Our next night was set to be spent on the Lost Cove – so named because it was deemed “…a patch of northern California so rugged that the engineers who built Highway 1, which hugs the coast from San Diego to Oregon, took the road 30 miles inland to avoid it.” (ForbesLife, October 2007). Its remoteness and maintained isolation should have been evident in the confirmation email I was sent upon making a reservation: “Drive slowly, use low gears, and move over if the crazy locals want to pass. It’s 23 miles – but plan on an hour.” And, “We have two nice restaurants with at least one open every evening for dinner.” I had made the reservation looking for a unique experience on the coast and everything indicated that would be the case.
I had apparently not fully prepped my husband for what the route would be like getting to The Tides Inn – frankly, I wasn’t prepared for it either. Indeed it took an hour to go up and down and up and down a mountain – densely wooded, dark, incredibly windy and narrow – an adventure in any car, but our rented Camry certainly had not seen this kind of switchback driving before. And as we continued to drive – presumably to our destination – the scenery rarely changed: it was thick with trees. At one point I thought I had glimpsed the blue of ocean only to realize it was the sky – trees, trees, more trees and some sky. In fact, at about mile 18 we had our doubts that the place even existed or that we would be oceanfront. Until we turned the last bend – and the only reason we hoped to think it was the last bend was at our GPS’ suggestion – we did not see ocean and had no reason to believe we were going to end up anywhere but a strange cottage nestled deep in the forest and outside of screaming distance.
But there it was – the powerful Pacific and a few homes dotting the rugged mountainside that butted up against it. We checked into our Inn, had reservations made at the one restaurant open for dinner and went down to the black-sand beach to check out the tide pools. The room was “beachy” in a low-key way and we had a couple chairs on the patio to look out on the ocean. The Pacific is a completely different beast than the Atlantic – or at least the areas of the Atlantic I’ve seen. Hard. Strong. Wild. Waves pound the rocks that protrude from the black-sand/polished pebble beach. They do not enter as a solid line but as several long lines of upset-ocean rising and crashing at different points, constantly, along the beach. There are warnings in the hotel literature to “Never turn your back on the ocean.” Here, it is ruthless, uncaring and quick.
Dinner was clearly intended to be an all-night affair. Our reservations were for 7 PM and we had a view of the water just before the sky completely blackened. The cover of the menu kindly reminded patrons that it was a small kitchen of only two restaurants on the island, so enjoy the ambiance and conversation. You will get your food but please be patient. Wood carvings, assorted fabrics, hanging lights in the shape of jellyfish freckled the interior. In the corner a man with a guitar provided background music – some Ray Charles, Eric Clapton and others. I ordered Thai Chicken which tasted a bit like someone had sprinkled spices in JIF peanut butter and dropped the chicken in it. It was edible and it gave Nick and I time to reflect on other eating adventures in our travels.
The 100 feet to our room after dinner was again spent with our necks craned upward – the black sky was clear and stars were visible for miles. We didn’t get up in time to see the tide pools so we’ll have to save that for our next visit. Since there weren’t any breakfast places open we opted to start the climb back toward civilization and make it to San Francisco while there was still daylight. On to Hotel #4.