Published: October 2008Instant Adventures

Pacific States

Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.

Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
Canoeing: Paddle Wild Wine Country

Sonoma County often gets lumped with neighboring Napa County as an overly precious wine-growing area. But west of the 101, wild Sonoma feels far removed from all the cooing over a Chardonnay’s bouquet. This is Russian River and redwoods country—and the ideal spot for a canoe trip. Set up camp at Burke’s Canoe Trips near Forestville ($59 for a canoe and shuttle; $10 for a campsite; burkescanoetrips.com). "We’re literally one inch from the river," says Linda Burke. Paddle ten miles downstream, ogling the ospreys, herons, and river otters all the way, to Burke’s private riverside beach near Guerneville. It’s a slow stretch (you’d have to try to tip your boat). Just up the road is Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, home to trees taller than a football field is long. The reserve’s East Ridge Trail climbs 1,100 feet in 4.2 miles, depositing hikers on a plateau above the planet’s tallest living things.

Wildlife Watching: Count Slough Critters

Captain Yohn Gideon hands out click-counters to passengers aboard his Elkhorn Slough Safari boat, and you quickly understand why. Sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, white pelicans, brown pelicans, great blue herons, great egrets, and snowy egrets are all in such startling abundance that they’d be impossible to tally otherwise. The Cap’n shares the counting data with local biologists interested in California’s second largest wetland. The Slough Safari departs daily from the harbor in Moss Landing, a drive-by town between Monterey and Santa Cruz ($32; elkhornslough.com). Bed down at the Captain’s Inn at Moss Landing, run by Yohn’s wife, Melanie, where rooms overlook the huge tidal slough ($135; captainsinn.com).

Mushroom Picking: Go ’Shrooming

The verdant forests of Oregon’s central coast harbor all sorts of mushrooms, yet none in particular abundance. That, according to pro hunter Marjie Millard, is a virtue: "You can see lots of mushrooms in the wild without a lot of competition from hordes of seasonal pickers." Millard’s hot tip for where to ’shroom? "From Highway 101, just walk into the woods." October is peak season and time for the Yachats Village Mushroom Fest, when chefs in the tiny coastal town trot out their best fungi recipes (October 17-19; yachats.org). Even if you’re not into mycology, hikes on Cape Perpetua are killer—a variety of loops lead to amazing views of the wild, rocky coastline.

Hiking: Discover New Wilderness

Tieton River Canyon is a true feel-good story. Just last year the Nature Conservancy managed to purchase 10,000 acres of the canyon (20 miles northwest of Yakima) from a timber company and turn it over to the state as part of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The canyon’s volcanic basalt cliffs are primo for rock climbing (400 trad and sport routes), and access is easy. U.S. 12 runs through the heart of Tieton and leads to four Forest Service campgrounds and a few fine trails ($17; 509-653-1401). The premier hike? Bear Canyon Trail, which starts at milepost 179 and slithers for three miles among columnar basalt crags. If you’re around on October 4, stop by Yakima’s Fresh Hop Ale Festival—every brew in the contest is made from hops grown in the valley.

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