Thanksgiving dinner has been eaten and re-eaten. The turkey’s been picked down to the bones. Endorphins lulled you to sleep with that slightly “full” feeling. Your house seems rather full too, with family and friends occupying every seat. What’s next on the agenda?
Getting everyone outdoors for the day may be the best solution. Forget about the Mall Sales and invest your time in nature and her resources. As close by as out your back door or within an easy drive, here are 10 destinations guaranteed to make you forget about making turkey soup.
CLOSE TO HOME:
1. Tilden Regional Park
From hiking to flowers, there’s something for everyone in Tilden Park. The hours of the day will quickly fade before you have time to access all the possibilities. Children, and adults, will love the Little Farm and Nature Area—farm animals on display and an easy walk on the endless bridge leading to a small pond where ducks quack and an elegant heron makes his home. Take the same group onward to the antique merry-go-round of hand carved animals and Tilden’s own steam train. Anglers and walkers won’t be disappointed with a stroll around Lake Anza whose beauty reigns regardless of the weather. With the last bit of light, tour California’s floral districts at the Botanic Garden, boasting an amazing collection of California natives. www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden.htm
2. Berkeley Marina
Celebrate childhood at Adventure Playground, instruct yourself regarding bay ecology and sustainable architecture at the Straw Bale Visitor Center or relax in the shelter of Shorebird Park, watching birds and windsurfers expend energy. Walk the paved paths circling the marina and dream of far-off tropical jaunts abroad your yacht. After exhausting the southern end of the marina head north to Cesar Chavez Park watching kites soar in the fierce winds and happy dogs romp with glee. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/marina.
3. Historic Oakand
Oakland’s historic neighborhoods are an ideal walking destination, from Old Oakland and City Center to Chinatown, Lake Merritt and the waterfront. Rich in ethnic heritage and the culture it supports, architecture, specialty shops and enticing eateries will glide you along. At the colorful waterfront you can trace Jack London’s early career in fishing and prospecting amid eye-catching scenery. Honor America’s longest term President with a tour of the USS Potomac, Roosevelt’s “Floating White House” where expert docents bring this imposing figure to life. www.oaklandnet.com, www.usspotomac.org.
4. Historic Sonoma
Divide your day between 19th century California and present day merchants and you won’t be disappointed. Sonoma’s park-like plaza is central to almost all its vintage attractions, and just the spot to sample the edible ones. Sonoma State Historic Park consists of California’s northernmost mission, furnished army barracks, a workingman’s hotel and the near-by home of General Vallejo. An easy walk sets the scene for the famous “Bear Flag Revolt”. Even the non-shoppers in your group won’t rebel at a wander around Sonoma’s boutiques and food shops. Local cheeses, olives, wine and bread never tasted so good. www.parks.ca.gov, www.sonomavalley.com.
5. Jack London State Historic Park
“A quiet place in the country to write and loaf” is what Jack London desired. That’s what he had in Glen Ellen, an estate as much his legacy as his books. His spirit may follow your footsteps along quiet, oak-wooded trails from the House of Happy Walls, built to commemorate his work, to the tragic ruins of Wolf House, never inhabited. You’ll marvel at his innovative thinking as you tour Beauty Ranch, aptly named. Make sure to save time for the short hike up to the lake and bathhouse. End your day in quiet appreciation of a lovely spot and a complex icon. www.parks.sonoma.net/JLPark.html.
6. Sunol Regional Wilderness
Far removed in space and time from bustling Alameda County, Sunol’s wild, open spaces will transport you far beyond. This is a land of soaring raptors, sandstone and basalt outcrops and our own Little Yosemite, where huge boulders line the gorge and create stepping-stones for a rushing creek. Plan your day around the Old Green Barn Visitor Center and the Indian Joe Creek Self-Guided Nature Trail. Follow the numbered markers to explore creek-side communities and Flag Hill. Then challenge yourself to breathtaking vistas on Canyon View Trail heading to Little Yosemite, a site you’ll hear long before it appears to view.
End the day at Alameda Grove Picnic Area, reflecting on this hidden treasure. www.ebparks.org/parks/sunol.htm.
7. Muir Woods National Monument
Walking below coast redwoods 250 feet in height, the last old growth forest left in the Bay Area, tends to put a different slant on life. In the cool dense shade, light filtering down, it’s difficult not to be awed by their majesty. Follow the boardwalk or venture farther afield on well-marked trails, slip into the café or browse the well-stocked gift shop. Hope for needle-clinging mist or a gentle rain to swell the waters of the creek. There are no bad days in the midst of this cathedral of nature. www.nps.gov/muwo/home.htm.
8. Point Reyes National Seashore
To fully explore Point Reyes requires several adventures. This time head west to Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse, before the annual whale and elephant seal migration and the mandatory shuttle. The rocky peninsula, 300 steps and expansive ocean views will seem your own. Follow meandering footpaths that edge the headland and explore the lifeboat station cove, keeping an eye out for the mammals of the sea. Save time to stroll the long, level sands of Drake’s Beach, discover the displays in the Visitor Center and savor hot soup or an oyster sandwich at Drake’s Beach Café.
9. Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Certain destinations are old friends, welcoming you back in every season. Camp Taylor qualifies as one of my favorite places. I never tire of a gentle stroll beneath the redwood canopy, the gurgle of Papermill Creek at my side. Winter brings its own excitement, the spawning of silver salmon and steelhead trout. By foot or bike, ten miles of trails meander the canyon and open hillsides; pamphlets are available for two self-guided walks. Bundle up for some hot chili and dogs at the Azalea Picnic Area, next to a wood fire in the old stone fire pits. Whatever you eat will taste delicious. www.parks.ca.gov.
10. Pacific Grove
Requiring an early rising, Pacific Grove is still worth a visit, if only for one day. Walk the town past Victorian beauties and clapboard cottages to Lovers Point Park along Ocean View Blvd. Look for basking sea lions on the rocks and otters foraging in the kelp. Stroll the sands at Asilomar Beach. Back in town, check out the latest exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, then relax at Juice N’ Java or enjoy the great food at Peppers. Though there’s too much to do in just one day, you’ll leave wanting to return. www.pacifcigrove.org.