The town. The heart of Petaluma is its historic Victorian downtown. Offering a slice of early California history, Petaluma provided game and produce to the cities of San Francisco and Oakland during the Gold Rush days. Local events, like Butter and Eggs Day, celebrate its standing as a major producer in the dairy, chicken and sustainable farming fields. The Petaluma River, the focal point for great restaurants and shopping, flows through Old Town and continues for 10 miles south ending in San Pablo Bay. My cover photo above is taken from our favorite restaurant and brew pub, Dempsey's, and shows visiting yachts tied up along the municipal turning basin.
|Historic downtown Petaluma|
|Downtown along the Petaluma River|
|Good food and entertainment!|
Shollenberger Park is conveniently located across the street from our RV parking. We have absolutely no excuse for not getting in long walks with miles of connecting trails through wetlands and along the Petaluma River, with the most amazing bird-watching imaginable. Our spring arrival is timed perfectly with the migrating geese, ducks, swans, shorebirds, and coots building nests and laying eggs. Males and females share the task of protecting their environment, and then when all the babies have hatched, the swim lessons begin! White pelicans, herons and terns are in attendance as well. For a bit of strenuous hill-climbing and beautiful views, we head to Helen Putnam Regional Park.
|Along the trails at Schollenberger|
|The hills of Helen Putnam Regional Park|
The weather this time of year is perfect; usually mild, with light breezes blowing in and sometimes a morning layer of coastal fog. Daytime temps can heat up to the mid-80s, and if we get uncomfortable being cooped up inside the motorhome with AC blasting, we just jump in the jeep and head for the coast.
|Along Bear Valley trail, Pt. Reyes Nat'l Seashore|
The Sonoma/Marin Coast. Point Reyes Nat'l Seashore is one of our favorite day trips. We usually start at the Bear Valley Visitor's Center for a hike that offers spectacular panoramas of forested ridges, open grasslands, and thunderous ocean breakers at Arch Rock, 8 miles round-trip. We usually opt for a shorter version. Driving another 30 miles or so brings us to steep ocean cliffs high above the Point Reyes Lighthouse. This is one lighthouse you walk down to! En route we pass dairy farms and are treated to a rare view of a herd of grazing elk.
|Point Reyes National Seashore|
|Heading down to the lighthouse|
|Happy cows by Drakes Bay|
Doubling back, and a bit south on Highway One is Tomales Bay, home to some of the best oysters. Throw a couple of dozen on the barbie, let cook in their own juices until they open and splash on a shot of Tabasco and tequila. Seriously try it! And while we’re still on the coast, camping at Doran Beach Regional Park in Bodega Bay might just entice the local family over for a weekend of extreme camping.
|Extreme camping at Doran Beach with the fam!|
|A foggy morning in Bodega Bay|
|Tomales Bay for oysters|
Wine Country offers a big plus for yours truly. Within a short drive we are immersed in vineyard landscapes, premier and not so premier tasting venues, and another great RV getaway. And restaurants we can afford maybe once every year or two. Since our anniversary falls during our yearly Petaluma visit, June 24th, a trip to Calistoga and staying at the very affordable Napa County Fairgrounds allows us to dine at the Culinary Institute's Greystone restaurant or Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, not quite on the level of close-by French Laundry, but hey we’re celebrating regardless. Between you and me, Safeway has a much better and cheaper selection of great wines with their six-pack deal, and offers a terrific discount off of gas and fuel prices; a win win situation.
|A celebration at Greystone|
|A very good year!|
Family, friends, healthcare, proximity to other areas....finishes off our the list. I'm sure you can find a couple of your own. If you're migrating from desert to ocean, south to north on Highway 101, and escaping the heat for the northwest, put Petaluma on your list. This article just popped up in the online SF Examiner's Travel section, check it out for more to see and do around town.