May 31, 2012

A Secret Hike, Champagne, and River Shenanigans

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I've been putting off writing another post because my last experience with Blogger and it deleting my post had me so pissed that I just couldn't deal. So I gave myself a time-out...but I'm back now!!!

I have a very good reason for being "back on the blog" and that's because we had an amazing Memorial Weekend with our friends Emily and Anna and it needs sharing. Tom and I love to camp and love to camp with friends (but never more than 6 people). Our favorite region is (no surprise) the Russian River area because it offers all our favorite activities. (river, ocean, Guerneville, hiking, redwoods) More than that, the entire area feels like a throwback to the 1950s. It's become a big part of our summers. Sadly, due to California State budget cuts, most of the beautiful state parks in our area have closed their campgrounds. This is truly heartbreaking - least of all because it limits our camping options. It's heartbreaking because Northern California is full of amazing state parks with huge redwoods, flowing rivers, coastal access, estuaries teeming with life - and camping is such a great way to experience those areas, especially for families. I hope they get this figured out sooner, rather than later but, my gut feeling is that, even if/when there are the funds available, it's going to take a lot of money and effort to get these campgrounds up and running again after being neglected for several years.
Previous owner of Schoolhouse Canyon

Last year, we camped at a private campground, Schoolhouse Canyon, which is beautiful, if a little crowded for our taste. This year, we ventured back to Schoolhouse with Emily and Anna. It was a perfect weekend. The history of the place is interesting - the same family has owned the land for 6 generations. The current owner, Chris, is very talkative and will happily tell you the entire family history. Check out that photo of his grandmother on the Russian River. -->

I spent Friday prepping foods and packing up and Tom and I got up to the site on Friday evening. While he set up our tent and started the fire, I recreated our entire apartment in the woods. I'm a comfort camper. I wish I'd taken pictures - I'm still getting used to this blog thing.... But, I really did. Just take my word for it. When Emily and Anna arrived, we had an easy dinner of sausages and/or hot dogs, with homemade baked beans (I made them Thursday night), and grilled potatoes. Since they take the longest to cook, I like to cook a ton of potatoes on the first night so you only have to reheat them for breakfasts (mmmm....burritos) and dinners moving forward.

On Saturday, the campground owner offered to let us go for a "Secret Hike" (his words, not our's, though we were instantly intrigued) on his private property. It was a very steep hike and I was huffing and puffing like crazy, but the view at the top was really amazing. (He told us not to put this hike "on the internet" but, since no one really reads this blog, I think it's okay.) From the top, we could see expansive views of the valley, including Korbel. It's rare to get this kind of view there because the trees are usually so tall. The area at the top of this hike used to be the family homestead in the 1800s, so it was cleared and allowed for these amazing views.

View from the top of our "Secret Hike"
After our hike and amazing view of Korbel, we decided the only logical thing to do was to visit Korbel, something none of us had ever done. We took a free tour of the property and learned how they make the champagne there and why they consider it fair to call it champagne even if it's not from the Champagne region of France. It was really fascinating - hearing how the Korbel brothers immigrated over from Bohemia after one of the brothers escaped from prison in Prague - how they came to be in Sonoma county, making cigars and cigar boxes from the redwoods - how they learned they could grow grapes and make champagne here. The best part, obviously, was the complimentary tasting, where we each had 4 different champagnes and were helped by a kooky taster-lady named Sally. Oh Sal! Then we went into Guerneville to pick up a few things we needed (new filaments for the lantern, ice, etc...) and got some amazing ice cream at our favorite place, Flavors Unlimited. We ended the day sitting down at the beach on the Russian River that's part of the campground. That night, we had BBQ salmon, roasted asparagus and a big salad, followed by s'mores (obviously) and my attempt at a pineapple upside down cake cooked in the fire. (Conclusion: it tasted like a campfire, but we ate it anyway.)

Sunday was a day for the river. We always rent our canoes/kayaks from King's Sporting Goods in Guerneville instead of the more-popular Burke's. Their prices are slightly higher, but their boats have padded seats and seat backs. Sign me up! We took 6 hours to get down the river complete with (in Emily's words) "water fights with total strangers, Tecate, teriyaki chicken, pineapple upside down cake, and boat shennanigans." What she failed to include was the creepy naked guy on the banks of the river, but that's a story to tell in-person, so just ask. Also, Emily earned an amazing new nickname, but you'll have to ask her about that. It was nice and sunny, though not super hot, so we didn't really swim in the river. I did, however, somehow tumble OUT of the canoe into the chilly water less than 5 minutes after we started. Nice work. We had made teriyaki chicken legs and sesame noodles to enjoy on our trip and they were both super tasty, despite Tom burning the chicken the night before. Our canoe trip ended at Johnson's Beach, where we indulged in some soft serve from the snack shack. That place is straight out of Dirty Dancing. It wouldn't surprise me if Dr. and Mrs. Houseman weere lying on the beach and Lisa was laying out in the sun wearing zinc nosecoat. And, the river area totally looks like the place where Baby and Johnny practice "the lift." I love my life.
Our King's canoes and the gorgeous Russian River
That night, Emily and Anna headed back to the city to work on some wedding stuff (they're getting married!!!), and Tom and I had leftover sausages and hot dogs with beans. (The original plan was to eat the coffee-rubbed flank steak that had been marinating for 2 days, but we were too tired to bother, so we ate that when we got home, instead.) Bernie and Todd and Q drove up that night to stay at Dawn Ranch (where we got married) and, Monday morning, Tom and Todd played golf at Northwoods while us gals lounged by Dawn Ranch's pool. The last stop of our weekend was lunch at the Rio Nido Roadhouse, which again, felt like a throwback to another time. 

Then, in typical fashion, Tom drove home, while I napped. It was a perfect start to summer. Our cameras were dying, so we only took a few pics but, if you want to see a few more, check them out here

Also, the Golden Gate Bridge celebrated its 75th Birthday this past weekend. I snapped a photo of the bridge as we were leaving town and wanted to share. 
Happy 75th Birthday GGB!!!


  1. Steph!

    Loving your blog and can't wait to follow your trip reports!

    I showed you some blog love at


    1. Thanks Audrey! I'll spread the love this week with a new post!!! xoxo

  2. Wow this all looks and sounds amazing. With the exception of California closing the parks... There has to be some way to generate some kind of funding.

    Going to leave this on a positive note- l love your blog and I'm looking forward to reading more!