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Howard Creek Ranch: A Bit of New England on the Mendocino Coast
By Michael McColl

Northern California offers an array of options for business travelers looking to slide in a pleasurable side trip. Sometimes your compass points toward tried-and-true destinations like Yosemite, Carmel and Napa. Other times, the goal is to escape the crowds. When this urge strikes, consider venturing into the civilized wilderness of the Mendocino coast.

Recently, my travels led me to Westport, a tiny town near the jagged coastline north of Mendocino. Just outside town is Howard Creek Ranch, the perfect country escape. A remarkable sanctuary in an enchanting rural setting, Howard Creek is the kind of place that you may decide to keep a secret. This congenial two-story, New England-style farmhouse sits alongside Howard Creek, a stone's throw from beautiful beaches and dramatic coastline.

Hollywood expatriate Sonny Grigg and his wife, Sally, have created a vision of what a country bed and breakfast should be. A 75-foot swinging footbridge connects the main house to this working farm's barns, cabins and the quiet Howard Creek Beach. Colorful, award-winning flower gardens surround the inn. The richly restored Victorian decor exudes a feeling of authenticity while avoiding any hint of ostentation. Fresh flowers from the inn’s gardens wind up in every room.

The inn's hot tub and sauna are perfect for weary travelers back from a day of tide pooling, whale watching or exploring the giant redwood forests. Swimming in the new solar-heated pool will become another option by spring 1996. A warm fire attracts guests to the parlor at night, and a piano is available for the musically inclined.

Sally prepares a hearty country breakfast each morning at 9 on the ranch's original wood stoves. Menus change daily, reflecting whatever happens to be farm fresh that day. A typical breakfast might include local pears poached in apple cider, overstuffed omelets, country-style potatoes, extra-thick bacon or locally made sausage, apple-cinnamon muffins, juice and strong coffee.

Room rates at the 10-room inn, which range from $55 to $145 a night, are about half of what you would pay for comparable accommodations in Mendocino. The immense, two-story Redwood Suite, named for its hand-crafted redwood interior, has a living room with fireplace on the ground floor, with a sky-lit, king-sized bed upstairs. The suite also offers a microwave oven, a refrigerator, private bath and an ocean view. A favorite for privacy seekers is the Beach House, a separate redwood cabin with similar amenities, but with a sea-level ocean view and a Jacuzzi. Fans of the unusual will enjoy The Boat, a separate wooden cabin built around, you guessed it, the hull and galley of a boat; it's located in the woods, next to the stream.

For information, contact the Howard Creek Ranch at:

P.O. Box 121,
40501 North Highway 1,
Westport, Calif. 95488; (707) 964 6725.

(Travelwriter Michael McColl is author of “The Worldwide Guide to Cheap Airfares.”)

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