Five days and six nights in Napa, and all of it great fun.
We left Half Moon Bay State Park by mid-morning after a beautiful walk with the dogs on the multi-use path that runs along the bluffs over the beach, looking out at the Pacific Ocean. It was great for all four of us to get some exercise together in such a beautiful spot before getting on the road once again.
The drive to Napa took us through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge. Hitting such a national icon was fun, and we made certain to get some pictures of the Bambi and the bridge. Touristy, we know, but that’s what we are these days!
There are not a lot of campgrounds in Napa, but I found a small city park, Skyline Wilderness Park just to the east of Napa, in the hills, and we took a stab at it. It turned out to be an excellent choice.
The campground was small and simple, but the views and surrounding area were lovely with great hiking trails into the hills. The park also has an equestrian facility, a disc golf field, an archery club, a dog run and beekeeping. The Napa Native Plant Society has a seed-starting facility, and there’s the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden, where three acres of native plants provide a wonderful environment for birds, butterflies and other visitors. Elementary school groups visit the garden to learn about the benefits of native plants and their cultural heritage.
Our visit to Napa had lots of variety and fun. Most important, Napa had friends and family. Friends in the form of Roland and Jan. Family in the form of their little Scotty Bosun, who is Mattie and Pepper’s little son! Bosun and his brother Finn (no relation to Mattie and Pepper) took their jobs as hosts very seriously. Not only did they invite Mattie and Pepper into their home for a day while Bruce and I were off learning about garbage (more on that later), but they took us to all the best wineries and restaurants and made certain we got the insider’s tour of it all. Great job Bosun and Finny!
Napa treated us to some warm sunshine, which was delightful. A few tastes of wine didn’t harm the atmosphere either.
Of course, Mattie and Pepper aren’t accustomed to all the wine tasting, so they had a little too much and passed out on the floor while the rest of us partied on.
During our visit we enjoyed wines at Grigch Hills Estate, Rutherford Ranch Winery, and the unique, off-the-beaten-path Nichelini Family Winery. Fortunately we were able to do the popular ones on weekdays. We tried to do a few tasting on a Saturday: big mistake. They were rediculously crowded in spite of rainy weather, so we gave up.
Instead, we drove off to explore the surrounding area and had some great drives. Up the valley we explored Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga, and to the west of Napa Valley we drove up Into the mountains on Petrified Forest Road, across Spring Mountain and along Dry Creek Road. The drive to the east through Sage Valley is also impressive. Really, really fun rides.
It was pouring for most of this and the roads were full of the now-familiar orange cones and barriers guarding against slides and unstable shoulders from the recent storms and rains. We were amused to observe that, in some of the more hair-raising sections of the Spring Mountain Road, the truck’s nav system seemed to think the speed limit was 55 MPH. I hope it was confused!
Another excellent side-trip was a drive back to the Golden Gate Bridge to climb along the Marin Headlands to take in the views of San Francisco. We were fortunate to be able to do this on a drop-dead gorgeous day. What a spot.
In addition to the wine and scenery, we of course enjoyed excellent food in the Valley. Beginning with the simple but tasty fare sitting outside with the pups, Gott’s was great “gourmet” roadside food. Our favorite was the Rutherford Grill. R&D Kitchen had excellent food but the bar service was really annoying. What part of “please don’t remove my plate until my wife is finished with her meal” don’t you understand? Tarla proved to be a great simple stop for a quick evening meal when we didn’t want to make an event out of it, and we enjoyed a lovely leisurely Sunday lunch at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena with Roland and Jan. Alexis Baking Company was a tasty stop in our morning walks around Napa, especially their home made (!) English muffins, and the Oxbow Public Market had every gourmet morsel and supply anyone could ever imagine. We replenished our coffee stash at the very satisfying Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company.
Need I say that we left Napa fat and happy?