I am not quite sure where to begin with my trip to California the beginning of October.  We did some great wine tasting, but I think the hike with Russ Beebe aka The Wine Hiker owner of California Wine Hikes is the activity that left us with some good stories.

We met at 8:30am at a parking lot in Calistoga.  There were a few of our wine twitter friends that joined us Ed and Jonjie Thralls and a few other people for a total of 7 and we set out for a 5 hour / 12 mile hike.

As we started into the woods, Russ made a point of showing us what poison oak looks like because there will be times on the hike where we might come in contact with it. This is very important because both Paul and I are allergic to poison ivy and they are in the same family.

Off we went into the woods all chatting away, looking at nature and the incredible views.  We came across the circle of life.  Ed was the only one that went through the circle to come out on the other side of the trail.  Looking back on our hike – we all should have walked through the circle of life because someone told me it was bad luck if you don’t.

Well…..off talking and hiking, I realize these hiking trails aren’t traveled much.  When I hike at home you always see other people, especially on a Saturday or Sunday.

Suddenly Russ announces that were we are doesn’t look familiar.  Ok- I’m thinking – I’m going to be lost in the California woods for a few days.  But really, I didn’t panic, I knew I was with a professional.  We were all chatting away we must have taken a deer path instead of the marked path.  I was doing so well on the hike so far!

What was ahead of us to get back on track I didn’t sign up for.  I signed up for a hike, not a mountain climb.  To get to where we had to go we climbed down from where we were to hike a while to climb up the mountain.  When I say climb up, I mean dig you toes into the side of the mountain and climb while grabbing onto sturdy trees limbs to pull on and having my husband push my butt to get me up the incline.  This is what killed my knees.  We made it to the path and to the amphitheater where we had a quick bite to eat before heading down the mountain.  This is the half way point. The rest of the hike should be easy compared to what we just went through.  All the time, Russ never lost his composure.  I had no worries. Russ even supplied everyone with Tecnu to neutralize the poisen oak oils so we wouldn’t have a break out.

The hike down was on wide paths with beautiful views.  My knees were killing me and Michael was kind enough to let me borrow his walking stick to relieve the pressure on my knees.  I felt like an old lady. I ended up coming down 15 minutes after everyone.

The 5 hour/12 mile hike ended up more like 7 hours and I have no idea how many miles.  Russ had a bottle of California Sauvignon Blanc chilling in the car for us as we returned.  A well needed drink!  I think I could have gone for a cold beer.

We all headed over to Clos du Val where we had reservations for 3p and when we arrived it was…well 4:57p – just a tad late. They were not to thrilled since they were closing.  We didn’t let that stop us.  We had a nice picnic and a bottle of wine or two on the side lawn of the winery.

If anyone is wondering about the poison oak – I made out fine, however my husband didn’t apply the Tecnu correctly and his legs had a good outbreak.

Russ – Thanks for a wonderful day!  Remember – “Some great stories are told on hikes, if I could just remember them!”