So far the winter in West Sonoma County has been a bit on the dry side with no major storms. In spite of this a tree still fell down and missed the phone line by a few feet. If you aren't handy with a chain saw in these parts life can be very difficult indeed! The hills are green, the creeks are full, and the house is quite cozy these days. I mentioned in my last blog that Barley and Hops Tavern is a new venue in Occidental worth your attention. They have a great beer pub with an excellent selection of off beat local beers like Hen House IPA and the Russian River Pliney. The menu is solid casual Americana and the atmosphere is superb. So if this sounds like something you might like, check it out!!
The picture below is of a steelhead in Willow creek heading upstream to spawn. My wife and I hiked up Willow creek a couple of weeks ago and saw six steelhead. The creeks in the area are closed to fishing and there has been an ongoing effort to repopulate the creeks with steelhead and salmon. This steelhead appears to have an adipose fin which would make it a wild fish. We saw three otters at the mouth of Willow creek lying in wait for the poor buggers to make their way up the creek. Steelhead once spawned by the thousands up this creek before all the trees were cut down and the creeks destroyed by the logging. If you want directions to this area let me know. You will see that there are hundreds of huge old growth redwood stumps in this valley which was once a paradise ecology. While we can't go back and change the sad history, we can march forward to protect and restore. Seeing these fish truly made my day!
While posting this pic I lost all the rest of my January blog so rather than try to rewrite it while I am grumpy I will get to it tomorrow after a good hike up a local mountain.Stay tuned!
The gist of my blog for the month was this. Barley and Hops in Occidental is a fantastic new venue! They have a great selection of local beers at their beer pub and excellent casual Americana cuisine. Check them out for dinner when you come to town. Really a great place
Other than that, it is beautiful in West Sonoma County right now with green hills and other than the wild iris blooms, little sign of spring. The days are noticeably longer! February looms right around the corner.
December is winter. This is likely not news. As such, it is not fall or spring, but actually winter where the leaves of the deciduous trees have fallen along with many inches of rain and perhaps a power outage or two thrown in for good measure. In recognition of this fact, indoor venues have decked themselves out with Christmas decorations, indoor concerts, etc. such that even on a rainy day there are places to go and things to do. My preference is to put on a jacket and pretty much do the same things I do in summer, however I have yet to swim in a jacket. Its fun to walk along streams that have easy access to the ocean like Willow Creek and look for spawning steelhead. Like a snipe hunt, it's an excuse to get outside and explore and be mindful of the seasonal changes first hand before you give in and hit the espresso bar. I have seen spawning steelhead and it is quite exciting! Of course reading a book indoors while the rain is crashing down is also quite pleasant. Anyway, I love December for what it is and what it is not. As Henry D. Thoreau once wrote "Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the Earth." But remember......... don't swim in jackets.
Thirty days hath November. It also hath a fair bit of rain but that is generally a welcome change after a warm fall. The red poison oak has been reduced to sticks while the leaves on the vineyards and sycamore trees cling on until later in the month. By the end of November there is green grass slowly transforming the hills from golden to verdant. The mornings become cold and my honey bees are hunkering down in a big ball of bees in the center of the hive. When the temp gets above 57F they will fly about, otherwise they gorge themselves on honey and snack on pollen. (Decided to leave all their honey this year as I am splitting the hives in the spring). So have a glass of wine and watch the bees go to and fro! Anyway, I digress....Let's see what is going on, always remembering that the best things in life are not events or things.
Occidental Center for the Arts: Nov 10, 8-10pm. Gypsy Jazz!!! I have always considered bluegrass to be the most complicated acoustic music but Gypsy Jazz takes it up a notch. Anyone who claims to play this genre is very talented. I would see this group for sure if I was up there!!!
Occidental Center for the Arts: November 11, 730P: A german trio of violin, piano and cello. Hey, they played at Carnegie Hall and now they are scheduled in Occidental!! Thats the really cool thing about the small groups...they are willing to play at small venues. Sounds like a great evening. Dinner in Occidental then walk from the restaurant to the music venue literally 150 yards down the street and five minutes from the house!!!
Howard Station: Yes, it is a culinary event! My hands down favorite breakfast spot. (It's cash only but there is an ATM.) You really should stop by there for breakfast. Occidental is a beautiful town and this place is a piece of history. Take a stroll through the old grove of trees (things to do tab) after breakfast!
Well, that should get you started. There are plenty of wineries, other great places to eat, road trips to take, hikes to enjoy etc all in my "things to do" or "outlying areas" tab. Or you could sit next to a bee hive and watch the bees. But if you do, sit about ten feet away as the little guard bees will poke their heads out and put the bead on ya!
October begins like summer and typically ends looking a lot like winter. One day the forests are ablaze with fall color and the next day the winds and rain transform the scene to that of early winter. Time to get out those fall clothes you have been waiting for! The smell of newly wet bay leaves makes an after rain hike all the more special. If you read my archived blog posts you will see that there really isn't a month that doesn't have some merit. The spring and fall and summer months are chip shots, but the fall has that slower vibe that contrasts with the faster paced summer months. The rainy months can be a great time to go hiking as you will likely not see a soul and there is something about a redwood forest in the rain....primeval! I do have a bias toward outdoor activities so if you don't like to get dirty...my apologies. There are plenty of wineries to visit and cool towns and restaurants to visit to keep anyone happy. Lets take a look! 10/23 update: The fires affecting Santa Rosa did not involve western Sonoma County. So it's business as usual here while unfortunately Santa Rosa was heavily impacted and many people lost their homes. We have seen one heavy rain here and there will be more to come as November approaches so the fire season is pretty much over.
My my but summer just flew by didn't it? Here it is September which is a fantastic month in west Sonoma County. The maple trees are already turning yellow soon to be followed by the vineyards and willows....love it! Sorry to let my fan base down since June....Bob...are you still there? Anyway, Bob will get over it. Time to get on with the fall and see what it has to offer us!
The Barlow: Cool place to walk around, have lunch, see what's going on.
Hiking: There are many good places to stroll through the woods this time of year. Take Coleman Valley Road uphill from Occidental and Take a right on Willow Creek road. Go to the end of the road and park at the gate. Walk down willow creek road. Take a left on a trail called Jamboree. It's an out and back along the ridge but super pretty. Don't hike on the private property to the right and left as you go down Willow Creek until you get to the state park property. You can hike all the way down to the creek which is super pretty but a bit of a slog on the way back.
Also the Old Grove of Trees mentioned in my "things to do" tab is a total winner as is the Kortum Trail out at the coast in the fall.
Red hill is another great hike. Follow my directions on the things to do tab to the other end of Willow Creek road at Bridgehaven. The road going up the creek is a bit rough. Try to make it Pomo Campground. Hike up through the woods to red hill where there is a great view of the ocean and the mouth of the Russian river. This is an out and back with a loop for part of it. You can also access Red Hill from the trail that is across hwy 1 from Shell beach.
June has been a beautiful month after a very wet winter. Here a few tips for a good stay. Open the windows at night and close them in the morning. We have had warmer than usual weather and this will help keep the house cooler as there is no air conditioning. Close the west facing shades to keep the sun out after 4 pm. I have weed whacked the area down by the creek and put some very humble chairs down there. Nice place later in the day. Also, I took a drive up toward Healdsburg to pick up a couple more bee hives. It is a beautiful drive past many wineries. Drive to Forestville and take Covey road to a right on Trenton. Take Trenton to a right on river road then left on Wohler Bridge road, After you cross the bridge take a right on West Side road going north. After several miles take a left on Dry Creek road. Beautiful. Consider dinner at the Willow Wood Cafe in Graton on the way back home!
Lets see...January, February, May. That's the way it goes right? I'm not sure how that happened but it did have something to do with my laptop going on the blink and my procrastinating about getting another one. I have always been an PC guy and I bought this MacBook Air because two of my three kids have one. Given the recent ransomeware outbreak I am glad to have a Mac! Ok, so I have some catching up to do! March and April happened. Questions? Ok let's move on. Sebastopol Redwood House has seen 112 inches of rain this winter making it the biggest winter rainfall I have ever seen up there. The biggest winter I remember was in 1969 when the water was up to the top of the bridge at Duncans Mills. So 112 inches translates to a fantastic spring and a wonderful summer. All the lakes are full, the Russian river will be flowing well all summer as will all the creeks in the area. The house did well with just a tree down here and there and a power surge that fried the washing machine and disabled parts of the lighting system for a few days. All is well now with all systems working fine so let's see whats going on.
Sebastopol Hopmonk Tavern: Here is the music line up. Great place to have a brew and listen to some live music in downtown Sebastopol.
Freestone Artisan Cheese: This place is only a ten minute drive from the house. Stop by the Freestone Bakery for bread and make sure to walk through their great vegetable garden. Then pick up a bottle of wine at Joseph Phelps Winery and top it off with some artisan cheese. Sign me up!
Go to Graton Ca. Check out this website for details. Graton has a few really good restaurants and is a short drive to LynmarWinery also on this website.
Restaurant of the month! This month it's Willow Wood Cafe in Graton. I had dinner there last night and it was great! I had the chicken pot pie and the Cesar salad. If you are looking for small, expensive ,and fancy meals, this is not the place. However if you are looking for great atmosphere, outdoor seating in the better weather months, close to the house, reasonably priced with a nice menu selection then give it a go.
Last winter there was endless talk about the "godzilla of El Nino" weather drenching the west coast with rain. Last winter was a bit below average in Sonoma County. Then we see this winter!!! The Redwood House has now seen about 50 inches of rain!!! Truly a remarkable winter, raining as I write this and due to continue throughout the week. But don't despair! The hills are green, the hot tub is warm, and we are heading into spring. In San Luis Obispo County where I live, we have had 30 inches of rain which is the biggest winter in the 24 years. All this rain means an epic spring!!!!
Occidental Center for the arts: Steve Gillette and Cindy Magneson 7 pm. Steve Gillette is a real talent. I saw him in SLO county and had a great time. Has has written many songs covered by various stars. He wrote one of my favorites, Darcy Farrow which was picked up by John Denver. If I was up there I would see these two for sure. Five minute drive!
Well, that's a start. I am a big fan of the bakery in Freestone (see nearby attractions tab). Fantastic vegetable garden, great bread, good coffee and a beautiful drive from the house. Have a great Feb!!
January in Sono ma County is the prelude to spring! We have had about 30 inches of rain so far this season without losing power or getting out the chainsaw. The rain has come in increments....frequent increments...so there has been no drama. All the creeks and seasonal drainages are gurgling nicely and the hills are green with what promises to be quite the crop of grass. The wild currants are blooming, the wild iris is blooming, and the mustard grass will soon turn the vineyards ablaze in yellow. This is a quiet time of year with few tourists. The coastline and hiking areas are very quiet and the scenery is spectacular! The boys and I took a hike up through Pomo camp around Red Hillat the end of Willow Creek road and were treated with great views and perfect weather. Ask me about that hike it you are interested. So let's take a look at any events that may be happening as well as outdoor activites you may enjoy, remembering as always that the best things in life aren't things.