Gualala Visitor’s Center to Stewart’s Point

July 4: Sonoma County
Gualala Visitor’s Center to Stewart’s Point. 13 miles

The first task for us on Independence Day was to clean our rental house from one end to the other. We then drove back to the Gualala Visitor’s Center where we began our day, walking first out to the bluff and then, entering Sea Ranch property, south along the bluff.

For the first three or so miles, we could have been anyone; access is not restricted along the trail. But from then on, we entered the private part of the Coastal Trail, enjoyed only by property owners and those, such as the CTE hikers, who have rented property. It is as beautiful a piece of coast as one could ever see. The Sea Ranch Association has strict environmental rules and an active community; many owners are involved in environmental causes. Coastwalk looks to the day when arrangements can be made to allow the public to walk this beautiful piece of coast, in keeping with the spirit of the State Constitution, which guarantees the public the right to access to the coastline.

Our eleven or so miles of Sea Ranch trail completed, we rejoined our old friend Highway 1, and donning our safety vests (“You guys look like a combination of Caltrans and the Sierra Club!”), we took off for Stewart’s Point. Very soon we began walking beside the Richardson Ranch, another beautiful coastal property. Llamas greeted us and walked along beside us on the other side of the fence. Imagine our disappointment when we reached the general store at Stewart’s Point and found it closed. All those ice cream cones in our minds melted in an instant.

At our Salt Point State Park campsite, we were greeted by members of SOAR — Singles Outdoor Activities Recreation– from Santa Rosa. Rita McGowan, a Coastwalker and member of SOAR, arranged for this group to have a hiking trip at Salt Point AND to provide a potluck dinner for us. For perhaps the first time in Coastwalk history, there were more cooks than Coastwalkers! (Jon Breyfogle; photos, Linda Hanes)