Weekend Special: Fish-Head Fence in San Gregorio, California


This remote cove can be attained only by clutching a nylon rope and rappelling down a steep cliff face.

The area surrounding San Francisco Bay–anchored by the city of San Francisco in the north and San Jose in the south–is a welter of densely populated towns and superhighways and high-tech companies, but climb westward over the San Cruz Mountains and find a shelf of land along the Pacific Ocean that’s sparsely populated and given to agricultural usages. It’s a land of old pickup trucks, lonely redwood preserves, expansive vistas, and secluded coves that can be accessed only by vigorous and sometimes treacherous climbs.

Jagged rocks discourage all but the most intrepid surfers.

Advancing and retreating surf carves out the strangest rock formations.

Just inland from the coast is a fertile tableland, which enjoys a climate so temperate, that three growing seasons can be wedged into a single year. The most famous crop is artichokes, which are made into soups and dips at restaurants like the famed Duarte’s, a Portuguese bar in Pescadero. To the east of this agricultural land are rolling foothills, which are the site of several rarely visited redwood preserves. The landscape west of the Santa Cruz Mountains also harbors horse and goat farms, and fields of strawberries, and farmsteads that recall the 1930s. Time stands still along this part of the California coast.

The celebrated Harley Farms Goat Dairy of Pescadero.

Baby goats at Harley Farms Goat Dairy.

Redwoods in the Purisima Creek Reserve, Half Moon Bay

Commercial hay maze spotted from Highway 1 makes this foggy region feel very Blair Witch.

After driving through the foothills north and east of Pescadero, I stumbled on the small town of San Gregorio, really just an old adobe store and post office, with some farmers and hunters gathered outside discussing the weather. They gave me the hairy eyeball as I entered. But inside the place I found the biggest collection of hippie T-shirts, post cards, and touristic geegaws, evidently stocked for the tourist hordes that descend on the place on weekends. The store was also the site of the only bar in town, and a surprisingly well stocked grocery store, with a collection of luxury groceries in addition to the fundamentals. As I decamped from the country store, a strange sight presented itself: A fence next to the dirt parking lot had been extensively decorated with the heads of fish. Invitation or warning?

The San Gregorio General Store advertises “Cold Drinks” and “Smokes.”

Across from the San Gregorio General Store is a fence inscrutably festooned with fish heads.


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