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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sonoma County for the outdoorsy types

Not everyone wants to drink wine during their entire trip.

I know, some people are gasping at the thought. What?  But it's true. So here are a few suggestions if you want to start your day with a little exercise, take a break between wineries (a good idea), or take a day off from wine tasting.

There are 11 state parks and 45 regional parks in the county. Lake Sonoma, Spring Lake, and Lake Ralphine are within parks. The two main rivers are the Petaluma River and Russian River. There are mountains and over 50 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline.

A sampling of some of the many parks:

Annadel State Park is in Santa Rosa and is very popular. There are several miles of trails. A favorite spot for mountain bikers. Trails are easy to moderate. Bring your own water.

Armstrong Redwoods in the western part of the county contains the world's tallest living things--coastal Redwoods--some over 1,000 years old. If you haven't "walked among the giants" before then this is a must do. Note: If you park at the entrance and walk in there's no charge. It's an easy walk.

Hood Mountain Regional Park is at the eastern edge of Santa Rosa overlooking Sonoma Valley (and the Golden Gate on a clear day). Moderate to strenuous hiking.

Gunsight Rock at Hood Mtn
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Howarth Park is a city park in Santa Rosa next to Spring Lake Park (see below). Can be busy on summer weekends. There's a great playground for kids plus it's an easy hike around Lake Ralphine. There are small boat rentals. Lots of people fish here because it's convenient, but I don't see much being caught.

Jack London State Historic Park is where the writer lived the last few years of his life. There are trails, a museum, and his grave site. Hiking is easy to moderate

Lake Sonoma is very popular for boating and picnicking. There's also hiking including walk-in camping. The visitor center and fish hatchery that may interest the kids. Sbragia and Ferrari Carano wineries are close by.

The Sonoma Coast State Beaches are a string of coastal access areas running from Bodega Bay to Jenner. Salmon Creek and Goat Rock are a couple of the best to visit along with Doran Beach (a county park). Note that most of the coast has dangerous surf conditions as in, "Do not go into the water even to wade." Doran and Salmon Creek have gentler surf. Goat Rock is scenic, plus the north end of the park is at the mouth of the Russian River and doesn't have the dangerous surf.

Portuguese Beach on the Pacific coast

Spring Lake in Santa Rosa has hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and a swimming lagoon suitable for the kids. Boating is allowed (no gas engines) including boat rentals. The Lakeside Grill serves some pretty nice meals right on the beach.

Sugarloaf Ridge with 25 miles of scenic trails with great views. Moderate to strenuous hiking. Camping.

Preparation for the parks
Most people realize you should bring water and sunscreen. Many don't realize the climate variations. The coast can be cold any time of the year. Mornings can be cool anywhere, but will heat up rapidly in the late mornings so dress in layers. Watch for poison oak and be aware of the occasional poisonous snake. It's unlikely you'll see one--just know they can be there.

In Bodega

The best fishing is probably on an ocean fishing charter out of Bodega Bay. Certain times of the year the Russian River can have decent fishing. Check the rules first as you cannot take salmon at certain times of the year. Lake Sonoma is the most popular fishing location and has plenty of shoreline to find a spot where they're biting.

There are over 20 courses in the county, a few are private. I'm not a golfer, but some of the most popular public courses seem to be Bodega Harbour, Northwood, Oakmont, and Windsor. Note a couple of these are nine-hole courses.

Ice Skating
The Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa. Okay, it's indoors, but it's still good exercise.

Horseback Riding
The most popular is probably the beach ride offered by an outfitter out of Bodega Bay.

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Kayaking and Canoeing
The Russian River has companies offering boat rentals and return transportation for traveling down the river. Best times are May and June. After that the river is running a little slower and there's more paddling to do--it depends on how much current you like. There's boating and paddling on the Petaluma River, also.

Paddling the Russian River
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Doran Beach park on Bodega Bay is the most popular spot in the county and can have some of the worse weather so be aware. It can be stormy in the winter and cold, foggy in the summer. There's camping at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa and in Sugarloaf Ridge plus there are numerous private campgrounds including a couple KOAs.

Or maybe "outdoorsy" to you means enjoying a glass of wine on the patio  :)