Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


The Sea Ranch Bluff Trail

I was up in Sea Ranch with my family for Thanksgiving. I’d stopped there before and explored a little, and I once posted about the chapel, but this was my first time staying there. I loved it, of course; there’s a reason why it’s beloved and iconic. The landscape is dramatic, the houses are sited wonderfully in the landscape, and the hiking trail along the bluff has some great moments as it moves through the tunnel-like cypress windbreaks and the open bluffs.

While I was there I experimented with using an ipad for drawings. I didn’t save the ones that were entirely digital, but I liked the results when I hand drew a little thumbnail, photographed it with the ipad, then colored it digitally. The result is not all that different from coloring a drawing with markers, but it was quick and it let me erase or adjust the color and there’s something nice about the flatness of the digital color under the quick line work. I’ll probably experiment some more with entirely digital drawings in the future, but this method seemed like a good addition to my bag of tricks, allowing me to make two dozen sketches during a single hike.

I also did some watercolors, my first since our trip to Baja in February. I played with a few different kinds of paper and styles, getting a little more ambitious as I went. My focus was on the hiking trail. As far as I know, Halprin didn’t lay out the trail, but it highlights many of the ideas from his master plan: cluster the houses, keep them back behind or against the trees, and keep the meadows and coast open as common space. Some of the newer houses, including the one where I was staying, have pushed out into the meadows, but overall the plan has held up with remarkable integrity. It’s a tribute to the quality of the planning and architecture that the hiking through the developed area is as pleasant as the hiking down the road in Salt Point State Park.

This last one isn’t really part of the hiking trail, but it’s one of Sea Ranch’s most iconic elements and I love things like this where the design is based on grading. Halprin used the soil excavated for the swimming pool to create these exaggerated berms to keep out the wind and make a sheltered space around the pool. It’s one of California’s most unique swimming pools. After hiking on the open bluff trail, the enclosed space feels like a grotto or cenote.

Thanksgiving weekend marked eight years of this blog. Posting has slowed for me and just about every other garden blog I follow, and commenting has faded away, but I still prefer the blog over all of the other online formats. It remains a great tool for organizing thoughts, images, and links, and I often find myself going back into my archives or sidebar. I intend to keep posting, my thanks to everyone who keeps reading.

Two drawings from Thanksgiving 2019.


2 Responses to “The Sea Ranch Bluff Trail”

  1. December 5th, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Brent says:

    I too like the blog as way of communicating and making garden notes. I was recently able to search back through my blog to find the exact selections of plants that I’d forgotten. Sure, I could have done that with a paper journal, but not quite so conveniently.

  2. January 5th, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Donna says:

    What lovely watercolors! I agree, the ipad designs are very interesting. You’ve inspired me!

    Did you get a chance to visit the garden by Ohlson Rec Center- it showcases native plants. We decided that our courtyard would be done in native plantings to keep with the philosophy of living lightly with the land.

    I do hope you keep your posting up. I really enjoyed it. Look forward to your next post.

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