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

THE HIKE
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).

GETTING TO THE TRAILHEAD
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).

CARPOOL
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.

NOTES
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.
Thanks!

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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.

~winehiker

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Hot Day, Cool Folks

Every day, people come and go in and out of our lives, often only for brief encounters. Yet when those brief encounters are approached without pretense or condition and are instead met with levity, compassion, and a relaxed good nature, everybody wins, and brief moments linger in our memories much longer than we could have anticipated. Even when the weather and the trail combine for scandalous brutality!

Such was my experience last Saturday meeting a foursome from Palm Springs.

The Coachella Valley Masochist’s Society, as they irreverently called themselves, had headed north to Napa, ostensibly to escape the blast furnace at home. No small surprise – Friday’s high temperature in Palm Springs had registered 120 degrees. And yet somehow, they had brought the heat with them to the town of Napa, where they had made arrangements to stay at the Adorable Purple Victorian for four days of wine country fun.

So while the local bird population in Palm Springs was using oven mitts to pull worms out of the ground, our foursome was enjoying a drive in a ’49 Packard convertible along the Silverado Trail, enjoying the Stag’s Leap District’s Robinson Family Winery and an interesting lesson in barrel tasting at Del Dotto Vineyards.

I showed up early the following morning to guide our foursome along the Mount St. Helena Trail at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, above Calistoga, California. Our plan was to hike a 10-mile out-and-back to the top of the mountain for a broad look-see, as well as stop to admire the remains of Stevenson’s honeymoon cabin (where he purportedly sowed the seeds for his later novel, “The Silverado Squatters”). Later, after the hike, we would stop for a picnic lunch and a tasting at Cuvaison Winery.

But boy, was it hot. We joked about the heat as we drove up the Valley in our air-conditioned Crown Victoria, as if the heat were merely an innocuous quintessence. We knew better, however, and hydrated a-plenty during the drive. And we got to know ourselves a little. We talked about wine and told tall tales from the trail. Then, we laced on our boots and, floating uphill in the heat, in flagrante delicto, we told some more. Despite the impetuous inferno and my need for more than two handkerchiefs, I was having quite a fun day. We all were – four desert rats and one wannabe desert rat.

And that’s how it turned out, too – just plain fun. It didn’t matter that the trail was exposed and the rock was too hot to sit on and we lost five pounds of valuable sweat and the sun was the devil incarnate and we really couldn’t taste wine ’cause it was too darn hot. No, what really mattered was that goodness in people just naturally shows through even when Nature throws the high-heat fastball at ‘em.

Dori, Bob, Becky, and Ware: you folks are the best. May I hike your path again someday. Heck, I’ll even bring a (highly chilled) bottle along next time.

[Editor’s note: I arranged a custom tour for this foursome via my tour business, California Wine Hikes. I can do the same for you – hopefully on a cooler day! Just click here.]

~winehiker

The Three E’s of the California Wine Hikes Active Travel Philosophy

[Over the past weekend, the following press release found its way to the World Wide Web.]

Capitalizing on the wellness trend, San Francisco Bay Area tour company launches e-commerce website dedicated to active wine country travel.

Sunnyvale, CA (PRWEB) March 4, 2006 — Many travelers to the wine country are finding that the typical group tour falls short when it comes to offering health and wellness. With today’s travelers trending toward more active, wellness-inspired pursuits, the prospect of multiple winery visits without acknowledging the local surroundings is quickly losing its appeal. Fortunately, there is a California-based tour company, California Wine Hikes, that expects to capitalize on the wellness trend.

Company owner Russ Beebe says his tours are unlike those of the typical wine touring company. “It’s all about the three E’s,” says Russ, “and the first E stands for Education. You’re actually going to learn something on our tours – about wine, about local culture, and about our connection with Nature. Like other wine tours, we visit local wineries, but that’s not our focal point. We encourage our guests to develop an understanding of why they like a wine, not just the idea that they like it and want to buy a case of it. So, we taste wine in a more formal setting. Our guests find these tastings fun, intimate, and educational. It’s an experience they can take with them.”

The second E denotes Exercise. Russ feels there’s more to the wine country than being whisked around in a limousine to 4 or 5 wineries every day, only to return home with an oversaturated cerebellum. “You’re going to get a workout,” says Russ. “Rather than encourage a quantity of alcohol intake during a wine country tour, why not embrace quality, and earn a fabulous reward for your outdoor effort? The moments on the hiking trails, after all, are stimulating and invigorating, and build an appetite for good food, good sleep, and a sense of well-being.”

The publicity these days does suggest a greater need for better diet and exercise. With a desire to live longer, more fulfilling lives, the demand is growing for healthier activities when traveling on business or vacation.

Rather than remain confined to a local wine region, the company offers hiking and wine-tasting tours that span the state from Santa Barbara to Mendocino and from Silicon Valley to Amador County. “That’s a lot of territory,” admits Russ, referring to his third E, which stands for Enormous. “Simply put, California offers so much. There are impressive hiking trails to be found all over the state’s major wine regions, and I guide my guests on the best ones. We then reward ourselves by tasting the local fruit of the vine.”

ABOUT CALIFORNIA WINE HIKES
California Wine Hikes offers guided hikes and small-group experiences that combine the best of Nature, wine, fine food & accommodations in the California wine country.

Special “winehiking” packages are available. Many tours sell out and guests should book early. For information and easy online booking, visit http://www.californiawinehikes.com.

Contact:
Russ Beebe
California Wine Hikes
www.californiawinehikes.com

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Visiting A Winery – 5 Ways to Avoid Learning Anything

Next time you visit the wine country, hire yourself a big limousine and follow these simple guidelines:

1. Plan your day around visiting as many wineries as possible.

2. Go to the same wineries everybody else does. After all, those are the popular wineries to go to, and they’re more than ready to put a wine glass in your hand.

3. Don’t listen to the tasting room staff, and be especially sure not to ask them too many questions. They’re not paid enough to be knowledgeable professionals.

4. Have a strong desire to self-medicate. Start your wine tasting early in the day, and get sideways by noon.

5. Get your exercise! Walk back and forth from the limo to the tasting room, and repeat often.

Now THAT’S your kind of wine country vacation, right? Many others just like you think so, too. Aren’t you glad you’re not alone? Be sure to keep the above guidelines handy, and refer to them often.

A Word to the Wise

Dear reader, as you may have guessed, the 5 guidelines above only apply to April Fools. For the rest of us who might consider ourselves to belong to the greater majority of responsible wine-loving adults, tasting wine is an experience to be savored and discussed, appreciated and remembered.

To tour a series of wineries to get a buzz is not what the wine-tasting experience is all about. Wine is food! And like the pleasure that comes from eating your favorite cuisine, wine can provide a similar allure. Food and wine, as many know, complement each other well. As with food, if you choose to taste wine, do it because you truly enjoy tasting it. But unlike food, don’t go to a tasting room because you’d rather be drinking a lot of wine. Instead, stay home! But be responsible there, too.

If you would maximize your visit to the wine country, let us then provide contrast to the above guidelines and consider what will allow your wine country vacation to be a memorable experience – not just a sideways tour.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Wine-Country Experience

Call it wine country appreciation. Or, call it self-appreciation. In either case, if you would choose to truly benefit from a trip to the wine country, here now are five responsible guidelines signified by letters, instead of numbers, to differentiate from the list above.

A. Plan your day around visiting the wine country, not just its wineries.

There are a whole host of wonderful opportunities to be found in the wine regions of the world, whether you’re touring the famed Bordeaux region, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, or the up-and-coming Calaveras County area west of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. A visit to these wine regions can include a number of historical, cultural, educational, heritage, and active outdoor pursuits. Quite often, having a local guide can dramatically enhance the personal growth aspects of vacationers.

Gaining appeal with today’s travelers are tours ranging from culinary education classes that take place in spectacular settings to wellness retreats that offer exercise and nutrition counseling as well as superb pampering. Or, if you desire to be more active, you can find tours that offer a few days of exploring the flora, fauna, and scenic vistas of local open spaces, then a superb meal with wine tasting. Travelers are increasingly booking such tours, and they are trending heavily toward booking them online on a myriad of tour and travel websites.

B. To properly enjoy your wine-touring experience, choose your winery destination carefully. Visitors are often drawn to the popular wineries that are located alongside the wine country’s main arterial routes; for instance, Highway 29 in the Napa Valley. And yet those are the areas in which you’ll find the greater share of vehicle traffic, especially during the summer tourist season. Of course, the traffic isn’t just cars, limousines, and tour buses. After you get off the bus or out of your car and into the winery, you’ll often wait in long lines of human traffic just to taste a wine or two. Ironically, this can defeat the purpose of Guideline A.

Many wineries and lodging operations offer better service and better vacation deals for your dollar during off-peak seasons. As a result, you’ll find that you get to linger longer at a restaurant or have a conversation with a winemaker that goes beyond the merely casual. Having the time to relax and not compete with other tourists on your vacation can dramatically augment not only your sense of well-being, but also your wine knowledge and your social network.

In addition, there are many family-owned wineries that are real treasures. It’s easy to overlook them, but once you make the effort to seek them out, you’ll often be rewarded with an experience that will have you telling your friends about them. You may even find the winegrower getting off his tractor to take you for an impromptu tour of his vineyard or winery operation. Of course, he might have you consider purchasing a case of his wines for his trouble. But then, you may also find that you’re not paying nearly the premium that you’ll pay at the more popular wineries along the main wine roads.

C. The tasting room staff earn their pay, and they do it out of passion. Let them guide you.

The wineries aren’t in business to attract more tourists. They’re in business because they have a clear understanding of the needs of their customers. If you’re not the world’s greatest wine expert, don’t worry! You’re among friends. Learning is why you traveled to the wine country in the first place, and winemakers and their staff love to talk about what they do. Listen, and ask questions. If you should visit more than one winery, ask the same questions.

You’ll enhance your understanding by the answers you’ll hear, and what’s more, you’ll be delighted that you asked.

D. Be fully aware of your experience. Participate in it, and find yourself enchanted by it. Don’t desensitize yourself to the magic of the wine country.

“The advantages of wine touring are beautiful scenery and a new learning experience. The disadvantages are that there’s not enough wine.”

This author has actually read the above statement in a review by a supposedly-serious wine expert. I’ve heard similar quips from the lips of the not-so-pleasantly plowed. While I might agree with the “advantage” half of that statement, the desired outcome of your wine tour should be a quality experience, not a quantity experience. Wine touring is not meant to be a dormitory-style competition.

Therefore, pace yourself. Pour the wine you no longer want into the proper receptacle, usually a spit bucket. Spit the wine into the bucket if necessary – it’s perfectly acceptable within the context of tasting wine. But nobody likes a drunken tourist – not the winery staff, not the patrons, and especially not the wine country police.

E. To properly enjoy the wine country, get out of the land yacht and explore your surroundings.

Bring your hiking shoes with you, and find a local trail. Or, if you prefer to connect to your new surroundings on a deeper level, hire a guide. The reasons that grapes do so well in the wine country are often the same reasons why most areas surrounding the wine regions of the world offer a number of marvelous outdoor experiences. You’ll find that a walk in the redwoods, an expansive mountaintop view, a remote meadow full of wildflowers, or a glimpse of a bobcat on the trail can heighten your wine country experience in sensational ways.

Plus, the exercise and the fresh air you’ll get from your outdoor excursion will build your anticipation of those fine meals and exquisite wines that you came to the wine country for. They are the reward for your physical efforts, they balance your intrinsic desire for deeper understanding, and they make your vacation complete.

Russ Beebe is an experienced wine taster and hiking guide who leads naturalist tours in the California wine country. Discover how you can enjoy the quintessential California experience at californiawinehikes.com.

Spring 2006 issue of “Wine Hiking” published

If you subscribe to Wine Hiking, the official newsletter of California Wine Hikes, you received your Spring 2006 issue in your Inbox over the past weekend. Published in HTML and Plain Text formats, Wine Hiking announces news about California Wine Hikes and lists a number of exciting tours that we’re offering in 2006.

If you are subscribed to Wine Hiking but didn’t receive your Spring 2006 issue, it may have gone to your bulk mail folder. To avoid that happening in the future, you’ll want to add “newsletter@californiawinehikes.com” to your email account’s address book so that you receive it in your Inbox next time.

In the meantime, you can view the Spring 2006 issue here. We hope you enjoy reading Wine Hiking and will book your next escape to the California wine country with us soon!

~winehiker