Northern Coast Offers Vistas of a Vanished Era: By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday August 10, 2004

While Bay Area folks often claim that California is two states, with a virtual political border crossing the state on an East/West line somewhere south of San Jose, perhaps the real second state begins north of Marin County—dividing the sparsely settled rural California of decades past from today’s postmodern urban landscape. 

Vast stretches of the northland simply don’t exist for cell phone addicts, and forget about DSL lines and cable TV—though they’re beginning to metastasize into parts of the hinterlands. 

Two icons of California’s past may be found along one of the most pleasant drives in the state, traveling through stretches of old growth forest and along ever-changing expanses of rugged shoreline. 

Point Arena, 129 miles north of Berkeley on Highway 1, offers an intimate look at the only lighthouse currently open to the public. (Department of Homeland Security orders have closed tours of other lighthouses, and Point Arena is open only because it is currently awaiting a major retrofit.) 

Originally built of brick in 1870 and rebuilt in concrete following the 1906 earthquake, the tower’s 19th century sodium glass Fresnel lenses—made according to a now lost secret formula—need replacement, affording visitors a chance to see the lighthouse firsthand. 

Volunteers from the non-profit Point Arena Lighthouse Keepers offer informative tours of the museum and lighthouse tower—reached by a six-story spiral staircase well worth the climb for a glimpse of the magnificent lenses and equally spectacular balcony views. 

For more information, see www.mcn.org/1/palight/gallery.html. 

Another 168 miles to the north is one of California’s most astonishing small towns. Ferndale residents have preserved the community’s delightful Victorian structures, making the hamlet a favored stop for architecture buffs, antique shoppers and bed and breakfast devotees. 

Hollywood location scouts have also picked the town as an icon of a long-vanished America. Among the titles filmed there have been: The Majestic, a 2001 Jim Carrey film set in the McCarthy era; Outbreak, a 1995 Dustin Hoffman medical thriller filmed; and Salem’s Lot, a 1978 adaptation of a Stephen King novel. 

For a full 360 degree panoramic of Ferndale’s Main Street see http://virtualguidebooks.com/NorthCalif/RedwoodHwyEureka/ScotiaFerndale/MainStreetFerndale.html. A more detailed account of the individual buildings is available at http://ebeltz.net/fieldtrips/mainstreetwalk.html.3