5 #SundayFunday Activities in Sonoma County
Sonoma County is full of awesome, not so obvious adventures — that don’t cost a high percentage of your Traveling Winemaker salary or any salary for that matter, just some gas in your tank, so you still have some dollars for a beer later. Bring some friends so they can share the fuel. Here are our five of our favs with the following five to follow next week:
1. Farmer’s Markets – Where else can you grab fresh strawberries from a local farm, chow down on a gourmet corndog, listen to music and enjoy some adult beverages? In Sonoma proper, the Valley of the Moon Farmers Market is much, much more than buying kale for your morning smoothie or a basket of strawberries for breakfast. In Sonoma proper, the plaza hosts one each week, on Tuesdays, from the first one in May until the last one in October. This market has everything from said kale, to oysters to burritos and frequently live music. Best of all, and those from Europe or pretty much any other wine-producing nation except the States will appreciate this: you’re allowed to enjoy a few alcoholic beverages. In. Public. In fact, many wine industry folks we know host tasting groups on Farmers Tuesdays. What else would you rather cleanse your palate with than a corndog?
2. Sugarloaf State Park – $8 entrance fee (or $49 for the season). The great thing about this park is that you can start hiking and decide you’re really not feeling as ambitious, or more ambitious than when you started. There are so many different trails, you can decide how long you want to hike just by taking a right or left hand turn to shorten or lengthen your trip. Although, a five hour hike, *ROUND TRIP* on the Bald Mountain to Brushy Peaks Trail gets you to an elevation at which you can see both Napa and Sonoma Valleys. The view is more than reward for the trek. Unlike notoriously bad CA state park trail maps, Sugarloaf’s is clear and very easy to follow; you’ll get one at the entrance. This trail will provide not only a good workout with the 8.2 mile trail but a tan too as there’s 70-90% sun exposure (wear sunscreen, we learned this the hard way)
Note: Before you go, it’s important to be able to identify and look out for is Poison Oak (leaves of three let them be). It grows extensively on our hiking trails here. The best way to avoid it is to wear pants, but we all know that’s impossible when it’s 101 degrees (hello, my tan!) so wear shorts, but just don’t touch your legs/feet/shoelaces, and IF you do, wash your hands before touching your face. Safest bet is to carry a $.99 hand sanitizer. You’ll be thankful when you’re not scratching your face off with a huge blister. Scared you didn’t we?
3. SUP – It’s the new Kayak…Stand Up Paddleboarding. (PHOTO) A guided trip down the Russian River will cost you around $80 for 1.5 hours with SUP Oddyssey BUT you can rent them at almost the same price for a full day (3 hours is around $60). You can see the rates here. Wanna go SUP in Tomales Bay? Blue Waters can help you with that. The cheapest rentals we’ve found out there so far are with Bodega Bay Surf at $39.95 for 5 hours. They can also get you surfboard and wetsuit rentals (yep, you’re gonna need them) for around $35 as well. Welcome to Northern California where the beaches are (often, not always!) foggy and the water’s freezing a$$ cold.
…Not that kayaks aren’t cool. They’re still cool. In fact, we’ll prove it. Point Reyes Outdoors, among other companies, offers Bioluminescence kayak tours only on certain dates February through November. It’s a phenomenon in which, according to the website:
“all variables align: water temperature, air temperature, winds, currents and tides. When the conditions are right, we are able to see dinoflaggelates, small organisms that “light up” the water a brilliant green when they are displaced. We can see this display best on moonless nights…[it] is a light produced by a chemical reaction in living things. The chemical reaction releases energy as light. It is similar to the reaction which occurs when you break a light stick. The organisms you are most likely to see lighting up Tomales Bay in the evening are called dinoflagellates. Dinoflagellates are single celled protists; with some animal characteristics like locomotion and some plant characteristics such as photosynthesis.”
Check out this video by Blue Waters Kayaking for a better idea of the daytime scenery .
4. Oakville Grade – another climb in elevation, but let your car do the work. This pass takes you into the “other” valley, a beautiful 45-minute route that leaves north of Sonoma on the right off highway 12 via Trinity Road, over the mountains into 8. Napa Valley. Whether you take it from Sonoma to Napa or vice versa, the views do not disappoint! A beautiful drive to take at sunrise or sunset. Along the way, you can find a winery or two, including Petroni Vineyards, a small but beautiful Italian-family owned winery at a Tuscan inspired estate *by reservation only.* The drive is windy, and takes you over Mount Veeder one of the four mountains defining the Napa Valley. As you drive from one side to the other, pay close attention to the composition and color change in the soils which change back and forth from sandstone to volcanic ash to clay. Now you’re in Napa, are you wondering what to do just before dusk? Try Auberge du Soleil for the sunset and illuminating view of Napa Valley. Beers start at $7, wines at $9. Make sure to have a couple bucks to tip the Valet too.5. Florence Avenue – A unique kind of creativity, Sebastopol residents Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent create funky and eye-catching artwork from junkyard finds that line Florence Avenue, house after house. Don’t worry about not finding it, these sculptures are literally larger than life. Patrick and Brigitte play an integral part of their community as this street has gained widespread recognition and they have used their art pieces to raise money for the town’s schools. You can take a preview of their work here but it’s probably more fun to grab an ice cream cone at Screamin’ Mimi’s and stroll down Florence Ave to have a good look for yourself.
Whew, that was longer than we expected. We’re taking a break and releasing our next five favorites next week. There’s plenty here to keep you entertained until then. Cheers!