The birds seemed in a hurry, zipping across the pink horizon, but we were in no rush. We were at the start of a three-day road trip up Highway 1, along an unspoiled stretch of Northern California that blends off-the-grid beauty with touches of wine country chic. The route we had mapped, from tiny Jenner (population 136) to the just about-as-tiny community of Elk, was barely 70 miles. Leisurely is the best way to travel this western fringe of Sonoma County, and fall is the ideal time. The fog has mostly disappeared, and the crowds of summer are mostly gone too.
The only plan we had was not to do much planning. We figured we would stop when inspiration struck, and we knew it would do so often, at scenic lookouts, lonely beaches, wooded trails, historic landmarks, and restaurants serving superb seasonal cuisine.