As beautiful as the mornings are around here, we have to admit: it’s rare for us to get up at the crack of dawn (when we don’t have to), and rarer still for us to be in Guerneville, the neighboring town (four miles upriver from Monte Rio) as the sun is just coming up.
But we’re so glad we woke up early one recent morning and decided to go out. We ended up riverside just as the sun was rising.
A light mist swirled atop the water’s surface and the trees slowly began to glow brighter and brighter green as the sun’s rays hit their leaves.
We were still a little sleepy, but the slight chill in the air was bracing. The river seemed to be just waking up as well.
Although we were near the main highway, the morning was almost silent, except for some birdsong and the splashes of fish in the river, marked by slowly spreading concentric rings on the otherwise glassy surface. And occasionally, small caravans of ducks swam or flew by, but with little quacking.
The river is always full of life, and with all this wildlife keeping us company for the sunrise, we were surprised, and a little amazed, at the morning’s perfect stillness.
We love the redwood forests around the Russian River—and all around Northern California—but sometimes when we see something a lot, it can start to become part of the scenery. It’s scenery that we love, of course, but not something that we always notice as much as we used to, when we were first coming to the area. Or so we thought.
Sorting through some of our photos the other day, we realized how many shots we’ve taken over the past two years of the redwood trees around the house, Monte Rio, and just the Russian River area in general. So apparently we’re still enjoying the local landscape, even when we’re not consciously doing so.
But our surprisingly large cache of redwood forest photos offered us a good reminder to just slow down more often and really think about the beauty of these trees all around us: the shaggy fibrousness of rust-colored bark, the almost primeval look of the simple, frond-like leaves, the gentle sway of the towering trunks as they flex, ever so slightly, with the wind, and the glow of the sunlight filtering through the leaves.
So the next time we’re out on a walk, or even driving on the Bohemian Highway or Hwy 116, we’ll try to notice all that our cameras have seen, and really appreciate the forest—and the trees.
Most mornings here do start out in a fog (and isn’t that sometimes true of mornings in general?), but when the mist burns off, the sun comes flooding through the trees.
Because there are redwood trees all around, the yard has a lot of shady spots—perfect for ferns, which don’t tend to thrive in direct sunlight. Because this fern grows under the stairs in the front yard, it especially doesn’t see much sun at all, but it really seemed to glow when the sunlight did catch its fronds.
Armstrong Redwoods in Guerneville has become one of our favorite places to bring friends and family. The park has plenty of hiking trails, including one that leads to a secluded pottery studio in the hills of the adjoining Austin Creek State Recreation Area.
It’s also a place that offers the chance to really take in the redwoods. An easy, mile-long nature trail loops around the forest floor, through a grove of redwoods, and past some of the park’s real highlights, including the Parson Jones tree, the tallest tree in the grove—taller than a football field is long—as well as the Colonel Armstrong tree, which at 1,400 years old, is the oldest tree in the park. And of course, the Colonel Armstrong tree is no shorty, either.
On numerous visits, we’ve tried to capture the scale of these beautiful giants—and this is one of the rare situations where the extra wide-angle shots taken by our phones actually helps rather than hinders—but, still, it’s hard to do them justice.
Maybe it’s the rain that’s falling here today, but what seems especially blissful right now is the memory of a walk we took on a summer day at Armstrong Redwoods in Guerneville last June—the wonderful warm day when this photo was taken. We were with our friends and their toddler daughter, who was just getting steady enough on her feet to occasionally speed ahead of us on the nature trail that winds through the redwoods. She toddled up and greeted a few families we met along the path—she’s outgoing and always makes friends—but she was especially taken with an older girl, about 8 or 9, and we all stopped and had a nice chat with the girl’s family.
This park always offers a nice, cool getaway in the warm months. All those big redwood trees provide a lot of shade, but there’s usually still plenty of sunlight filtering through the trees. And in a few places, even the tall redwoods can’t stop a sunbeam determined to reach the forest floor, as this one was.
The plants that grow in the shade of these huge trees often seem to have a lacy or delicate quality that somehow makes their massive companions seem even greater. Struck by that determined sunbeam, the leaves of this little tree cast a shadow we couldn’t resist.
It’s always fun to see friends and family, and one among us has been known to relish the fully booked weekend, chock-full of parties or visits with friends, dinners with family, or just a day-long hike we’ve planned. Perhaps, ideally, all of the above.
But sometimes the best weekend days are lazy ones, with no plans, no deadlines and nowhere pressing that we have to be. It was on such a Sunday that that photo was taken—just out for a stroll around the house. The roads in the neighborhood don’t see a lot of traffic, allowing for a relaxing walk right down the middle of the street.