Just a short drive north of San Francisco is Sonoma County, a vast and diverse landscape that includes everything from vineyards to redwoods, from pounding surf to leafy plazas. Every little town has its own character, from the laid-back LGBT environs of Russian River towns like Guerneville to tony Healdsburg, hippie-ish Sebastopol, artsy/agricultural Petaluma, and historic Sonoma, and the land between them is as powerfully beautiful and unimaginably varied as the towns. I’m warning you ahead of time, I’m going to be waxing poetic before this story is over, because that’s the kind of feeling Sonoma County gives rise to: it’s a poetic kind of place.
Well that all sounds amazing, I hear you saying, but how do you actually get there, and what’s there once you arrive? The scenic route is Highway 1, one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world. As soon as you cross the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the scenery begins to get spectacular, and as it twists and turns along the coast, it’s pretty sublime (though not exactly quick). This time, though, I head straight up Highway 101, saving the delights of the coast for later, and within forty-five minutes I’m in Petaluma, the nearest Sonoma County town.