Following the Narrow Way

Rewarding View, Near Annapolis, California
Hidden Rewards

When my husband Rich and I planned a vacation for this winter, we intentionally chose a quiet, remote area. Rather than packing our days with attractions and activities, we wanted our vacation to serve as a quiet time together to relax and reconnect. We booked a cabin in Point Arena on California’s northern coast.

Here, pocket beaches piled with driftwood cling to the bases of cliffs that rise from the sea. Cattle and sheep graze in meadows overlooking the ocean. Redwoods rise on either side of the inland roads, their limbs forming an arcade as they stretch across the roadway overhead. A green sign beside the road announces each small town and states its population: “Point Arena, pop. 473.” “Manchester, pop. 462.” “Elk, pop. 250.”

We packed jeans, sweatshirts, and hiking boots. We brought books. Our cabin came with a fireplace.

Our general plan was to head out each day in a different direction, touring the small towns along the way and admiring the magnificent creation that stretched before us in all directions. And so, on Sunday, we pointed our car south and drove to Gualala, the next town south of Point Arena. After enjoying lunch there, we continued south, passing through The Sea Ranch and making our way to Stewarts Point. I noticed, as we drove south, a sign marking a road that led east from Highway 1. It read, “Annapolis 7.” Beneath the sign, an easel offered tasting at a winery in Annapolis.

On our return north we decided to turn east into the mountains towards Annapolis. At the junction, another sign read, “Trucks and RVs not recommended.” We made our way up the winding road, slowing for hairpin curves along the way. Near the top, we stopped at a turnout to admire the view of the river below.

A line of boulders formed a guardrail along the turnout’s edge. Rich stepped onto one of the boulders and offered me his hand; I scrambled up to stand beside him. We could see the river, muddied by the week’s rain, below. Our vantage point was shaded by redwood trees, but sunshine poured onto the river valley, gilding the foliage of the trees.

We stood in silence as deep as the shade, pierced only by the occasional call of a bird, and surveyed the scene that spread before us.

As we returned to the car, rain began to fall. A few minutes later we had reached Annapolis. We saw snug homes tucked beneath the trees, a school, a post office, and the winery. Once we’d passed through the hamlet, Rich began looking for a place to turn around.

I pulled out our map. “It looks like we can continue down this road. It loops around and rejoins the 1 at Stewarts Point.” Because the scenery was so beautiful, and because we had no further plans for the day, we pressed on.

The road grew narrower and more winding as we continued. We reached the top of the mountain and began our descent down the wet, twisting road. Rich drove carefully; we spoke little so that he could concentrate on the challenging route.

We came to a beautiful bridge barely wider than the width of a car. We stopped to photograph the bridge. Once we crossed over it, we could see that the road was only a single lane wide as it wriggled through the forest before us. A sign cautioned drivers to be alert for oncoming cars, but the corkscrewing route limited our view of the road ahead.

A Most Narrow Bridge

Where the drive had been challenging, it now became nerve-wracking. I caught myself holding my breath and reminded myself to breathe. Three times an oncoming car appeared and we pulled quickly to the side to allow it to pass. Somewhere along this stretch of the road we drove out of the mountaintop microclimate that had brought the rain; sunshine filtered through the tall trees.

Because we drove so slowly, I caught details of the scenery that I would have missed otherwise. I saw a bird’s nest knitted into the crotch of a tree. I noted the red litter of dried pine needles cushioning the ground alongside the road. Lichen grew on the tree trunks, creating a mosaic against the shaggy bark. Ferns sprouted up like hula skirts circling the bases of the straight, solemn trees.

Suddenly we came around a bend and before us stretched several hundred feet of straight roadway. Stewarts Point lay ahead. Beyond it the ocean glittered in the afternoon sun. Rich and I heaved simultaneous sighs of relief.

He pulled over for a moment before we rejoined Highway 1. “Man,” he said. “That was hairy.” “Yes it was!” I agreed. “Thank you for navigating us safely through it.” “You’re welcome,” he answered. “Tough as it was to follow that narrow road, those views were well worth it.”

He was right, of course. Driving that skinny mountain road had drawn us outside our comfort zones. The path was narrow and required constant attention, but it yielded rewards far beyond what we had imagined we might find there.

13″Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.
14″For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 (NASB)



Comments

  1. A beautiful description of an exciting, yet heart-warming vacation. I like the attitude toward life reflected by the two of you. Keep holding hands.
    Houston

  2. Houston, thank you for your kind words. It was an amazing vacation. You've given us some great advice. We'll follow it.

  3. Bradley J. Moore :

    Your writing brought me back to the remote trips and adventures I have taken to to the mountains in Maine, New Hampshire and the Adirondacks. I could smell the trees and the wet rain on the road, then feel the sunshine breaking through and warming me up.
    Such a beautiful description and details! And what a view you got at the end. Going outside of your comfort zone is worth it, isn't it?

  4. Bradley,
    Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad the piece took you somewhere good. And yes, stretching ourselves beyond comfort is worth it.

  5. Sheila, There are three beating hearts in that little town of Elk (pop. 250) that belong to me – one of them is my mom. Every chance I get, I head North to them and those breathtaking views, the unbelievable silence until your ears accustom to the sounds of nature alone, the peace and restoration of mind, body and soul. Isn't it easy to praise our Lord in those cathedrals of trees so tall you can't see their tops and the smell of the powerful ocean? It makes me wonder what majesty heaven must hold if all this beauty and serenity is here on earth. Thank you for taking me back there while I'm some 600 miles away. I needed the trip. And thanks to BWD for leading us to your blog.