Category: Northern California

Cue the Deliverance Music.

There are many popular canoeing rivers in Northern California. The Sacramento River, from Red Bluff, 30 miles downriver in the shadows of Mount Shasta, to Woodson Bridge, is not one of them.

It was July 4th weekend so we were expecting crowds, and save for a few kayakers and boat enthusiasts, we pretty much had the river to ourselves.  We had planned a moderate backpacking trip but when one in our party had abrupt knee surgery in April, we opted to paddle to our campsite instead of forcing the kids to hike with packs a la the Bataan Death March.  The preparations were similar to a backpacking trip, but we could bring comfy pads and a cooler. I was concerned about tipping the canoe, but my friend hails from Minnesota and has done this sort of thing before.

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1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Birdwatching, Budget Travel, Camping, Canoe/Kayak, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Fishing, Northern California, Soccer, Sports

Every time an expression with “Kool Aid” is used, I think about that unimaginable time in Jonestown, Guyana. It is both horrifying and fascinating.

As a young student, I remember being so haunted by the pictures and stories. Later, when I moved to California and worked in TV, I met a few folks who had covered the story, a personal tragedy for many in the San Francisco Bay Area. So it was with shock and intrigue that I read a recent article in the New York Times discussing the possibility that the ghostly jungle compound, where 900 people lost their lives, could become a tourist attraction. Visions of Dollywood, souvenir kiosks and, gasp, People’s Temple T-shirts made me read on.

Guyana is lush and the only English speaking country in South America, in desperate need to diversify its economy. The sacred land that is now overgrown by jungle is remote, part of the original appeal for Reverend Jim Jones and his followers. Is it disrespectful?  Would a research center to study cults be more appropriate? Or, should the jungle just do its thing and continue to smother the memory of the horrors there?

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Food, Guyana, Northern California, South America, Travel, United States

Summer vacation for my kids this year was a whopping 14 weeks; something about an early end to school in June and a late Labor Day. Whatever the reason it meant a ton of scrambling for summer activities for my kids. A group of parents decided to do a sort of ‘Family Camp’, where the week is split up so that one set of parents watches the group each day. The kids have fun and parents don’t have to pay for so many day camps and can at least get some work done. I have to say the kids made out like bandits; they went to a water park, swimming pools, museums, parks and one day a trip to Stinson Beach. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Day Trips, Family Travel, Marin County, Northern California, San Francisco, Surfing

Now is the time. The crowds are gone, the days are clear and warm and the nights are cool to cold. Mosquitoes and just about every other flying insect have bedded down for the winter or perished in the chill. Campsites are available. And Yosemite’s vaunted Tuolumne Meadows is as beautiful in the fall as ever.

I spent the 4th of July holiday weekend there, my first visit in 25 years, which told me a couple of things: just how quickly time can pass and a quarter of a lifetime can slip beneath your feet; and how short-sighted I’d been to allow so many years to drift away without making the simple four-hour-plus drive up from San Francisco. I swam in Tenaya Lake, fished the pools and streams that fed into it, got some strikes in the Tuolumne River as it wound through the meadows, and later, at Cathedral Lake, saw a trout with a head as big as my fist emerge from the depths to strike my lure repeatedly before losing interest, too smart to be caught by an occasional fisherman like me. Continue reading »

3 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, California, Camping, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Feature, Fishing, Hike/Backpack, North America, Northern California, Travel, United States, Yosemite, wildlife

It was a hot summer day and I had promised my youngest son I would take him and his best friend, one of my best friend’s daughters, canoeing on the Russian River. We left early and drove up to Guerneville, a small town along the river in Sonoma County. I wasn’t sure what two almost six year olds would make of the adventure, but I was excited. I have fond memories of canoeing on the East Coast from my childhood and did it a few times on the Russian River in the early nineties. Visions of swimming and frolicking in the river, picnicking on a sandbar and most of all enjoying the day with my husband and the two kidlets got me revved for the escapade. We did some research and found a company named Burke’s Canoe Trips that does half day adventures. This sounded great, but not with the wee ones; maybe with my ten year old and a buddy though.  We found Johnson’s Beach, a really quaint spot, where you could rent canoes by the hour; perfect for our questionable passengers. When we arrived we found a sweet little beach spot which reminded me of spots in NY I visited as a kid in the 70’s; really low tech, really friendly and family run. It wasn’t fancy but I liked it like that. You could rent an umbrella and a buff dude would come over and pound it into the sand for you. The snack bar served soft serve for a dollar and you could rent inner tubes to float along if you didn’t want to paddle. The changing room was a wooden structure with hand-made curtains; loved it! Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Canoe/Kayak, Day Trips, Family Travel, Feature, Northern California

It was my son’s 10th birthday and we always try to celebrate with a super summery adventure. One year we went to Disneyland. Last year, The Police Reunion Concert (my choice) and this year I deftly averted a trip to Vacaville, CA and Scandia; a nightmarish Scandinavian themed,  mini-golf/ arcade experience, in 100 plus degree heat (thanks to a colleague who did a weather check for me). We settled on Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a West Coast Coney Island if you will, kinda lost in time;  totally manageable.  So off we went ready for rides, perhaps swimming, lots of sugary treats and maybe a skeeball game or two (my grandma Viola was the queen of skeeball in Hollywood, Florida and I have taken up the passion).  We had a blast on the flume, roller coasters and my favorite, a hang gliding twirly thing; although the chin rest smelled super funky sweaty. I even did some body surfing and a sea lion joined me about 30 yards away. But the highlight o the day was the FREE circus performance on the beach. CIRQUE MAGNIFIQUE has performances July 12th- August 20th. There are two free shows daily; Monday –Thursday: noon & 3:00 and Sunday: noon & 6:00. It is no Cirque du Soleil, but we knew immediately the performers were Quebecois (what’s in the water there?). It was so adorable, I would venture… enchanting. It wasn’t jaw dropping feats but completely entertaining and so lovely to enjoy in the sun, rubbing your feet in the sand; don’t miss it!

2 Comments | Filed Under Amusement Park, Budget Travel, California, Culture, Driving Trips, Family Travel, Feature, Northern California, Santa Cruz

San Francisco summers are notoriously foggy and cold, so I try to get out of the city as often as possible. Luckily there are amazing overnight and day trips in every direction.

Last week I was invited to a friend’s rental house in Inverness in Marin County, on Tomales Bay, surrounded by Point Reyes National Seashore, with my five-year-old. We left the house at 7 a.m. to maximize our visit, stopped at House of Bagels (the best bagels in SF) and bought loads of yummy stuff and headed over the bridge.  The sun was shining and I was so looking forward to spending quality time with my friend and her family.

Inverness is a small village named after the Scottish town and there is so much to recommend it. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Birdwatching, California, Canoe/Kayak, Day Trips, Family Travel, Feature, Food, Hike/Backpack, Marin County, Northern California, Point Reyes, San Francisco, wildlife

I’m sure I am not alone in “not getting” why gas prices are so high when oil is selling so much lower than last year. The San Francisco Bay Area is particularly bad; this photo is from last summer. I remember visiting Hawaii and realizing we paid more for gas in San Francisco than an island in the South Pacific, but go figure…

I also don’t get why it’s more to pick your own fruit at an orchard than to buy it at Farmer’s Market. Anyway, I do get that as summer is around the corner we are going to get hit with even higher prices to fill up. I thought this Rand McNally list was very helpful. I particularly like the bit about open sunroofs causing a significant decrease in gas mileage. So buckle up, gas up, close your sunroof and get ready for a lot of summer driving OR DON’T. Let’s hope we don’t see these prices again. Even though I think it’s a good thing to decrease driving, I can’t stomach these prices.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Farmer's Markets, Hawaii, Northern California, San Francisco, Travel, Travel Tips

I like city driving; not freeways, but I can handle the Marin route out of San Francisco. So, I have made the trip to the Healdsburg area in Sonoma County three times in the last few months. Recently, for a birthday party at a lovely B & B called the Gipson Bed & Breakfast, owned by an old friend and his wife.

I had been to the same spot last summer for an epic 50th Russian Dacha birthday party, where many guests camped and a Russian BBQ ensued with a zip line, trampoline, bubbles, pool, jacuzzi and pogo-sticks for the big and little kids and of course shots of vodka and blinis for the hearty adults. This time it was for a five-year-old’s party, the daughter of my friends, the innkeepers.

Healdsburg lies at the crossroads of three of California’s most famous wine growing appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley. It is surrounded by more than 60 wineries and is a favorite Sonoma Wine Country destination. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Camping, Canoe/Kayak, Day Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Farmer's Markets, Feature, Food, Hike/Backpack, Northern California, Student Travel, Wine Tours, Yoga

We were invited to a friend’s cabin in Bear Valley, California a few weeks ago. It was the last weekend for skiing, with ideal spring skiing weather. It was so warm as we drove up I couldn’t quite imagine that I would be on the slopes the next day. We stopped for an early dinner on the way, in the town of Murphys, a cute gold town hotspot. We had yummy tacos on a balmy spring evening at Firewood café and soaked in the warmth of the early evening sun

The next day we did wind up downhill skiing at the family friendly Bear Valley Resort. It was the first time in 12 years for me, even though I cross country ski a lot, and the first time, ever, for my two boys.  On the Sunday our hosts suggested a walk in the Redwoods. I had no idea they were so close! This spot is nestled between Gold Country and Mountain ski resorts; what an amazing destination! Then I found out that where we were staying was just a stone’s throw from one of the premier Redwood Forests in Northern California. I’ve lived in San Francisco for more than 15 years and I have only visited the Redwoods a handful of times, and not in a long while. It was awesome. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under California, Family Travel, Food, Gold Country, Hike/Backpack, Restaurants, Skiing, Winter Fun