Drop Dead Gorgeous

One of the most beautiful parks you’ll find in Santa Rosa is actually a cemetery.  I’m dead serious!  The Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, 17 acres large, is an awe-inspiring destination for all ages.


Smack dab in the center of a beautiful neighborhood, this unique spot is hard to miss. Now over 160 years old, even its history is remarkable, the result of an unfortunate drowning of a young father who had recently emigrated from Missouri. With nowhere else to bury him, he was laid to rest here, on what was then part of a Mexican land grant. For the next thirteen years many other families, also in need of burial space, utilized the land for that purpose as well. In 1867 it was officially made a cemetery. Far more recently, in 1997 the city made it a Historical Landmark, making it an important and beautiful part of Santa Rosa history to be valued and maintained indefinitely.


Located at 1600 Franklin Avenue, there is ample parking at both the Monroe Street and MacDonald Avenue entrances. Fido and the whole fam is welcome so long as you clean up after yourselves. The first thing to meet the eye upon entrance is the welcoming nature of the “park” with its meandering paths, giant old oaks and colorful native plants. You won’t have any trouble finding your personal Zen among the sounds of tree leaves lightly brushing against each other, happy birds chatting and the sweet buzzing of insects. The cemetery houses over 5,000 graves. A few points of interest are the memorial for those who died in the 1906 earthquake, the grave of Thompson Mize, who was the first to be buried there and Dr. John F. Boyce, who was Santa Rosa’s first physician.


In a pinch for time or just a loner? A rebel? Take a self-guided tour so you don’t miss all of the cool stuff. Pamphlets for self-guided tours are located at both entrances. Having said that, I can’t encourage you enough  to sign up for one of their guided tours and events. Keep an eye on their website and Facebook page, as they are always offering something new. From historic tours, to eco-friendly garden tours, and my favorite, the nighttime spooky lamplight tours and graveside reenactments. There really is something for everyone.


Most recently they have added a new tour to their offerings called the Stones and Images Tours. This is a free docent-led tour discussing the meaning behind various symbols and shapes of stones. Again, totally free! Free! The Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery is worth a visit or better yet, give this cool place the whole day, take a tour and bring a picnic.

-5Thanks again to gracious guest blogger Robyn Grace Jennings for another great post. Robyn is a freelance writer, enthusiastic gardener and cook and crazy chicken lady. She can be reached at rng@rocketmail.com.

Luther Burbank Gardens
Are Blooming Beautiful

There is so much to love about Santa Rosa, especially the endless amount of family-friendly things to do that won’t break the bank. One of the most interesting and enjoyable is the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens.

Not only is this place loaded with history and beauty, it’s easy to get to, a breeze to park and FREE to visit. It is one of my favorite places anywhere and I visit often, finding new fun stuff each time!


Luther Burbank was the cool cat of his time, often hanging out with such notable characters as Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Frida Khalo and Jack London. People who knew of him often adored him, hanging on his every word in a variety of subjects. Born in Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1849 and having inherited his mother’s love of gardening, he had much success in farming, specifically plant breeding. He was very successful at a young age with the creation of the Russet Burbank potato, which is still the most widely grown potato in America today.


Following his three brothers, he headed west by train in 1875, seeking to continue his work in a better climate. He fell in love with Santa Rosa, as we all do, the first time he visited and purchased a 4-acre plot, then established the beautiful home and surrounding gardens that we are all able to enjoy today. Over his 50-year career, he created over 800 different varieties of plants.


Luther Burbank once said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful: they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” I couldn’t agree more. A visit to his home and gardens centers me every damn time! I love this place; it is such a symbol of the beauty, history and immense culture that is Santa Rosa.


Luther Burbank Home & Gardens is located in an awesome old area of Santa Rosa with plenty of neighborhood street parking. Visiting and self-touring is free. They even offer a free audio tour through your cell phone. It’s located at 204 Santa Rosa Avenue (surprise!) in Santa Rosa. Do visit the website for more information, www.lutherburbank.org. They have tons of cool events, discounted tours for kids and even free resources for teachers. Go once and you will go again and again, I promise!

-5Thanks again to gracious guest blogger Robyn Grace Jennings for another great post. Robyn is a freelance writer, enthusiastic gardener and cook and crazy chicken lady. She can be reached at rng@rocketmail.com.

An Egret Rookery Heron Santa Rosa

If someone mentions bird watching to you, median strips in the middle of a busy street surrounded by condo and apartment complexes probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

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But a section of large eucalyptus trees located on the median of West 9th, between Link Lane and Stony Point Road might be the best location for easy birdwatching.

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This site is known as a rookery, or a collection of nests, and is the designated location of where Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret and Black-Crowned Night Herons roost and raise their young. Great Blue Herons will also visit on their migratory path.

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Located conveniently close to the several creeks that flow though Santa Rosa, this site has been used since the late 1990s. Outside of the rookery, herons and egrets can be found on the edges of our creeks and often in the marshy drainage ditches lining the roads. They feed on fish, insects, frogs, snakes, salamanders, aquatic insects, and occasionally, small rodents.

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West 9th isn’t a direct path of travel for me, but I regularly make sure to go out of my way to drive by and take a glimpse of the congregation of birds. The rookery trees are surrounded by orange fencing and traffic poles, so it is not hard to miss. Nor is the ground that is permeated white from thousands of birds leaving their mark for the past 15 or so years.

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I like to park down the street and walk over, watching the great white egrets soar in and land on the bendy branches, like acrobats, to feed their young. The graceful flying might evoke a feeling of peace, but the loud and obnoxious squabbling and squawking gives a feeling of chaos.

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If you look up in the trees, you will see dozens of nests, made from clusters of twigs. Sadly, sometimes you’ll also spot a deceased fledgling, high up in the tree, having gotten caught in the branches on a departing flight, a reminder of how little control we have over nature.

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Visiting the rookery is an excellent way to observe these birds, but make sure not to disturb them. The site is protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Thanks to Donna Jones at DonnaJonesPhotography.com for all the beautiful photos.

Take A Hike

By Out There Guest Blogger Molly Stokeld

Living here in Santa Rosa we are spoiled. I mean not rotten or anything, just spoiled with an abundance of choices: Like, where to hike?

For me the choice is dependent on my mood. Do I want to meander around Spring Lake? Or do I want to huff and puff my way to the top of Taylor Mountain? Perhaps I feel like hopping rocks to the upper ridges of Annadel? Whatever I choose I know I will not be disappointed with the abundance of eye-popping vistas our beautiful Sonoma County local scenery has to offer. So let's get in the mood and review some options.

Mood 1: mellow and a bit lazy. A brisk jaunt around Spring Lake is just the thing when I want some fresh air but am not completely in the mood for hiking.

IMG_6808I love how this park features a paved boulevard with options of more natural mini-hikes in between. Marked by trail numbers at their heads, these dirt paths with blackberry bramble walls will lead you back to the paved road after a few minutes. At Spring Lake you are in nature but also not too far from the hustle and bustle of town. It’s a lesser commitment to both physical exertion and time away.

IMG_1038Spring Lake is also perfect for bringing your kids and your pooch. The kids enjoy the on again off again discovery of secret passages, leaving them with a sense that they too have discovered the hidden nature that is within the well-kept park.

Mood 2: Ambitious. In this mood, I’ll drive myself to the eastside neighborhood that borders Annadel Park.

IMG_4554The neighborhood at Stonehedge Drive serves as the gateway to the West side of Annadel State Park. (Be respectful of the residential neighborhood and park accordingly and don’t leave valuables in your car (duh).) This is a perfect hike to get the blood pumping and also be rewarded by spectacular views of Santa Rosa. Once you reach the upper ridges and look westerly, you completely get why Santa Rosa is called the city of trees. There are many paths to take. My favorites are Rough Go, Spring Creek or Canyon trail. On each of these trails you are sure to be greeted by mountain bikers, other hikers, and an occasional horse, and all lead to a beautiful meadow that is the home to Lake Ilsanjo.

IMG_9987The lake is a perfect spot to picnic or rest after climbing up an estimated 1400 feet in elevation. The beauty doesn’t stop, whether it is a lizard leaping, a snake slithering (warning: rattlesnake territory) or perhaps a fox scampering, you are bound to be exposed to raw nature doing what it does best: living organically. This is an “any time of year” hike that will not disappoint. Bring your kids if you like whining and “are we there yet” questions. Otherwise enjoy this hike alone or with other like-minded adults.

Mood 3: Exploratory. Another hike I like to take is on Taylor Mountain.

IMG_8377I’m not clear on why they call it Taylor Mountain because it is more like a hill, but it is steep and it is superb for getting your heart beating hard. This is a new park for Sonoma County and it is a bit challenging to find because it is tucked away off of Kawana Springs road. This is a Sonoma County regional park so there is a parking fee. Or, you can opt to find a free spot to the left of the driveway before you enter but you will pay in the way of a 45 degree walk up the driveway to reach the trailhead. At the trailhead, there is a frisbee golf course (newly established) on one side and a large cattle gate on the other. Be sure to lock the gate behind you, as there are loose cattle on the trail. This fact of “loose cattle” can be intimidating or amusing. Either way be sure to look out for meadow muffins as they are literally everywhere.

Taylor Mountain Hiking Trail With CowsI love this hike because of the bucolic meadows and the beautiful old growth oaks. Also, the fact that there are free ranging cattle means you get to see calves and momma cows along the way. There a few choices to make when choosing your desired path, but all are circular and lead back to where you started at the cattle gate. My favorite part is the payoff once you reach the outer western ridge section of the hike; you will gasp at the vista and the beauty of Santa Rosa valley. The kids love this hike. It is a fun exploratory hike that will be sure to please all of your family, even your dogs.

Finding a hiking spot in Santa Rosa is not hard, it is a matter of mood. When we follow the unspoken rules of trash-in trash-out, scoop your poop, and yield to others, we are doing our part to keep our parks clean and hiker-friendly. So do what your Momma told you and: Go take a hike!

Molly’s bio:

Screen shot 2016-01-06 at 4.22.02 PMLocal girl turned realtor, Molly works with Century 21 Valley of the Moon and loves all things Sonoma County. A mother of two ( 1 teen + 1 tween) both of whom attend Santa Rosa city schools, she's an Alumnus of Sonoma State University. Her fascination with social media began about 10 years ago, and most recently (2 years ago) Molly developed a Facebook, Instagram and twitter profile named eyesonsonoma. The goal for those sites is to enlighten people with her “eyes” on our county, basically why she love living here.
Her new web site at www.makesonomahome.com will be an interactive online destination where visitors can search for homes and learn about the county.
Meanwhile you can find Molly on Facebook or www.mollystokeld.c21.com.