Text & Photos: Christine Mcmahon Tumpson
Little River Inn
Beautiful. It is the word everyone uses to describe this tremendously unique spot in North Coastal California. Set among the redwoods to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West, be prepared to be awe-inspired with every mile, and be ready to know what it means to truly be able to count your blessings.
Driving from Calistoga in Napa County gave the exhilarating benefit of navigating northern California’s terrain while traveling on two-lane roads. CA-128 winds through the region, through little villages, dark lanes, bright barren hills, redwoods that obscure the sunny day, and finally, after a long mountain climb, to the top of the ridge above Van Damme State Park cove. It is impossible to do this drive and not ignite a thirst for historical knowledge as to the brave people who at one time traversed this great land without the benefits of modern technology. What kind of person has the resilience to carve out a special place in this hugely gorgeous, and at one time, extremely remote part of the world billed as paradise to attract those seeking a life lived beyond bounds.
Ole Hervilla, his wife, children, and grandchildren are those people. Astounding it is to stand in the foyer of the historic home built in the 1800s and gaze at the beautifully crafted curved staircase. One can instantly picture the children playing along it before the home was turned into the Little River Inn. Thankfully Ole developed interests in tennis, golf, and creating a perfect spot for a specialized spa, and restaurant. As for where the locals of Little River spend their evenings? It is at the Little River Inn’s bar and restaurant, appropriately named Ole’s Whale Watch Bar.
After watching Arnold Palmer play, Ole chose to build what was then, and still is, the one and only coastal golf course in northern California, Ole contacted several course developers, each more costly than the next. In frustration with the layouts, Ole designed the spectacular 9-hole course himself. The decision was wise, as the cuts and grooves in the course’s fairways and greens make for breath-taking views at every turn!
A perfect spot for weddings, reunions, and group/corporate meetings, the Mallory House was the spot for a romantic elopement during this visit. A couple who lived several hours away had taken the romantic drive to say their vows at Little River Inn’s historic home set yards away from the cliffs. Whales, seals, pelicans, and butterflies literally adorn the videos and pictures taken of the two lovebirds and seem surreal in their portrayal of what was actually happening. From their perch in the top floor of the 3-unit home, they watched the sun set, she in her embroidered wedding gown, he in his suit but without the jacket, holding champagne flutes, and toasting a new life. It was beautiful to witness. Just beautiful.
Little River Inn, 7751 CA-1, Little River, CA. 707.937.5942. littleriverinn.com
The Inn at Newport Ranch
How does one write a love letter to a ranch? The Inn at Newport Ranch inspires such thoughts from the very first turn through the large gates onto the rugged terrain where the Inn sits on the cliffs of the Pacific coastline near Fort Bragg. The land here is vast, with more life teeming through it than one can possibly imagine. From the fish and seals evading the predatory birds, to the black-tailed deer running past the newborn calf nursing with its mother in the redwood forest, the beauty of paradise melds with the possibilities of nature.
Owner and ranch founder Will Jackson had a creative vision from the very first time he laid eyes on the 2,000-acre cattle ranch. A brilliant financier who had mastered global success, Will was able to recognize the potential of this land, which he says, “cost less than one acre back East.” Ramshackle quickly became classically restored within the Inn and the additional buildings. With loving care and witty intellect, Will filled the spaces with hand-chosen artifacts that beg for explanation of their origins, fine bedding that provides for serious slumber, and staff services at the very top of the scale.
Besides being filled with books and music, and smelling redolent of log-burning fireplaces, (more on those later), the Inn’s atmosphere brings a desire to return with the entire extended family, to fill it up with laughter, great conversation, and amazing food. The property’s postage-stamp footprint is intentional, to encourage a oneness with nature that is so grand, so opulent, and so magnificent, the lyrics from “This Land is Your Land,” tumble in the background of one’s thoughts.
The quality of the ranch makes it intellectually stimulating and remarkably memorable. It is a working cattle ranch, and was birthing time during the visit, so little babies ran alongside their mothers on the mountainous slopes. To see their tracks later on an ATV ride that ranks among lifetime bests, was astounding because of the heights that they climbed. To find these large, casual-postured cows in the redwood valleys near the end of the ATV ride was even more surprising. Perhaps they were being led by the fairies that the locals say live among the huge, ancient trees in the forest, or maybe they were admiring the benches and rock arrangements made by Will himself.
During the visit, Will’s eldest daughter, Annie, explained the ranch’s history, and the family’s passion for it. One of the most dramatic settings is that of Annie’s bench, a favorite of Will’s, and certainly of Annie herself!
The priority of the staff is to make everyone cared for, and feel at home. The food is incredible so there is no reason to leave the ranch. With gorgeous stone fireplaces crafted by Will in arrangements that encourage sitting in the fireplace itself or on the rocks that comprise the side of it, conversations with the owners, staff, and other guests are easy and fun. Catching a glimpse at Will having one such talk with a guest while sitting in the dining room’s fireplace sipping a glass of wine, it was immediately apparent that this was his vision for the Inn at Newport Ranch all those years ago when he first traversed the nation to resettle here; to celebrate and honor the historic pioneer spirit and live on the edge with elegance.
The Inn at Newport Ranch, 31502 CA-1, Fort Bragg, CA. 707.962.4818. theinnatnewportranch.com