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Discover an idyllic resort and tasty vegan food on a weekend trip to Mendocino

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Strolling the Stanford Inn’s lovely gardens is a popular pastime for guests and their pets.
(Dorothy O’Donnell)

You won’t find meat or dairy items at Stanford Inn by the Sea. But you will find gourmet plant-based fare even meat eaters would enjoy at this resort in Mendocino. Pets are welcome, which is what first drew my husband and me to the inn 20 years ago. We’ve returned many times with our dogs and daughter, the lone vegan in the family. All of us love the food. But it’s the idyllic setting and chill New Age vibe that lure us back.

We explored Big River, a protected estuary, by outrigger canoe, keeping an eye out for otters and seals. The resort borders a state marine conservation area and rents boats at its Catch a Canoe. Guests can get free bikes here too. Post-paddle, we hit the tranquil solarium to swim and soak in the whirlpool. Stanford Inn also offers massage, yoga and a variety of experiential programs. Off-campus, the charming village of Mendocino is five minutes away. The tab: $485 per night, full breakfast and afternoon dessert tasting included; about $150 for additional meals and $35 to rent a canoe.

THE BED
As part of an ongoing makeover, our homey room at the Stanford Inn sported new contemporary rustic furniture. The fresh furnishings complemented the familiar pine-paneled walls, beam ceilings and wood-burning fireplaces. Like all rooms at the inn, ours included a private deck overlooking the grounds and ocean. During a recent stay, we did what we always do: wandered the 10 acres of lush organic gardens and mingled with the horses, llamas and donkeys that hang out in a hillside pasture.

THE MEAL

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Fuel up for the day with a hearty vegan breakfast at the Ravens, the Stanford Inn’s on-site restaurant.
(Dorothy O’Donnell)
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Breakfast at the Ravens, the resort’s vegan restaurant, featured inventive dishes, many starring just-picked ingredients from the gardens. I didn’t miss the eggs in my portobello Benedict, a savory concoction of juicy mushrooms, spinach and creamy hollandaise sauce. My daughter loved her French toast; breakfast polenta topped with sautéed veggies and a rich cashew-cheese sauce satisfied my husband. For dinner one evening, we shared several tasty small plates. I’ve never been a tofu fan, but the Ravens’ tamari-maple-glazed version converted me.

THE FIND
Just north of the inn, driftwood-strewn Big River Beach is a popular spot for dogs and their humans. We had visited before but made a discovery on this trip: the flat multi-use trail at the east end of the parking lot. The former logging road hugs the river for six miles and is suitable for hiking and mountain biking. You can connect to more challenging trails at the end of the road.

THE LESSON LEARNED

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The author’s daughter and their dog explore Mendocino’s Big River in a canine-friendly outrigger rented from Catch a Canoe.
(Dorothy O’Donnell)

Make your Big River excursion more relaxing by departing when the tide is in and returning when it’s out. The folks at Catch a Canoe helped us time our canoe trip for optimal conditions. Even then, we faced a bit of headwind on the way back.

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Stanford Inn by the Sea and the Ravens, 44850 Comptche Ukiah Road, Mendocino; (800) 331-8884, stanfordinn.com. Forty-one rooms, including wheelchair-accessible accommodations, from about $350 off-season. One-time $45 fee for pets. The Ravens serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Catch a Canoe, 1 S. Big River Road, Mendocino; (707) 937-0273, catchacanoe.com. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.


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