I’m very yin and yang; I like things to be balanced. I like running half marathons, but I also like vegging out on the couch binge watching Friends re-runs. I can go days without showering while we’re camping, but then I’ll soak in the tub for hours when we get home to get rid of all the dirt.
So balance was what I was looking for when I started planning a 40th birthday trip. I wanted a yin yang trip to celebrate the milestone year. I wanted something that would let me rest and relax but also challenge me, mentally and physically. And I also wanted someone to take care of all the details for me. Basically, I wanted someone to plan everything and take care of me. Seems like a tall order, right? Enter Wine Country Trekking.
Wine Country Trekking organizes self-guided, inn-to-inn walking (or running) vacations in California Wine Country. And when I say ‘organizes’ I mean organizes. They take care of everything: from luxurious accommodations to breathtaking treks to incredible wine tours. They even supply lunch and suggest local hotspots for dinner. It was exactly what I wanted. And, fortunately, three of my amazing friends (Angela, Nikki and Faydra) agreed that it was the perfect girls get-away.
We chose the Sonoma Valley Runner’s Trek: three days of hiking and running through California state parks followed by wine tastings in some of the most amazing wineries the area has to offer. We wanted to make it a little more challenging so we increased the daily kilometres on each trek. Go big or go home, right?
On Day 1 we flew to San Francisco where we rented a car to head up to Sonoma Valley. Our first afternoon, we checked into the beautiful Gaige House Inn and enjoyed some local wine before it was time to rest up for our first day of running.
Day 2 was a 14km run/hike through Jack London Park, with 900 feet of elevation. We stopped for every photo op we came across and learned a ton about the area (including the tragic stories of the Sonoma State home). And then, to honour the namesake of the park, we stopped at the Jack London Saloon on the way home for a beverage.
After a shower and a quick nap at the hotel, we were off to the Lassiter Family Winery where we were treated to a private wine tasting.
Day 3 was treacherous. We hiked 12km with an ascent of 2000 feet and a descent of 2300 feet through Hood Mountain Regional Park, which would be challenging on a nice day. Unfortunately, the day we started up the mountain it was cold and rainy (and the clouds blocked all of the amazing views of San Francisco we were promised). The route was wet and slippery and the recent rain turned ‘little creeks you can jump over’ into ‘raging rivers you have to traverse with fallen logs and rope.’ The climb was challenging and the downhill portion was incredibly precarious at times (think hiking down the Grouse Grind in the rain).
The idea was to run back to our hotel after we exited the park (for a grand total of 18km), but we were all done; we were cold and exhausted and ready to start the relaxing part of our day. By the time we exited the park, we had just enough time to grab lunch and head to the Kunde Family Estate Winery. Fortunately, a few glasses of wine (and a blanket) will warm you up quite nicely.
Day 4 was my favourite ‘map’ day. Every day, we (and by we, I mean Nikki) had to follow a map to figure out where we were going. It wasn’t as simple as ‘follow the trail’ (as we had thought it would be). We were on a self-guided trek and the trails constantly forked, branched off and abruptly ended. If you weren’t following the map, you had a very good chance of getting lost (which may have happened a couple of times). First we went through Annabel State Park, which was a relatively easy route to follow. But once we left the park, the directions got interesting.
We ran through private property (all approved ahead of time by Wine Country Trekking), climbed gates, met horses, unlocked mystery doors in the middle of nowhere and managed to only take one wrong turn! It was so much fun that 20km flew by.
On Day 5 it was time for the epic adventure to come to an end. We left Sonoma Valley with a bit of sadness, but also with an incredible feeling of accomplishment. We pushed ourselves mentally and physically over mountains and trails and even ‘raging rivers.’ But we also enjoyed our downtime with spa visits, delicious meals, many (many!) bottles of wine and tons of laughs.
And I’m so happy to say I did it with these three encouraging and inspiring women. It was the perfect way to celebrate this milestone birthday.
Thank you, my friends.