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If you go to Elk

Where to stay

Harbor House Inn: Rooms from $350, prix-fixe dinner $150; 5600 S. Highway 1, Elk; 800-720-7474, theharborhouseinn.com

Where to eat

The Elk Store: Deli and grocery, 6101 Highway 1, Elk; 707-877-3544, theelkstore.com

What to see

Greenwood State Beach Visitor Center and Museum: 5980 Highway 1, Elk; hours vary; 707-937-5804

The Artist’s Collective: 6031 Highway 1, Elk; 707-877-1128, artists-collective.net

This story originally appeared on PressDemocrat.com.

Nibbling on a slice of duck-leg jerky, sipping a glass of pinot noir, and watching the sun hover above the Pacific from the deck of the newly renovated Harbor House Inn, it’s easy to sense that the coastal hamlet of Elk is about to become much better known.

The former lumber town, about 15 miles south of Mendocino, has gently slumbered for decades, visited by the curious few, some just taking a break while driving down Highway 1.

Yet with the re-opening of Harbor House in May — featuring a 25-seat restaurant run by Chef Matthew Kammerer, most recently executive sous chef at San Francisco’s renowned Saison — Elk stands to become a destination unto itself.

Kammerer and Amanda Nemec, his partner in life and business, have spent more than a year renovating the 101-year-old inn.

The building has some dramatic touches, such as redwood beams that evoke Elk’s lumber history and a 6-foot-diameter slice of petrified wood on display in the entryway. Over the past year, Kammerer and the kitchen crew have planted 15 raised vegetable beds in a garden that slopes down to the ocean.

They’re growing alpine strawberries, pineapple sage, radishes, turnips, some of it picked, taken to the kitchen, and on diners’ plates in less than a half-hour. An inveterate forager, Kammerer also collects seaweed from the beach below the inn, and mushrooms from Mendocino’s forests.

He and Nemec intend to offer diners a sense of place, so virtually everything served comes from within a 50-mile radius of the inn, including wine such as the Pinot from nearby Drew Family Cellars.

Fresh fish is purchased at docks from fisherman, and the fare is Asian-inspired, not heavy, with a healthy dose of sea vegetables and pickled delicacies.

Overnight guests stay at the inn’s main building or reside in cottages next door with spectacular views of the coastline and ocean.

As relaxed as Elk can be, there are things worth doing, such as visiting Elk’s museum, which reveals the town’s lumber history and doubles as a visitor center. The Greenwood State Beach Visitor Center and Museum is staffed by Martin Christiansen, whose grandfather ran a mill for L.E. White, a lumber company based in Elk about a century ago.

“My grandfather’s name was John Simpson Ross,” Christiansen said, pointing to a photo on the wall. “There’s a picture of him here.”

L.E. White was taken over by Goodyear, the tire company, and the building that’s now the museum was once the company’s local office.

Filled with relics from Elk’s lumber heyday, the museum has an antique adding machine, an early washing machine that looks like a giant butter churner, a Western saddle dating to about 1900, and an ornate woodstove that provided comfort during Elk’s bone-chilling winters.

Originally named Greenwood by pioneers in the 1820s, the town, when the U.S. Postal Service reached California, changed its name to Elk because there was a city called Greenwood near Sacramento.

But some locals still refer to it as Greenwood, and the narrow curving ribbon of asphalt that leads to Elk from the Anderson Valley is called Philo-Greenwood Road.

At the museum, Christiansen says that the bits of steel in the floor came from logger’s spiked boots, a pair of which are on display. Some 5,000 or more men lived at lumber camps in the woods, he said, and about 1,000 lived in town. Today, Elk’s population is just over 200 people.

If you go to Elk

Where to stay

Harbor House Inn: Rooms from $350, prix-fixe dinner $150; 5600 S. Highway 1, Elk; 800-720-7474, theharborhouseinn.com

Where to eat

The Elk Store: Deli and grocery, 6101 Highway 1, Elk; 707-877-3544, theelkstore.com

What to see

Greenwood State Beach Visitor Center and Museum: 5980 Highway 1, Elk; hours vary; 707-937-5804

The Artist’s Collective: 6031 Highway 1, Elk; 707-877-1128, artists-collective.net

This story originally appeared on PressDemocrat.com.

While it’s well-known that wood from Mendocino County’s forests was used to rebuild San Francisco after the Great Earthquake of 1906, many aren’t aware that redwood from nearby forests was made into railroad ties used as far away as South America.

There’s an entire room dedicated to photos, some framed, others in albums donated by local families. Visitors can pore over black-and-white images in albums such as “Rebuilding Greenwood Bridge, Vol. 3” and “Great Day in Elk, Vol. 2.”

Great Day in Elk, the town’s annual parade held in late August, celebrates the bounty of the region. It’s still going strong today.

Perhaps the most interesting character profiled in Elk’s museum is Charlie Li Foo, a Chinese immigrant who worked in the lumber camps.

While he was working alone in the woods in the 1880s, legend has it, Li Foo’s leg became trapped between two logs. To escape, he had to cut his leg off with a pocket knife.

That ended his work in the forests, and – this much is true – he became a barber and, despite anti-immigrant sentiment, one of Elk’s leading citizens.

For lunch, I stopped at the Elk Store, a general grocery and deli, and bought a pork belly banh mi sandwich, then walked across Highway 1 to a picnic table overlooking Greenwood State Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

The sandwich cost $14 and was worth every penny — the million-dollar view was free.

No visitor to Elk should miss The Artist’s Collective, showcasing work from about 30 artists, most local to Mendocino County.

The collective features redwood burl tables, nature photography, sophisticated visual art and ceramics.

Leather worker Billy Sprague, displayed his work on the entry table, and said each artist works one day a month at the gallery.

“I live north of Fort Bragg,” he said. “It’s a bit of a drive, but it’s beautiful. I’m not in much of a rush so it’s all good.”

And that’s the thing about Elk – everything from the winding roads that lead there to the ever-pounding ocean says: Take it easy.

So it doesn’t take long for visitors to slow down, inhale the sea-scented air, and sink into Elk’s relaxed rhythms.

Michael Shapiro writes about travel for national magazines