By Mika Turim-Nygren, Travel Correspondent
In the early morning hours, when a heavy fog envelops the rocky bluffs of Greenwood Cove, a sort of eerie stillness takes over outside. It holds no sway in the kitchen of innkeeper Curtis Koval. Here the fireplace is already crackling, and Curtis is busy making breakfast, which on this morning includes nut cake, fruit salad, bacon, and swedish pancakesall garnished with nasturtium blossoms plucked from the garden outside.
Past the parlor, guest rooms showcase unique layouts and antique furnishings, which hark back to the inn's origins as a 1916 lumber workers' residence, in the days when trains carted redwood timber and the season's hottest flannel shirts along the cove's cliffs. Today, things have quieted down considerably, and views of the Pacific Ocean include few signs of human intervention. The Clifton room's bay window frames a vista of cliff-side pines and craggy islands dotting the sea. The private decks of the Headlands room lead to a perennial garden overlooking the frothy ocean below.
Hints of the Queen Anne cottage's lumber-working legacy linger in the redwood paneling of the living and dining rooms as well as in the kitchen, where sepia-toned photographs show laborers in rolled-up sleeves posed in front of the house as it once was. Outside, on a garden knoll, deck chairs sit feet from the bay's ridge and a fishpond burbles quietly.
Set on the Northern California shoreline just south of Mendocino, the quiet town of Elk enjoys small-town charm and year-round moderate temperatures. Pastel cottages perch along the coastal ridge, and an artists' collective serves as home to 28 local artists, whose output spills onto a front lawn dotted with delicate bronze sculptures and weathered wood carvings. "We have such a geologically exciting landscape," says local plein air painter Deborah Nord, referring to the steep ocean cliffs that crop up so often in her canvases.
The ocean-side bluffs also provide ideal lookouts for whale watching. "The easiest whale to see here on the coast is the California gray whale," says Tanya Smart, an instructor of environmental ethics at Point Cabrillo Light Station. The 50-foot-long leviathans journey southward in January, and upon their return in March, the area welcomes them back with a series of whale festivals and whale-size party hats.
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