Taken In By the Scenery

The Marin coast is one of my favorite places in the whole world. It’s home to my favorite hikes, and my favorite views. It’s where I go when I need a mental health days, and where Mr. WholeHog took me for my last birthday. It’s been the site of many important events in my life. I got engaged in Point Reyes and married in the Marin Headlands.

There’s so much to love about this area:  its green hills and valleys, lit with wildflowers this time of year; the smell of bay laurel and ocean; and the variety you can experience in such a short distance. On a single hike in Marin, you can be in a forest, in a bright, grassy meadow, along a sharp ridgeline down in a shady redwood grove, or on a farm.

I love that farms are nestled right up along the Marin coast. In parts of Point Reyes, cows graze peacefully on the bluffs right above the ocean.  From Muir Beach, you can walk through the fields of produce at Green Gulch Farm.

I love all the different views from Marin: the endless Pacific, the crescent curve of Stinson Beach, the expanse of the bay and San Quentin, the brief glimpse of San Francisco’s highest points — the triangular hat of the Transamerica Building, the top rung of the Golden Gate Bridge — visible between the green hills.

As much as I like go visit this part of the coast, the one thing I find lacking is a great place to stay. I’ve tried many different options. I’ve stayed at hostels and hotels, and cottages and cabins, but none have been inspiring.

The Marin Headlands hostel isn’t private enough, Manka’s isn’t worth the cost, the Olema Cottages are too close to the road, and the Steep Ravine cabins were a little too primitive (and they book up so far in advance).

Hope Cottage, part of Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center, looked ideal. It was certainly private. It’s up on a ridge, on its own, high above Green Gulch. (That’s it, that little structure under the trees in the photo below).

It’s a hike-in spot but there’s not much you need to bring with you since it has a bed, a bathroom, a small kitchen with basic food supplies, and a wood burning stove to keep you cozy if the fog rolls in or the wind is howling.

From the cottage, you can set off on trails that can take you over to Mt. Tam or down into Tennessee Valley. Or you can simple sit and take in the spectacular view looking down the valley, across the fields of Green Gulch Farm and down to where the ocean breaks at Muir Beach.

But along with the amazing views, the easy access to hiking trails and the quiet, remote location came mice. These mice were not outside where I expect mice to live. These mice were inside the cottage and they’d made themselves quite at home.

This didn’t worry the zensters at Green Gulch. “Well, we don’t want them jumping on you or biting you,” the man at the office said when I called. “But we don’t have traps.” This did not bring me serenity. Jumping and biting was exactly what I was most worried about.

I cursed myself for not knowing better. I’d looked at the cottage and thought only of the beautiful views and the quiet location. I should have known that a cabin out in the wild might have some wild residents. I cursed the zenned-out hippies at Green Gulch for failing to mention the obvious rodent problem. They’d made sure to explain that the hike into the cottage was uphill and they’d suggested certain supplies to bring with us, why not mention that we’d need a mouse trap?

But mice aren’t a problem unique to Green Gulch. There were mice when we stayed at Manka’s, which is decidedly more swank than Hope Cottage, but at least the Manka mice were outside on the deck. I heard a mouse at the Steep Ravine cabins although thankfully I never saw one. It seems to be a common problem for places along the Marin coast.

Any weekend ruined by mice would be disappointing, but I’d made the mistake of booking Hope Cottage for our first anniversary. I’d hoped that it would be a memorable trip, and it certainly was  — just not the in the way I’d hoped. So when we got home, I planned a second anniversary trip. We’d had two weddings in 2009, I reasoned, so why not have two anniversary weekends?

For our second anniversary weekend, I booked a cottage at Indian Springs. It doesn’t have the beauty of the Marin coast. It’s not wild or remote. We can practically reach out and touch the other cottages. But we know there are no mice, we know the staff is responsive and we know that we can relax in the hot, mineral pool, under the stars.

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