One of the best hikes in Western Sonoma County is the four mIle loop to the top of Red Hill. It begins on the coastal bluff above Shell Beach and climbs, steeply at first, then gradually, to the 860′ summit.
My wife and I enjoyed watching the aerobatic antics of a pair of ravens, the purposeful and deliberate manoevers of birds of prey, and the turkey vultures’majestic slope soaring and thermaling.
On a clear day you can see north to Fort Ross, south to Point Reyes, east to Mount St. Helena, and more than 35 nautical miles out to the Pacific Ocean’s horizon.
The views are long and the scenery is varied–forests, rangeland, ocean, the lower Russian River Estuary, and the tiny seaside hamlet of Jenner.
Looking south from Jenner you can see Red Hill in the distance.
If you’re able to get away for a half day in natural splendor, this is a great place to visit.
This morning I took my son-in-law paddling on the Russian River Estuary in fine winter weather. We saw the pair of Bald Eagles who are often there.
It’s good to have binoculars when kayaking.
We saw Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Cormorants, a Great Blue Heron, a few Mallards, flocks of Buffleheads, and a half dozen Mergansers.
We visited with Bob Noble, the only other paddler we saw. More at Bob at Bob’s Eyes.
The mouth of the river is open.
Waqqas enjoyed his first paddle.
A brown Russian River is rushing into the Pacific. From the Highway One overlook at Jenner the river’s waters are turning the normally clear blue Pacific an opaque brown for about a mile out to sea.
That brown water signals the steelhead to swim upstream. The steelhead in turn, attract others.
A Bald Eagle stood for a time on Haystack Rock at the mouth. Here is a closer look:
Many seals swam near the mouth.
More trash than usual is washing downstream. Among the usual alcohol and energy-drink bottles, tennis balls and beach toys, was this inflatable dolphin-shaped pool toy.
The mouth of the Russian River is closed again two days after the Sonoma County Water Agency breached it. Large waves washed sand into the channel dug by the Agency’s track hoe.
Water level in the estuary stands at 5′ at the Jenner Visitor’s Center. That’s about a foot below the level it was when I paddled there last Wednesday.
A pair of Bald Eagles have been visiting this area. They were there this morning, sitting on Haystack Rock just before I took this photo.
I enjoyed talking with fellow naturalist Larry Tiller who was at the overlook with his camera.
Part of the mission of Estuarian is to remind myself and everyone I who might happen by here that the natural world is still incredibly beautiful, still miraculous, still worth savoring and definitely worth our efforts to save it.
It is important to get outside and enjoy it as much as possible, to learn more about nature when we go out, and to do what we can to help, even if its as simple as picking up the trash we find along the way.
Going out with friends almost always makes it more fun, but to see nature up close, it’s worth going out solo and stealthily. When we go out with others it’s hard not to enjoy conversation—and when we talk, a lot of animals take cover and hide long before we’re aware of them.
Check out this photo, taken on my most recent outing. I’ll share a secret about it at the end.
Russian River, from Laurel Dell, looking downstream towards the Catholic Retreat site.
This photo brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:
“The great lessons from the true mystics … is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s backyard, and that travel may be a flight from confronting the sacred. To be looking everywhere for miracles is a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous.”
-Abraham H. Maslow
(PS—The secret about the photo: It’s upside down. I inverted it.)