Out and About

April 8 2018

Wonderful wildflower walk on gorgeous Sonoma Land Trust property in Knights Valley. Wildflower show is incredible this spring – horrific October wildfire created a healing colorful show.

December 28, 2017

Who’d suspect that the acknowledged headwater of the magnificent Laguna de Santa Rosa wetlands that embraces the edge of Sebastopol would be far to the southeast in Cotati, Sonoma county’s quirky, forward and independent thinking smallest incorporated city.

Bicycle and pedestrian bridge crosses the creek in Cotati. Photo credit: Kent Porter, Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Read about it in today’s Press Democrat, my story titled “Hiking Cotati’s own headwaters” that details a three-mile loop walk along the creeks that also takes in some of Cotati’s idiosyncratic and quirky nooks and crannies:  http://bit.ly/2IIPEQM.

Bird life abounds along the restored creek beds, here a barrow sparrow.  Photo credit: Kent Porter, Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

November 21, 2017

A glorious day at Fort Ross State Park.  It’s been years since I’ve stopped by – zoomed past on my way north on Highway 1. The Visitors Center is not to be missed, and then the beautifully restored fort itself.  One could plan to spend an entire day, wandering the bluff tops ……. and considering the past.




August 28, 2017

Mist was rising from Santa Rosa’s lovely Spring Lake on this morning’s walk. Wondered what the ducks were staring at and soon found out, a river otter playing hide and seek among the reflected trees.


June 22, 2017

Hats hold forth at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor’s new exhibition, “Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade.” Spectacular examples of period hats, 1834-1917, keep company with 40-some Impressionist paintings. Degas’ The Millinery Shop sets the theme.


The Traveling Gardener loved the fanciful, creative, “flowery hats” that accompanied the 40-plus paintings.

Feathers were in abundance, with plumes that didn’t involve killing the bird, OK. But not this one!


Especially loved Berthe Morisat’s  Young Girl in the Grass” in her simple straw hat circled with flowers.

March 10, 2017

Cherry blossom time at Hakone Gardens

Not here in Sonoma, but in the town of Saratoga 50 miles south of San Francisco , a glorious spring day with cherry trees in full billowing blossom. That and arbors dripping with wisteria clusters and azaleas in full bloom.

Hakone Gardens



September 30, 2016

Visitor on my deck – fox in a pot!


“Ooh – pot was nice, but this is even nicer.”

Fox 2

August 8, 2016

Waterways and wildlife …

The Laguna de Santa Rosa, Sonoma’s extensive connection of waterways, is an informative and beautiful place to visit. Fabulous Laguna artwork by Sonoma artists inside. Informational signage outdoors enhances  views that stretch forever.  Walk the paths and sit-a-spell on the overlook.

Laguna de Santa Rosa


March 5, 2016

Oak woodlands and views that stretch forever …

Switchback paths made the climb easy to top of the world views.  On the way, oak woodlands, open fields, rushing streams.  Sonoma County has a winner in its newly opened  Sonoma Mountain Regional Park.


Looking out over Bennett Valley toward the coastal mountain range.

.  First of spring’s wildflowers sprouting through the grass, columbine, baby blue eyes and so much more.


A shooting star captured along the path.

Intrepid hardy hikers, feeling incredibly lucky to live in beautiful Sonoma County.


Yes, those are vineyards in the background.  This is Sonoma County, after all.


February 25, 2015 

Walking the paths of Laguna Santa Rosa …

A glorious early spring day, blue skies, not a cloud in sight.


Open fields on either side , vineyards, mustard in bloom, Mount St. Helena in the distance.  Flat terrain – striding along.



And then into the watery laguna itself.

February 20, 2015

Spring time drive on one of the county’s most beautiful roads ….

Narrow Coleman Valley Road winds its way out of the hamlet of Occidental up and over the mountains to descend to a spectacular stretch of Sonoma County coastline.

Wild iris just beginning to bloom, later entire patches will decorate the hillside.

Wild iris was just beginning to bloom. Later, entire patches will decorate the hillsides.

Such a relief to see that there is more to the county than “wine country.”  Here, along twisting Coleman Road,  there is nary a vineyard to be seen, this is sheep and cattle country.  On either side spectcular vistas stretch for miles.  I pulled off alongside the road to let cattle pass.


We pulled off to led cattle pass. On Coleman Valley Road they have the right-of-way.


And then down to Highway 1 and the coast, 10 miles west of Occidental and 30 minutes later. I never rush along twisting Coleman Valley Road, with all those vistas to savor and, on this journey, allowing for a herd of  moooing cattle to pass by.


Oxalis gone crazy brightens roadside  Highway 1. Surging surf in the background.

January 31, 2015 

Walking with the Sonoma Land Trust …


Glorious day for an outing with the Land Trust. Blue-sky perfect, San Francisco skyline in the far distance.

After nearly 10 years of planning and the raising of nearly $18 million, the 2,327-acre Sears Point Ranch along Highway 37, once intended for a casino resort and instead purchased by Sonoma Land Trust in 2005, will soon sport 960 acres of restored tidal wetlands along San Pablo Bay.

Hikers gather for an overview of the spectacular project.

Hikers gather for an overview of the spectacular project.

November 13, 2014

Walking the “Old Railroad Trail” to Tiburon …

Out with the Oakmont Hikers, walking along San Francisco Bay into  Tiburon,  a town so picture-postcard perfect that it makes me wonder why travel, why not just stay home. Drought resistant plantings line the old rail bed turned path, inspiration for gardeners.


August 9, 2014

Bruce Johnson comes to Quarry Hill ….

Can’t imagine a more appropriate setting for Sonoma County sculptor Bruce Johnson’s massive redwood pieces than Quarry Hill Botanical Garden. Six of his monumental sculptures are nestled into the garden’s wild, woodland  setting – wander gravel paths to come upon  them nestled among flowering shrubs, exotic trees, ponds and waterfalls as if they’d always been there.

Johnson sculpture Quarry Hill

Johnson creates his works, which he describes as a cross between Stonehenge and Shinto shrines,  from enormous pieces of salvaged, old-growth redwood. The one below he calls “Monkey Mind.”

Johnson sculpture Quarry Hill

Step in close to see exquisite hammered and worked copper embellishments.

Johnson sculpture Quarry Hill



May 16, 2014

Healdsburg  garden tour …

Six gardens, all different, but this  my favorite – welcoming and colorful on property the owners call the ” Chalk Hill Inn” because family and friends are always coming to stay.

Petaluma Garden tour

May 11, 2014

Paradise Winery’s Sculpture Garden …

Had yet to see the new sculptures in Paradise Winery’s sculpture garden – the weird and wonderful scattered under the oaks. Shelley’s poem “The Cloud” offered nearby:

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,     Paradise sculpture
         From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
         In their noonday dreams




April 22, 2014

Earth Day at Francis Ford Coppola Winery ...

A puffy-cloud, blue-sky day, perfect for luncheon in the vines. Multiple courses, family-style cuisine prepared by winery chefTim Bodell, perfectly matched with Coppola’s Director’s Cut wines. Celebrating the bounty of Sonoma County courtesy of our wondrous and precarious  earth.

Earth Day

Earth Day at Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

March 31, 2014

The Traveling Gardener in Africa ….

Adventuring through Namibia and Botswana with a goodbye to Africa in the thunderous mists of Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls. Animals aplenty. Zebras, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, lions,  warthogs, and more – oh my!  Along with plentiful carpets of flowers courtesy of the tail end of rainy season.   Traveling with ElderTreks (www.eldertreks.com) , exotic adventure for those over 50,  eight of us on their Splendors of South Africa tour.

Africa giraffe


What do you do when you’ve forgotten your hat?  Try a lily pad!

Botswana lily pad hat


October 28, 2013

Out and about on the Mississippi Gulf Coast…..

Exploring bayous and savannahs via pontoon boat and marshy paths. Gorgeous natural attractions, the flip-side of Gulf Coast casinos,  abundant with wildlife, exotic flora: Gulf Island National Seashore Park; Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge; Pascagoula River Audubon Center. All within a dice throw of Biloxi’s casinos.  Photo – launching area for Pascagoula River pontoon excursion.


August  1 

Foraging with the chef at Kenwood Inn & Spa …

Once a month the chefs who provide the best of the best fare for Inn guests,  invite participants on select Thursdays to come forage in the kitchen gardens of the super-luxurious Inn for the freshest and best to carry into the kitchen.  Non-Inn guests are invited and The Traveling Gardener tagged along. The fun of it is that the Inn’s edibles – herbs, vegetables, fruits – are tucked here and there in a dozen areas of the Inn’s landscaping. And then into the kitchen for a cooking demo making use of what was gathered. A $40 fee benefits the Sonoma Valley Boys & Girls Club.

Sous chef Roberto Bonefot Jr.

Foraging with sous chef Roberto Bonefot Jr.

May 25

Thoroughbreds and bourbon …

Out and about, not in Sonoma County but in Kentucky – home to thoroughbreds and bourbon. A nice change from Sonoma County’s unrelenting quilt of vineyards, vineyards and more vineyards.


May4,  2013

Unexpected find in downtown Healdsburg …

When I stopped by SHED the other day in downtown Healdsburg, I came across this small but charming native plant garden provided by the Wetzels.  SHED occupies one side of Foss Creek, the native garden the other. Lovely little oasis.

Healdsbuurg Native Plant Garden

April 21, 2013

There are sheds, and then there is SHED …


The inspiration of owner’s Cindy Daniel and Doug Lipton,SHED, just off the square in downtown Healdsburg, goes far beyond what one might expect to find in a shed, in a grand marketplace celebration of food from farm to table. There are bins of picture-perfect produce fresh-pulled from the earth; glass crocks filled with bulk items ranging from beans to preserved lemons; tried and true rakes, spades and hoes hang on the walls, awaiting transport to their purchasers real sheds.


Shelves hold the kind of  cookware you didn’t know you needed, but now you know you do.  Gorgeous cookbooks, some opened to pages with photos of finished culinary triumphs,  inspire putting that cookware to immediate use.

Not that one need do that. SHED  is also a seasonally driven cafe with a menu specializing in local ingredients from nearby farms.  Open seven days a week, plates complement selections of wine, beer, natural sodas, and kombucha on tap. Sit indoors or outdoors at picnic tables out front or on the deck overlooking the creek.


But that’s not all.  SHED also sees itself as a modern rendition of a grange. The second floor is  devoted to public and private events, a community center for learning  and sharing with talks and workshops of food crafts, gardening and sustainable living.


April 18, 2013

Wandering through wildflowers in Annadel State Park …

Out with the Oakmont Hikers, 34 strong this day. Wildflowers in abundance in Annadel State Park!  Even saw a scattering of the endangered fritillary.  Gorgeous day, beautiful oak woodlands, open meadows, views in every direction.

Oakmont Hikers wildflowers

March 26, 2013

Spring Lake on a spring early morning ….


Sonoma County Spring Lake1030465

Lovely time of  day to walk around the lake, lovely light, lovely reflections. Bird song, water birds preening, red-wing blackbirds in abundance.

Spring Lake water birds

February 17, 2013   

Out for a hike in Jack London State Park …

Through the farm buildings, up to the lake – reed choked and croaking with a million frogs – and then following the Vineyard Trail.  Sunny, blue-sky day with yellow mustard brightening the bare grape vines.

Sonoma County Jack London State Park

January 23, 2013

A celebration of crab and wine in Mendocino ….

Cioppino on a blustery evening,

It all began days earlier with volunteer cook, Chris Smiley, coming down from Eureka to get his  fumé going.  A recipe that included 150 pounds of onions,  75 pounds green bell peppers, 20 pounds of garlic,  multiple restaurant-sized cans of tomatoes and three cases clam juice.  The 80 pounds of white fish, 50 pounds each clams, mussels and shrimp, would be added later.  Along with 400 Dungeness crab, brought in by north coast fishermen.  Six hundred or so people would be coming for dinner, all eager to tie on their bibs and dive into an evening of all-you-can- eat cioppino.

The night was blustery – my umbrella turned inside out between the car and the door to Fort Bragg’s historic Pentecost Hall.  Inside the welcome was down-home warm, with volunteers sporting crab chapeaus. (They were also for sale – thought I’d pass on that one.)

Wine was available at $5 a glass at the Crabby Bar  – all Mendocino, all donated to the evening’s good cause as a benefit for Mendocino Coast Clinics. One I especially liked was Graziano’s bold Zinfandel, perfect with the cioppino to come.

Locals and visitors blew in through the front door together – jeans and slickers the dress for the evening- with the hall growing lively with conversation and laughter.  A clang of a corkscrew against a 5 lb. can of crab donated by Caito Fisheries  announced the dining hall doors were swinging open, and all headed for the long, newspaper-covered tables to tie on bibs and prepare to eat unlimited amounts of cioppino.

Volunteer servers brought more and more, along with crusty slices of bread to soak up the juices.

Lovely bowls of fresh greens arrived – would we like more?  Yes, we would.

And so it went until little tubs of vanilla ice cream were metered out to be dipped into with little wooden paddles and it was announced that a pot of locally roasted Thanksgiving Coffee was on.  Warmed with cioppino and heady with red wine we headed out into the bluster – just as it should be on the Mendocino coast in deep winter.

January 3, 2013

Hitting the trails in Annadel State Park…..

On Oakmont Hikers’  annual New Year  “Bubbly Hike”   Hike Leader Larry did the honors, pouring sparkling cider so as to insure steady feet on the paths home.

November 19, 2012

Brilliant  fall color in the Valley of the Moon …..

Vineyards scorched the eye as I drove along Highway 12 this morning.  Gold, bronze, yellow, red  marched through the Valley and up the mountainsides.  Gnarled trunks of century-old Zinfandel especially picturesque, decked out in deep-purple leaves.


September 15, 2012

A Glendi – Greek for “party” –  is never to be missed …..

And so the Traveling Gardener didn’t, this one at Saint Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church in Santa Rosa, and ate her way successfully through the authentically prepared food of Russia, Romania, the Middle East, Balkans, Greece, Eritrea.  Not so successful trying to figure out the footwork of the circle dances – looks easy, but it’s hard!

September 13, 2012

A cornucopia of gardening inspiration at the Heirloom Exposition …….

The Traveling Gardener volunteered at the second annual Exposition at the Santa Rosa fairgrounds.  A day to get a gardener’s hands itchy to get in the soil!

But a smidgen of the goings on is pictured above.  Gigantic displays of veggies in colors and shapes unknown to grocery store produce sections. Vendors galore providing information, gardening tools, heirloom seeds, plants.  Gorgeous exhibits, inside and out – education and inspiration.  Giant pumpkin contest, winners weighing more than 1,000 pounds.  Bee keeping, sustainable garden ideas, composting ………..on it went.

In the barns – wooly sheep, goats, exotic chickens, heirloom turkeys.  What a day!

September 8. 2012

Such an oh-so-Sonoma County day!

Visited MacLeod Family Vineyard – family owned for decades – in the heart of Sonoma Valley.  Walked the vineyards with 90-plus-year-old patriarch George MacLeod listening to delightful tales, learning things I didn’t know about vines to end up for a tasting of MacLeod wines under a century-old oak.  Fabulous wines – Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel – accompanied by tasty tidbits.  While selling grapes to local premium wineries, MacLeod also bottles under their own label.  For a similar up-close and personal tour call 707 833-4312, $15. Web:www.MacLeodFamilyVineyard.com.







July 29, 2012

Taking a look at overlooked Suisun Valley …..

So easy to whiz by when driving 80’s multiple lanes enroute to Sacramento and the Sierra.  What a surprise! Wineries,U-Pick farms; produce stands, vineyards, vast fields of sunflowers, in a scenic valley surrounded by rolling hills.


April 19, 2012

Into the wilds of Annadel State Park  in search of wildflowers …..

Glorious spring day, so off the Oakmont Hikers went .  Given the rather crazy weather year, wildflowers were in short supply.  No matter – there were blue skies, gnarled century-old oaks  popping new leaves,  meadows abundant in greener than green grasses, and plentiful pollywogs in False Meadow creek wiggling their way to frogdom.

April 7,  2012

The Russians are coming in tall, tall ships……

Well, not exactly coming, let’s say came,  given they arrived in 1812 and left 30 years later, abandoning  their Fort Ross on the northern Sonoma Coast. I can hear them now as they took a long look back as they sailed away: “That will make a dandy state park someday.”

Today, two replicas of the brigantines that brought the Russians 200 years ago sailed into Bodega Bay, giving literally thousands of people  a reason for driving over to the coast.  Me, too,  getting there shortly after nine in the morning so as to avoid the crowds – nope.   Already a hundred or so were snaking their way around the edge of Spud Point marina waiting for a chance to step on board for a guided tour. I hate to stand in line for anything.  And, what I really wanted was  to look at them, not be shoved around with a bunch of others in their tight-spaced interiors.  Aha,  at the far end of the marina a  narrow, L-shaped pier thing wrapped itself around giving an unobstructed view.

Here they are – disarmingly small, their “tall ship” masts barely taller than the fishing boats cruising by.