Flickr Photo: Romp thru the Redwoods

A footbridge across one of the many small creeks at Henry Cowell Redwoods.

Happy winehikers, cavorting along a woodsy path on a late-September morning. These folks joined me last year; would you like to join me this year? If so, you’ll find all the details on my Romp through the Redwoods page.



An ace up my winehiking sleeve

I’ve been holding back these last 3 seasons, keeping the Fall Creek Loop to myself. It’s one of those special, magical outdoor locations that, while so close to the megalopolis that is Silicon Valley, can seem so remote, uncharted, and gloriously far away from everything.

Ah, but I invited my crew there to hike with me Saturday; it was time to play my hole card and share a little magic.

Aces. You got to know when to hold ’em.

Aces. You got to know when to hold ’em.

They say that the Fall Creek Unit at Henry Cowell State Park, with it’s rugged “chutes and ladders” trails, is the longest seven miles they’ve ever walked. I’m sure that’s true, being as it’s actually more like nine miles, but it’s nine miles through some of the loveliest redwood and big-leaf maple forest that you’ll ever see, especially in late summer when those maple leaves are turning to gold and the tanoaks are dropping their acorns.

But even in September, what you hear as you descend the Fall Creek Trail is equally enchanting. Serenaded by the murmuring voice of the creek, you can’t help but feel mesmerized by its siren call. There’s something about the endorphin-inducing combination of a semi-steep morning hillclimb followed by a descending romp alongside a trailside creek – not to mention a chomp down a creekside lunch – to put one under Nature’s spell. I consider it mandatory to volunteer for such duty to the point of addiction.

I was glad to have fellow outdoor blogger Tom Mangan along, too. But golly, if you would think that I’m a hiking addict, then my addiction needs tweaking – this was Tom’s fourth day of hiking in a row.

(Hey Tom, don’t you have a day job?)

At any rate, it was good to talk shop with Tom about the world of blogging, the worlds of wine and hiking, and the world in general. And, bless his heart, Tom has graciously shared his thoughts about the day, too.

Give him a read, won’t you? And enjoy Tom’s photos. Then take time to heed that Fall Creek siren call for yourself. It’ll become an ace up your sleeve, too.


Yes, Virginia, there is a fun camping experience

As I prepare for a weekend of car camping and hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in nearby Felton, California, I find myself tickled by the following advice from a recent Mercury News column by way of the Charlotte Observer:

Q. I’ve been going with my boyfriend for about a year, and we’re very happy together. My problem is that he wants me to go camping with him, even though he knows I’m more of a four-star-hotel kind of girl. It’s what he calls “car camping,” not backpacking. And the campground even has for-pay hot showers. But still, bugs, and dirt, sleeping in a tent? Ick. Any advice?

There comes a point in every relationship when you realize that its success or failure may come down to one thing — no, not a second bathroom in the apartment (although that happens to be an excellent idea). We were thinking of the word “compromise,” also sometimes referred to as “bartering” or “bribery.”

Think of it this way: If you agree to go camping with him, and honestly try to appreciate the wonderment of nature, not to mention the aroma of fried Spam and eggs in the morning, maybe, just maybe, he’ll agree to spend a week with you at the Ritz on Maui. See, it’s a win-win!

We kid. Spam tastes much better spread cold onto hardtack with a dash of Tabasco on top, washed down with fresh stream water. Don’t forget the water-purification kit!

Seriously, though, we think you should give it a chance. Car camping, as opposed to backpacking or, say, base-jumping, can be safe and fun, even for a satin-skinned princess like yourself. Why? It all boils down to physics: Backpacks are small; cars are big. Thus, you can take everything you need to make your trip bearab … er, comfortable. OK, you might have to leave your pedicurist at home, but other than that, throw it into the back seat and go!

Here are a few tips to enhance your wilderness experience:

Glamour camping (a.k.a. "glamping"): even guys have been known to like it.

Glamour camping (a.k.a. “glamping”): even guys have been known to like it.

Sleeping arrangements. A twig under a sleeping pad can be almost as uncomfortable as a pea under a stack of mattresses. Invest in an Aero Bed, a heavy-duty air mattress that can be inflated with a battery-operated pump. Then, because it can get quite chilly outdoors at night, layer it with blankets and quilts, rather than using individual sleeping bags. Your bodies’ heat will keep you warm all night. (Guys, you can thank us later.)

Electricity. If the place has hot showers, it probably has power outlets in the bathrooms. Feel free to bring along your blow dryer, curling iron, even that gnarly-looking eyelash apparatus thingie. What? Yeah, the eyelash curler. (Note to self: Invent device that combines curling iron, eyelash curler and sexual aid, rake in millions while making women’s lives more fulfilling.)

Food. Take control of the shopping list. Besides the beer, peppered beef jerky, Spam, beer, two-pound pack of peanut M&M’s and beer on your boyfriend’s list, buy some fresh food and pack it in a cooler. Make a batch of chili ahead of time and freeze it. Thrifty bonus tip: As the block of chili slowly thaws in the cooler, it will also keep the beer cold.

Like we said, win-win. Have fun!

Toss in the notion that some guys actually can cook gourmet as well as have an appreciation for fine wine – yes, all of that while in camp! – and you’ve got nothing icky to fret about, Virginia. There can still be, as I’m increasingly fond of saying, “more cush for your tush.”