Reef Camp at Fort Ross to the Jenner River

July 7: Sonoma County
Reef Camp at Fort Ross to the Jenner River. 9.6 miles

“There are a million rocks out there, and every one of them is just waiting to break your ankle.”

These words, spoken by Sam Spade to Bridget O’Shaughnessy in the beach scene of The Maltese Falcon unfortunately was cut from the final version, but it aptly sums up the first 6 miles of our day, as we traversed the boulder-strewn beaches of Sonoma County’s “lost coast”.

Between Fort Ross and Russian Gulch, where Highway 1 is perched high above the ocean, we walked the beaches below. As we walked along, ospreys circled above, and one flew over clutching a surf perch in its talons. The day was extremely windy, and we concentrated both on keeping warm and making sure our next step was on a firm rock. “Saving the coast, one step at a time” has special meaning here.

This rough and hard walk was the Coastwalk introduction for Julie Hitchcock, who has now joined us and will walk with us to Santa Cruz.

Sometimes I like to think of the ocean as a living being. Today my huge watery friend had two major dislikes: gloves and rope. In the short space of ¼ mile, we came across many pairs of fingerless cotton gloves, enough to equip several of us for our later rope climb. Next it was scuba gloves and, last, latex medical gloves. We could have opened a glove store. Or an emporium for rope. In two places, we came upon drifted piles of yellow and green rope. It would seem some fishing boat lost its entire rig.

The climax of this lost coast section is climbing up and over a hogback ridge, behind a large monolith that projects out into the sea. At this point we met up with John and Lena Chile, and Tom and Vivian McFarling. Tom brought his rope which, although not absolutely necessary, made coming down the steeper southerly side a little easier. Also with us at this point were George Lauer and John Burgess of Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat. Then it was one-more up to the bluffs before our final down into Russian Gulch.

Here we met Dana Zimmerman, who guided us along the bluffs between Russian Gulch and the Russian River. For part of the way, we walked along the bed of an old logging railroad; in some places remnants of the railroad ties were still evident.

We reached the northerly bank of the Russian River about 5 pm. By this time we were all exhausted, and the wind’s ferocity had increased. This wind meant that we had to abandon our plan to be ferried across by canoe. So we repaired to the relative calm and warmth of our camp at Willow Creek State Park, on the river a few miles inland. (Jon Breyfogle; photos, Linda Hanes)

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