Marge and Russ Ridge have lived about a mile up Drake’s View Drive since the late ‘70’s. How they landed there includes their first meeting at a folkdance class at U.C. Berkeley, a very short courtship, and a serendipitous hike up and down Mt. Vision. What they’ve done in about four decades includes the care and feeding of an amazing, truly amazing garden; the nurturing of three kids and pets; and even the evisceration of many Tomales Bay rays to study their stomach contents.
Just think of the nomenclature! They live in Paradise Ranch Estates, named by the developer Doug Adams who, it’s rumored, got in a bulldozer one day and drove up as far as he could to carve a road and prepare to sell building sites. All these years later, try driving to the top and keep your eyes open for excessively ambitious bicyclists, the odd racing motorcycle, hurtling trucks (remember the logging behemoths after the Vision fire?); and certain idiotic skateboarders coming down around one of way too many curves. The Ridges (on Inverness Ridge) have seen them all.
Having just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, Marge and Russ remain surrounded by wildness and their mature flower and vegetable gardens. For example, just the sheer numbers of asparagus and berries are hard to describe. Even though they have a well, Marge says there’s a constant negotiation between them about what gets watered when and how much. Russ, a Master Gardener, is eager to describe his plants not only with Latin and common names, but with information about how they grow, where they came from, and what they require to thrive. Even in our fog, for example, there’s a lime tree heavy with fruit hard-by their front door.
Back to the ray stomachs: Russ is a biologist who worked on his master’s thesis at a marine station in Dillon Beach. He was interested in what those rays were eating; hence, you catch ‘em and gut ‘em and see what’s there. Luckily for his students, the completed master’s degree led to a great job at the College of Marin where he taught for twenty-five years.
The family first lived nearby in Kentfield, but spent lots of time in West Marin, notably a day hike in 1971 up Mount Vision as part of a demonstration to protest the road which had been cut without consideration (said the demonstrators) of destructive traffic, parking, visitor safety, etc. The Ridges joined the “fun” which continued when they decided to hike down from the top along trails leading to the top of Drake’s View Drive. At the bottom, was the Adams real estate office? The rest is history, except for the craziness required to get a building permit, craziness that included and ultimately led (very circuitously in the mid ‘70s) to the initiation of water service to Point Reyes Station, Olema, Inverness Park and (at last) Paradise Ranch Estates by the North Marin Water Districts.
The Ridge deck overlooks their gardens and a heavily visited birdbath. One recent early morning, just below, a skinny young coyote ambled by the birdbath. Maybe he snacked on the raspberries or, preferably, met a mouse or, even better, a couple of gophers.