Best Postmaster and Post Office

Elena Tyrrell, Canyon Post Office

Bizarre abnormalities are apparent before you've even set foot in this post office. Dial the phone number, and a human being answers. A friendly human being. Her name is Elena Tyrrell, and she's a second-generation postmaster and the sole employee at this branch in Canyon, a tiny unincorporated community nestled between Oakland and Moraga. A government-run office with a single worker? It sounds like a Kafkaesque nightmare, but this postal Xanadu never even has a line. Instead there's a dish of free candy and family photos next to the counter. Renegade Elena doesn't wear the uniform and brings her faithful pup Joe to work with her most days. The cabin-like building boasts folksy flower-child touches, like hand-carved wooden signs for the "local" and "out of town" mail slots. The catch? It's practically a day trip to get there. From Skyline Boulevard in Montclair, head down the eastern slopes of the Oakland hills on zigzaggy Pinehurst Road. Eventually the road darkens beneath looming redwoods, the birds (or are they angels?) begin to sing, and a luxuriously empty parking lot emerges next to — seriously — a gurgling stream. Going postal never felt so good.

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