Sometimes, we want our moments to be temporarily untethered. We want to escape the violent snarl of traffic, the drabness of daily life, the rigidity of our everyday patterns. Like the moon, we go through phases to feel full again: escapes into the forest, frolics through pastoral landscapes, quiet moments on desolate beaches. These are the natural blessings that create a sense of heightened self, that lift us out of ordinary experience. Within the presence of nature, you can fully encounter the present.
Traveling to Northern California beguiles anyone, even those only a one-hour plane away. In a small flash, the minutiae of reality disappears into a dreamlike haze. Guerneville, California, population ~4,500, sits on the Russian River, just 90 miles north of San Francisco. The town is encased within giant redwood forests, riverbeds, and sweeping vineyards, making it the ideal destination for wine connoisseurs and adventure seekers alike. The California redwoods, ancient wonders that have been living on this planet for upwards of 2,500 years, never fail to set you straight.
In an area like the Russian River, small rituals become profound pleasures. The smell of a distant bonfire, a pale setting sun, mist lying low on the grass, friendly winking stars, plush linens, fresh orange juice and croissants in the early morning beneath a heated blanket. AutoCamp’s rustic yet refined campsite, tucked beneath towering redwoods off Highway 116, less than a mile from downtown Guerneville, is the ideal way to acquaint yourself with the Russian River. Choose from a flawlessly decked out Airstream trailer or a luxury canvas tent – either way you’ll find yourself cozily embedded in nature. Here, your reverence for Mother Earth is all-encompassing: you surrender to it easily.
What makes AutoCamp unique is the ability to transcend from physical comfort to nature in a single step outside your tent. You can start out each morning with a cup of coffee, wander off into fog-covered woods, and not return until dark. Borrow a bike, pedal to town, don’t explain anything to anyone. AutoCamp leaves you with little to want and everything to receive.
It’s is a place where only leisure exists. It reminds us that we would be happier, stronger, more focused, more admirable, if we only had less stuff. It also reminds us that the stuff we do have should be well-sourced, thoughtfully curated and gently placed in a serene landscape where it exists in harmony with nature.
Wine is not just something you drink in Sonoma. Wine is a lifestyle: a way to connect with people, a way to make money, a way to elevate life, enhance food, and cultivate leisure. There are hundreds of wineries in Sonoma county. It is impossible to visit all of them in one trip. However, the most famous are famous for a reason and require a visit. Some are more discreet, hidden between the trees: boutique wineries run by independent winemakers, a true labor of love that’s worthy of a taste.
Russian River Vineyards: What can I say about drinking wine and playing cards? A simple pastime that somehow makes you feel so alive. Shuffling cards, flirting with competition, and smoothing it all over with a Pinot Noir fuels a unique contentedness, and Russian River Vineyards evokes that same feeling. It’s not a sponsored, art-directed fantasy, but a real live place in which you can suspend reality for a few hours. It doesn’t hurt that they also have the number one best red wine in Sonoma County: the 2014 Horseridge Pinot Noir.
The main drag of Guerneville is home to a few restaurants, mom and pop stores, and a coffee place. Although real estate is limited, the available culinary options do not disappoint.
Hog Island Oyster Farm: This outdoor cafe, dubbed “The Boat,” is a reservation-only oyster bar that is known for its raw and BBQ oysters, charcuterie, and libations. The communal tables sit on the shores of Tomales Bay, surrounded by stilt houses that remind me of the Palafitos in Chile. The headstrong blue of the sky and water inspire a tranquil vibe, but a few glasses of bubbly and 40 oysters later, the giddiness is hard to escape.
Boon: Boon is purely Californian. The menu is seasonal, the wine is local, and the staff is straight Nor-Cal charm. A varying weekly menu leaves no room for staple dishes, but all their veggies are grown in the backyard or at their other property half a mile away, and all meat is sourced from neighborhood farms. The intimate eight table setting and refreshing light fare creates a gratifying dining experience that tops off a tranquil day.
The Russian River Valley is a dreamy destination no matter the season. However, if you find yourself there during the summer months, finding a place to jump in fresh water is essential. Although fresh water swimming is a less buoyant experience than salt water, almost everyone around Guerneville will encourage you to purchase an inflatable tube, which will become your best friend as you let the current carry you down the cascading hills, surrounded on all sides by lush green.
What makes the Russian River such a dynamic place to visit is the immensity of its outdoor offerings. The varied environment gives your inner explorer an abundance of choices, like hikes that trek through forest paths or wind along coastal bluffs.
The Kortum Trail: South of the Russian River on Highway One, the trail is along the bluffs and descends onto Shell Beach. As you hike alongside the foggy Pacific, you traverse through multiple state beach landmarks.
Salt Point State Park: Known as the crown jewel of Sonoma, Salt Point is a wonder. Wonderfully unusual, you are able to experience 10 biotic zones along six miles of prime hiking. Your backdrop: sandstone formations, redwood forests, pygmy forests, grassland, prairie, beaches, and the valleys around the San Andreas Fault. Whether walking among the giants or sitting in a sheltered cove on a sandy beach, Salt Point displays the wild dynamism of Northern California’s natural ecosystem.
All rivers must flow to the sea eventually, and the Russian River is no different. Driving towards the Pacific, you wind your way down roads coated with a lush blanket of green forest. The sun glistens between branches, its warm rays finding your face. The air is clear and brisk and permeated with pine. Small oyster shacks and hidden wineries creep into view.
The day stretches out ahead of you, warm and slow and perfect. Something ancient is calling forth from your heart, an old bray that whispers like the misty sea breeze: please tarry, please tarry, keep me temporarily untethered a little longer.
Ready to get away? Book your AutoCamp stay here.