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Happy Anniversary to me…and my hubby! Part 1.

I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but Paul and I just celebrated our 45th anniversary. We treated ourselves to five days exploring northern California. It was fab. See for yourself.

(Note: There’s so much to see and share, I’m breaking this into two parts: the Russian River first, then the rugged northern coast. And, as I’m writing this, there is a major fire in Sonoma County, just a short ways to the north and east of this area. The entire area between the coast and the fire has been put under Mandatory Evacuation orders. With high winds predicted, it could spell disaster for thousands of residents—and mean the end to some irreplaceable natural treasures. I truly can’t wrap my head around this. Your prayers for all impacted by the Kincade Fire are most appreciated.)

Anniversary trip Part I: Guerneville, the Armstrong Redwoods State Park, Korbel winery, the Russian River, etc., etc.

There’s a faster way to get to the Russian River than the one we chose. Our goal was to stay off all major highways. Google Maps was baffled by this and kept suggesting directions that would save us “17 minutes.” Like we cared. This trip was about well-earned R&R and celebrating a milestone.

The beauty of choosing a road less traveled is all the surprises you weren’t expecting…like finding a Whole Foods in a little town called Sebastopol. We knew we were going to be too pooped to find a restaurant when we finally reached our destination, so we stocked up on goodies and headed north on Highway 116. This winding road took us past wineries, gorgeous trees getting their autumn on, and idyllic-looking farms.

As the sun began to set and dusk turned the clouds a pretty pink, we pulled into our first AirBnB. I booked this place because the view overlooked a vineyard. We assumed this meant the bungalow was at a winery. Nope. The winery is miles away, but nestled between us and the Russian River--just a few feet beyond our private deck—were rows and rows of grapevines. Tranquility thy name is vineyard.


The next day we explored the town of Guerneville: charming, laid-back (in this off-season) and friendly.

We’d been advised to make a visit to the Armstrong Redwoods a priority. So, we headed there next. And, oh, wow, it didn’t disappoint.

The mostly flat loop was as peaceful and restorative as any walk I’ve ever taken. The forest is a healthy, vibrant mix of mostly second-growth redwoods, Douglas fir, and lush ferns that seem to thrive in harmony. After the discovery of gold in 1849, the old-growth redwood giants were logged with abandon. We learned that nearly 95% of the old growth coastal redwoods fell to the loggers’ ax.

Luckily, this small, 805-acre reserve was set aside by Colonel James Armstrong, a lumberman. His daughter continued his efforts after his death and was instrumental in securing its protected status. An impressive tree named in her father’s honor is approximately 1400 years old.


We loved being able to take our time and learn interesting facts on our walk, such as the groupings of trees at the base of a stump are called “fairy circles.” (top right below) These towering “children” were still darn impressive. And the unusual burls that formed on some trees were the result of a bruise or scar (top left).

The next day, we explored some of the outlying areas and took a tour of the Korbel winery. The history was fascinating, and we enjoyed the champagne tasting at the end of the tour, too.

One fun story: when the three Korbel brothers bought their initial tract of land along the Russian River, the area had already been logged, leaving behind dozens of giant stumps which would have been ridiculously expensive to remove. The brothers simply farmed around them. Then, in the mid-1960s, the winery’s new owner was approached by a film crew from L.A. about filming a few episodes of the popular TV show COMBAT! on the estate (because of it had a “French countryside” look). The owner asked, “Will you want to blow things up?” An agreement was struck. There are no more giant stumps in the Korbel fields. 😉

And, look what bloomed while I was traipsing around northern California—my michaelmas daisies. I was expecting to see this plant blossom much later…like around Thanksgiving. Not sure why, but this made me wish I kept a journal so I could look back on such things.


My Q&A question this week is: Do you keep a diary or journal? Y or N? (Asking for a friend/character.) 😉

(Two winners will be chosen by random drawing to receive either a $5 Starbucks gift card or a $5 Amazon gift card. Please reply the usual ways: email or on my DebraSalonenAuthor Facebook page.)

Last week’s Q&A was: Do you get Trick or Treaters knocking at your door on Halloween? Y or N? We don’t. I really miss seeing the kids in costume.

Many thanks for all the interesting answers. The NOs edged out the YESs just slightly. I take that as a sign that traditional Halloween is changing. Maybe that’s the way it needs to be.

My two randomly selected winners this week are:

Renee Rousseau – YES
LadyMagnolia – NO

(Renee and LadyMagnolia congrats. Please email me your pick of either a $5 Starbucks or a $5 Amazon gift card.)

Happy Reading!


Next week: Romantic anniversary Part 2: Fort Ross and Bodega Bay. Plus, I’m part of a NEW Holiday Anthology! Cover reveal!!



Copyright © 2019 Debra Salonen