Being outdoors most of my life, I’ve learned a great many things about wilderness ethics, trip planning, group dynamics, reading the land and the weather, and the kind of person I always wanted to be. Early on, I organized dozens of backpacking trips and cycling tours in Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Western Nevada, and Northern and Central California.
For most of this decade and last, I’ve organized hundreds of hiking tours for family, friends and coworkers, though I’ve attended and hosted a variety of wine tastings for even longer. I’m quite comfortable in the Great Outdoors and I’ve learned a few things about the natural world and wine – things that people tell me they’re glad I pointed out. Whether it’s identifying a bird or a tree or discussing the nuances of wine tasting, I’ll tell you this much: the winehiking experience sure seems to resonate with people. And I surely do appreciate all of the nice notes people have sent to me over the years.
Throughout my journeys, I’ve discovered that people really love to combine an outdoor experience with California’s finest wines. As a result, I melded my two passions – hiking and wine-tasting – into a third passion: sharing the winehiking experience with people like you.
Why? Because a wine country hiking experience is serious fun for everyone – especially when there’s a wine-tasting reward at the end of the trail!
Therefore I host dozens of active wine country experiences each year and I’m always on the lookout for new trails, wineries and venues that will ensure a relaxing and memorable group experience for all of my guests. (Imagine a chef-inspired weekend at a mountain vineyard retreat! Would you like to go? Fan us up on Facebook and you’ll be invited.)
I’m The Winehiker, and I invite you to let me be your ambassador to wine country adventure!
It sure feels good to wake up to a special day every once in a while. And it feels especially good to see your many well-wishes today, everyone! I am delighted by your thoughtfulness, and I’m sincerely grateful that you took the time to make me feel good about being in your lives.
After a less-than-optimum employment status over these past 3 years – a very trying time that found me constantly scanning the job boards – I’ve enjoyed a string of special days recently. Though she’s not on Facebook (yet), I must give credit to my good friend Niki, who flew out here from her home in Zurich, Switzerland, to help me celebrate this (53rd!!) birthday occasion. But more than bringing just her self, I believe she brought me good luck, too: within a few days of her being here, I landed a permanent position! What’s more, that position is with a company that I had previously worked at for over 7 years. That company is Zilog, in San Jose (and soon to be in Milpitas, a much closer commute). In fact, Zilog is where I had met Niki about ten years ago.
It’s wonderful to be invited back to a company that always felt like home to me. Many of the people I worked with previously are still here! And last week – my first back at Zilog – felt very much like a family reunion. I’ve got much to wrap my head around over these next few days and weeks, but fortunately many of the processes I helped to establish are still in place here, and I believe it won’t take very long for me to regain top speed.
Indeed, there is a magic swirling about my days. Certainly I’ve always delighted in romping around outdoors during the magic warm days and sultry nights of Indian Summer. You can be sure I’m kicking up trail dust somewhere! And who would I be if I didn’t wash down that trail dust during a languorous moment with a luscious libation?
And thus I salute all of you who also enjoy special days, who yearn for those good, honest trail miles ahead, and who revel in tasting those well-deserved rewards at day’s end.
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.
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!
Yesterday I mentioned that you’ll have an opportunity to join me for a wine and hiking tour, complete with a gourmet picnic lunch and a wine tasting, for 51% off my usual price, via the zozi.com website.
“Truer words are rarely spoken, boys. But I’ve tried it six times already.”
[Sounds of scurrying just off the podium while a technician (wearing overalls, for gawdsakes!!*) roots around in the sound equipment, checking connections. Anxious moments pass.]
“Um, we think we found the problem — the mike’s cord wasn’t plugged into the unit. How’s it wo…piiiiiiingggggggggggg……..SKREEEE-ee-EEEKKKKKkkkkk!!!!!…….rking now?”
“Much better, thank you. Uh, hello everyone. My name is Russ, and I’m a latent blogaholic. It’s been six months since my last post.”
They say that when you’re driving at maximum legal speed on the freeway and a major seismic shock occurs underneath you, it can feel as if all four of your tires have suddenly gone flat; your sudden fight to control your vehicle alarmingly cancels all other thought processes. In an instant, you begin to realize something crucial has cracked within the confines of your seemingly-serene continuum; everything you had just been considering for how you’d spend your next moments, days and years has rudely crashingly distilled into one signifying act: maniacally defending your life against disaster. Naturally, your first instinct is to pull your foot off the gas pedal and quickly press it onto the brake; your belief in all things possible having abruptly downshifted into defensive mode, if not an outright Suspend Mode.
From the San Jose Mercury News: ‘Frightening’
job losses. Source: planspark via Flickr
Or, in my case, given the very personal and all-too-real effects of our current economic seismicity, you pull in your horns and you endeavor to focus on the basics — to attempt to make things right again with your life and your career.
Many of my readers know that I have long supported myself as a Silicon Valley technical writer; I continue to market myself with these skills due to an awareness that this economy has not particularly supported my dream career of hosting luxury/adventure endeavors, i.e., wine and hiking tours.
That’s the straight dead nuts and there’s no getting around it; tourism in California has softened considerably these last two-plus years.
Indeed, the unemployment rate in California has been inordinately high since 2007. It’s especially high in Silicon Valley. And yet despite my reasonably-competitive skillset plus my efforts to continue my own employment here, I can’t particularly explain why my continuum has been seemingly discontinued. Unless, that is, I care to consider that perhaps I’m competing against more job candidates than I ever have previously — and for less pay than I have previously earned — or that, heaven forbid, I’m simply viewed as “older”. In which case, it’s easy to assume a common perception by those holding the purse strings that I, as a a seasoned technical communicator, probably want more money to do the same jobs that likely are instead being awarded to fresh-faced college graduates — because it’s been misconscrewed that the hiring company will get more bang for their bank.
Folks, I’m here to tell ya: more money is not the issue. At least not for me — I’m much more the quality guy. Mr. or Ms. Hiring Manager, your goal is to raise your productivity as efficiently and effectively as possible toward the bottom line; hopefully you’re also a good facilitator who takes an active role in forging your employees’ successes. For me, Mr. Would-Love-To-Be-Hired, the foremost goal is to synergize my skills, aptitude and attitude toward achieving your goal.
Not that I wouldn’t also welcome the return of a little stability in my life.
But I also consider myself human, very much a thread that serves to stitch the company fabric together, and I believe strongly in gaining the satisfaction of a job well done for myself, for you, and the team I expect to be an integral part of.
So even if I were to accept a salary that’s not commensurate with my previous one, I’d do it gratefully because — and this is a sure bet — I’ll simply sleep better at night.
Yep, I occasionally get an interview. No, aside from the occasional short-term contract stint or freelance job, I haven’t received a permanent job offer after 30 months of trying. And while the reasons why I haven’t been hired may be nebulous, it’s painfully clear that I have been marking ever-lowering depths, depths that I never expected I would, could or should encounter in my life. There’s a stiletto-sharp and very eye-widening edge to engaging in a never-ending daily job search, after these many months, while also realizing that I am someone who has sunk to finding himself again extending his unemployment, even applying for food stamps in an effort to survive.
You can bet I’m not tasting much wine these days.
Alright, so I am not sharing this post because I desire sympathy. I’m not looking for handouts either, nor am I burned out on blogging, as some might feel. As far as blogging goes, I realize that my own desire to not share bad news has overridden any other concern; after all, I have my pride to consider. (Pride: such an obstreperously silly virtue.) No, I simply haven’t wanted others to concern themselves unnecessarily about my welfare. So, since I haven’t had much of anything good to say, I simply haven’t blogged. Sure, I could still have written a few posts to work off some steam. But I’ve long known that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I probably shouldn’t say anything at all. (After all these years, I still hear my dad’s echo.)
Then again, that silly ol’ pride I just mentioned? Well doggone it, it’s a rootin’-tootin’ thumpin’-an’-a-shootin’ pride for the pure notion of winehiking’s appeal; why would I whine about bad news?
Well, because first of all, there’s only one “h” in winehiking.
But it’s been six months since I last posted to this blog, and I realize I need to say something. To someone. To anyone — to anyone still reading this formerly-semiinfluential blog.
And, quite simply, that something is: I still love and value this life, and despite those pesky economic cloud patterns over my head, I have no desire to give it up just yet.
Before I was the winehiker, I was a
So while I may be very close to losing my house, I am not going to give up on the things I love to enjoy most, namely, hiking, wine tasting, eating delicious, healthy foods and making other people happy. Well those, yes, and baseball and jazz music and my bicycle and the Great Outdoors and a cold beer on a warm summer afternoon and, most importantly, the people who help make my world go round ‘n’ round.
I’m dreadfully sorry that I’ve neglected you.
But you know? Things are beginning to look up. Indeed, having walked the trail with the Senior Travel Editor, I have reason to believe there’s going to be an article featuring California Wine Hikes in the October issue of Sunset Magazine. Next month, I plan to host an inspiring day of team development for a company that’ll be holding a local conference for its far-flung employees. (You guessed it: there’ll be hiking and wine!)
And, I’ve got a deal in the works with zozi.com coming up tomorrow (Monday).
A satellite view of the San Francisco Bay Area, California.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Wait — you don’t know what a zozi is? Here, check out their site. And if you’re in the greater San Francisco Bay region, I recommend subscribing (for free!) to their weekly deals — especially if you like saving money on fun stuff. Or, sign up if you’re struggling to run a small business like I am and want to raise its visibility.
Or, if you dare to suspend your disbelief just a little longer: stay tuned to this blog!
That’s right, because in my next post (yes, there shall be a next post!) — i.e., once zozi has gone live with it — I’ll be sharing the link to my zozi deal.
Yep, that’s tomorrow morning!
And if you sign up with zozi (like, say, now, for instance), you’ll then have an opportunity to join me for a winehiking tour, complete with a gourmet picnic lunch and a wine tasting,for 51% off my normal price, only through the zozi.com website, where you’ll be able to find out more about it.**
This earth-shattering 51%-off deal, that is!
Well, I hope it sounds like a sizably seismic deal to you, dear reader. (Think “gourmet lunch.” And wine too! Yeah!!)
The good deal for me? Well heck, I get to enjoy walking the wine trail with you! (It’ll be mercifully easy! Plus I promise not to crack your suspension.)
Because hey, brothers and sisters – I’ve really been missing your fine selves. And, tell ya true: I appreciate your support.
Yeah, yeah, I know: people always say that we Californians are pretty gol-dang soft when it comes to enduring the hardships of winter weather. As if we don’t really know what winter weather is!*
Hey, so what are you waiting for? Let’s go swimming! Flickr image courtesy of John Carleton.
Interestingly enough, we actually (still) have seasons out here in the Golden State. Hockey-stick charts notwithstanding, some of us are lately digging into storage trunks for those moth-eaten afghans Grandma crocheted back in 1966!
But, brrrrrr!! It’s so one-armed-well-digger’s-arse cold right now in California!
Why, it’s so cold that…
…after the usual two-mile walk to work this morning, I was compelled to ask the security guard at my building if my nose was still attached to my face.
…the rock that was rattling around inside my shoe turned out to be my big toe.
…I couldn’t read my book on the train this evening because it was too hard to turn the pages while wearing winter gloves.
…despite cranking the heater on the drive home tonight, the cab of my truck didn’t get warm until I pulled into the driveway.
…if this keeps up, I’m trading in my pickup for a trail-groomer snowcat (super-deluxe Gran Touring model).
…in L.A., it was reported that Tiger Woods is (once again) sleeping with his own wife in order to keep warm.
…the flasher in my neighborhood was caught describing himself to women.
…being that I’m of a somewhat contrarian political nature, Global Warming must be a certainty!
…I could swear I saw snowflakes falling outside my 17th floor window yesterday – in downtown San Francisco! Indeed, I will swear! DA-yam!
…shrinkage is suddenly a real concern. Double DA-yam!!
…and, finally: it’s so cold in California that Ahhnold the Governator today had to turn the heat up on the state legislature, again!
The term sense of place has often been used to describe a wine’s origins, those elements of a wine that can distinguish its taste from the taste of wines produced elsewhere. It is said by many that one can taste the difference between wines produced in geographically disperse regions – due, most notably, to a vineyard’s sun exposure and soil type.
This sense of place, also known as terroir, speaks of the myriad possibilities worldwide for the variety of flavors that can end up in your glass and on your palate.
You probably have a little experience with terroir yourself and may not know it – especially if you’ve ever planted a vegetable garden or sought to understand the relationship between you and your local wilderness. Today I am delighted to announce that my new article, A sense of place, under your feet, is available on Palate Press, the online wine magazine.
The western ridge above St. Supery Winery’s Dollarhide Ranch
Robert Skalli, co-owner of St. Supery Winery, loves this spot atop the western ridge above Big Lake at Dollarhide Ranch, where I scouted a few routes for potential future winehiking on a bright and clear mid-November day. With just a little effort, reaching the top of this ridge affords supreme vineyard views.
Robert Skalli, co-owner of St. Supery Winery, loves this spot atop the western ridge above Big Lake at Dollarhide Ranch, where I scouted a few routes for potential future winehiking on a bright and clear mid-November day. With just a little effort at putting one foot in front of the other, you, too, can enjoy these same supreme vineyard views. You might enjoy a tasty post-hike lunch, and wine too!
Happy winehikers, cavorting along a woodsy path on a late-September morning. These folks joined me last year; would you like to join me this year? If so, you’ll find all the details on my Romp through the Redwoods page.