be, but it has a greater capacity for destruction than anything so far cooked-up by mankind.

Leaving the coast behind we follow the old route of the North Pacific Coast Railroad inland, heading for the small town of Tomales (population 210). This place has been known as "the beautiful little town of Tomales" for over 100 years. Little seems to have changed and the locals seem proud of the fact. If you visit you learn that the local population is made up of "a mix of third generation ranching families of Irish, Swiss and Italian descent, and a diverse group of new families attracted to the quieter pace, family-oriented values that Tomales offers". Tomales boasts that it is the only community in Marin County that has retained its turn of the century rural community integrity. "Our community pride is contagious", declares the website and I told Amy about the claim. She doesn't always hear very well (it's all that fur in her ears) but she obviously picked up the word "contagious" because she stepped very carefully until we hit the far side of town.

Just north of Tomales you come to The William Tell House which claims to be Marin County's Oldest Saloon. It's an odd little place which seems to stick out from the background scenery like a sore thumb (or given the legend behind the name, like a sore head). The website has a section headed "history" so I turned to that to find out about the history of the saloon. Unfortunately it just gives you the history of William Tell rather than the story behind the saloon which, I a sure, would have been much more interesting. Equally, the website has a section entitled "Beer" which simply has a list 22 different wines which are available. Sounds like an odd kind of saloon to me - no idea what William Tell would have made of it.

A few miles further north and you cross the County Line, leaving Marin County behind and entering Sonoma County. Sonoma is the southwestern county of California's Wine Country region with over 250 wineries. Agriculture of all kinds is the main business of the county : in 2002 Sonoma County ranked as the thirty-second county in the United States in agricultural production. Amy and I were looking forward to walking its length : for Amy agricultural land means wildlife to chase after, for me wineries mean happiness.

After crossing the County Line, Highway 1 turns westwards and in a couple of miles passes through the small township of Valley Ford. In the nineteenth century the future of Valley Ford looked bright. It was an important railroad stop and it was beginning to gain a reputation as a commercial and industrial centre. There is a small website dedicated to the history of Valley Ford which contains an extract from the 1877 book "Historical and Descriptive Sketch of Sonoma County, California" by Robert A. Thompson.

"In 1876 P. E. Merritt opened a new grocery store in the place. J. Parry opened a tin shop, and John Hunter opened a meat market. With her railroad facilities, fine climate, and rich and productive surrounding country, why should not Valley Ford continue to grow and prosper?"

But it didn't. In 2007, with a population of just 60, it is smaller than it was 130 years earlier. The railroad is long gone and the main street is given over to a few craft shops and galleries. You pass through it without a second glance. Somehow, Valley Ford missed the bus to the twenty first century.

We continue along the main road towards the coast and by the end
of the week reach Bodega Bay. There is a neat link between Bodega Bay and Capitola through which Amy and I passed some twelve weeks ago. If you have been following our adventures carefully you will remember that an invasion of birds at Capitola gave AlfredHitchcock the idea for the film "The Birds". Wanting a remote but beautiful coastal location to film the story he came north to Bodega Bay. It's a beautiful spot, with its fishing boats and rocky coastline. It made a suitable spot to celebrate the end of our week's walking. So, one sunny afternoon, Amy and I sat on a wooden jetty and watched the birds circle overhead. I turned to Amy and said : "I wonder what would happen if ....", but that's another story.

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