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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vacation Sonoma County - WATER for Life & Play

Our summer issues are some of my favorites because we mix PLAY into our topics of discussion. As I like to say … my mission is to educate and inspire. This month is a good mix of both.

It’s also a good reminder to me to get out and play more. I can tell as I go through photographs that I have been playing less and working more. It’s not a healthy mix. Play is as essential to well-being as food and water.

And speaking of water, this month I asked Jen Stanfield of Sonoma County Regional Parks to write about where we can enjoy being both in and on the water…our Russian River Parks.

And Dawn Bell of Monte Rio Parks & Recreation, has written about Monte Rio Beach where you can rent a kayak and paddle to your heart’s content. It’s also where the very BEST 4th of July events occur - all day and into the night. If you haven’t experiencde the 4th River Style - this is your year!

Yes, we have lakes as well...lucky us...and I took you up to Lake Sonoma in the June issue. Take a look at the centerfold map for last month’s ride - in orange - and see about wandering out to that stunning body of water that provides drinking water for our center valley communities. Yes, we use this lake for play as well water. A perfect combination of uses.

For bicyclists - Sarah Hadler of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition has written about a weekend ride from Santa Rosa to Tomales Bay and back. This is also a stunning motorcycle route as well - and yes, of course - four wheels will get you there as well. Have Fun! ~ Vesta

Vacation Wonderland 
Offers Beaches with More than a Few Amenities

By Dawn E. Bell
The beach in Monte Rio is the only free fully accessible public beach in the entire Russian River area. That’s a pretty big deal and one that the Monte Rio Recreation and Park District (MRRPD) takes very seriously and devotes a good deal of time and energy to its upkeep. There are technically two beaches: Big Rocky and Big Sandy.

Big Sandy Beach – West of the Bridge is a dog friendly beach where visitors take their pets for a walk or swim. Just above this beach is a huge public parking lot, public bathrooms and a boat launch. Gates are open daily for the lower beach from 7AM until 7PM beginning on Memorial weekend and closes for the winter on October 15. The tent area can be rented for events that end by 9PM. The cost to locals (that is, anyone residing in the Russian River area) is a mere $25 per hour.

Big Rocky Beach – East of the Bridge is where you’ll find canoe and kayak rentals and the food concession. The boardwalk takes you right down to the rivers’ edge. You can also inner tubes, and beach chaisr or umbrellas for a nominal fee. In fact, the Monte Rio Beach offers what may be the least expensive canoe and kayak rental on the river; $25 day fee for canoe or double kayak from Memorial weekend until Labor Day.

Big Rocky is also the site where thousands gather for the Independence Weekend celebrations which include two days of Big Rocky Games – organized games and contests for kids of all ages; the historical water parade, the one-of-a-kind water curtain and of course – FIREWORKS!

Visit our website for more information at, or contact MRRPD at 707-865-9956 or


Russian River Fun
Grab your Swimsuit & a’s River Time!!!
By Jen Stanfield, Stewardship Coordinator, Sonoma County Regional Parks

Nothing says summer in Sonoma County like lounging on the banks of the Russian River! Check out one of the seven Sonoma County Regional Parks access points spanning the length of the river from Cloverdale to Guerneville. Unless otherwise noted, the day-use parking fee for the parks listed here is $6, or free with an annual Parks Membership.

Healdsburg Veteran’s Memorial Beach (HVMB) features a lifeguarded swimming lagoon with a view of the historic Healdsburg Bridge. The lagoon is open from Memorail Day to Labor Day. $7 per vehicle for day use, $6 the rest of the year. Special rates for buses or trucks carrying more than nine people. 

HVMB: 13839 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg

Riverfront Regional Park is located a few minutes east of downtown Windsor. This former quarry features two day-use picnic areas, a two-mile multiuse trail around Lake Benoist and a half mile long trail over Redwood Hill.

Riverfront Regional Park: 7821 Eastside Road in Healdsburg

Steelhead Beach offers seasonal fishing and river access for small craft such as drift boats, kayaks and canoes. Once at the park you may hang out on the beach or explore the riparian forest with the Osprey and Willow trails. The trails take you past a number of tree species including big leaf maple, Oregon ash, and cottonwood that thrive in the wet sandy soils of the riverbank.
Steelhead Beach Regional Park: 9000 River Road, Forestville

Sunset Beach encompasses a gravel bar that allows for a variety of experiences on the river: families splashing in the shallow side while canoes navigate the channel on the far side of the bar. There is plenty of space to stake out your own little piece of beach at this park. 

Sunset Beach Regional Park: 11403 River Road, Forestville

For more information visit:; or call the main office of Sonoma County Regional Parks at 707-565-2041


Take a Weekend Bicycle Tour
Santa Rosa to Point Reyes!

By Sarah Hadler
Summer weather has finally arrived and there is no better time to hop on your bikes and explore the beautiful area that we live in. When you live in Sonoma County, there are countless glorious bike rides to enjoy, but one of my favorites takes you down into Marin County to the wonder of Point Reyes National Seashore. My husband and I live in West Santa Rosa, and one weekend when we get the itch to do a short weekend ride, we decide to head south and check out the beauty that the coast has to offer.

We plot our route using the very informative and accessible Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition “Sonoma County Bicycle Map” (, which delineates between high traffic (shoulders, no shoulders), medium traffic (shoulders, no shoulders), low traffic (paved, unpaved) and freeway (no bicycle access). The map also shows grades (5%+, 7%+, 9%+), summits, passes, gates/road ends and where you can find things like restrooms, water, bike shops, food stores, camping, etc. It is the perfect tool for choosing a bicycle route that is suitable for your level of experience. We estimate that the one-way trip is about 52 miles, from front door to tent door!

Since Point Reyes is a popular spot, it is highly recommended to reserve a back-country camping spot in advance (either online, or by phone (415) 663-8054). Make sure that the spot you choose is accessible by bicycle.

After a stop at Oliver’s Market (461 Stony Point Road) to load up on food for the weekend, we head south on Stony Point Road, crossing Hwy 116, and then veer right onto Meecham Road, where we are greeted by bleating goats and sheep. Meecham soon turns right onto Pepper Road and tall eucalyptus trees shade us as we ride. Pepper takes us to Bodega Ave, we turn right and continue into Marin County on the Tomales Petaluma Road.

At Tomales, we head south on Highway 1, skirting Tomales Bay, passing tiny houses, fishing boats and seafood restaurants. We get that ravenous hunger that goes hand in hand with bicycle riding and we pull over next to a fenced-in cow pasture and eat a picnic lunch.

We fly along the coast, breathing in the clean ocean air. We cycle through the lovely town of Point Reyes Station and down to the Bear Valley Visitor Center to pick up our backcountry camping permit for Glen Camp. The park ranger suggests we continue south on Hwy 1 to the Five Brooks Trailhead, and from there, take Stewarts Trail all the way to Glen Camp, “about 7 miles and a lot of uphill”. Off we go! Stewarts Trail is basically a wide dirt and gravel, well-groomed forest road, surrounded by tall trees on all sides. We pedal up and up, whispering when we need to talk, both of us reveling in the silence and ethereal late afternoon light. We reach the summit at Firtop, 1324 feet, and then seize the downhill, cool coastal air filling our lungs. We wind our way down to Glen Camp, pitch our tent and make soup and sandwiches for dinner, enjoying the descending wooded darkness, miles away from electricity and cars.

We wake refreshed the next morning, lazily pack up camp, and head back the way we came in, stopping often to admire the views and catch our breath. We are amazed at what the Point Reyes National Seashore has to offer and vow to come back and explore some more. There are so many variations on this weekend bicycle tour that one could choose to do. If camping is not your thing, there are plenty of inns and vacation rentals in Point Reyes Station, Olema and Inverness from which you could still access the park by bicycle. Next time, I hope we can stay longer; I think a week would be a good start…

Sarah Hadler works for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition who works to make Sonoma County the best place for you and your family to ride bikes.

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