CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM February 13, 2009
TRAVELING IS GOOD for the soul, albeit not so good for the wallet. But with a little imagination, you can visit some far off places sans your suitcase and credit cards.
Here are my fave five East Bay getaways:
1. Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. It’s Ireland without the pubs. The undulating terrain formed by ever-shifting tectonic plates reminds me of the hills south of Dublin in County Wicklow. And while Sibley’s prominent feature is Round Top, the 10 million-year-old volcano, I’m more smitten with the bovine.
They graze peacefully on the hillsides and along the foot paths, in a scene of bucolic splendor. I fancy myself as a bit of a cow whisperer, so I photograph these magnificent creatures on many of my walks. To date, they’ve never objected.
2. Redwood Regional Park. Think Costa Rica without the snakes or at least the poisonous kind that fall from trees and land in your knapsack. Redwood’s attraction is its namesake miles of majestic redwoods, with canopies so thick you can barely see the sky. It’s like being in an enchanted forest, where you half-expect to see trolls dancing in patches of sunlight next to giant mushrooms. Redwood Park is even better in the rain, because little waterfalls form as the runoff tumbles over granite outcroppings. But every season in this park has its charms.3. The Berkeley Marina. In a world unto itself, my first encounter with this place was when my kids were young. I’d take them to Adventure Park, where they could build their own forts and play Robinson Crusoe on the zip line. We’d fish off the pier, pulling up crabs with nothing more than a bit of bait on a piece of nylon line, and rollerblade on the winding paths where families often flew kites in the persistent breeze. Now, with my kids almost grown, I see different things; seabirds bobbing in the surf, sailboats tacking along the shoreline and my favorite waves crashing on the rocks as I sip a glass of wine by the fire inside Skates.
4. Lake Chabot. As a gal who grew up in Minnesota, I appreciate a good lake. But think about how incredible it is to have a lake in your own back yard where you can camp, hike, kayak and fish in some cases without ever seeing another human being. One of my best outdoor memories is at Chabot, where I joined a full moon kayaking expedition under a starry sky punctuated with bats. They had their fill of bugs that night as we silently slipped through the water below, exploring the inlets and bays of the 315-acre reservoir.
5. San Damiano Retreat Center. Everything about this retreat center says Italy, from the statue of St. Francis to the Mediterranean-style buildings that house the chapel, library and conference rooms. Nestled in the hills above the San Ramon Valley in Danville, San Damiano is open to the public for meditation, walks and programs for spiritual growth. You can even spend the night in one of the modest rooms that form a horseshoe around lush gardens and fountains. You’ll awake to find the food is something to write home about, offering greens from the center’s organic garden in tasty dishes prepared by trained chefs.
So you see, getting away from it all doesn’t have to be at the risk of breaking your budget. In the words of Dorothy (who knows something about travel) there’s no place like home.
Happy 75th anniversary to the East Bay Regional Parks, the largest regional park district in the nation.