I had not planned on writing about the fall colors, until I made my monthly ride out to the Freestone Wildflower Bakery on Saturday. That is what happens here in Sonoma County. Sometimes the landscape just envelopes you and shouts “See, this is what I am talking about!”

Reviewing the local Strava rides over the weekend, many were labeled “Fall Colors.” So, why not talk about the colors? First the weather was perfect. Cool mornings and warm afternoons. My ride started from Healdsburg continuing to Santa Rosa via Riebli Road. My immediate observation is that what we may lack in maple trees compared to New England, the various hues of dying grape leaves in gold, yellow, orange, red, and purple make up for it.

Passing through Rincon Valley, across Santa Rosa and onwards to Sebastopol via the Joe Rodota trail there are many neighborhoods that are flush now with their own maples and Chinese Pistache trees exploding with color. Families, other riders, dogs, and one guy in particular smoking a joint while pedaling along were all out in force.

Choosing a route to the bakery avoiding Highway 12 takes a bit of effort, but the popular one is west on Occidental road, left at Mill Station, right on Cherry Ridge road where it picks up Occidental Road again and finally left on Jonive Road. A very fast decent down Highway 12 leads straight to the Bakery. The chocolate, pear and walnut scones are warm and soft with intoxicatingly great flavors. Occasionally, I will pack a large zip lock bag and bring home a couple three cheese fougasse breads. The zip lock is important otherwise it is soggy, sweaty fougasse bread that my dog won’t even eat, but will roll in instead.

Leaving the bakery, there are multiple routes including going back to Occidential on BoHo. I choose the harder one of riding to Bodega and looping back to Occidental via Joy Road. A note on our roads here: if the road has a pleasant name like Sweetwater, Pine Flat or Joy be advised that they are not sweet, flat or joyful! Joy Road will quickly traverse away from the golden afternoon sunshine of Bodega up into the pines on a series of pitches with sections exceeding 15%.  It is at this time; you are convinced that watching college football downing a cold 40 is a much better alternative. Cresting at 1,000 feet, you will then make the soft decent cooling off in the canyons into Occidental on Bittner Road.

Heading east, I pick up the west county trail off of Occidental road and trade the colorful grape leafs for the yellowing cottonwoods that canopy the four trail segments all the way to Forestville. Another popular spot along the west county trail in the summer months is the blueberry farm that sells homemade blueberry ice cream out of garage.

Departing Forestville, it’s across Wohler Bridge and newly paved Westside road. Now devoid of its concussion enabling potholes, you actually can focus on the overwhelmingly spectacular landscape of the Russian River Valley in the soft afternoon light. This is not the time to be staring at your Garmin or power meter! Can’t really put into words what the view was like. Hoping there are a few people who will link their photos at the bottom.

Back home, I jumped on my mountain bike and rode up into the public trail above Parkland Farms so I could share my photo of the day. Cheers!

– Bruce McConnell

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