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Staff at Table Mountain, California

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Edgar Moore and Mr. Wright on Table Mountain, California. The Table Mountain Observatory of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory was closed in 1961.

Abbot at Table Mountain, California

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
There are several uncaptioned Table Mountain photographs with unidentified people in 7005/187/10

Dr. Charles Greeley Abbot (Secretary, 1928-1944) and two unidentified persons viewing site for Table Mountain Observatory in California. The Table Mountain Observatory was closed in 1961.

Solar Observing Station on Table Mountain California in Winter

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Solar observation instrument stands outside the entrance to the observing tunnel used for the daily measurement of the sun's radiation at the solar observing station at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Table Mountain, California.

SAO Laboratory at Table Mountain, CA

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
There are several Table Mountain photographs in 7005/187/7

The exterior of the Laboratory building at Table Mountain, California observatory of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, c. 1925-1945. The ground is covered in snow and there is a man standing in front of the building. Table Mountain was closed in 1961.

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Table Mountain, CA

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Solar observation Instruments outside the entrance to the instrument tunnel at the solar observing station of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Table Mountain, California.

Smithsonian Solar Observing Station, Table Mountain, CA

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Original negative number is MAH-33666.

Solar observation instrument stands outside the entrance to the observing tunnel used for the daily measurement of the sun's radiation at the solar observing station at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Table Mountain, California.

Lepidium nitidum Nutt.

NMNH - Botany Dept.

Boston’s Farm-to-Table Renaissance

Smithsonian Magazine

When chef Barry Maiden enters the walk-in fridge of Hungry Mother, the Cambridge restaurant he co-owns, he becomes visibly excited, and not just from the chilly air.

“We got these greens in today,” says Maiden, tearing open a bag of mixed cresses from a local farm and popping a few leaves into his mouth. As he munched, Maiden said the same thing as the handwritten label on the bag: “Spicy.”

Farm-to-table cooking has swept the United States, and in the Boston area the movement is fueled by a sense of history and a respect for farmers who wrestle crops from a climate that is rarely described as forgiving. It makes sense that the local foods movement was largely born in sunny California, but in Boston the trend has taken root with exceptional fervor, not unlike an overwintered parsnip. Farm-to-table chefs like Maiden tend to print their menus daily as they ride the roller coaster of the region’s weather, all within close proximity to one of the sites where American cuisine was born.

The farm-to-table movement is at once hip and historic. Some of the first arrivals to this continent settled not far from Hungry Mother in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. They would not have survived without the assistance of Native Americans and their repertoire of edible indigenous plants and animals, but they were intent on familiarizing these new foods by cooking them as they did back home. As Evan Jones writes in his book American Food, “The challenge was to apply English methods to whatever food supplies there might be.” Many of the resulting dishes, like corn bread, have become some of our strongest food traditions, and they are proof that local ingredients met with foreign cooking in New England centuries ago. English settlers adopted Native American cornmeal flatbreads to wheat bread recipes from back home, and corn bread as we know it was born. In Boston today, the constraint of cooking with local ingredients and European technique inspires chefs to no end.

Maiden serves his corn bread with a quickly vanishing lump of butter sweetened with sorghum syrup. It crackles and satisfies, it is perhaps the best of its kind, and it is a reminder that today’s farm-to-table movement has echoes of the past.

The restaurant Hungry Mother takes its name from a state park near the Virginia town where Maiden is from, and his birthplace has a bigger influence on his cooking than you might expect given the restaurant’s latitude. Maiden prepares New England ingredients with French technique and Southern influence. He offers an appetizer of ham and biscuits with pepper jelly; locally grown radishes; homemade butter; and toast topped with chicken livers puréed with apples, brandy and cream.

“I think the movement in the Boston area is really vibrant and exciting in terms of the variety and quality of the food people can eat here,” says Melissa Kogut, director of Chefs Collaborative, a Boston-based organization that promotes sustainability through fostering relationships between chefs and farmers. “It’s contagious,” she says, “in a good way.”

Kogut is correct: Boston is an incredibly fun city for restaurant-goers, whether you identify yourself as a foodie, locavore or neither. If you appreciate top-notch ingredients picked at the peak of their season and prepared with serious skill by eclectic chefs, you won’t be disappointed, though you’ll have a hard time deciding where to start.

Inside the Charles Hotel in Cambridge’s Harvard Square you’ll find Henrietta’s Table, a bright, handsome space presided over by the bearded and ponytailed chef Peter Davis. Davis sports a Boston accent and a commitment to sustainable food that earned him Chefs Collaborative’s second annual Sustainer Award for mentorship and modeling within the culinary community. At 17 years of age, Henrietta’s Table got its start well before the current farm-to-table movement, though its mission has always been in keeping with its tenets.

Image by Aaron Kagan. Breakfast is served at Henrietta's Table, where dishes are described by their ingredients’ place of origin. (original image)

Image by Aaron Kagan. Chef Phillip Tang of East by Northeast rolls dumplings stuffed with Vermont pork and Massachusetts cabbage. (original image)

Image by Aaron Kagan. Chef Tang's plate of in-house pickled local vegetables includes rutabaga. (original image)

Image by Aaron Kagan. Chef Tang and his staff make their own dumpling wrappers, noodles, and buns. These are stuffed with house-smoked ham. (original image)

Image by Aaron Kagan. Chef Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother inspects a locally grown curly cabbage. (original image)

On the menu you’ll find dishes described by their ingredients’ place of origin. Verrill Farm blueberries and Westfield Farm chevre grace the spinach salad, for example. Most menu items say as much about the chef’s ethics as they do about the meal itself, as in one entree dubbed “Barbeque Ale Braised Elysian Field Farm’s Pulled Lamb Shank, Wilted Greens, Native Beans, Crispy Nitrate Free Smoked Bacon.”

The restaurant’s devotion to local products extends to liquids as well. The drink list includes the nearby Cambridge Brewing Company’s seasonal beer, mead from Green River Ambrosia in central Massachusetts and an entirely New England martini list. It features spirits such as Greylock Gin, named for the tallest mountain in Massachusetts and made in the Berkshires. That gin is used in the Dilly Bean Martini, a riff on the dirty martini using pickled green beans (a Vermont favorite) and their brine in lieu of olives and olive juice. Also on the list are local vodkas made from three “wicked” New England ingredients: apples, potatoes, and maple sap.

Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge serves regional comfort food like Yankee pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, but other Boston farm-to-table restaurants are inspired from afar. Chef Phillip Tang of East by Northeast prepares local meat, seafood and produce in the Chinese style he learned from his family, which own restaurants in Washington, D.C. As I spoke with Tang, he scarcely looked up from rolling dumplings for that night’s dinner at his intimate 25-seat restaurant. A bouncy ball-round scoop of ground Vermont pork mixed with locally grown cabbage, a twist of the fingers, a puff of flour, and he’d be on to another. These were steamed, topped with red cabbage slaw and served with an apple and onion puree, proving that the clever restaurant name isn’t the only thing that’s delicious.

Because Tang is largely influenced by northern Chinese cooking, his creations are light on rice. Wheat is the preferred starch, making appearances in the chef’s own noodles, dumplings and breads. Tang’s flavors are delicate, his presentation precise and his noodles toothsome. The hearty wrappers on his shumai, an open-top dumpling, put the defrosted, pre-fab version you find at most restaurants to shame.

He also serves in-house pickled vegetables, the selection varying with the season. A plate in mid-autumn included razor-thin discs of pickled summer squash, bright yellow cauliflower florets pickled with curry powder, snappy whole green beans (escaped from a martini?) and rectangular sticks of slightly sweet rutabaga, all sprinkled with sesame seeds. The dish is colorful, the flavors bright, the vegetables a pleasure to crunch. It also conveys another tenet of the farm-to-table movement: if there’s something dedicated chefs can create in-house, they will.

At Craigie on Main in Cambridge, chef Tony Maws makes sure you know where your food comes from. The menu arrives with a roster of the restaurant’s local suppliers, about 20 different vegetable and meat farms, orchards, shellfisheries and dairies, plus a smokehouse and a mushroom hunter. Maws has earned a reputation for preparing those ingredients with a few tricks from the molecular gastronomy school of cooking (dusts, foams, gels, etc.) to make the ordinary extraordinary.

To create his legendary hamburger, Maws mixes grass-fed beef with marrow, suet and dehydrated miso for a tender, flavorful patty that tastes more like a hamburger than you thought possible. To cut the richness, the burger is served with red wine pickles and celery root slaw. To enhance the richness, it comes with a tangle of perfect, skinny fries. If you’re in the mood for something more complex, try the roasted milk-fed pig’s head with Peking pancakes, spicy pumpkin sambal and boudin noir hoison sauce. If you want simpler, there’s always fried pigs’ tails.

Those crisp pig’s tails are available at Craigie’s attractive bar, which sits about 40 miles from the site of the original Plymouth Colony. Today’s chefs have access to far more ingredients than those early cooks, including imported staples such as olive oil and coffee that even the staunchest farm-to-table restaurants can’t seem to part with. Yet there is a celebratory regressive streak in the return to local produce. In supporting local, small food producers, the chefs eschew the industrially produced food that has become the default at other restaurants. Yet these chefs are quick to remind you that they’re not necessarily doing something new. As Maws has said, “These are ideas shared by about 90 percent of the world’s grandmothers.”

For more farm-to-table restaurants, visit the member search at guide.chefscollaborative.org or just ask the folks wearing puffy pants at the farmers markets who they cook for.

California - Nature and Scientific Wonders

Smithsonian Magazine

California reverberates with wild wonder. Earth's oldest living thing (the bristlecone pine), Earth's largest living thing (the giant sequoia), North America's largest bird (the California condor), North America's most recent amphibious surprise (the San Gabriel salamander, discovered within the boundaries of Los Angeles) all call California home. And though the wilds are not about accounting, a few numbers make a point. Of California's 3,488 native plant species, 60 percent are found nowhere else on the planet. Endemic insect species number in the thousands. And birds—both visiting and local—draw birdwatchers year-round.

Witness the elephant seals of Piedras Blancas, which turn the beaches near San Simeon into a wondrous assault on sanity and the senses—creatures up to 16 feet long and 5,000-plus pounds, blurting, bellowing and dangling their trunk like noses in showy excess. All this, right off the Pacific Coast Highway. Park your car, and see imagination and table manners gone awry.

Visitors can grab a front-row seat along the California coast every winter and spring as thousands of whales migrate south. In California, the gray whale is the most commonly seen migrating whale and reaches up to 45 feet in length, weighing up to 100,000 pounds each and numbering more than 20,000. The whales follow a route from the frigid Bering and Chukchi seas, north of Alaska, along the California coastline to the warm waters of Baja California. There they give birth to 1,500-pound calves before returning home to Alaska in the spring. The whales travel approximately 70 to 80 miles per day at a rate of three to five miles per hour. The whales' 14,000-mile-roundtrip trek is the longest known distance any mammal migrates on an annual basis. In Long Beach, located in Los Angeles County, the Aquarium of the Pacific offers educational whale-watching cruises aboard the Challenger, a 115-foot Coast Guard certified boat to see whales, dolphins, sea lions and a host of migratory waterfowl. Several charter companies offer excursions throughout Orange County. In Newport Beach, boats leave daily from Newport Harbor during the season. Some passengers spot seals and sea lions on the trip. Dana Point's 200-foot cliffs serve as a landmark for migrating whales, while Dana Wharf offers multiple cruises daily during the winter. On the North Coast, the Mendocino Coast Whale Festivals are typically scheduled in March in Mendocino and Fort Bragg. In Mendocino, a free trolley takes travelers to events, such as a chowder tasting and whale-watching walks.

Those looking to enjoy some fall scenery can find plenty to view in California. Whether traveling by car, mountain bike or your own two feet, the Golden State offers a wealth of areas that showcase the striking autumnal displays from September to November. In California, fall foliage is synonymous with the Shasta Cascade Region, which offers some of the state's most spectacular displays of colors amid rugged and rolling terrain. Many of the quiet driving routes and hiking trails, off Highway 70 and 89, can be found in the self-guided tour brochure Fall Colors of Plumas County. The High Sierras put on a fantastic fall display. In Mammoth Lakes, the leaves begin to change in mid-September. Some of the local hot spots for viewing include the Red Meadows area, with side trips to Rainbow Falls and the Devils Postpile National Monument, for its old aspens. The Highway 395 corridor through Bishop is also magnificent, especially the Owens Valley and the Bishop Creek Canyon. Those venturing to Southern California can delight in the historic mining town of Julian, located in San Diego County, which offers colorful fall foliage in the Cuyamaca Mountains at an elevation of 4,235 feet. Also enticing visitors are the homemade apple pies and cider at the Annual Julian Fall Apple Harvest.

Wine bottle label, Bargetto’s California Malvasia,” 1940s

National Museum of American History
Malvasia refers to a group of wine grape varieties historically grown around the Mediterranean, including the island of Madeira. Malvasia Bianca is the most widely planted white wine grape in Italy and Italian immigrants to California wine country, like the Bargetto family, would have been familiar with its versatility and character. This label from the 1940s was used on the Bargetto’s “California Malvasia,” a dry table wine made and bottled at their winery in Soquel, in the Santa Cruz area of California’s Central Coast. Malvasia continues to be grown in California, where it is primarily used in blending.

The Bargetto family’s story reflects in many ways the history of Italians in California, with several themes threaded throughout: multiple migrations between Italy and America, opportunity and work in the wine industry, and the importance of family and community. The first Bargettos to arrive in California were Giuseppe (Joseph) and his eldest son Filippo (Philip), who left their ancestral home in Italy’s Piedmont region, in 1890. They settled among other Italians in the winegrowing area around Mountain View, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where they found work at the Casa Delmas Winery. Although Joseph moved back to Italy two years later, Philip remained until 1902, when he returned to Italy to be married. Three years later Philip and his new family arrived back in California, settling first in San Francisco, then, with remarkable prescience, to Mountain View just before the devastating earthquake and fire in 1906.

In 1909, back in San Francisco, the Bargettos opened their first family winery on Montgomery Avenue. Philip’s uncle Giovanni (John) arrived from Italy and, with a third partner, Alberto Colombo, they formed the South Montebello Vineyard and Wine Co., where they fermented, aged, and delivered barrels of wine to local restaurants. The next member of the family to arrive from Italy was Philip’s younger brother, also named Giovanni (John P.), who went to work in a San Francisco restaurant. After two years and suffering from exhaustion, he moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he was joined by his sisters Angelina and Maddalena, both of whom married Italian immigrants. The growing Bargetto family became part of an expanding community of Italian Americans in the town of Soquel.

As Prohibition loomed, the Bargettos closed the San Francisco winery and moved to Soquel in 1917, where they purchased the site of what became the family’s winery after Repeal. Here they began making wine for home use by family and friends. To keep themselves financially afloat during Prohibition’s dry years, the family peddled vegetables and also served meals out of their home on weekends. Customers who wanted a glass of wine with their meal, a longstanding Italian tradition, were served wine from barrels stored in the cellar.

After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the Bargettos applied for federal bonding, and officially became Bonded Winery 3859. The two brothers, Philip and John P., ran the winery together until Philip’s death in 1936; through the 1940s and 1950s, John P. held the company together with help from his sons Ralph and Lawrence, who took the lead in the 1970s and 1980s.

The winery was still family-owned in 2014, when artifacts associated with the early years of the Bargetto family’s winery were donated to the museum. The donor, John E. Bargetto, with his brother and sister, are the third generation of Bargettos to operate the family’s wine business in the Central Coast region of California.

The Historic Saloons of Central California

Smithsonian Magazine

The owner of the Pine Street Saloon in Paso Robles, California, had a problem and requested that my traveling companions and I drop by to solve it. His security cameras were picking up a presence, but was it a mere illusion or something more ghostly? With that end goal in mind, our six-man entourage embarked on what just may be the most authentic and doable old-school saloon tour on the West Coast: a journey from the damp desires of Cold Spring Tavern in the hills above Santa Barbara to the Prohibition-beating trapdoors of the Elkhorn Bar in San Miguel near the Salinas River roughly 100 miles north, with more ghost legends, dollar bills tacked to ceilings and animal heads on walls than you can point your dowsing rods at.

The Pine Street Saloon wouldn’t be the only place where we’d find a use for those rods¬—lent to me by someone who claimed to have used them to rid his childhood home of ghouls years before—and the “ghost meter” purchased on eBay. Our visits to a handful of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county’s longest continually ale-slinging establishments would indicate that ghost stories may be as old as the saloons themselves.

The Stagecoach Route

Our apparitional adventure kicked off bright and early Saturday, with a venison and buffalo chili omelet, coffee and perfectly spiced bloody mary at the Cold Spring Tavern, a stagecoach stop since the 1860s located in a shady, spring-fed canyon between downtown Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Though the tavern might be most heralded these days for its tri-tip sandwiches and raucous rock ‘n’ roll sessions every weekend, we were drawn to the secluded collection of cabins — from the transplanted Ojai jail to the “Road Gang House” where Chinese laborers slept while carving out the then-treacherous San Marcos Pass, to the creaky-floored main restaurant and roadhouse-style bar.

Following an old stagecoach route, we made a brief stop at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos, only about a 15 minute downhill drive on Highway 154. Built in 1886 by the Swiss-Italian ranchero-turned-hotelier Felix Mattei as an inn and restaurant in anticipation of the coming railroad, today it is home to Brothers Restaurant, owned by cookbook authors and siblings Jeff and Matt Nichols. While spending a few minutes checking out the historic plaques and peering into the windows of the white-walled building, it wasn’t hard to imagine the locally famed Chinese chef Gin Lung Gin whipping up one of his dove pies for the hungry railroaders who’d stop at Mattei’s overnight during trips between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Another stagecoach stop-cum-railroad station is the town of Los Alamos, about 20 minutes by car from Los Olivos up Highway 101. Compared with the rest of California’s increasingly modernized Central Coast, Los Alamos is proudly locked in yesteryear — or as one of my companions noted, “It’s like every other building here has the ‘established’ date posted on it.” That was certainly true for the 1880 Union Hotel, established, of course, in 1880, and today featuring 14 rooms to rent — all appointed with Victorian-era niceties — as well as a bar that was already quite lively by 11 a.m. on a Saturday. On tap was their 1880 Ale, an excellent blond beer (made especially for the hotel by the award-winning folks at Firestone Brewery, which was founded just a few miles away), as well as billiards in the enchantingly — some might say hauntingly — dark back room and shuffleboard in the front bar, where you can also order empanadas stuffed with beef, olives, and egg or bratwurst with sauerkraut from the saloon menu.

Though the friendly bartender said she personally had only heard of ghosts in the place, I was crossing my fingers for a sighting of Michael Jackson, who filmed the video for “Say, Say, Say” here with Paul McCartney back in 1983, or perhaps Johnny Cash, who supposedly played the dining room in the 1950s. No dice on either front, but there was plenty to keep our eyes occupied, from the vintage signs (“check your guns,” of course, but also ads for corsetry shops and gunfighter paintings) and historic maps (showing the old stagecoach routes through the area) to the wacky collection of antiques — from snow skis to cellos — hanging on the walls. Upon reaching the bottom of our pints, we decided to leave our own mark in the saloon style, signing our names upon a dollar bill and employing a long pole to tack the greenback to the high wooden ceiling, where hundreds of other dollars flittered in the breeze.

Guadalupe’s Ghosts

Though most of my companions had lived in Santa Barbara County for more than a decade, almost none had visited Guadalupe, a small city along the banks of the Santa Maria River near the endless dunes of white sand where Cecil B. De Mille filmed The Ten Commandments and a mystic-minded community known as the Dunites lived in the 1930s and ‘40s. Taking in all the cowboy-hat-wearing Latinos who work the land in this rural northwestern corner of our county, a visitor to Guadalupe can be forgiven for thinking he meandered into a Mexican farming village. Well, at least it used to be that way, as the Guadalupe of 2011 seems almost deserted, no doubt due to the recession, but also because most of the main drag’s buildings are built with brick and have not been reinforced to withstand the next big quake. They sit empty, adorned with black-and-white signs to warn of the dangers of entry, an unfortunate sign that the whole town might slowly be turned over to the ghosts.

Inside the Far Western Tavern, however, there was a lively lunchtime crowd. Founded as the Palace Hotel in 1912, the establishment was taken over in 1958 by Clarence Minetti, who used to end his days of picking hay by chowing down on rib steak and spaghetti at the hotel’s restaurant for 65 cents. With his wife Rosalie and her cousin Richard Maretti, Minetti set about restoring the place’s former luster, keeping such elements as the mahogany bar (which some say came on a ship that sailed around the tip of South America), while changing the name to Far Western Tavern and adding the ranching-life touches (landscape paintings of cowboys working the hills, local cattle brands singed into the bar, etc.) to suit the new name. It’s been in the family ever since, attracting accolades for its Santa Maria-style barbecue from near and far, but even the Far Western is suffering from Guadalupe’s ailing brick bones. We were told over our Firestone Double Barrel ales that after many tears and tough decisions, the tavern will be relocating later this year from its birthplace to Old Town Orcutt, a little neighborhood a few miles to the south where there’s a food, drink and entertainment renaissance underway.

But we weren’t there to cry in our beers, so after snacking on some crispy mountain oysters (fried calf testicles, which were cheap, plentiful and fried-food tasty), we informed our servers of our ghostly mission. “Every time I have to go upstairs alone, I say ‘Jesus loves me,’” responded our bartender immediately, piquing our interest with tales of slamming doors and cold gusts of air when no windows are open. The manager, Barbara Abernethy — who’s the niece of Clarence Minetti and has worked at the restaurant since 1974 — relayed stories of noses being touched and ankles being grabbed, admitting that some “professional” ghost hunters had repeatedly investigated the establishment, finding the ghosts of children and a peg-leg man as well as “negative energy” near the upstairs bathroom. When they showed Abernethy their audio and video recordings, which revealed voices and orbs and other unexplained oddities, “It scared the crap out of me,” she said. “I get the chills now thinking about it.”

Minutes later, my friend was circling the upstairs with his ghost meter in hand, suddenly stumbling upon a spot above a table near the middle of the room where the device began beeping steadily. I snagged the dowsing rods and the metal sticks reacted as they were supposed to upon finding an anomalous energy field, swinging slightly open. There’s a significant amount of user error possible with the rods, so when I followed the instructions on communicating with the ghosts — they swing inward for yes, and outward for no, the lore goes, but you can’t ask about love, money or the future — I did so with a healthy degree of skepticism. But as the rods swang to and fro, something about the situation felt curiously authentic, as if we’d tapped into another world for a brief second. Or maybe the beer was finally starting to get to me.

Image by Brian Hall. Founded in 1858, Pozo Saloon still serves olives in its beer. (original image)

Image by Ryan Grau. Today, Pozo hosts on its back lawn some big-time concerts, from Snoop Doggy Dogg to Willie Nelson. (original image)

Image by Brian Hall. Founded as the Palace Hotel in 1912, the Far Western Tavern has been attracting accolades for its Santa Maria-style barbecue from near and far. (original image)

Image by Brian Hall. The 1880 Union Hotel features 14 rooms to rent—all appointed with Victorian-era niceties—as well as a bar. (original image)

Image by Brian Hall. A wide view of the Pozo Saloon and the dollar bills stuck to its ceiling. (original image)

Sippin’ SLO

The second-longest operating bar in all of California is in San Miguel, a tiny town north of Paso Robles of under 2,000 people that popped up following the 1797 founding of Mission San Miguel, where the vineyard-tending padres kicked off the region’s now dominant winemaking industry. Located on the one main drag of Mission Street, the Elkhorn Bar, established during the gold rush year of 1853, is both the predecessor and sole remnant of a once freewheeling strip, where — according to owner Gary Brown — “14 bars and 13 brothels” served the soldiers of the nearby Camp Roberts during the run-up to World War II. “For some of those guys, this was one of the last places they ever were,” said Brown, who bought the bar about five years ago and has set about reminding everyone of its history.

That goes back to even before the days of Jesse James, who came to hide out with his gentlemanly uncle Drury James and soak his robbery-related wounds in the nearby hot springs, and extends through Prohibition, when the Elkhorn’s front was a barbershop and patrons would toss their hooch through the still existing trapdoor into the cellar when the cops arrived. Today, there are antique guns on the walls, framed newspaper clippings from World War II across from the bar, modern day moonshines for sale, and constant ghost tales to entertain ale drinkers between sips.

One patron, without prompting, explained that he’d seen wine glasses fly across the room and crash into the corner, then the bartender relayed a story about a woman who went down into the cellar to find a table full of Old West apparitions playing poker, and then Brown — who showed us the said cellar — explained that many folks had seen a man in olden dress wander across the back room, where the stage is now. And then there were the multiple occasions of phantom grabs of posteriors, as various people have reported being touched down low. “There are always guys pinching ass around here,” said Brown with a laugh, “but those times, there was no one around.” Fittingly freaked out, we fled the otherwise welcoming Elkhorn to our final destination for the evening, and the genesis for this entire trip, the Pine Street Saloon, just off the main square of downtown Paso Robles.

Owner Ron French has been vexed by the “supercharged dust particles” (his words) that his night vision security cameras had been picking up. “To me, I’m not a ghost believer,” he said early on in our correspondence, “but I have no explanation for this.”

First opened by Ron’s mother, Pat French, in 1971, the Pine Street Saloon ditched its old location in 2002 to move into the circa 1865 building next door. That was just in time to avoid the massive Paso Robles earthquake of 2003, which knocked down their old brick building but only tilted their new wooden structure. French, it turns out, might just be the most hospitable saloonkeeper on the planet, having refurbished the upstairs brothel rooms into a boardinghouse of sorts to accommodate overly inebriated guests and purchasing a limousine to drive such patrons home for free, so long as they’re within Paso Robles’ city limits.

After some early experiments with candles and cameras led by French, our crew wasn’t super convinced that there was anything too supernatural going on upstairs at the former brothel, so we explored Paso Robles on foot, eventually taking in pizza and some rounds of bowling before returning to the Pine Street around midnight. The next morning, I managed to yank out the dowsing rods, but we were in a hurry to hit the last three destinations on our tour, so skipped town before finding any answers to Ron’s supercharged dust problem.

Take the Long Way Home

Once a centrally located hub with general store, hotel, blacksmith shops, numerous residences and its own school district along the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route — which connected the San Joaquin Valley to the San Luis Obispo County coast — Pozo is now on the road to pretty much nowhere, with just a fire station and saloon left over, making it about as purely Old West as it gets these days. The Pozo Saloon, founded in 1858, still serves olives in its beer, and today hosts on its back lawn some big-time concerts, from Snoop Doggy Dogg to Willie Nelson. On our visit, the owner Rhonda Beanway and her son Levi were busy working the grounds and cooking up delicious blue cheese and mushroom burgers in the kitchen, but chatted it up with us as our group worked its way through a gallon of beer, served in a big jar, and listened to the live three-piece rock band out back. “It’s kind of a hard sell to get people to drive this far,” said Rhonda, who purchased the bar with her husband in 1984 when the previous owners literally handed them the keys on their way out of town. “That’s why we started the concerts. You have to come with a specific purpose and then fall in love with it. But it is one of the last real things like that in San Luis Obispo County for sure.”

Properly back in the saloon saddle, we decided to brave the Pozo Summit road, a pretty easily passable dirt path through the Santa Lucia Mountains and down into the Carizzo Plain National Monument, where tule elk and pronghorn antelope frolic amid Chumash pictographs on a relict landscape that once typified the entire San Joaquin Valley. With clear, unimpeded views as far as the eye can see, the Carrizo is wickedly wondrous any time of year, but catching it in the green winter or the wildflower-popping spring just might change your life by reminding you that silent, solemn places still exist in our cluttered world.

We stuck to our last suds and some tasty cheeseburgers as the hour crept toward dark on this Sunday afternoon, and hit the road with a stunning sunset lighting the way. We pointed our cars home to Santa Barbara, and slipped into bed to enjoy what even the most adventurous Old Westerner also sought: a good night’s rest.

Dalton Extra Special Adding Machine

National Museum of American History
This ten-key printing manually operated adding machine has an black aluminum frame with a steel keyboard painted green. The white plastic digit keys are arranged in two rows and marked with digits and their complements (complements are in red). The three red function keys are makred repeat, total, and correction. The metal crank with handle is on the right side. The color-coded place indicator is above the keyboard. One may enter numbers up to nine digits long and print up to nine digit results. The printing mechanism, which held a two-colored ribbon, is on the top of the machine. The “four-inch” carriage has a paper tape dispenser behind it, but no paper tape. Above the platen is a serrated edge for tearing the paper tape. The machine has four rubber feet. A mark on the front reads: Dalton (/) ADDING, (/) LISTING AND (/) CALCULATING MACHINE. Another mark there reads: STOCKWELL & BINNEY. A brass tag attached at the bottom front reads: Dalton (/) ADDING (/) MACHINE (/) CO. (/) REG. U.S. OFF. It also reads: PAT. SEPT. 24, 1912 NO. 1039130 (/) PAT. DEC. 31, 1912 NO. 1049057 (/) PAT. DEC. 31, 1912 NO. 1049093 (/) OTHER PATENTS ISSUED AND PENDING (/) CINCINNATI,OHIO(EAST NORWOOD). A metal tag attached at the bottom on the back gives the serial number: NO 73430. The machine was transferred to the Smithsonian collections from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Table Mountain, California. Stockwell & Binney is the name of a California chain of stationery stores. Compare to MA.335299 (that machine lacks a place indicator). Reference: J. H. McCarthy, American Digest of Business Machines, Chicago: American Exchange Service, 1924, p. 536.

The Best Backroad Bike Rides of the California North Coast

Smithsonian Magazine

Two cyclists pedal an arduous section of the Mattole Road during the annual Tour of the Unknown Coast bike ride, which covers 97 miles of remote country immediately south of Eureka. Photo by Jason Barnes.

Cycling the West Coast is easy, whether you’re riding from Canada to Mexico or just Portland to San Francisco. There is not a tricky turn in a thousand miles, little chance of getting lost, virtually no risk of running out of food and always a secure place to sleep in the next state park campground, which awaits between 40 and 80 miles ahead and usually features a designated hiker/biker site at $5 a person. These campsites are often crammed with cyclists, many of them Japanese or German or Australian tourists, and many carrying one of a handful of guidebooks that describe almost every foot, vertical and horizontal, of the way. But is this world-renowned cycling route as awesome as it is popular? Perhaps the route is so popular only because it’s an obvious no-brainer—a one-way path without danger or adventure. Yes, there are tall redwoods and scenic views that draw tourists—and the north-to-south tailwind often blows like a dream. Still, I’ve made an effort to add some spice to this predictable and popular route by getting off it—and here are a few of the finest backroads that will take you into the California North Coast’s wilder corners, and through strange little communities that time and tourism forgot.

Mattole Road. Cyclists seeking peace, relief and respite after hundreds of miles of the harrowing traffic and multiple lanes of Highway 101 have an excellent opportunity to do so just south of Eureka, in Ferndale. This tiny village (can we say “village” outside of Europe?) consists of elaborate and esteemed Victorian architecture—but what you’re interested in now is the little paved road that exits via the back side of town and enters the rugged wilderness to the south: the Mattole Road. Those cyclists familiar with this long and winding sliver of asphalt will shiver at the name, but innocents like you and me may happily begin up (and I do mean up) it with not enough water or food. The road starts with a skyward ascent of about 1,800 feet. A few grumbling, dented pickup trucks and the odd glossy rental car are the only traffic to speak of, and you will be blissfully alone here. About 40 miles in you will find a county campground, though get a late start and you may have to improvise a bed place. When dusk was upon me, just six miles in, I asked permission at a ranch house to sleep in the pasture. Southward, the road continues, dropping to the beach before zigzagging back into the hills again, past communities like Cape Town and Petrolia. Several crossings and three-way intersections could draw you off track if you haven’t got a detailed map. One can cut the ride short by turning east onto the Bear River Ridge Road, which leads down to Rio Dell on Highway 101. Or in another scenario, you might wind up in Shelter Cove—a dreamy salmon fishing hamlet just north of the Lost Coast wilderness, itself a popular backpacking destination and among the few places in the state where you’re likely to find bear tracks on the beach. Assuming you skip Shelter Cove, the Mattole Road covers about 75 miles from Ferndale back to Highway 101 (and smack onto the “Avenue of the Giants” redwood corridor), plus about 9,000 feet of climbing—a tremendous ascent by any standards. To explore this area with full support and good company, consider joining the Tour of the Unknown Coast, an annual Mother’s Day ride that makes the painfully arduous Ferndale-to-Ferndale loop.

The author, at about 2,000 feet above sea level, rolls along the Bear River Ridge Road, near its intersection with the Mattole Road. Photo by Alastair Bland.

Orr Springs-Comptche Road. Connecting Highway 1 at the smart and expensive seaside town of Mendocino and the 101 corridor at Ukiah, a hot and grimy valley town of pickup trucks and strip malls, this winding, narrow road climbs 4,500 vertical feet from whichever direction you approach it and leads through some of Mendocino County’s most thrilling country. I pedaled this road from Ukiah westward and immediately started on a 2,000-foot climb straight up along an exposed road in the blazing sun. After several miles along a ridge top, the road drops into a canyon, where signs pointing into the woods to Orr Hot Springs may sound like the worst idea in the world when it’s 90 degrees in the shade. Deeper into the mountains and the thick forest, past wooden shacks, trailer shanties and old apple orchards, the country and culture feel as lost and forgotten as parts of Appalachia. Deep in these woods I encountered an ad hoc farmers market by the road, consisting of two tables and a small collection of local hill folk wearing homemade shawls and selling eggs, tomatoes, tamales and goat cheese. They told me this was the “Far East Comptche” farmers market (“We’re technically part of Ukiah, but we don’t like to use that word here,” they joked), held every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. Which reminded me of the time: It was 6—two hours from nightfall and 25 miles still to go to reach the Russian Gulch State Park campground. I raced on, up more steep grades and past more rural settlements unmarked on the most detailed maps. It was dusk when I hit the coast, and I still marvel that participants in the annual Mendocino Monster Century ride from Ukiah to Mendocino and back again—a 96-mile, one-day ride with 9,200 feet of climbing. Once through was plenty for me—not to say that this wasn’t one of the finest Northern California bicycling adventures I’ve had.

The author discovered this tiny farmers market in the deep backwoods along Orr Springs Road, halfway between Ukiah and Mendocino. Photo taken by resident of Far East Comptche/courtesy of Alastair Bland.

Highway 128. This route covers the Anderson Valley corridor, drained by the Navarro River and dense with apple orchards, vineyards and a few remaining stands of old-growth redwood trees. Though a highway itself, 128 is far quieter than the coast route or the 101 freeway, and there is a selection of road options that turn north or south off 128, if you really want to see the backwoods. Try Flynn Creek Road, Highway 253, the Philo-Greenwood Road, Mountain View Road or Mountain House Road—each a recipe for backcountry trailblazing through some of California’s roughest and most scenic terrain. If you stay on 128, you may wish to camp at Hendy Woods State Park—and don’t miss the Apple Farm, a self-serve fruit stand just across the bridge from the park entrance. Cold juice can be had by the glass out of the refrigerator ($1.50 for about a 12-ounce fill)—but if you want a bottle of cider, you’ll have to track down a person, as the hard stuff is kept locked indoors.

Other Roads Less Traveled 

Stewarts Point Road. Supposedly one of the hardest bike rides in California, the Stewarts Point Road cuts inland from Highway 1 near Fort Ross and eventually drops you into the sophisticated wine country of the Alexander Valley, on Skaggs Springs Road. The cycling books don’t recommend this ride—but sporting cyclists with a taste for hills and adventures always do.

Highway 162. I’ve admired this one for years on my maps. From just north of Willits, Highway 162 goes eastward, through the cozy little community of Covelo and the Round Valley Indian Reservation. The road continues east, into the high mountains and no man’s land of the Mendocino National Forest and over the 5,006-foot Mendocino Pass before, eventually, allowing gravity to have its way and draw you down into the Central Valley—probably not the choicest place to be in the blazing heat of summer.

Alderpoint Road. This may be a hard route to drag yourself up. It takes you out of the cool and spectacular Avenue of the Giants and into the searing hot oak-and-madrone highland wilderness to the east. By the looks of my maps, you won’t find gas stations, or espresso houses, or wi-fi, or natural foods stores up here. Bring plenty of water—and good luck finding a place to sleep.

Know any other wild backroads worth recommending—in California or elsewhere?

After climbing more than 3,000 feet in 35 miles, a cyclist can encounter few road signs more exciting than one like this, on the Orr Springs Road to Mendocino. Photo by Alastair Bland.

Plectritis macrocera

NMNH - Botany Dept.

Lilaea scilloides (Poir.) Haum

NMNH - Botany Dept.

Acorn Cracker

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.

This Secret Corner of California Is a Paradise for Lovers of Great Food and Top-Notch Wines

Smithsonian Magazine

Seemingly everyone you meet in Anderson Valley can tell you a migration story that has the flavor of myth — a tale that casts their arrival in this shockingly picturesque corner of California’s Mendocino County as the climax of a great quest, or the punch line of a cosmic joke, or both. One of the best yarns, surely, is Bruce Anderson’s. In 1971, Anderson, an avowed “big hippie,” rolled out of San Francisco in a Volkswagen bus, heading, like many pilgrims of the period, back to the land. For years, Anderson had lived in the thick of San Francisco’s counterculture. He had played a leading role in anti–Vietnam War protests. But as the 60s turned into the 70s, the city’s bohemian enclaves were gripped by malaise, Flower Power dreams withering amid rising violence and a plague of hard drugs. So Anderson hit the road with his wife, his young son, his brother, and a handful of friends, heading up the coast in a caravan, seeking spiritual rejuvenation in a landscape of stretching redwoods and soaring oceanside cliffs. And they had another plan in mind: to raise a dozen troubled Bay Area foster children in the countryside, far from the deprivations and vices of city life.

Anderson and company hadn’t decided exactly where they were headed, but the decision was soon made for them. About 125 miles northwest of San Francisco, Anderson pulled into a service station in a tiny town whose name, Boonville, made no secret of the fact that it was, well, the boondocks. “We barely knew where we were,” Anderson recalled. “We just happened to run into a guy who told us there was a ranch for lease south of town.”

They drove to the ranch and stayed. The basics of rural homesteading proved a mystery. (“Gravity-flow water systems, septic tanks — all that was completely new,” Anderson said.) As for the foster kids, that plan didn’t work out too well: “We had the delusional idea that juvenile delinquents would be less delinquent under the redwoods than they were under streetlights. They turned out to be twice as delinquent.”

But nearly a half-century later, Bruce Anderson has become so synonymous with Anderson Valley that he’s often mistakenly assumed to be its namesake. Today he lives with his wife in the center of Boonville. He works steps away, in a 40-foot trailer that serves as the headquarters of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, the weekly newspaper that he has owned, edited, and largely written for 34 years. At 78, Anderson looks and sounds the part of an éminence grise, with an ample white beard and a commanding basso profundo. He is a fount of local lore. Ask for a history lesson and he will tell you about successive generations of economic refugees, fortune seekers, and utopian questers who made their way to the valley: the European pioneers who pushed into Pomo Indian country in the mid 19th century; the Arkies and Okies who arrived after World War II, finding work in the then-booming timber industry; the members of his own hippie tribe, who came in the 70s, buying up cheap logged-over land where they raised kids and communed with nature.

From left: Donnelly Creek, outside Boonville; Daniel Townsend, co-owner of the Bewildered Pig, chats with a guest outside his restaurant. (Alex Farnum)

A fourth wave of Anderson Valley migration is under way. The climate and topography that for decades nurtured the valley’s agricultural staples — first apples and pears, then cannabis—has proven ideal for growing grapes, especially Pinot Noir. Today, Anderson Valley is California’s most exciting emerging wine region, a magnet for the 21st century’s new class of NoCal back-to-the landers: oenophiles, foodies, and others who want to live simply but sumptuously. Travelers who once bypassed the valley, following the siren call of Mendocino’s famous coastline, are increasingly journeying inland. What they find there is bounteous farmland and deep forests, a food-and-wine scene slowly but steadily coming into its own, a place that has maintained the funkiness that was long ago gentrified out of the county’s more well-trafficked communities. For locals, the transformation of Anderson Valley is nothing short of surreal. “It’s like something out of science fiction,” marveled Anderson. “Everywhere you look, you see vineyards coming over the ridge.”

My first glimpse of Anderson Valley came on a vibrant morning, when the sun streamed through cracks in a ceiling of magnificent gray-white clouds. The night before, I’d completed my own trek to the valley from San Francisco. The last leg of the journey was hair-raising: a 30-mile-long drive along fearsomely twisty Route 128, which slaloms north and west across a forested mountain pass before dropping into the valley at Boonville. (Locals credit the challenging drive with keeping the area’s population down.) I quickly got my reward in the form of an early lunch at Boonville’s Pennyroyal Farm, which for the last decade has been producing excellent wines and the valley’s most famous small-batch cheeses.

In the tasting room, locals and visitors crowded around the bar, sampling whites and rosés. I made my way outside, taking a table on a canopied patio that offered views of the vineyard. Twenty-three acres of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapevines lace a landscape roamed by sheep that do double duty as cheese suppliers and weeders of the vineyard floor. The food arrived on heaping platters: charcuterie; pickled vegetables; a big dollop of Laychee, Pennyroyal’s signature goat cheese; a slab of Boont Corners Vintage Tomme, a tangy, salty goat-and-sheep-milk cheese. I washed it down with a bracing Blanc. A couple seated at the next table, Pennyroyal regulars, told me, “You can’t leave without trying the Pinot.” The advice was less a suggestion than a command; it seemed foolish to ignore it. The pour of the day was Pennyroyal’s 2015 Jeansheep Vineyard Pinot, dark and spicy with notes of morello cherry. I ordered a glass, drank it, and ordered a second.

House-made cheeses at Pennyroyal Farm, in Boonville. (Alex Farnum)

The first Anderson Valley vineyards appeared in the 1970s, but it was the arrival of legendary French champagne maker Louis Roederer in the early 80s that established the region’s bona fides. Since then, dozens of vintners have set up shop, specializing in wines that thrive in the region’s distinctive terroir. Anderson Valley is a narrow strip, just 25 miles long, tucked between coastal redwoods and inland oaks. It’s threaded by the Navarro River, which passes through Boonville and two smaller hamlets, Philo and Navarro, on its way to the Pacific. In summer, fog drapes the valley in the morning. Afternoon temperatures can reach 100 degrees; in the evening, the thermometer may plummet 40 or 50 degrees. “When it comes to grapes, the temperate climate here makes all the difference,” said Matt Parish, a winemaker from New Zealand who in 2017 took the helm at Philo’s Lula Cellars. “You get that nice, even ripeness without blowing out the fruit flavors in too-hot weather.”

Lula Cellars is a favorite of valley cognoscenti. The wine is superb: meaty Pinots, holding lingering notes of dark fruit, with tannins that tickle the palate. The vibe at the vineyard is High Quirky. The tasting room manager, Dan Reed, is a burly man with a courtly manner and a wit as dry as the Pinots he pours. His business card reads pushy salesman, but his technique leans more toward gentle persuasion. “I think you’ll like this,” he told me, offering a glass of 2014 Costa Pinot Noir. (I liked it.) Reed lives on the property, in a house that he shares with Honey, a yellow Labrador mix, who has her own Lula business card (head of barketing). When visitors bring their dogs—a practice Lula encourages—Honey leads them on bombing runs into the vineyard’s pond to chase frogs. Honey often rides shotgun in Lula’s house car, a vintage Morris Minor, when Reed does errands in Philo and Boonville. “Me and Honey, we’re a little bit famous around here,” Reed said.

In years past, visitors who sought upscale lodging were forced to leave Anderson Valley and spend their nights on the coast, where options are plentiful. But today the valley has its own high-end Shangri-La, which sacrifices nothing in the way of amenities while offering the kind of oddity that can’t be faked.

The Madrones stands behind a grand gateway entrance in Philo, just across the Boonville line. The property includes a rose garden and a working farm. There are tasting rooms for three local wineries and an excellent little restaurant, Stone & Embers, that serves exquisite wood-fired pizzas and small plates.

There are four guest rooms in the compound’s main building, and five more in guest houses situated on the raffishly landscaped grounds. The rooms are appointed with a variety of antiques, nearly all from the collection of Jim Roberts, the owner. Weirder items from his stash—19th-century German anatomy posters, Victorian embalming machines—are on sale in the hotel’s curiosity shop, the Sun & Cricket. The main building has the look of a Mediterranean villa, with a shady courtyard and tiled roof. But there’s also a scattering of Asian statuary, a huge bronze dragon that presides over the hotel’s circular drive, and two fierce Chinese lions painted a lurid shade of pink. The first time I met Roberts, I confessed that I found the architectural hodgepodge delightful but disorienting. “Is this Tuscany? Spain? China? I’m not sure where I am,” I told him. “Good,” he said.

Roberts grew up in Orange County, California. “I always wanted to live in Mendocino,” he said. “I read about it. I dreamed about it. So I packed up my car and went.” For years the property was his home and the office for his now-shuttered interior design firm. In 2011, Roberts decided to try his hand at hospitality and, in the succeeding years, has gradually expanded the Madrones. Now, Roberts and his partner in business and life, Brian Adkinson, have added an adjacent property to the compound. One afternoon they took me to the Brambles, which occupies sprawling acreage in a grove of old-growth redwoods a short distance from the Madrones. The Brambles’ guesthouse, holding three spacious suites, is a Victorian stick-and-shingle structure. It looked like something out of a Grimms’ fairy tale.

Roberts and Adkinson epitomize the new breed of Anderson Valley refugees: creative, unconventional, entrepreneurial. On Boonville’s main drag, you can shop at Farmhouse Mercantile, a housewares emporium as tastefully rustic-chic as any in San Francisco’s hipster redoubts. Even the old Boonville Hotel—which dates back to the town’s rugged mid-19th-century frontier era—bills itself as a “modern roadhouse” where the restaurant serves food “inspired by whim and season.” It’s a big change for a place that has always been hardscrabble. A century ago, Boonvillians developed a language impenetrable to outsiders, Boontling. (A few old-timers still speak the argot, which is heavy on sexual and scatological terms: “moldunes” are large breasts; to “burlap” is to have intercourse.) On weekends, the streets ran with blood from bare-knuckle bar fights, and the brothels heaved. “This was wild country,” Bruce Anderson told me. “Lots of little mill shacks and people who worked hard, played hard.”

The valley grew more sedate when the timber mills began to shutter in the late 50s and 60s. But the outlaw spirit endured in the formerly illicit trade that has formed the backbone of Mendocino’s economy since the 70s: growing and selling marijuana. On New Year’s Day 2018, California’s first retail weed shops opened their doors, and the question hovering over the region today is how life will transform in the era of legalization. Everywhere you go in Anderson Valley, you hear grumblings that the pot business is facing a corporate takeover and that mom-and-pop growers will be left in the cold. Some imagine a time when marijuana farms and tasting rooms will line Route 128 alongside the vineyards, with “ganja sommeliers” proffering varietals to “weed tourists.” But if that day comes, who will reap the profits?

For now, the answers—like the pungent scent of Mendocino cannabis that locals proudly pronounce the world’s best—are blowing in the wind. In the meantime, curious new forms of life are taking root in the valley’s loamy soil. Oddly enough, the place that may best embody Anderson Valley’s iconoclastic spirit is its fanciest restaurant.

The Bewildered Pig sits on an otherwise sparsely developed stretch of 128 in Philo, about two miles south of the Navarro line. Janelle Weaver, the Bewildered Pig’s chef, and her partner, Daniel Townsend, fit the archetypal profile of Mendocino pilgrims. For seven years, they rolled up and down the coast in their 1978 Volkswagen Westphalia camper, seeking the ideal spot for the restaurant they envisioned. Weaver grew up in Michigan and Alaska, where she hunted and fished with her family; her first professional cooking job was at a breakfast counter, at age 12. Townsend spent much of his childhood on the White Mountain Apache reservation in Arizona. (His father was a missionary.) The couple met in 2004, in Napa Valley, where both had worked for years as chefs. Townsend is also a landscape designer and tinkerer whose touch is all over the Pig: a “cactus wall” that shields outdoor diners from traffic; gurgling fountains ingeniously crafted from repurposed industrial scraps; a gorgeous adjacent patio, where they plan to host DJ nights and other events. The dining room is an enchanted space. Weaver and Townsend like to throw around the term “refined rustic,” an apt description of both their design aesthetic and Weaver’s astonishing cooking.

From left: Anderson Valley sheep supply milk for cheese; miso deviled eggs and a salad of foraged greens at the Bewildered Pig, one of the area’s best restaurants, in the town of Philo. (Alex Farnum)

I had one of the great meals of my life at the Pig. It was a lavish six-course tasting menu with wine pairings, highlighted by dishes like the explosively flavorful spruce-tip custard garnished with maitake mushrooms and locally foraged herbs, and an obscenely delicious sunchoke bisque with house-smoked black cod and smoked trout roe. There are notes of Eastern European cooking in Weaver’s plates. (Her Polish grandmother was an early influence.) There is a classical French sense of balance, too, and the requisite Alice Watersian emphasis on garden-fresh ingredients and regional sources.

But Weaver’s style is bold and unusual; an inventory of influences doesn’t tell the tale. Maybe, eventually, Weaver’s innovative food will simply be called Anderson Valley Cuisine. To say that the Bewildered Pig is the valley’s best restaurant is not to insult the area competition: soon enough, it may be the best restaurant in California. With its mix of revelatory food, conviviality, and ambition without pretension, it feels like a dream of what a restaurant should be.

Tourism isn’t rocket science. But Anderson Valley is the kind of place where you can get sightseeing advice from a rocket scientist. While sipping Pinot at the Lula Cellars tasting room one afternoon, I met a Lula regular, Todd Lukes, a southern California expat who moved to Mendocino five years ago. Lukes has the languid, sun-fried look of an aging surfer, but he works in the aeronautics industry. After quizzing me about my visit to the valley, he concluded that I’d spent too little time experiencing its natural wonders. He asked if I’d explored Hendy Woods State Park in Philo. Yes, I’d done that: I’d been struck dumb by the cathedral-like groves of ancient redwoods. “Then you have to head to the beach,” Lukes said. “You can’t leave Mendo without hitting the coast.” Where exactly should I go? “Blues Beach, just outside the town of Westport. There’s no sign. But you’ll know it when you see it.”

Lukes was right. On a shimmering morning I guided my rental car down the steep curves of Route 1 until I spotted a little jog off the big road. I practically drove right onto the beachfront, an unspoiled, unpeopled coastline that seemed to stretch to infinity. I scrambled down to the sand and marched north, stepping over chunks of seaweed the size of large squid, with the wind and surf roaring. It was a scene of almost unseemly beauty. The sky was a deep, dusty blue, roiled by swiftly moving clouds. About 500 yards from the beach, two giant outcroppings rose from the deep—rocks that animist ancients might have worshipped as gods. This was Mendocino utopia: a place on the edge of the continent, where nature at its most untrammeled is on display, and freedom seems absolute.

From left: The Brambles, a new property in Philo by the owners of the Madrones, consists of a cluster of cottages nestled in a grove of redwood trees; the Mendocino coast south of the town of Little River. (Alex Farnum)

An hour passed, maybe two. It was time I moved along. The next day I would have to follow Route 128’s zigzags out of the valley, to Route 101 South and on to San Francisco to catch a flight back to the East Coast. In the meantime, I longed to get back to the valley, which offers its own mellow version of splendid isolation: a glass of something strong and red, a vineyard vista, a landscape gradually turning deep blue as the sun drops into the sea on the far side of the pine-lined ridges. I remembered a comment Jim Roberts made about Anderson Valley’s slowly-but-steadily rising profile. “The secret is out,” Roberts said. “But, you know, it’s not tooout.”

Exploring Mendocino County

Three days in Anderson Valley allows time to sample local wines, experience gastronomic nirvana, and immerse yourself in natural beauty. Add two or three days to your itinerary to visit the county’s famously dramatic coastline.

Getting There

The scenic way to reach Mendocino County from San Francisco is Route 1, which winds along the coastline. The drive takes roughly four hours; stop at Point Reyes National Seashore if time allows. If you’re in a hurry, take inland Route 101 to Route 128, which reaches Anderson Valley in three hours.

Anderson Valley

Lodging

Boonville Hotel In the 19th century, this place was a raucous roadhouse. Today, it has 15 comfortable rooms, including a private creekside bungalow with a screened-in porch. Boonville; boonville​hotel.com; doubles from $155.

The Brambles From the owners of the nearby Madrones hotel, this renovated homestead in a secluded redwood grove has three suites and two adjacent cabins. Philo; themadrones.com/the-brambles; doubles from $250.

The Madrones Nine accommodations in a gorgeous setting that is part Tuscany, part Alice’s Wonderland. Philo; themadrones.com; doubles from $252.

Philo Apple Farm Hidden in one of the valley’s last fruit orchards is this exclusive hotel with four chic guest cottages. Visitors can choose to “just stay” or to “stay and cook,” joining staff in hands-on farm-to-table meal preparation. Philo; philoapple​farm.com; doubles from $300.

Food & Drink

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. This 30-year-old valley institution is one of the country’s pioneering craft-beer makers. Try Frisbee golf on an 18-hole course that wends through oak groves and pasture. Boonville; avbc.com.

Bewildered Pig The Anderson Valley culinary revolution starts here. Janelle Weaver’s “refined rustic” food will bowl you over; the dining room feels like your long-lost home. Book in advance. Philo; bewildered​pig.com; entrées $26–$32.

Goldeneye Winery “The Pearly Gates of Pinot Noir” is this vineyard’s none-too-humble tagline, but the wine merits the boast. Experience an Essentials Tasting for $15, or book the Elevated Tasting, a deep dive into the winery’s portfolio. Philo; goldeneye​winery.com.

Lula Cellars The wines are delicious and surprisingly complex; the vineyard views, gorgeous. Philo; lulacellars.com.

Navarro Vineyards One of the valley’s oldest vintners, with a charming, barnlike tasting room. The Pinots are big and flavorful, but don’t miss the Gewürztraminer. Philo; navarro​wine.com.

Pennyroyal Farm Come for the farmstead cheeses, stay for the wine. Anderson Valley’s most hopping lunch scene. Boonville; pennyroyal​farm.com.

Stone & Embers This delightful restaurant on the Madrones property makes the most of its tiny space. The inventive wood-fired pizzas have toppings like “turducken sausages.” Philo; stoneand​embers.com; entrées $15–$19.

Table 128 The Boonville Hotel’s restaurant serves family-style dinners. Reservations are a must. Boonville; boonvillehotel.com/eat; prix fixe from $38.

Activites

Hendy Woods State Park To step into the redwood groves is to enter a sublime space—nature’s own Chartres Cathedral. The trees are towering (some stretch to 300 feet) and ancient (some are more than 1,000 years old). Philo; parks.ca.gov. 

Shopping

Farmhouse Mercantile This lovely Boonville shop sells housewares, clothing,

Point Cabrillo Light Station, outside the town of Mendocino. (Alex Farnum)

The Coast

Lodging

Brewery Gulch Inn A perennial on T+L’s World’s Best list, Brewery Gulch Inn overlooks a spectacular swathe of coastline. The inn combines the best elements of luxe resort, bed-and-breakfast, and rec room; in the high-beamed dining-room-cum-lounge there are plush couches, board games, and picture windows that frame eye-popping views. Mendocino; brewerygulchinn.com; doubles from $385.

Inn at Newport Ranch This brand-new hotel is situated on a 2,000-acre working ranch with more than a mile of private coastline. Take advantage of the hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails that run through the property. Fort Bragg; theinnat​newportranch.com; doubles from $375.

JD House This just-renovated bed-and-breakfast is named for John Dougherty, its original resident. The rooms are a modern take on a sea captain’s quarters, with fireplaces and Persian rugs. Mendocino; bluedoor​group.com; doubles
from $159.

Food & Drink

Circa ’62 at the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek A quaint inn uphill from Route 1 serves a decadent brunch. Menu highlights include kimchi pancakes and bacon-and-sweet-corn hash. Little River; schoolhouse​creek.com; entrées $7–$17.

Trillium Café Housed in a whitewashed clapboard house, this restaurant is beloved for its quintessential California cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Mendocino; trillium​mendocino.com; entrées $24–$37.

Wild Fish At this Pacific Coast Highway restaurant on the cliffs above Little River Cove, all ingredients come from local purveyors or are grown on the property. Little River; wild-fish.com; entrées $22–$39.

Activites

Blues Beach Located just south of the town of Westport off Route 1, this pristine stretch of shore is officially known as Chadbourne Gulch Beach. You can drive your car right onto the sand.

Mendocino Headlands State Park The town of Mendocino is surrounded by 347 acres of protected green space. Visit for the pleasant nature trails and the park’s two beaches, which draw fishers, sailors, and scuba divers. Mendocino; parks.ca.gov.

Skunk Train This 133-year-old train line, nicknamed for its diesel fumes, winds through the forest for more than 40 miles. Fort Bragg; skunk​train.com; adult fares from $25. — Jody Rosen and Hannah Walhout

This content was produced with the assistance from Brewery Gulch Inn and the Madrones.

Other articles from Travel + Leisure:

Eschscholzia californica Cham.

NMNH - Botany Dept.

Field notes, January 1907 - February 1910 : bird observations and collection data recorded at Stockton, California, January - February, 1907; Arizona Territory, February - July 1907; Lawrence, Kansas, July 1907 - May 1908; Canandaigna Lake, New York, July - August 1908; Rockport, Canada, August 1908; and Colorado, April 1909 - February 1910

Smithsonian Field Book Project
Alexander Wetmore records observations and bird specimens collected in Colorado, August 1909 - February 1910. Entries are chronological and headed by date. Entries included specimen details and descriptions of the collecting event. Details include: number, bird name, collector, location, and size. Descriptions cover weather, terrain, vegetation, bird appearance, behavior, as well as information about setting traps, and outing companions (B. Rockwell and L.J. Hersey). Collecting sites include the vicinity of: Golden, Morrison, Palmer Lake, Aurora, and Table Mountain. The second half of the notebook is blank.

The natural history of Washington territory, with much relating to Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oregon, and California, between the thirty-sixth and forty-ninth parallels of latitude, being those parts of the final reports on the survey of the Northern Pacific railroad route, containing the climate and physical geography, with full catalogues and descriptions of the plants and animals collected from 1853 to 1857. By J. G. Cooper, M. D., and Dr. G. Suckley ... This edition contains a new preface, giving a sketch of the explorations, a classified table of contents, and the latest additions by the authors. With fifty-five new plates of scenery, botany, and zoology, and an isothermal chart of the route

Smithsonian Libraries
"This volume consists of those parts of the [twelfth vol.] of the Pacific railroad reports, which describe the natural condition and products of the country traversed by the surveying expedition near the 47th and 49th parallels of latitude ... None of the plates in this volume have been before published."--Pref.

Also available online.

Elecresource

Errata leaf concerning t.p., tipped opposite t.p.

Provenance: George Suckley's signed presentation inscription to Norton Folsom.

Tucker Collection.

Shasta Diet Black Cherry

National Museum of American History
This metal tab-top soda can shimmers in a black cherry purple with the words “Diet” and “Sugar Free” emblazoned in yellow to catch the eye of diet-conscious consumers. Listed on the front of this can of “Artificially Sweetened Dietary Soda” from about 1970 are the ingredients: “Artificial color and flavor. Preserved with Ascorbic Acid, Stannous Chloride, and Sodium Benzoate.” The back of the can includes the statement, “Contains saccharin a non-nutritive artificial sweetener which should be used only by persons who must restrict their intake of ordinary sweets.” Artificial sweeteners were relatively new in consumer products, and the wording used on this can contrasts sharply with the trend toward natural products. The can also advertises that diet Shasta “Contains only 1 calorie per can” and “No cyclamates.” Cyclamates are a chemical compound used to make artificial sweeteners until 1969 when the FDA banned them for a potential link to increased risk of cancer.

Shasta’s mountain range logo pays homage to the company’s origins, founded at the base of Mt. Shasta in the Cascade mountain range near the California/Oregon border. In 1889 a health spa and resort opened at the base of Mt. Shasta, which specialized in serving the naturally carbonated spring water from the area’s springs. The company founders started Shasta Mineral Springs Company and began bottling and selling the water throughout the West Coast. In the 1950s the company began flavoring its carbonated spring water and became part of a growing soft drink industry. By the 1960s producers of carbonated soft-drinks like Shasta were major users of artificial sweeteners, and despite concern from nutritionists these “diet” beverages were extremely popular. Throughout the 1970s production of diet soda continued to increase, and by 2000 it made up nearly a third of all soft drinks produced in the U.S.

Shasta Diet Black Cherry Can

National Museum of American History
This metal tab-top soda can shimmers in raspberry red with the words “Diet” and “Sugar Free” emblazoned in yellow to catch the eye of diet-conscious consumers. Listed on the front of this can of “Artificially Sweetened Dietary Soda” from about 1970 are the ingredients: “Artificial color and flavor. Preserved with Ascorbic Acid, Stannous Chloride, and Sodium Benzoate.” The back of the can includes the statement, “Contains saccharin a non-nutritive artificial sweetener which should be used only by persons who must restrict their intake of ordinary sweets.” Artificial sweeteners were relatively new in consumer products in the 1970s and the wording used on this can contrasts sharply with the trend toward natural products. The can also advertises that diet Shasta “Contains only 1 calorie per can” and “No cyclamates.” Cyclamates are a chemical compound used to make artificial sweeteners until 1969 when the FDA banned them for a potential link to increased risk of cancer.

Shasta’s mountain range logo pays homage to the company’s origins, founded at the base of Mt. Shasta in the Cascade mountain range near the California/Oregon border. In 1889 a health spa and resort opened at the base of Mt. Shasta, which specialized in serving the naturally carbonated spring water from the area’s springs. The company founders started Shasta Mineral Springs Company and began bottling and selling the water throughout the West Coast. In the 1950s the company began flavoring its carbonated spring water and became part of a growing soft drink industry. By the 1960s producers of carbonated soft-drinks like Shasta were major users of artificial sweeteners, and despite concern from nutritionists these “diet” beverages were extremely popular. Throughout the 1970s production of diet soda continued to increase, and by 2000 it made up nearly a third of all soft drinks produced in the U.S.
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