Back in the Fall of 2008, Dick Keenan of Sonoma County’s Kick Ranch Vineyard approached me, suggesting I host a hike in Napa Valley and invite a few friends, winemakers, blog readers and social media types to join us. As you might imagine, I didn’t take a lot of convincing. Ultimately a dozen of us got together in Calistoga a month later, including Dick and his wife Kathy, to brave the dramatic downhill that is The Palisades Trail from its commanding perches just below the Mount St. Helena summit to its base on the outskirts of Calistoga. Later, when all of us had completed our downhill journey, we adjourned to Cuvaison Winery for a potluck picnic and a well-deserved wine tasting. Why? Because such things are so fun to do.
|Mount St. Helena in all her summer splendor.
Call it California crazy if you will. But it’s my kind of crazy. And I’m not alone. Indeed there are many of us crazies out here – even in the Napa Valley. Yes, it’s our kind of crazy – and it’s a good thing.
Yup. And yet it’s been nearly two years since that fine Fall day, and I realize it’s high time to return and hike those lofty ramparts of The Palisades again.
For the wine, of course. ’Cuz I’m crazy like that.
Now if you’ve read this far, and assuming you like to hike, I’ve got a proposition for you – the same proposition I shared two years ago: how’d you like to hike the complete 12.5-mile mildly-buttkicking route from summit to valley floor with me? Would you raise your hand to volunteer?
And, if you also knew you’d be hiking – high above Napa Valley, mind you – with a handful of wine geeks, would you involuntarily blurt “just lemme grab my boots!”?
Then save the following date, fellow winehiker, for we shall meet to experience the glory that is The Palisades on Saturday, October 9th, 2010 at 8:30 a.m. After the hike is over, we’ll drive a little ways down the Silverado Trail to Clos du Val Winery*, where we’ll bask in happy euphoria over a potluck lunch, great Clos du Val wines, and – if we’re still standing (after the effort of the hike, mind you) – a round or two of pétanque. All for free! Well, >ahem< at least for the cost of the lunch fixin’s you prepare, the wine you consume, and the gas it’ll take to get there.
And back, hopefully.
It’ll just be another fine day outdoors in the wine country. Thus far there are 6 people interested in joining me on this hike, including Jill Dever of Beaulieu Vineyards and Andrew Lazorchak, maker of the Wine Soiree decanter/aerator; also fellow hiker and Palisades winehiking veteran Laura May and, flying in all the way from New York with her husband, Paul (ostensibly to celebrate their 22nd wedding anniversary), Debbie Gioquindo, author of Hudson Valley Wine Goddess.
|A hiker’s view of The Palisades, above the Napa Valley floor. Image source: yelp.com.
So very nice. However, I’m thinking of capping the group at a manageable 15 people, so if you’d like to sign up, don’t wait too long to do it! Merely leave a comment to this post that includes your email address, and also let me know if you’re instead interested in hiking the moderately easy four-mile out-and-back option**. I’ll get back to you with driving directions and additional details.
Hiking The Palisades
Table Rock is a flat rocky outcrop surmounting The Palisades, a craggy set of cliffs on the northeast edge of Napa Valley, prominently visible from downtown Calistoga. Walking the trail from its trailhead atop Highway 29 on Mount St. Helena out to Table Rock, high above the vineyards of the valley, you may hear the scream of a nearby raptor and, through binoculars, the sharp-eyed might just see a Peregrine Falcon perched on a rock below.
Despite what you see and hear, however, it is the Table Rock Trail itself that is among the most captivating in the California wine country. When joined with the Palisades Trail and the historic Oat Hill Mine Road, the Table Rock trail combines amazing 19th-century trail engineering with bizarre rock formations, a pygmy knobcone pine forest, and nonstop spectacular views. In the cooler months, when rain-washed skies are free of summer’s haze, one can smell the volcanic dust below one’s feet, then look up to behold a trillion-dollar vista extending 100 miles.
Come join us! Let’s walk The Palisades together. And then enjoy some food and wine in Napa Valley!
*Picnic reservations at Clos du Val are $10 per person, but oh-so-worth it. Tastings for a group our size are $20 per person, but Clos du Val will waive the fee with wine purchase.
**In which case you’ll finish way way early and will likely wait a long time for that post-hike picnic to start!