Sunday, April 21st Winehike: Goodspeed Trail to Gunsight Rock

7 strenuous miles, 1900′ elevation gain, Spring wildflowers + Sonoma Valley wine tasting

Along the Goodspeed Trail in April, the ephemeral Golden Fairy Lantern may just leave the light on for us.

Along the Goodspeed Trail in April, the ephemeral Golden Fairy Lantern may just leave the light on for us.

Meet: 9:00 a.m.
Hike: 9:15 a.m.
Duration: approximately 4–5 hours
How to confirm your attendance: Simply add a comment at the bottom of this post.*

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park & Hood Mountain Regional Park
2605 Adobe Canyon Road
Kenwood, CA
(707) 833-5712

It’s been said by the locals that the trail to Gunsight Rock, high on the side of Hood Mountain, is one of Sonoma Valley’s premier hiking routes. Tough though the trail may be, if you’ve ever thought about hiking to the top of Mt. St. Helena in Napa County, the hike to Gunsight Rock outweighs the hike to Mt. St. Helena in almost any context, except one: the view from the summit of 2,730-foot Hood Mountain is a big disappointment. Manzanita and pine trees cover its wide, rounded top and, unless you feel like shinnying up a tall, sap-sticky pine after the impressive climb to the mountain’s summit, you just can’t see a danged thing from up there. (Though I tried, once.)

Fortunately Hood Mountain has Gunsight Rock located three hundred feet below its summit and a quarter mile away by trail. From this lofty vantage point, you can see just about everything in Sonoma Valley, plus the big mountains of Napa and Marin. Not only that, but Gunsight Rock’s bouldered outcrop is perched so dramatically on the slope of Hood Mountain that its steep drop-off makes the wide view even more impressive.

Peering down through the fog and the gunsight onto the wine country town of Kenwood.

Peering down through the fog and the Gunsight
onto the wine country town of Kenwood.

The real bonus, however, is simply in observing the trailside splendor on your way to Gunsight Rock; the floral diversity of the Goodspeed and Nattkemper trails is alone worth the hike. Redwoods, laurels, manzanitas, oaks, grasslands, wildflowers, serpentine rock, wildlife and vistas make this hike an absolute must-do adventure.

Of course, after surveying Sonoma Valley wine country from above, it’ll only be right to explore it from inside a wine glass! So, we’ll return downhill for a potluck picnic lunch and for tasty local wines (winery to be announced).

From U.S. 101 in Santa Rosa, take the Fairgrounds/Highway 12 exit. Highway 12 becomes Farmers Lane as it heads through downtown Santa Rosa. Continue on Highway 12 south for 11 miles to Adobe Canyon Road and turn left. (Or, from Highway 12 in Sonoma, drive 11 miles north to Adobe Canyon Road, then turn right.) Drive 2.2 miles to the small parking area on the left at a bridge over Sonoma Creek (it’s 1.3 miles before the entrance kiosk for Sugarloaf Ridge State Park).

If you’re in the South Bay or on the peninsula, my current plan is to leave my house in Sunnyvale at 6:15 a.m. If there’s sufficient interest in this hike, I may later advise that we concentrate the most bodies into the fewest cars by meeting in Kenwood before heading to the trailhead due to its potentially limited availability (this parking area is a postage stamp!). If you’re attending, please leave a comment below if you wish to carpool from either location along this route. For those of you arriving from the East Bay or elsewhere, please contact others near you to arrange carpooling.

Parking at Sugarloaf Ridge is typically $5 per vehicle at the entrance kiosk, but we won’t be going that far up the road. The small parking area by the bridge at Sonoma Creek is known to be fee-free. Drive time from San Jose may take 2-1/2 hours; from SF, perhaps 45-60 minutes less. Please allow adequate time to arrive by 9:00; our hike will begin promptly at 9:15. (Our early meet time is primarily to obtain parking at this tiny trailhead. Believe me, it’ll be very much worth rising early!) Dogs are not allowed on this hike.

The Golden Fairy Lantern, Calochortus amabilis, is also called Diogenes' Lantern.

The Golden Fairy Lantern (Calochortus amabilis)
is also known as Diogenes’ Lantern.

Be sure to bring plenty of snacks/lunch items and water for the trail. I highly recommend bringing an extra pair of shoes – even clothing – to change into after the hike. Please allow plenty of time to arrive, and watch for cyclists during your drive.

Also, wear sturdy shoes for this hike – we will hike over rough, technical terrain in places, and sections of muddy trail may present themselves.

The phone number above is for Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

Meet 9:00 a.m., hike 9:15 sharp.  See you at the trailhead!

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Would you like to attend this hike?
If so, let me know you’re coming – simply reply in the Comments below.

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*Your comment on this post is your RSVP. Consider also checking the box labeled “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so that I can share my cell phone number with you a few days prior to this hike – just in case you need to contact me on your way to the trailhead.

This event is listed on my 2013 Schedule of Hikes.



This just in: Winehiker walks on air!!

Golly, I barely know what to say right now, but for the incontrovertible fact that I am floating on a cloud.

Calloo Callay, O Frabjous Day!

Calloo Callay, O Frabjous Day!

Why? Because I’ve just this afternoon received the best review I have seen to date about my efforts, a review so complimentary and diligent in the research behind it that I am overcome with emotion. Apparently the notion of going winehiking is an idea that resonates out there in “We-Love-Our-Wine Land”.

I’ve got Tom Wark to thank for such kind words. Tom runs his own marketing communications firm specializing in local hospitality in the wine trade; he operates out of Glen Ellen in the heart of California’s Sonoma County – prime wine country if there ever was.

I hope you’ll take a moment to read today’s blog post from Tom Wark and then add a comment to let me know if you feel as excited as I do!


The Journey of a Winehiking Novice

Rebecca came from the Midwest to discover winehiking, though she didn’t know it at the time. The following is an illuminating record of our recent correspondence.

Hi Russ,

I’ve really been enjoying the hikes I’ve been doing lately, and I have discovered that I like hiking a lot more than I thought I did. That all means that it’s time to consider trying one of the hikes led by the best hike leader around. But I wanted to ask, before signing up for your next hike: the distance doesn’t scare me and I think I could handle the elevation gain though it would be a challenge. But I am wondering about the pace?  If you do all of this at a fast pace then maybe I’ll just have to resign myself to joining one of your hikes later on, after I’m more up to speed. But if you go no faster than the pace that the hike w/Debbie went a couple weeks back, then I think I could do it?  What do you think?  Also, I’m not really a wine person, but I gather it’s OK to do your hikes and either skip the wine part or just go along for the social aspect but not the wine stuff?  It’s all lost on me, though I finally identified that I like red better than white. That’s about as far as it goes for me though.

P.S. Never mind, looks like your hike has filled up already. Thanks anyway though.

Shoot, Rebecca, I’m sorry I couldn’t get back to you earlier while there was still room on the guest list.

Judging by the crowd, I’d have to say that this hike may indeed be fast-paced. Nevertheless, your predisposition toward hills and distance says to me: “2 out of 3 ain’t bad!” So, you might consider signing on to the wait list.

As to post-hike wine tasting, there’s no pressure to participate, but you’re welcome to come along, as you say, for the social aspect — which is what it’s really all about, anyway. The thing I like about wine tasting most is that, because there are so many styles and flavors of wine, every tasting is a learning opportunity, and delicious fun too.

Keep on keepin’ on down that trail, Rebecca!


Well, if they’re all pros, then I guess I’d be the one people complain about afterwards, who holds up the group. So, best to wait. Hopefully it won’t take long.  I lapsed in my running in the past year but have started up again along w/the hiking so I should hopefully be ready for one of your hikes before too long.

As for the wine, we should have a conversation about it some time. You strike me as very down-to-earth, as well as someone I like a lot from what I’ve seen of you, and all this doesn’t jive w/my (stupid, close-minded) stereotypes of the wine-tasting culture. Honestly it’s all a big mystery to me why people would choose to invest so much time and energy in tasting and discussing different forms of a beverage. I went wine tasting once up in Sonoma and it made me laugh. But that’s just my Midwestern ignorance and narrow-mindedness coming out. Maybe sometime you can help unravel this mystery for me. It was Mark, from Bay Area Linkup, who unraveled the hiking mystery for me. So BAL is doing pretty well at challenging my stupid preconceived notions.

Anyway, thanks for your reply, hope to see you on one of your hikes before too long.


Rebecca, you seriously crack me up. I think I should invite you to a wine tasting at my home on the 27th. Feel free to check out my posting: I hope you can come!


??? Gewurtz what???  If I can’t say it will I still be allowed in?  Before you allow me to sign up I should confess to you now that my wine rack (yes, I have one, for guests of course, but my well-kept secret, until now that is, is that I don’t know how to use my corkscrew so I just casually hand it to the guests while I pretend to be busy with something else) gets stocked according to two criteria: 1) Price (about $16 is what I typically go for, seems I am in line w/what you are recommending for your event!!!) and 2) Attractiveness of the label. I’ve never heard of a Gewurtzraminer, have no idea if I have one of those in my wine rack, though now you have piqued my curiosity, so after I send this email I will have to go check!

OK, I will sign up for your event. Is it OK if I laugh?  I’ll be laughing WITH you. You can laugh back WITH me for organizing a cooking event, where we talk at length about such things as how the food was prepared.
Uh-oh, just read your event post to the end. What’s a foil cap?  Oh boy, in over my head. It’s worse than a hike w/ a 2000 foot elevation gain.


Ah, the foil cap!  Alas, poor Rebecca….

We shall learn a few things. But I’m willing to bet that you can piece together what a foil cap is — the “cap” being what covers the cork, and the foil being what the cap is made of; sometimes these features, by virtue of brand labeling, colors, etc., can give away something about the wine within to the cognoscenti. (Yes, I have actually been able to declare a wine just by seeing the top of the bottle — don’t ask me how or why). So, removing the foil cap is just being fair to all — but it ain’t no big thang.

I’ll also open the wines myself unless one of the other guests really wishes to. Nevertheless, I’ll be happy to perform a demonstration of proper technique if’n ya like.

In the end, this here Geh-VERTZ-tra-Mee-ner tasting will be just like your foodie exploits: we talk about it, we develop our learning about it, and we have a few laughs in the process!

Glad you’re coming, Rebecca.


OK, yes, I did figure out the foil cap when I went to look at my wine rack (no Gewurztraminer there, seems to be just the usual stuff, though I see I somehow managed to sneakily slip in some sparkling cider too.)  Anyway, in the process of examining my extensive and varied wine collection I discovered that in addition to having a propensity for $16 wines I seem to also have a propensity for burgundy-colored (oh, I get it!!) foil caps.

If I told you I have half a bottle of wine in my fridge left over from a dinner party about two months ago would it make it clear to you the extent of the problem you now have on your hands?  It won’t be pretty, I can tell you. I promise to observe proper decorum though. This is serious business!

Anyway, thanks for the invitation. I’ll go brush up on my German, do some mind-opening exercises, and see you on the 26th! (or the 20-whatever). Forgot already, but will put it on the calendar and be there on the right day.)


Rebecca –

TRULY, ya done cracked me up six ways from sideways. How’re you going to top yourself?

Russ recommends the following:

1) Pull that bottle out of your fridge, pull the cork immediately, and set it on your favorite table.

2) Fetch your best wine glass, and set it on the table next to the bottle.

3) Wait 30 minutes. Or do something! But do it for 30 minutes.

4) Sit down to the table.

5) S-L-O-W-L-Y pour yourself a 1/4-glass of that wine, observing every nuance of the pour.

5a) OK, I’m kidding about that last predicate there. (Maybe.)

6) Twirl the glass, sniff its contents, and pull it into your mouth to savor the flavor, S-L-O-W-L-Y.

7) Repeat until content.

8) Return to Step 5.

Oh, and: that’s Thursday the twenty-seventhththtthhh.


ummm, wouldn’t two-month old wine, I mean after it’s already opened, be vinegar by now? I am kind of afraid to find out. Good thing it’s way at the back of the fridge.

Ah-HA! Thy words thus speaketh unto steps 1-3 above.

The fact that the wine has remained chilled has probably preserved the wine fairly well. But, to really taste the wine, one must let it release its flavors. The only way to do that is to let the wine remain open so that it warms to just-near room temperature — or longer if you can wait longer than 30 minutes (but no more than 60!). Then, after a fit of mild patience (in my case), you can receive the full panoply of the wine’s aroma and taste.

Wash down your dinner with it. And then decide if it’s vinegar.

We’ll do this again on the 27th, but we’ll do it so that we can compare each wine’s subtle proponents. You’ll drop your midwest “twang” oncet fer good. Guaran-dang-TEED!


Umm, OK, I’ll try that. But will have to wait until the weekend. Being basically a one-glass-of-wine-per-year kind of girl, I can’t really do that on a school night – it would be like you drinking a keg of beer or something. Not sure how I’ll get through tasting six wines and still remain intact, but maybe I’ll start practicing so I’ll be in shape by then. Like gearing up for a Russ hike, I guess.


The student doth learn Lesson One!