Driving the back roads of Sonoma County is one of the true beauties of our back yard. One favorite is in west county, a close second is the rolling farm and dairy land west of Petaluma. Who can miss the coast highway or the wild back country west of Healdsburg.
Then there is Sonoma Mountain and the serenity of Kenwood or the farm lands around Penngrove. Valley of the Moon and the jewel of the north, Alexander Valley. So we live in paradise, no wonder people want to move here.
Here are the specifics of one delightful drive. Find Guerneville road, hint, it goes right through Coddingtown. Drive west to the end of the road and turn left, this is Highway 116, you are already seeing some beautiful scenery. The first right is Green Valley Road, it meanders through a verdant valley of small streams and lush vegetation. As you come to a hard right turn, Green Valley Road continues to the right, go straight, on to Harrison Grade Road. The little country road was paved last year and is a pleasant drive up a steep grade. It levels out at the top for a two mile run through redwoods, vineyards and quiet. With vineyards on both sides, and a killer view of Mount St. Helena, the road takes a hard right turn it is still Harrison Grade road.
In half a mile the road merges with Graton Road and joins the little hamlet of Occidental. Across the road from the Union Hotel is tiny Coleman Valley Road. It wanders along Coleman Valley Creek and climbs to the top of the western hills. All at once you will find yourself at the top of the coastal range with vistas of the western hills looking north, with Marin to the south and Japan straight ahead. The sparkling Pacific waits to freeze your toes, the road is like a goat trail as it winds its way down to Highway One and Bodega Bay to your left, at the coast highway.
Don’t stop to eat at the fine restaurants or drive out to Bodega Head where it feels like you are on a ship as you stand looking out to sea. All kidding aside, do not let the kids climb the cliffs there, it can quickly become very, very serious. Don’t go out to Doran Park and fly a kite or soak your toes in the inviting surf. This is a terrible place to let your kids break out the little buckets, sand shovels and sun hats. By the way, at this point you are only thirty minutes from home so take heart if you stay late.
On this one-day drive you will have seen a great number of wild birds including a possible golden eagle on the coastal range. Doran Park is at the foot of an excellent wetlands where shore birds live and nest in great numbers, the tiny peeping birdies that drill in the surf and fly in formation are a delight.
This weekend, May 4 and 5, is the first open house and steam-up of the wonderful Sturgeons Mill living history museum. The fare is reasonable, free, and the old mill is a great place for young and old to enjoy. The old days come back to life and you spend time in a cute little redwood valley. Docents will guide you to the highlights and turn you loose to check out the things you want to spend time with. There is a nice food center run by volunteers, with regular summer fare at reasonable prices or you can pack your own picnic. In any case a good time is a sure thing.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.