In West Marin, set upon the shores of the Point Reyes Estuary, lies the sleepy little village of Point Reyes Station. A charming place, founded in the 1800’s, and built up with the arrival of the railway system serving the North Coast lumber industry. The population of the area was made up of ranchers and dairy farmers primarily, and remains so today. Many of its original buildings still grace its streets, reminiscent of an old western movie set, complete with the Old West Saloon and Hotel occupying a prominent corner on the main street.
I was happy to discover that it’s not a movie set at all, it’s a living, breathing, heartfelt community with a rich past and an authentic present.
As I stepped out onto the shaded sidewalk of the main street, the air hung with a damp saltiness. A light breeze, mixing with the earthy scent of the nearby salt marsh and the sweet fragrance of the blooming privet, had me feeling fresh, relaxed and ready to explore.
There was something palpable in the community spirit of this little village that drew me in almost immediately. It beckoned me to pull away the curtain and find out what made up its core. I began my exploration poking along the main street and was met by the “stepping back in time” quality of the shops and storefronts along the way.
At the west end of town, spinning lazily in red, white and blue was the classic, and apparently original, Barber pole of Dan’s Barber Shop. Peering into the gold gilded front window I could see the obliging barber snipping away as he chatted with his customer. I felt like I’d time traveled into Mayberry and an episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Shave and a haircut, 2 bits! Is that Floyd?
Just a few doors down, Cadalines shows her wares, boasting clothing, gifts and saddlery, naturally! I was hit instantly with the rich, luxurious smell of freshly oiled leather the moment I passed the over threshold. A riot of ‘General Merchandise’ was haphazardly stuffed onto racks and overflowing tall shelves and hooks in the front of the shop. I had to chuckle as I envisioned this shop as an explosion of a 1950’s hardback suitcase refusing to contain its contents any longer. Friendly staff greeted me as I wove my way through the maize of isles toward the back of the shop where the saddlery appeared.
Crammed along the back wall hung bridles and tack of every description, gleaming with the pride of it’s shopkeeper. A local farmer caressing the leather of a beautiful bridle confirmed my impression that this is truly still a very authentic local village, despite its deluge of tourists on the weekends.
But this place is not only about old fashioned charm. The quality of the art galleries is impressive, many exhibiting the talent of local artists. More often than not, the subject matter is of the beautiful countryside, it’s farms, ranches and local characters. A few Foodie worthy restaurants are sporting well conceived menus as well. Murals, much larger than life, painted on the old Railway Depot walls add all the more color and charm to a shady picnic spot for a rest or a snack. There is definitely a nod toward the artist culture of the village.
Next door, a profusion of vibrant, locally grown flowers and veggies are arranged on the front porch (complete with red rocking chairs) of Toby’s general store, looking like a brilliant summer sunset with their riot of reds, oranges and yellows. I wanted to stop and take it all in, so I perched upon one of those rocking chairs and watched the procession of locals, tourists go about their day.
One delicious latte latter I was ready to continue. Not surprisingly, I soon found the unofficial town mascot. A lovingly cared for black and white terrier looking regal as he stood sentry at his owner’s shop entrance. Taking seriously his job of greeter, he welcomed all passersby to place a little introductory pat upon his head.
There were a few iconic places in town I didn’t want to miss before heading out toward the Salt Marshes. The first, now famous Cowgirl Creamery, I found on a little side street. It seemed like the perfect spot for lunch with its tree shaded back garden and picnic tables. We enjoyed a quick lunch of creative salads and sandwiches featuring their freshly made cheeses. Kids of all ages had their noses pressed to the observation window of the cheese making kitchen.
It was fascinating to watch the production of the creamery’s pillowy balls of goodness while we waited for our order. All ingredients for these masterful cheeses are sourced within a very short distance, so literally Farm to Table within hours.
A quick stop for a sweet treat at Bovine Bakery, another icon of this village, seemed like a good idea. True to form, it didn’t disappoint. When you visit you’ll most likely see a few bikers sitting on the bench out front. This bakery is a popular stop for riders (on pedal and engine powered beasts) in pursuit of their weekend warrior activities along the coast and backroads of Marin County.
Before heading back up the coast I wanted to have a walk through the beautiful Salt Marsh at the edge of town. Well tended trails weave through the tall grasses and meander along the edge of the estuary. The perfect ending to my day, the squawking shorebirds and honking geese were a wonderful a reminder of how fortunate we are to have this natural, pristine area right in our own back yard.