Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, have you been there? I hadn't but I'll be going back in the late winter or early spring in 2013 when the creek that runs along the hiking path will be running. Just past downtown Guerneville the redwoods are very easy to get to though hubby's GPS took us on a convoluted back way to get us there. No matter what your GPS tells you (coming from Healdsburg or HWY 101) just stick to River Road until you hit Armstrong Woods Road then turn right and follow it right to the state reserve.
The grove of redwoods is magnificent. The oldest tree is 1400 years old and the tallest is 310 feet high. At 10:00 AM it was cool beneath the canopy but if you're hiking you'll warm up quickly.
Hubby wore his new GoPro video camera on our 2 hour hike. LOL.
When you arrive there are two parking options. You can park for free near the entrance and the visitors center which also has a few picnic tables tucked alongside the parking lot, or you can drive to the booth, pay to drive into the park and park at an upper level. This is an ideal situation for those who don't enjoy hiking or are with someone who finds walking long distances challenging. While there are flat areas to walk we chose a more challenging path with a lot of vertical sections to it.
We saw a Harpaphe haydeniana Millipede
The website says there is a myriad of wildlife you can see while in the park but we only saw spiders and a lone yellow-spotted (aka known as an almond scented or cyanide) millipede. Just before we arrived at the park we did see two black tailed deer on the other side of a security gate off Rio Nido Road.
There was this lone mushroom that looked as if something had taken a bite out of it for lunch. Speaking of lunch it was close to noon and we were getting hungry.
So we hiked back down to the car and headed over to boon eat+drink right in the heart of downtown Guerneville.
I was a little concerned because the food was fancier than what hubby prefers but they had a burger on the menu so we both thought he'd be happy enough. And they had cola so he was off to a good start. Hubby's only issue was that the Boon Burger comes with:
"grass fed beef, fiscalini aged white cheddar + wild arugula on a toasted milk bun with house- made parmesan herb chips + aioli"
Being a simple foods kind of guy he never has cheese on his burgers and he asked the waitress to leave off the arugula because he doesn't care for how it tastes. He did ask if he could get regular lettuce on the burger to which she politely replied "That's what the arugula is for" before heading back to place his order. When his burger came it had no arugula or lettuce.
This was disappointing because we knew there was lettuce in the kitchen because I'd ordered the "grilled hearts of romaine, caramelized onions, capers, cornichon + creamy anchovy dressing" salad. I loved it. We also ordered the truffle fries with house made ketchup and garlic aioli.
I was surprised the kitchen was unwilling to put a leaf of lettuce on hubby's burger for him. Had the lettuce in my salad not been grilled, wilted and coated in salad dressing I would have simply given him a leaf of mine.
But if you like tasty dishes and, like me, prefer to support locally owned restaurants that support local and organic growers, I would definitely recommend boon eat+drink. They have some very tempting items on their menu. For instance the creamy mac-n-cheese with wild mushrooms topped with truffled bread crumbs or their pork belly panino with arugula, pickled onions, sriracha aioli, orange glaze + house made chips caught my eye
and made my mouth water even though I don't like mushrooms or eat pork! LOL
When hubby parked the car for lunch he just happened to park right across the street from, of all things, a vintage travel trailer restoration company! We had to go take a peek and were able to see several of the projects they are currently working on. While I considered having them build a trailer for me, I think I've decided to have a go at it myself since I have access to great equipment and knowledge. In fact, I now have offers of people willing to help me both design and build the trailer! I have my own geeky, engineer brain trust!
After lunch we noticed a sign that pointed to the beach which turned out to be just a couple of blocks away. We headed down to take some photos.
Johnson's Beach is a privately owned resort that offers plenty of water sport options as well as they have tent and RV campgrounds, cabins, a snack bar and more.
From their website:
"The Beach offers canoes, single and double kayaks and pedal boats for rent ($30 day or $10 hour) as well as umbrellas ($6 day), low beach chairs ($5 day) and inner tubes ($5 day). Our inner tubes are for use at our beach site only. There is a snack bar on the beach and beer is for sale at the boathouse. A popular spot is the roped off kiddies’ pool. There is no charge to enter or to park. A free boat launch is available during business hours.
Credit/debit cards are NOT ACCEPTED. A driver license is used as the deposit for renting items."
On our way back to the car Hubby stopped for his 3:00 PM mocha at the Coffee Bazaar and we were on our way!
After lunch we headed up to Westside Road and my most favorite place ever, Baker Ridge at Thomas George Estates. We stopped by the tasting room to make sure it would be ok to hike up the back trail to the ridge to shoot pictures for a few hours. When we got to the top of the trail the first thing I noticed was that the vineyard had been netted to keep the birds off the grapes that were going to be harvested in less than a week.
This was why I wanted to make the visit to Healdsburg in early September. To see the clusters of blueish/purplish, sun ripened grapes hanging from their vines right before the harvest and crush.
Plus I'd seen them as baby grapes just a few short months ago back in June when they were tiny and green so I wanted to see how much they had changed.
But perhaps my most favorite photo from our three day trip had nothing to do with grapes! While we were up on Baker Ridge I literally had two seconds to get this shot of a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly before it flitted away. The iridescent blue beneath its wings was gorgeous.
The pinot grapes themselves were smaller than table grapes.
And while most were opaque there were a few reddish colored grapes here and there that were more transparent and you could see the sun passing through them leaving shadowy traces of their seeds within.
Along the vineyards I spotted a fruiting pomegranate tree and olive trees line the road.
And yes, the olive trees were bearing olives.
Up in the sky majestic turkey vultures soared over the vineyards. They were also there back in June. While crouched down waiting for butterflies to visit a flower bed a vulture had flown directly over me so close I could hear its wings beating the air. It startled me and I think I startled it as I had been motionless for so long it didn't realize I was there.
And then it landed and stretched its wings. The birds are immense with a wingspan of up to 5 feet 8 inches! This was a juvenile though. You could tell because its head wasn't red and its beak was dark. Adults have red heads and white beaks.
All too soon it was time to leave. We were going to meet up with my friend Tracy Logan, Guest Concierge at the WIne Road for dinner at Corks Restaurant and some late night photography at Russian River Vineyards. She'd contacted the winery ahead for me and arranged everything because that's what a guest concierge does!
I've visited the property once before while on the blogger's press tour back in May. This time we not only met owner Chris O'Neill, we also met his dog Chester who has his own Zinfandel and a Chardonnay named after him! Chester's lip smacking was because he's in the know about how good the food is at Corks Restaurant, located right on the winery property :P
We were sitting on the patio adjacent to the most interesting piece of architecture. Built in 1969 the old winery building (pictured above on the left in the middle row) is an homage of sorts to Fort Ross, a Russian-era stockade located off HWY 101 between Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg.
The menu is covered in cork and both Tracy and I were captivated by the petite and delicate Scabious seed pod set in a small vase at our table. Thank you to my florist friend Connie Moore for help in ID'ing the Scabious.
A nice surprise, we were treated to an "amuse-bouche" of diced fresh peaches, crisp bacon, and chevre (goat cheese). I sampled the peaches and cheese. Yum.
Then came the challenge of what to order for dinner. After enjoying my three course frittata breakfast at the B&B that morning and grilled lettuce salad for lunch I wasn't feeling all that hungry. So I asked to see the dessert menu which created a whole new problem: I wanted two of the desserts.
At that point I hatched an ingenious plan. I ordered the "Corks Puffs, Sonoma County Berries, Vanilla Chantilly" as my appetizer. It was light and refreshing made up mostly of fresh fruit and teeny tiny meringue puffs that were perfectly bite sized and not too sweet to detract from the natural sweetness of the fruit.
Botrytis aka "noble rot" is a special mold that produces a very sweet wine.
I also ordered my first glass of wine. Ever. I'd sampled the '09 Botrytis Chardonnay back in May and knew I would love it, a dessert wine, with an actual dessert. Or two. Did I say two?
Ah, it was time for my entree to arrive. A Fig-Frangipane Tart, Fresh Raspberries, and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream . I love frangipane so I simply had to have it. It was a perfect meal. I ate every morsel and drank the last drop of my wine.
In retrospect I should have purchased a bottle of the botrytis that evening. Hopefully it will still be available when I go back in November.
After dinner we walked behind the old winery building to wait. The whole reason I'd requested a visit to the Russian River VIneyards was because back in May we were told bats live there and at dusk they come out to control the area's insect population. I can attest to that the entire four hours we were there I did not see a single mosquito or moth which made for a very pleasant evening.
Unfortunately the day had been cool and the evening even cooler so the bats weren't as active as they normally are. We saw dozens, not hundreds, of them but it was fun and I was captivated by both the bats we did see and the stories Chris was telling us about the property. The one that surprised me most was that the holes we could see along the top of the building were caused by woodpeckers! I'd never seen a wood pecker before in real life. He said they drill holes into the wood then stuff them full of acorns and nuts which in turn attract beetles which the woodpeckers come back to eat! So woodpeckers are bug farmers? Amazing.
It was a batastic evening!
Here are a few of the bats we saw. They're small and fast so the video quality is far from good but I'm glad I was able to catch them at all. I'll have to confer with some of my professional videographer friends and try to shoot them again next year. Hopefully I'll have better results :) Tracy took pictures. You can see them on her blog by Clicking Here.
We stayed until the sun had set.
Tracy turned into a pumpkin but hubby and I stayed on just a bit longer to shoot some long exposure shots. He even showed me how to capture more stars. This was my first attempt. So cool! You could see stars in the picture that you couldn't see with your naked eye. I can't wait to try this again!
Thank you so much to Chris for inviting us to come see the bats and to Tracy Logan for not only arranging the visit but also for joining us. They, my dessert dinner, and wine were the perfect ending to what was a fun filled day.
Thank you also to Thomas George Estates for letting me come back and bring hubby with me to enjoy Baker Ridge. I'm hoping to visit one more time this year to catch the vineyard leaves changing color.
Want to visit any or all of these places? Here's all you need to know:
Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve - Website
17000 Armstrong Woods Road
Guerneville, CA 95446
boon eat+drink - Website
16248 main street
guerneville, ca 95446
Johnson’s Beach & Resort - Website
16241 First Street
Guerneville, California 95446
Thomas George Estates - Website
8075 Westside Rd.
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Russian River Vineyards - Website
5700 Gravenstein Highway North
Forestville, CA 95436
Wine Road - Website
Wine Road is an association of wineries and lodgings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys of Northern Sonoma County. Featuring more than 150 wineries and 50 lodgings. One and three day passes are available that include complimentary tastings, discounted purchases and more.