My friend Annie and I had been so busy working it was time for an adventure. The call of the wild was in our blood and Sonoma Valley, California was there to answer it.
The great outdoors is the perfect antidote to almost anything that ails us, and a great setting for a weekend away. We entered the picturesque township of Sonoma on a slightly foggy morning, ready for adventure. We were also a little hungry, so made Basque Boulangerie, a café and bakery right along the historic Sonoma Plaza, our first stop.
We were greeted with an array of mouth-watering temptations, displayed for maximum enticement in their glass cases. This is a popular hangout for locals, and they were busy with coffee and breakfast orders. We purchased coffee, pastries and two Vintner’s Lunchboxes, which we had ordered ahead online, to take with us for a day outdoors.
As booklovers and avid fans of the works of Jack London, today we were in for a special treat. We headed out to Jack London State Historic Park, and somewhere along the way, the fog lifted to reveal a magnificent, sunny day. This was just in time for our arrival at Triple Creek Horse Outfit, a family-run operation that hosts horseback trail rides through the park. We had booked ahead for a one-hour outing.
Our guide Dominic was a very personable and cheerful host. Introducing us to our trusty steeds, he explained the “safety features” onboard and generally made sure everyone felt comfortable. Five of us rode out in the “hoof steps” of Jack London, learning some history of the property and weaving our way through ancient redwoods, past a lake where he once entertained friends. Riding his horse through the ranch was a favorite pastime of the popular author.
It had been a few years since either of us was on the back of a horse, but Dominic ensured the pace was comfortable for everyone. I rode the lovely Daisy past lush vineyards, back to the corral.
Annie and I agreed that we’d have to return for another ride soon.
Stretching out our limbs, we headed down the road a little way to Jack London’s cottage. Situated next to the old stone ruins of a winery, the cottage is a visual journey into the history of the Londons. We strolled through the house, admiring the treasures brought back from travels, and of course, the study where Jack used to write. Heading outside, there were trails to be hiked and the remains of old buildings to admire.
We found a shady spot to enjoy our picnic lunch, reveling in the tranquility of the area. Jack London was a careful conservationist and outdoor enthusiast. His vision for a “quiet place in the country” still stands. During the summer, Transcendence Theatre Company hosts their Broadway Under the Stars shows to thousands of visitors in the park. I happily imagined being among them, and maybe I will sometime.
After lunch, we headed out of the park and a short drive down the road to Benziger Family Winery. The gorgeous gardens and thoughtful landscaping struck us as soon as we entered the gates. The Benziger family is committed to biodynamic farming methods, where insects, animals and plants are used instead of sprays. The Biodynamic Tram Tour took us around sheep, cattle, the insectary and an amazing array of plants. We explored the gardens on foot and got our fill of fresh air before visiting the tasting room.
The winery offers a very palatable range of red and white wines, shared by knowledgeable team members. After a fun conversation with our server, we left with bottles to take home and recommendations for must-visit Sonoma Valley stops.
Just a few miles away on Highway 12, Quarryhill Botanical Garden was our next stop. Once an old quarry site, the stunning gardens are a vision of what happens when people dream big. We admired the large collection of exotic flowers in the Asian Woodland Garden, on a self-guided tour, which took us about an hour. We followed a map, but later found they also offer an app to guide you through.
Heading back into Sonoma, we parked on the historic Plaza, ready to explore. As fate would have it, we were immediately outside the Sonoma Cheese Factory, an absolute feast for both the eyeballs and palate. Rows of cheese and charcuterie goods fill the store, and, of course, we had to taste the samples! We left with a few favorite chunks of cheese, to go with an evening meal of good bread and deli meats. An additional stop off at SIGH. Champagne Bar yielded more perusing and tasting fun, plus a bottle of sparkling wine to enjoy with dinner (thanks be to the parks’ open container policy). We also made sure to stop by the Visitors Center for recommendations. We found a hiking and biking guide, plus friendly volunteers happy to share their favorite things to do in Sonoma Valley.
After exploring more of Sonoma Plaza, including a walk through the historic barracks, we found a quiet spot in the grassy park to enjoy our impromptu picnic. It’s worth adding here, Sonoma Valley is full of amazing eateries, but we decided to save the restaurant tour until our next day there. Sometimes there’s just something special about a simple meal, shared with a good friend.
“To friendship, the outdoors and living life!” we toasted. Sonoma Valley had provided us with an unforgettable outdoor experience, and the opportunity to look back on our summer with no regrets.Experience fresh air in Sonoma Valley