We turned off just before Jenner onto the 116 to Healdsburg after having a quick look at the Coastline that had finally appeared from the fog. It is less than an hour from Healdsburg to the Coast and quite a relaxing drive through the big tall trees along the Russian River.
One of our annual family events has always been the summer canoe trip on the Russian River. Several times we have added a camping/B&B element and done some of our favorite wineries at the same time. Since it is so convenient to this region, it is appropriate to add it to this journal for the active wine enthusiast.
There are actually several places you can start a day on the Russian River. Burkes is one of my favorite because I spend more time in the boat on this part of the river and less in the water. We rent our boats here about 10 in the morning, and head on down the river (which goes all the way to the ocean, should one be daring enough to attempt that). Along the way there are countless places to stop and picnic, stop and swim, stop and lay on a secluded beach. Redwood hillsides tower above the river. From time to time you will meander past a vineyard or two.
One caveate: late in the afternoon the prevailing winds are from the northwest and by the time your arms are saying they don't want to paddle anymore is when the going might just get its toughest. It will be obvious where the end point is, as Burke's has employees standing on the beach pulling the boats up onto the shore. From there it's a short walk to the road to wait for one of the buses to take the weary canoers back to their cars.
Pack your valuables in ziplock bags. Secure all items to some part of the canoe or your person by some fashion of leash. Bring liquids (it gets hot out there). Wear lots of sunscreen and a hat and sunglasses (with strap). Take your time and enjoy the route.
Burkes Canoe Rentals Mirabel and River Road
Rodney Strong Winery holds several outdoor concerts each summer. So far I've been to two and plan to be sure to get to another this summer.
My first experience was to see Rick Braun and Peter White (both favorites of mine). It was an evening concert on a perfect summer evening, beginning at 5. We left at 8 because we had dinner reservations at Madrona Manor (see review) and the music and festivities were still going. Patrons choose between "open lawn seating" (please bring low beach chairs) and "gold circle chair seating" (plastic folding chairs but with front views). We opted for the gold circle seating and had great views even though we were to the side and near the back. The performers were, as those two always are, charismatic and frequently went out into the audience with their instruments. The crowd was equally enthusiastic, many dancing in the aisles and in their seats.
Many people chose the lawn seating and most brought ice chests and picnic baskets. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, wherever they sat. Alcohol must be purchased on the property (Rodney Strong Wines only, of course) and lots of BBQ items are available for sale.
My second visit was on a VERY hot July afternoon. The temperature was in the high 90s and our "gold circle seats" were in the direct sun. We absolutely cooked and left early, not because the music didn't absolutely rock but because we could no longer take the heat!
Lake Sonoma State Park. Located at the north end of the Dry Creek valley, Lake Sonoma is a great place for camping, fishing, watersports, and hiking. The lake is surrounded by an 8,000 acre wildlife area, with several good hiking trails. For campground reservations and additional information about Lake Sonoma, call (877) 444-6777.