Western View: Visit Parkfield

Taylor Hillman Features, Western View

This summer we’ve been talking about places to go when you have a day off and need some fresh scenery. Let me tell you about one of my favorite places on the map.

Parkfield is a quiet and quaint wide spot in the road located in the central coast mountains between Paso Robles and Coalinga. It’s famous as ‘the earthquake capital of the world.’ Geologists, as well as earthquake enthusiasts, love to visit Parkfield and scour the hillsides for evidence of tectonic plate shifts. The earth shakes often here but at low intensity – as Californians well know, frequent small quakes are much safer than an occasional big one. So this is a good place to study earthquake activity. But check the bridge south of town – it goes over the San Andreas fault, and you can actually see how far the earth has moved since the bridge was built.

In the town of Parkfield there’s a wonderful little restaurant with outstanding meals, featuring local beef, and there’s a log cabin lodge with a dozen or so rooms. The town has 18 residents, not counting horses and cattle, but it grows to thousands during special events.

But my favorite time to visit is on a Thursday or Friday when the restaurant is open – I like the place best when time moves as slow as an old dog on a hot day. I like it when there is time to explore all the woodwork, the carvings, old equipment, and unique old buildings scattered around the village.

But what really makes Parkfield unique is a man: Jack Varian. Jack and his wife Zera came to Parkfield in 1961, as the new owner of a 6,000 acre ranch. He built a life in those California hills, working with natural solutions to improve the graze and water for his cattle, and grew the ranch to 20,000 acres. Late in the 1980’s his son Jack came back from college without a job; so they built the restaurant and began rebuilding the town.

The rest, as they say is history. It became a family venture, and the family did their part to not only restore the town, but to give it a reason to live. They began their Cowboy Academy — a real life version of the movie ‘City Slickers’ . From that grew the rodeo, a cattle drive, the Bluegrass Festival, and several other special event weekends. Check their website – parkfield.com to see what goes on there.

There’s one more thing Jack Varian has done to keep the V6 and Parkfield unique. His ranch has been incorporated into a conservancy, and cannot ever be subdivided. It will forever be a wild spot in the central coast mountains.

Thanks, Jack. My great grandchildren will thank you too.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.