July 10, 2008

Adventure of the Week: Bodega Bay

By Bob Ehlert, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Jul. 10--Everybody wants to flee the smaze (smoky haze), get out and enjoy the summer air. But it seems like, lately, no matter which direction you turn, smoke or very high temperatures have proved to be outdoor obstacles.

But maybe this is the weekend to take your chances and head west to Sonoma County's Bodega Bay for camping or coast walking.

The busy Fourth of July holiday is over. Heading west from Petaluma to the coast, it's likely to cool down one or two degrees for every mile -- providing escape from the latest heat wave. Though the area has had its smoky moments from fires originating in the Napa and Mendocino areas, there are sea breezes that can push back.

"There's a little bit of a sea breeze," said Becky Scharnberg, who works with the Russian River District of the California State Parks. "Hopefully by the weekend, we're going to clear out."

Of course there's no guarantee, but we suggest you make a run for it Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Leave by 7 a.m., maybe 8, and you'll be in Bodega Bay by 9 or 10 a.m. You'll want to get there that early to snag a parking place and spot on the beach.

Bring a picnic lunch, brunch or pick something up along the way: a loaf or two from Della Fattoria Bakery in downtown Petaluma (141 Petaluma Boulevard North, 707-763-0161).

There are camping possibilities at Bodega Dunes, part of Sonoma Coast State Park and State Beach. Inquire at the ranger station at Salmon Creek, call (707) 875-3483 or visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=451).

But if you're just there for the day and want some fresh-air (we hope) strolls, you can't beat Bodega Head -- a highland, cliff-top area on the point overlooking the bay and the Pacific.

Drive a bit farther up Highway 1 to Salmon Creek for a more tame beach with fewer gravitational highlights and hazards. A pathway leads down to the water and tide pools. Depending on the time of day, the tides will cover or reveal all kinds of interesting things.

"Expect there will be some smoke in the air, but not as bad as Sacramento," said Jeremy Stinson, one of the rangers at the Salmon Creek ranger station. "And we're going to be cooler by the weekend, too."

How does the idea of needing a jacket sound?


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