Westport, CA

Home: Howard Creek Ranch Inn ‘Captain’s Quarters’

Five nights at the Howard Creek Ranch Inn

We originally booked three nights at the Howard Creek Ranch, Friday through Sunday, to take shelter from the nearly-continuous rain over that period, with Sunday bringing the record-breakers. Monday promised a break before the last cough of rain Tuesday, which would allow us to continue our hop south from roof-to-roof strategy, but we loved Howard Creek Ranch so much that we decided to abandon the strategy and just stay in place for two more nights.

Getting rooted down in one spot for a while.

Four days and five nights in one place! Certainly a record for us, but a luxury, that truly gave an opportunity to catch up on all the things I’ve been trying to catch up on (including this blog, which had been running about five days behind real events, but should basically be caught up as of this post).

Swinging, bouncing suspension bridge over Howard Creek connecting the main house with the carriage barn.
The Carriage Barn. Our room, the “Captain’s Quarters” covers the three central windows of the wide dormer.

Day 2: Saturday, October 23

The Ranch sits on 60 acres, with direct paths under the Highway 1 bridge to the beach, and a trail that leads up to redwoods in the hills. It rained most of the day, but less-heavy than the next day, so we did a hike in our rain-gear and Ranch-provided rubber boots to explore.

Highway 1 and the ocean, seen from HCR’s south drive.
Rainy seas.
Rett walking the bridge to the Carriage Barn.
A nice Airstream rots at the top of the property.

We’re staying in the “Captain’s Quarters” of this ark (which also has Star Trek novels tucked everywhere), and it’s an enormous room with a massive custom wood bed, couch, dining table, and sitting area looking out the wall of three expansive windows. And that doesn’t even count our half-private/half-public dining room, which contains our kitchenette, dining table for 6-8, rocking horse, saddle, tympani, antique doll, etc.

We brought some great microwaveable bagged food with us over Leggett Hill, but then yesterday afternoon did take advantage of Sue’s generous offer to take her car the three miles into the small Westport grocery to stock up further (with drinks, we hadn’t wanted to take drinks over the hill!) Sue seemed fairly genuinely mad that we didn’t take her car the full 20 miles into Fort Bragg and go out to a restaurant instead. But no, it was a yummy bagged rice dinner for us, and we strung up our projector screen in front of one of the windows and watched ‘The Half of It’.

Overnight, it rained like hell, keeping Rett awake for hours. Though it rained enough for water to start dripping into our bathroom, it was sure better than being in our tent!

Day 3: Sunday, October 24

We stayed inside all day and night. Made plans, looked at the forecast for the millionth time, and we decided to stay here for two extra nights. Even with that extra “delay”, we’ll have nine days to make it the 200 miles to our VRBO booked in San Francisco, which should leave us plenty of time to slowly meander down the coast. And with the 10-day forecast looking markedly improved from Wednesday onward, meandering seems to be the exact way we should be progressing.

Vienna beef bagel dogs for lunch with chips and a Coke was a perfect thing, and definitely a change-up from our usual on-the-road lunches. For dinner we finally had pasta that we’d pre-cooked back at the Redwoods River Resort (which had a stovetop that we don’t have here), though once we arrived here and saw all the outdoor spaces, we would have had no problem setting up our campstove here to cook if we needed/wanted to.

We finally met one half of the couple that has owned the inn for nearly 50 years. Sunny is the creator of most of the living spaces on the property, which includes several rooms in the carriage barn, and several individual “cabins”, all of which are unique works of art. It would have taken away the relaxation, but jumping from place to place every night to check them all out was tempting!

We spent an hour talking largely politics with Sunny, but also about some of his green-energy inventions. He’s definitely a man full of big ideas, which is obviously a requirement to have created a place such as this. My feeling though is that his wife Sally must be at least as responsible for the creation as he is, if only as the one who ensures that at least a few of those grand ideas eventually get shepherded into reality.

Our movie screen seen from the outside.

Rett generously sat through the 3+ hours of ‘Apocalypse Now Redux’ with me (it’s a “horror”, “horror” movie, no?), and I found that it remains one of my all-time favorites.

Day 4: Monday, October 25

The day dawned sunny! Since these were ‘unplanned’ rest days, we needed to make another run to the Westport store for more food. We decided that this time riding our bikes would be a good way to get off our asses for a bit.

Exploding waves at Westport.

Amid breaks of blue sky, we did still get wet down by a decent shower on the way there though. And worse, as we were leaving the store, Rett slipped and fell, hard, on their wet wooden steps. The worst was her right forearm, which she initially feared she could have broken, but it seems to have “luckily” been only a deep bruise to her tendon/bone. We stood wet and chilled in the breeze while she iced it. I wanted to ride back, grab Sue’s car, and take us for an X-ray in Fort Bragg, but Rett insisted on trying the ride back, and thanks to the smooth road and her ever-improving bike skills, she was able to manage it.

So ironically, the first major crash of this trip came not on our bikes, or a mountain hike, but simply doing a normal-person errand. The good news is that we still had no plans to move on for another 48+ hours, so laying up and resting was sort of what the plan had been anyway.

The sun made it warm enough to sit in the unheated common area / solarium finally, so I did a lot of writing and listening to music there, taking advantage of the “separate spaces” that was one of the attractions for us that the Ranch offered, since “separate spaces” is a rare thing for us in this life! And with the weekend over, we seem to be the only guests left on the Ranch anyway.

Rett felt good enough for a walk to the beach / cliffs in the afternoon sun, where we watched the big waves that the hurricane-strength storm up north had generated and kept pushing our way even after its rain had passed.

Eroding cliffs just across / under CA 1 from Howard Creek Ranch.
Big, driving swells
150 feet down to that hidden beach.

We also briefly met Sally, who hasn’t been doing breakfast here at this bed-and-breakfast since COVID started, though we get the feeling that they might see COVID as a welcome excuse to take one thing off their plate. Sally puts two feet at a time on each step as she descends from their living quarters at the top of the ark, and says that after nearly 50 years so far, they’ll hopefully still be running this place for another 30 years, but her voice betrays a tiredness and resignation that knows that’s unlikely to be true.

Tonight’s movie was ‘The Strangers’, since Halloween-season means scary-movie-time for Rett (though so does Thanksgiving, Arbor Day, etc.) Back a few nights ago at the Redwoods River Resort, one of the (non-scary) DVDs Rett picked for us to watch was ‘Indian Summer’. It’s perhaps good that we saw it there rather than here, because it’s largely about “Uncle Lou” deciding to close his long-running summer-camp for kids, and a group of now-grown campers debating whether some of them should take over to protect the magical place from decay. Reading through the 20 years of guest-book entries on the dining table in this room (where at least 50% of the entries use the word “magical”), we are not the only guests who have had similar thoughts about Howard Creek Ranch.

Day 5: Tuesday, October 26

It was wet at sunrise, and it rained the whole morning, validating our decision to stay put. Due almost entirely to the last week, the area received more than 3 times its normal October rainfall. Sue here officially measured nearly 5 inches of rain over Saturday/Sunday. In San Francisco, with over 60,000 days of record-keeping, Sunday was 4th-wettest of those 60,000! There have been times during this week-plus under a roof where I wonder if we’ve just gotten too scared of rain, and whether we’ll be able to continue riding at all into the winter months if we can’t even handle October. So it’s some comfort that it’s been far from “normal” rain that’s forced us inside.

So it was another day of relaxing inside, trying to not get too fat and weak. Dinner was mac-and-cheese, cooked out on their rusty, dusty outdoor kitchen on the veranda we discovered, which saved us from setting up the camp stove. And ‘Zodiac’, which neither of us knew was about a killer who did his murders and the area we’re heading towards. The horror!



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