Armstrong, Take Two…

Previous Walk it Off entry:  Waypoint: Armstrong Redwood Grove

Or, why the plan never survives initial contact INTACT…

So, over the weekend, Tenaya and I and a friend of ours (and possibly our newest Stick), decided to get out of town and go out to Armstrong Redwoods reserve for a well deserved weekend of big trees, s’mores, some ocean time, possibly some Chicago Deep Dish and European Sipping Chocolate. It was well planned to avoid most of the known hang-ups with going out there. Alas, when man makes plans, Murphy is busy cackling about it.

We knew about the race day event at the Sonoma Raceway, so we bypassed it by going 80 west to 12 and cutting through Napa and Sonoma the north route. We detoured briefly to Glen Ellen to stop off at our usual chocolate spot to get some 78% chocolate and a few truffles. Mmmmm. NS (Newest Stick, until I can figure out a trail name for him…) got his first taste of life west of Sac and a lovely tour of the north bay and Napa and Sonoma. From Glen Ellen we got back on 12 heading toward Santa Rosa, passing by lovely wine country and the state parks along the way.

In Santa Rosa, however, I made a mistake in navigation and instead of getting on 101 north, I continued on 12 to Sebastopol. Once in Sebastopol, we got on 116 north and got into Guerneville at about 1PM. This was part of the plan. We tried to get reservations for the camp sites at Armstrong, but found out when we went to do the deed that all the reservable camp sites were claimed. There were 8 that were first come, first served, and they didn’t open the claims for those until 2 PM. So we were there early.

It didn’t matter.

There was a trail race put on by some group that had the entire place booked up by the time we got there on the down low. Nobody had even bothered to tell the guy in the visitors center who was helping us out. Suddenly faced with a glorified day trip, we hastened to explore other options. After a bit of good information from the volunteer there, we opted for a place just south of town called Johnson’s Beach.

And here I have to give good credit to where it’s due. The volunteer at Armstrong not only provided us with a list of alternate campsites that had all the relevant contact info, he allowed us to borrow the phone there to make the calls as nobody had cell signal at the park. He was every bit as helpful as you could possibly wish for.

Johnson’s Beach is a wonderful alternative to camping in the redwoods. It’s exactly one block south of downtown Guerneville. It’s also right on the Russian River with an excellent beach right there, and a camp site with full facilities. We had three electrical outlets and a cable splice for our camp site. It cost us 27$ for the night. It was a two block walk to the gear store and a three block walk to the grocery store. They’re set up for tent and trailer camping, RV, and have cabins for rent as well. Score!

We picked a perfect spot, set up tents, and then headed into town for lunch. After a bit of Subway, we went back to Armstrong to walk it off. Remember that new day pack I got?? I packed it up for a night out camping trip. When I got done, the pack looked like this:

PhD level Ruck Sack Physics

PhD level Ruck Sack Physics

It weighed in at about 30 pounds. I walked through the better part of the grove with that. It was worth every bit of effort putting the pack together. NS and Tenaya got to play around a bit in Redwoods and NS got his first introduction to them. He’d never seen trees so big.

Redwoods....  Bigger than you expect..

Redwoods…. Bigger than you expect..

Nor had he ever been IN trees so big…..

"We could pitch a tent in here...."

“We could pitch a tent in here….”

After a mostly nice hike around the grove, we went back to Johnson Beach and got the rest of camp set up, the air mattress inflated, and dinner started. Tenaya went down to the water and came back quickly to report that there were a lot of birds and raptors down there and that she’d seen something carrying off a fish. I went down to the observation deck by the office and had a look around. What I spotted immediately was a large osprey nest across the river and up one of the redwoods there. It was about a five or six hundred meter shot with the camera, and so I borrowed Tenaya’s 300mm lens with focal doubler and set it up on the tripod. However, the wind was blowing in good off the coast, so I couldn’t get the tripod to stop shaking while I dialed in the focus.

We resolved to get the shot if we could the next morning.

When me and Tenaya walked back to camp, NS was already starting the fire for dinner. Even though we were car camping, we had planned for getting supplies in Guerneville. We got firewood, and some veggies for the rather tasty marinated chicken I’d brought along. We had s’mores fixings for later, and I had a flask of Springbank in my pack. NS did the cooking that evening in the cast iron skillet that he brought, and the cinnamon honey and green chili jelly marinated chicken breasts were drool worthy.

We played Fluxx by lantern light and passed around the flask before turning in for the night.

Thus, we found out about the downside to Johnson Beach. The club and the live music on Saturday night that didn’t end until after midnight. That made getting to sleep a bit interesting but otherwise wasn’t that bad.

The next morning was cool, as you’d expect from camping by the coast.  I got to set up my tripod and shoot an osprey nest about 300 meters across the river.  At about noon, we were on the road home, via a short trip to the beach.

Next Walk it Off entry:  30 Pounds.