This post is from January 2010. Maybe you can tell by the soggy trail and lack of leaves that it’s winter. Some of the buildings near Graton Road have been taken down and shops have changed. Soggier parts of the trail have not gotten boardwalks – maybe if we do get a lot of rain this winter that will happen – it’s a lot busier trail than it was five years ago. I still love it for that quick country fix with a good restaurant nearby.
When you’re heading out Hwy 116 and had a piece of pie at Mom’s (just north of Guerneville Rd.) and before you have more pie at Kozlawski Farms turn west on Ross Station Rd and go ½ mi. County Regional Parks and the Open Space District are finishing a parking lot with more spaces than before and better wheelchair access to this path.
And a bench for the photographer, Mike Millar.
This paved path is part of West County trail. It zigazags north not quite (legally) to Forestville and goes south linking to Joe Rodota trail and to Santa Rosa. Watch out for other walkers, joggers and bicyclists throughout the walk. Well, mostly watch out for the bikers as many of them are on a mission to Sebastopol and beyond. Everyone else is most friendly.
Head south and you’ll see blueberry and raspberry bushes on left, meadows and grape vines on the right. There are many blackberries on this trail. (Bring a bag or lidded plastic container in the summer for harvesting.)
There’s a charming farmhouse on the right that used to have elegant signs asking one to “leash dogs as chickens run free.” The signs and chickens are gone, possibly due to dogs, hawks (who patrol from wires above the field on your left) or new owners. They sometimes sell eggs on the weekend on the honor system. So be honorable.
The path gradually goes downhill. Keep this in mind for determining how far you want to go when you have to return up hill. Some of the path is in full sun, while large oaks shade the rest. Apple and fruit processing businesses, winery and tasting room, orchards, burros and horses are on your left. On your right more blackberries, grapes and the West County Regional Treatment plant for the Graton Community Service District.
Farther on blackberries cover a low hill or are the hill and two wastewater treatment ponds burble on the right. (The path has recently been partially blocked as new retaining walls have been constructed around the ponds.) A large winter puddle on the left takes up most of a horse pasture where mallards, Canada geese, seagulls and sometimes a wood duck play.
The path curves right and down and the pavement gives way to gravel. At the lowest spot this can be muddy (or flooded) as the walk continues through a riparian wooded area. With vineyard on your left, stop and read the sign about the Petaluma and Santa Rosa railroad. This trail was built over the old rail bed.
At a little over one mile you come to a boardwalk over a wetter riparian area of Atascadero Creek. This section ends at Green Valley Rd. Go left for ¼ mi. keeping an eye on traffic for this can be like a freeway. You can count on a bike and a car passing you at the same cosmic moment.
Cross the road at Manzana Produce Co. and take the paved path between this apple processing plant and Sonoma Woodcraft. Homes to your left and a new building, now enclosed, whose floor ponded quite nicely in the rainy season.
This part of the trail is flatter and there are more shady trees. If you’ve had it with walking you’ll notice a bus stop on left, though you’d have to wait hours. Or it might be a time to call the chauffeur and have him bring round the car. Smaller homes are on the town side of the path and larger ones on right with vast fields and views of mountains. Closer to Graton are several old apple processing plants, that look abandoned but the movement of vehicles and graffiti quickly painted over indicate otherwise. Beware the noon siren.
Next you’ll come to a parking lot with about 15 spots, one not so nice porta-potty, and downtown Graton. The post office is on your left and several large building businesses straight ahead. The next time you could start the walk here and go north or head south.
Stop in town for tea tasting, art gallery touring or eating at several fine restaurants. You’ve gone about two miles, so it’s two miles back and a slow uphill.
See you on the trail!
Bathrooms: With the new parking and picnic spots at Ross Station Rd. you would think there’d be a bathroom. Alas, there is only a pitiful (or disgusting) portapotty at the parking lot in Graton. Splurge on a food item at one of the many fine restaurants in Forestville or Graton and use their bathroom.
Food: On the Forestville end of things there is La Rosa Market (with seating) that has yummy tamales and other Mexican food at great prices. Also, try Nightingale Bakery for the smells and a loaf of bread. In Graton, there are several choices from the pricey delicious and elegant Underwood (make a reservation), Willow Wood Market Café good from breakfast to dinner (M-F 8 to 9, Sun 9-3), to the good and low price Mexico Lindo (and why is there always an available table? Maybe the competition from the Café?). It’s a short block but there are so many treats in Graton.