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On the Road with Nancy Brown: One-Tank Road Trips

Nancy D. Brown does Saddle Creek golf, Pescadero goats, and horseback riding in Half Moon Bay—all trips that don't require a stop at the gas station.

The Mini Cooper zips along Highway 4 bound for the Sierra Nevada foothills, a set of golf clubs rattle in the back seat. This time of year in Calaveras County, a different kind of rattle can be heard. It’s true, rattle snakes are a more common sighting than jumping frogs around these parts.

As I pull into the parking lot at Saddle Creek Resort, plump quail scuttle for cover under brush to escape golfers' foot steps. I drop the clubs and my bag at the front desk for a late check in. In fact, I am a poser in a country club setting. My husband is the golfer; I am the equestrian. I look out of place in this elegant resort, clad in riding boots and jeans.

My day begins with a firm hand shake and a warm smile from a Copperopolis Cowboy. Mike Toberer of Copper Valley Trail Company is taking me for a horseback ride through thousands of acres of private, historic ranch land. While Toberer is a professional over-night pack trip expert, he also enjoys arranging family horseback riding adventures. I happily trot along on Beau, a half Percheron, half Quarter horse, while Toberer leads the way on his trusty mule.

For the golfers reading this column, my husband enjoyed his time on the Saddle Creek Resort golf course. I’ll be writing a review shortly on What a Trip. 

Hanging with the Kids in Pescadero

A half block past Duarte’s Tavern, famous for its artichoke soup, is the road to Harley Farms Goat Dairy. Kids wait impatiently to join the other kids in the pasture—the other kids are goats, but they are both cute kids.

Harley Farms is a Pescadero goat dairy that is also open to the public for educational tours. Now in her 18th year at Harley Farms, owner Dee Harley had little prior experience with raising goats. “You never know what opportunities appear,” says Harley when asked how she got into the business. Harley has a gentle way about her and clearly enjoys the farm animals. “Looking out the kitchen window and seeing the goats makes me happy.”

The two hour goat tour costs $20 per person and includes time with the animals, a tour of the milking barn, followed with a goat cheese demonstration and tasting. Advance reservations are required for the Harley Farms Goat Tour.

Outdoor Adventures Await in Half Moon Bay

The mist hits my car windshield on this summer day in Half Moon Bay. That’s right; it’s foggy today on the California coast. In fact, most Diablo readers know to head to the Pacific Ocean to beat the Contra Costa heat.

My day begins at the marina in Pillar Point harbor. Sunday was brimming with fishermen and tourists haggling over the day’s catch. Today is Monday and the docks are vacant of fishermen. I have missed the fisherman’s version of the farmer’s market.

Instead, I circle back to the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company for a dinner of fresh halibut that evening. Chef Gaston Alfaro has worked his magic on the fish from the harbor, marinating the flaky white flesh in achiote, a Yucatan blend of annatto seed, chili, garlic, and cilantro. The fish is paired with Bootlegger’s Brown Ale, an English style, slightly sweet, light bodied malty Brown Ale—the Half Moon Bay brew is a match made for mavericks.

Besides golfing, kayaking, horseback riding, and fishing, Half Moon Bay is home to Mavericks, one of the world’s largest surfing competitions held in November. For a short video that I put together on Things to See and Do in Half Moon Bay, click here. 

Horseback Riding at Sea Horse Ranch

Sea Horse Ranch is one of the few places along the Northern California coast that offers beach horseback riding to the general public. It takes special horses to ride safely on Poplar Beach, where kite flyers and the pounding waves create distractions for horse and rider. If riding a horse on the beach is on your bucket list, Sea Horse Ranch is easily accessible for east bay residents.

If you have your own horse, visit Coastal Horseback Adventures for a beach riding overnight.

Getting There:

All destinations mentioned are one-tank road trips, less than two hours drive from Contra Costa County. I stayed at Saddle Creek Resort’s bungalows for my Copperopolis adventure. Half Moon Bay Inn served as my home base for an overnight stay in Half Moon Bay.

A lifelong resident of Contra Costa County, Nancy D. Brown grew up in Moraga. When she’s not traveling, she lives in Lafayette with her husband and teens. Nancy is the Uptake.com Travel Editor, writes the What a Trip blog and is a Contra Costa Times Lamorinda Sun columnist. Horse lovers will find her at writinghorseback.com
Follow Nancy on Twitter at twitter.com/Nancydbrown