Sonoma Abridged: Day 3 of 3
This was our last full day in Sonoma, March 2.
Our hotel, Bodega Bay Lodge, did not include breakfast although there were quite a few options for nibbles in our room for purchase. We picked up a nice hot cup of coffee before we checked out and decided not to linger at the lodge since there were places to see before our trip back home the next day.
We headed north along Route 1 towards Jenner.
It’s so nice to drive along the coast, especially with no agenda.
We made a few stops along the way when there was a sight to behold!
At times we were witnessing the sea and others we saw green pastures of beautiful farm land. Such an amazing sight, even on a not-so-nice day!
The Russian River deposits into the Pacific Ocean at Jenner. Jenner has a mere population of 137 in Sonoma County. It certainly is a different way of life. If they don’t recognize your face, you’re not from Jenner.
As I mentioned in my last post, there was epic rain that lead to massive flooding a few days before we arrived in California. The Russian River literally submerged towns along its windy path. The river crested at over 45 feet which is 13 feet above the flood stage of 32 feet as per one report I read. We could see evidence of muddy water entering the Pacific Ocean. As you look at my pictures, you will notice the river flowing into the sea and how the current or the sea bottom and rocks caused the river to continue and extend into the ocean. Whether muddy or not, it sure was a beautiful sight to see.
From Jenner we took Route 116 which was now opened, after being closed for a few days due to flooding. We stopped in Duncan Mills, a throw-back western village for breakfast. Most of the shops were closed except for the General Store. There we met a lovely young girl eager to offer help and made us delicious egg sandwiches to go.
With egg sandwich in hand and coffee from Bodega Bay, we cautiously made our way through Guerneville where major flooding took place. It brought back familiar memories of Hurricane Florence in my hometown of North Carolina. We witnessed a scene of household contents lined up along the streets and houses destroyed by the rising waters of the Russian River.
Our final destination was Healdsburg. This is a charming town northeast of Bodega Bay and basically north of Petaluma. Healsdburg is different than Petaluma. To me Healsburg has a more “upscale” feel. There are plenty of shops and galleries which came with a higher price tag. We walked through the streets and popped in and out of a few shops but decided (once again) while the weather was holding-no rain yet- we went off to find a vineyard. We were in Sonoma so it certainly was the appropriate thing to do. We would have loved to visit more wineries but the weather was not cooperating.
We headed north- up, up and away to Gustafson Family Vineyard in Geyserville. What a lovely mountaintop and the perfect place off the beaten path to sit and sample some local wine.
We were a party of 5 plus the wine aficionado and 3 dogs. Basically we had the place to ourselves. We sat, chatted and sampled several different wines from their vineyard and a delicious charcuterie board. It was a very pleasant experience which we both thoroughly enjoyed and learned a bit about local wine. Another spot worth visiting in the future.
The trip to Gustafson Family Vineyard takes you past an overlook of Sonoma Lake. I’m sure under normal circumstances it would have been a lovely view. But, it was a cloudy day and the lake below was brown due to the rain and mudslides. It will likely take several weeks for the sediment to settle back to the bottom of the lake and be restored to its natural beauty.
After stopping at the 300 year old Madrone Tree we headed back to Healdsburg but made a detour to a local Warm Spring Fish Hatchery in Geyserville. Once again, the water was muddy due to the immense flooding, but we were able to see the struggle of the salmon as they worked their way upstream. While there, we learned why it is necessary to “manipulate” nature, so to speak, to ensure there is an abundance of salmon in the years to come. It really is an interesting place to stop, especially when the weather wasn’t the best for outdoor activities, like vineyards and wineries.
Not the prettiest water, but if you take a close look, one of the picture shows a salmon swimming upstream.
We returned to Healdsburg and went to Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar for dinner. The sweet girl back at Duncan Mills, where we had the egg sandwiches earlier in the day, recommended this restaurant as did some locals at the vineyard. They serve small plates which turned out to be quite fun since it allowed us to sample a few different dishes. The food was excellent, the atmosphere was lively, and the ambiance was very enjoyable.
From what I remember, my husband liked the Long Island oysters the best. I guess you can’t take Long Island out of a Long Island boy!
Our last night we stayed at the Dry Creek Best Western. As I mentioned above, Healdsburg is a bit more pricey than Petaluma. This Best Western received excellent reviews so we had no reservations about staying there. This remained true, to a point. Now this is a travel blog and I want to give you my honest perception and opinion so you can use this information to the best of your ability if you choose to travel to Healdsburg. One, would I stay there again? yes. Is it my favorite place? no. We just came off a night at Bodega Bay Lodge so this was a bit of a let-down. But, that’s okay. I do think this hotel has a lot of potential, especially if the weather is nice. It’s a great gathering place. There was a lot of outdoor space to hang out, meet people-or not, and just have some nice outdoor time before you tuck yourself in for the night. We happened to be there on a cold and rather damp day, so it wasn’t conducive for this kind of activity.
The rooms were your typical room, a bit dated and the floors were carpeted-not a fan. However, if you price out the other hotels, this may be your best choice. It really could be a fun place but if you’re a couple that doesn’t like to “mingle”, maybe try another location. Again, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Dry Creek Best Western, I just may be a bit of a snob.
The next morning we got up and headed to San Francisco International Airport. It’s about 82 miles away, under a 2 hour drive. We flew out on a Sunday so we didn’t have any traffic, apparently a rather unusual phenomenon in San Francisco. We returned our rental car to Hertz , which was a very easy drop-off, just follow the signs or your GPS. We easily made our way through TSA and to the gate. Unfortunately our plane was delayed for several hours but that’s what happens when you travel. All in all, our abridged visit to Sonoma was a great trip and it is doable in just three days. Just a sidebar note: if you’re able, I highly recommend applying for a TSA PreCheck. You really are at an advantage. You don’t have to take off your shoes and you wiz on by like a super-star, well not really, but you definitely have an advantage over the regular travelers. However, don’t tell too many people. Keep it between us! ;)
I think we made great decisions based on the circumstance, limited time, epic flooding and cloudy-damp weather. If you have warm, glorious days, even the worst parts of the trip would seem a bit better, not that there were and bad parts.
I hope you found this information helpful. I’d love to hear from you. Any feedback would be appreciated.
Until next time…Travel for the Ordinary at deliberateescape.com.