Home » 2013 Yosemite Thanksgiving

Sebastopol and Sonoma Coast State Park, CA

Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 10:15am by Lolo
70 miles and 1.5 hours from our last stop - 5 night stay


Pre-Thanksgiving FeastPre-Thanksgiving FeastThe only thing better than Thanksgiving in California is two Thanksgivings in California. While the official Thanksgiving would take place in Yosemite, Celeste’s parents had invited us to a pre-Thanksgiving feast in Sebastopol the weekend before. To give you an idea of just how good a meal with the Bergs is, Tommy flew in from Seattle to join us, which doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, except for the fact that he would be flying down again in 4 days to go to Yosemite.

Celeste’s parents only live about 20 minutes from the Petaluma KOA where we usually live when visiting the Bay Area, but everyone thought it would be much cozier if we camped out in their driveway instead. Our only fear was whether we could get into their driveway without pulling a Lucy in the Long, Long Trailer and taking out their bushes, but Herb did a masterful job and in short order we were safely tucked into our new campsite for the weekend.

Pomo Canyon / Red Hill loop trail HikePomo Canyon / Red Hill loop trail HikeThe Thanksgiving dinner was unbelievable and very unique for us in that we ate al fresco on their outdoor patio. This was absolutely unexpected for us. We had no idea that Northern California would be warmth enough this time of year. Moving out here eventually was definitely starting to look better and better.

We originally thought we would go for a post-dinner hike, but we were all too full to move. Plus, although the weather felt like early summer, it still got dark way too early to do much outdoors after 4:00 in the afternoon. So instead, we lazied about, playing board games, eating leftovers, and just generally enjoying each other’s company.

Russian River view from Red HillRussian River view from Red HillThe next day, however, we were rearing to go for a long hike—all but Paul who had a race with his track club. There are so many wonderful trails in Sonoma and Marin counties, most of which Hilda and Paul have already hiked, so we left the decision as to where to go in Hilda’s very capable hands. Knowing that we love the coast, she selected the Pomo Canyon / Red Hill trail, which starts from Shell Beach in the town of Jenner and climbs 1,700 feet to the top of Red Hill.

The hike was just what we were looking for – a bit of a calorie burn to counteract yesterday’s overindulgence and absolutely incredible views. For 5.5 miles we hiked through forests and grasslands to the top of Red Hill and a panoramic view of the coastline from Fort Ross to Point Reyes, the Russian River flowing into the sea, and the quaint town of Jenner.

Post Hike Beers at Cafe AquaticaPost Hike Beers at Cafe AquaticaCeleste and Hilda mentioned there was a cute little café in Jenner, right near the mouth of the Russian River where we could get coffee and maybe even an ice cold beer. Everyone agreed this was a wonderful idea and we headed just a bit further north up Route 1 to Café Aquatica on the river. Although they didn’t serve beer, they said we were welcome to buy a six pack from across the street and drink it on their picnic table right on the river. While half the group did that—not hard to guess which half—the rest of us got coffees.

While we were sitting there, we got to talking about how nice it would be to kayak here, and how surprised we were that we would actually be able to even consider that in late November. Hilda had tried paddling once and really liked it, so she went over to the nearby kayak rental place and asked about prices and options of where to paddle. Basically, they told her that we could either go left and paddle upriver as far as we wanted to go, or go right out to the mouth where we would see a lot of seals.

Mouth of Russian RiverMouth of Russian RiverSo, while sipping our beverages we came up with the plan to return the following day, Herb and I with our kayaks, and Hilda and Paul to rent them. As they listened to us plotting, the kids starting whining about how they had to go back to work while we got to just do fun stuff. Aww…I felt so bad for them.

On the drive back, Hilda showed us two campgrounds right on the coast, Bodega Dunes and Doran Regional Park that we might want to consider as an alternative to the Petaluma KOA on future trips to the area.

That evening after the kids left to take Tommy to the airport and return to their tough working life in San Francisco, Hilda called a few more kayak rental places in Jenner and found a guy willing to rent two kayaks for $20 a piece for the whole day, much better than the $60 or $70 rates that the others were charging for a few house. He said he w ould meet us in the parking lot by Café Aquatica.

Lolo Kayaking with SealLolo Kayaking with SealWell, you know the old saying, “you get what you pay for.” When we pulled in the lot the next morning, there was only one other vehicle there – a pickup truck with two white Perception kayaks in the back, the same short, somewhat stubby ones we bought as beginner kayaks for our boys when they were little. We were all silent for a brief moment, before Hilda and Paul went out and proudly claimed their water vessels for the day. The man told them they could keep them out for as long as they wanted and to have fun.

They were terrific sports about it, and the kayaks were fine for what we had in mind that day. We decided to head to the right first and paddle out to the mouth of the river, because that’s where things looked most interesting. As we meandered along, these cute little heads kept popping out of the water right next to our boats. I wasn’t sure at first whether they were seals or otters, but Hilda remembered that otters have paws while seals just have flippers. We definitely saw both that day.

Hilda and Paul on a Test PaddleHilda and Paul on a Test PaddleWe beached the boats on Goat Rock Beach on the southern side of the river’s mouth and walked over the sand to the ocean. The current where the river entered the sea was swift and choppy, so it was probably good that we took the kayak man’s advice and didn’t try to paddle through. Paddling out would have been quite fun and fast, but getting back in might have been a problem, especially with Hilda and Paul’s less than sleek kayaks.

Afterwards we paddled back upriver, past the Café Aquatica and just past the bridge where Route 1 crossed over the river. We found a nice grassy spot to pull over for a picnic and to let Hilda and Paul try out our kayaks.

Post Kayaking Coffee at Cafe AquaticaPost Kayaking Coffee at Cafe AquaticaEventually, we paddled our way back to the parking lot where Hilda and Paul were supposed to just leave the kayaks for the rental guy to pickup later. We were surprised to find him waiting for us. “I saw you guys picnicking up by the bridge,” he said, which we found kind of creepy. “You were out so long that I came looking for you.” Probably no one had ever kept those kayaks out for more than an hour before. He didn’t know Hilda and Paul.

We sat at our table at the Café Aquatica again, sipping coffee and talking about what a good time we had out on the river that day. I’m so glad Andrew picked a girl with such fun parents.

Russian River SunsetRussian River SunsetThe next morning we were to head down to our campground in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco, for the night. From there we would pick up Andrew in San Francisco and Tommy at the airport – I couldn’t believe he was flying back already – to spend the night in the RV with us and then head to Yosemite in the morning.

But before we left Hilda and Paul’s driveway, we had to transfer the kayaks from the roof of the Subaru back to the top of the RV, an extremely difficult task considering how heavy and awkward they are. Paul volunteered to help, but Herb said no, “Me and Lorry have to practice doing this on our own.” Famous last words. As we were lifting the kayaks off the Subaru roof racks, one of us (and according to Herb that one was me) let the kayak slip out of our hands, smashing the passenger side mirror to smithereens. Oops! Herb was none too happy about it, but remained fairly calm, probably because of Paul’s presence. No problem. We would just order a new one from Amazon –I love that site—and have it delivered to the Petaluma KOA.

We said our thank yous and goodbyes and headed out of the driveway without any further damage.



California Coast SunsetCalifornia Coast SunsetSebastopol is a charming town in Sonoma County, 52 miles north of San Francisco and about a 20-minute drive to the coast. Sebastopol is known for its apples and hosts an annual Apple Blossom Festival in April and the Gravenstein Apple Fair in August. Today, however, the apple orchards are becoming vineyards as wine-making moves more and more into the region.

Every Sunday, from April to mid-December, there is a Farmers market in the downtown plaza,
where people congregate to enjoy delicious fresh regional food, live music, and dancing.

Sebastopol is home to the artist, Patrick Amiot, known for his whimsical, cartoon-like, junk-art sculptures. There are over 200 of his wacky, found-object works scattered throughout Sebastopol, especially on Florence Street.

Sonoma Coast State Park

Sonoma Coast State Park stretches for 17 gorgeous miles along Highway 1 from Bodega Bay to Goat Rock Beach in Jenner. Rugged headlands, secluded coves, and sandy beaches make this area one of California’s most scenic attractions.

The Park is actually a series of beaches separated by rocky bluffs. From several parking areas, hiking trails lead up to and along the headlands and down to secluded coves.

Some highlights include:

  • Bodega Head – rocky headland that forms the entrance into Bodega Harbor. This area is very popular for hiking along the headlands and whale watching.
  • Duncan’s Landing – one of the most dangerous spots along the Sonoma Coast due to large and unpredictable waves, which have swept people off the rocks
  • Shell Beach – relatively calm beach that is popular for beachcombing, tidepooling, and fishing.
  • Goat Rock – beach near the mouth of the Russian River in Jenner that is home to a colony of harbor seals

Sebastopol and Sonoma Coast State Park location map in "high definition"

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