Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not really a believer in “things happen for a reason”, more a believer in “things happen”. But I will say I was lucky, one day last month, to be waiting at a stop sign where the road to Pigeon Point Lighthouse meets California Highway 1. A truck pulling a trailer carrying 4 giraffes shot past. I was heading the same direction so I pulled onto the road behind them and followed that startling cargo for about 15 miles up the coast, until I turned off and the giraffes kept on going. Along the way I learned how to take pictures one-handed through the windshield without running off the road. If my little piece of heaven next to a lighthouse on a prominence overlooking the Pacific, and sleeping for 2 nights to the sound of pounding waves and the smell of the ocean were not enough, I got giraffes too.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven past that spot over the years, seen the sign and thought, “one day maybe I’ll stay there”. This summer, events conspired to propel me to the Bay Area, including a visit to my granddaughters in La Honda. The most beautiful route to their house on this trip was, once again, right past Pigeon Point. It was fate and this time I knew it. I went onto the hostel website and a bed in a dorm was available. While sleeping in a room with 5 other women is not normally my first choice, the only other time had been at a hostel owned by the same group and it was a success. So I booked a bottom bunk for 2 nights. The drive across the state, which I’m normally not fond of doing, became something to which I could look forward, even while not knowing exactly what to expect when I got there. That must be the definition of an adventure.
I left my first stop, in San Jose, in the early afternoon and drove over the mountain to Santa Cruz. At the edge of town I pulled off Highway 1 for a few groceries and gas, knowing I wouldn’t have another opportunity on my drive north to Pigeon Point.
As always, I felt the thrill of seeing the lighthouse in the distance as I approached, and I arrived right at check-in time. The wait was short, the staff helpful and friendly, I was given my sheets and sent to find my bed in Dolphin House. Just as I’d been promised, I found a large note with my name on my reserved bottom bunk and, to my delight, an open window inches from where my head would be as I slept, quite a wonderful prospect.
Next stop, the communal kitchen, to put my groceries away in 1 of the 2 fridges. I had my favorite canvas shopping bag in my hand and heard a voice say, “are you from Grass Valley?” Startled, I looked up to find a friendly face, Yvon I’d come to find out, who said in answer to my puzzled “yes”, “I used to work in that bakery”, pointing to the business name on the bag. I should be used to such meetings, after years of travels and bumping into friends of friends all over the world, as Yvon it turned out was too, but I’m amazed and delighted every time.
Bed made, belongings organized and food stashed, I headed out for La Honda and my family, farther up the coast and inland, following giraffes as I went. I confess, they were metal, not flesh and blood animals, headed I’m sure to Half Moon Bay where there’s a garden center that specializes in outdoor sculpture of the low maintenance livestock variety. But the sight of them flying past me could not have been more startling, at least momentarily.
We spent the evening eating burgers at Alice’s Restaurant, 4 girls’ night out while the Dad went to work. I arrived back at Pigeon Point late in the evening, tucked myself in by the window and slept soundly to the roar of surf so loud I heard nothing else. I woke late to find the morning crush for the bathroom over, showered, breakfasted on coffee, toast and goat cheese and set off to pick up my playmates for the day.
We stopped to take pictures in spots so familiar, yet somehow different when looked at through a lens. We were 3 ladies lunching, visiting goats and then back to the hostel for show & tell & tea in the kitchen, and a leisurely tour of the lighthouse grounds which, it turned out, was not their first time. I’d forgotten how much school children get around.
I’m confident this won’t have been my last stay at the Pigeon Point Hostel. In fact, my 2 best friends, currently age 8, and I have an unspecific date planned for a stay in a room for 3, just our size. Sooner, I hope, rather than later.
Join me in a week for a closer look at beautiful Pigeon Point Lighthouse, saving ships from the rocks at the left edge of the continent for 142 years
For others in PortMoresby’s Coastal California series, click here.
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