In Search of Summer // Part 2: Russian River Valley
I had heard earlier in the week that it was going to be 90 degrees in Healdsburg. 90 degrees what??? That’s like hot summer temps. I forward this information on to Mike and he took note of it but wasn’t in a place at that point in the week to commit to anything. As Friday rolled around it looked like Karl the Fog was here to stay for the weekend - see example A. So in a spontaneous move Mike and I packed up the car at 5 PM on Friday night and headed out to the Russian River Valley for a weekend of sun and exploration.
Since this was a spontaneous trip we hadn’t reserved a campsite or researched BLM land, and this was our first time heading up into the Russian River area so we weren’t really sure where we were headed. Let the adventure begin! We had called one campsite that informed us that 5,000 gay men we’re enjoying their time in Guernevile for the Lazy Bear Festival so all camp site were most likely sold out. Not ideal but not a huge problem for us because we we’re in our trusty adventure mobile - the Subbie, and we had no concrete plans, so we could go anywhere!
We drove up to Armstong Redwoods State Natural Reserve - which was super rad and a bit of a hidden gem for us! We drove past some awesome Redwoods and up a single lane winding road with beautiful vistas to get to the Bullfrog Pond Campground which is really the only spot in the area that has first come first serve camp sites so we were hoping we weren’t too late - but alas we were.
… but not too late to catch a spectacular sunset over the valley. We ended up having an awesome night drinking some boxed wine, eating Mike’s famous Tetrazzini, and sleeping in the car, which I don’t mind since you get panoramic views of the stars from your reclined bed. Plus this was our view in the morning - and we didn’t have to pack up a wet tent - not too shabby!
Did a little hike around the reserve while the fog burned off and the day heated up.
After exploring the Armstong Redwoods we drove into Guerneville to check out town, and pick up some grub. We stopped into the Big Bottom Market where we purchased the Sea Biscuit (salmon on a thyme & cheddar biscuit - amazeballs and a Garlic Turkey Sandwich on a brioche bun) I would suggest going there plus everything is local (and magical) as you can see from their chalkboard below:
Next up river time! Always trying to get off the beaten track, Mike and I found an awesome community beach away from all the hustle and bustle so we could truly have a relaxing day on the river.
After soaking up the rays for hours and hours - we stopped at Stumptown Brewery for some beer and BBQ - and I am sorry I have to say but my Dad’s BBQ is waaaaay better. I just love that South Carolina mustard based sauce.
Not wanting to hit up the same camping spot - and thinking we could possibly find a real campground to pitch our tent in, we drove up to Lake Sonoma, where we caught another spectacular sunset.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) - all camp sites were booked and we spent another comfortable evening in the Subbie.
We woke up Sunday morning socked in by Karl. Unable to get some swimming in at Lake Sonoma we went on a short hike and then headed into town to give Healdsburg a shakedown. We had brunch at The Parish Cafe - which I highly recommend. Love the open kitchen and the bar seating so you can watch all the action. We ordered the beignets covered in powdered sugar - which I usually wouldn’t order but a local couple sitting next to us insisted, the breakfast po'boy, and the crawfish & andouille sausage omelet. All freakin amazing!
After brunch it was time to get a taste of the Russian River Valley vino. We stopped into Matrix Winery - which is known for their Pinot Noirs.
The fog had fully burned off by the time we finished tasting - so we decided to hightail it back to the river. We picked a different spot this time on a suggestion from one of the sommeliers at Matrix. Mother’s Beach in Forestville is another awesome spot to spend the day. It’s a little more crowded than Saturday’s spot, and the river is not as deep for swimming, but if you don’t want to go all the way to Guerneville I’d suggested giving Mother’s Beach a try.
All in all our weekend up at the Russian River was pretty spectacular. It is nice to know that we can just go about an hour out of San Francisco and get into some real summer sunshine. It was everything we wanted out of a summer weekend with some hiking, camping, swimming, eating, and drinking. All awesome activities to get us back in that summer frame of mind. And I’d say what’s pretty cool is that so far this summer I’ve been to the beach at an ocean, a lake, and a river. Three different kinds of beaches, but all still representing the lifestyle of being by the water.
For Next Time:
Play Northwood Golf Course
Stay Raford Inn
Eat Bravas and Campo Finno
Sip Strykers Sonoma
Indulge Noble Folk Ice cream & Pie Bar