One of the great joys of living in the Bay Area is that in a hop, skip, and a jump we move from cityscape to hip suburban villages to vineyards and lush farmlands—all within a commute-long car trip. So why, then, I ask myself, don’t I explore more locally? I love the international jaunt, the cross-country getaway, and the weekend discovery trip, but all of that takes planning and preparation. Why does a great getaway have to be formal?
The thing is, I’m realizing—given my geography—it doesn’t. The daytrip is a delight to the soul, takes virtually no planning, and gives me the added joy and spiritual lift of feeling spontaneous. And so, with an adventurer’s spirit, I have sought out a new landscape: my own backyard.
I once had a choir director who trained our ensemble to “sing the song as if you’re singing it for the first time.” And that lesson has lived on in me in many areas of my life. This year, I have committed my heart to seeing my own landscape as if I’m seeing it with new eyes, as if for the first time. In other words, I’m seeking a deeper sense of appreciation for what I have.
With that in mind we jumped in the car and headed for Point Reyes. An easy drive from the city, the path wound through sweet little Marin County towns and landed us, as the road became more rural, in the gorgeous Marin marshlands.
In Olema, we stopped and had a soda and a snack at the local Farm House Restaurant. If you’re so inclined the Bear Valley Inn is a lovely respite from urban life, and having stayed there before I was glad to see that it was still thriving.
Moving on down the road, we took the left fork of the Tomales Bay roadway and ventured into Inverness. In our early marriage—and before it became a discovered, swanky hotel—we used to stay at Manka’s Inverness Lodge, drink a bit, and sit on the lodge-pole porch and watch the day go by. These days we prefer a waterfront room at The Golden Hinde Inn with it’s A-frame structure and water’s edge charm. (And it’s still a deal, ranging from $125 to $195 a night.) But since we weren’t staying, we saddled up to the bar and ordered barbequed oysters—a specialty in their bayside restaurant.
Just down the road is the terrific little shop called Spirit Matters, where my husband Mike and I once stumbled in, in March of 2000, when I was looking for something amazing to do for a big “0” birthday. We bought a pair of Nepalese antique scissors and the owner looked me in the eye and said, “You should go! I’ve got just the trek for you.” She referred me to Effie Fletcher of Himalayan High Treks in San Francisco, and I ended up booking a month-long solo trip to Nepal, climbing both 18,000-foot and 19,000-foot peaks. It was the trip of my lifetime, and the kismet of the moment—and my gratefulness—strikes me every time I visit Inverness.
With bellies full of oysters and beer, we happily parked the car and hiked the trail from the Inverness side of Tomales Bay to the Point Reyes side. An easy, flat walk along the lower edge of the water, it’s both scenic and restful. Once in town we headed where we always head: the bookstore and the bakery. Point Reyes Books is a favorite hang of ours, and “seeing it with new eyes” I was struck by how rare and precious it is to walk into a bookstore and feel that neighborhood sensibility that used to permeate all such establishments. We perused, we read, we sat on the small stools, we let the afternoon go by with nothing more to do than enjoy.
The Bovine Bakery was next, and it’s a never-miss spot on our Point Reyes trail. A Sunday haven for cyclists who are trekking from the Golden Gate all the way up to Tomales, it has an almost cult following. Get anything—it’s all good—then find a chair on the street and delight in the small town charm of Marin’s countryside.
In the Old Western Saloon, just steps away, you used to be able to buy a pal a drink and write their name on a chalkboard. Then, when the friend showed up there’d be a surprise drink waiting for her or him. The grand local tradition was 86-ed some years ago, but the saloon in all its rustic glory still stands. It’s a great late-afternoon hang, and the wood floors and weathered boards make us reminisce about another time, when horses stood tied up outside the front door.
After a stroll around the two-street town, and a bite or two of cheese at Cowgirl Creamery, we headed back across the lower bay trail and, sun setting, drove back toward the city. As we drove, a word kept coming to me: respite. How simple it is, really, to just stop and enjoy when I set an intention to do so; how easy on the soul it is to move into a space of enjoyment and just let it wash over me. No push, no pull, no agenda. Point Reyes is a perfect place to rest the mind, ease the spirit, and kick-start that sense of joy and thanksgiving we’re courting to begin our year. Grateful for what we have, for what is at our fingertips. Delight in all we see. Moving toward beauty every way we can—and always seeing it all with the fresh eyes of the delight of the first time. We’ll be back again and again.