Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” May 2008.
Yountville – Take the Scenic Route
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop
This year, in September, I will be participating in a 3-day walk to fundraise for breast cancer research. Yes, three days, sixty miles. Obviously I need to get used to walking…a lot! I enjoy going for walks, but I don’t enjoy just tromping around in circles on a track to gain mileage. I like to make up excursions to give myself a destination or to really see something at the slower pace that walking provides.
Yountville is a great town for walking. It’s small, but it still sounds impressive to say “Whew! I walked all over town!” Recently I decided to seek out some scenery beyond the center of Yountville. So I rode the #10 Vine bus and hopped off at the Veteran’s Home of California.
A few words about taking the bus: it’s the “eco thing” to do, of course, and I found it a great way to start my geta way. Once I was on the bus, I was able to gaze out the window and watch the houses and vineyards as we rumbled by; the landscape so green and lush. As is the custom on the bus, we buried our heads in books, fiddled with our cell phones, and politely averted our eyes. It’s ok to not “chat people up” and I like the consensus that we can just slip away into our own thoughts and musings. This gave a jump start to my mission of walking in solitude, to get away from my desk for a couple of hours.
At the Veteran’s Home the #10 bus stops at the top of California Drive; the long, tree-lined road that you take as you exit off of Highway 29 when driving to the Vet’s Home. Across from the bus stop is the Napa Valley Museum. If you’d like to combine some art and history with your sight-seeing and walking, this is a very convenient addition to this excursion. Monday is the museum’s free admission day. More information about exhibits can be found at http://www.napavalleymuseum.org
I had planned to take off from the bus stop and walk down the lovely, shaded lane of California Drive. Instead, I walked over to the museum and took a look around their terraces, admiring the quirky sculptures. I discovered there is a sidewalk between Domaine Chandon Winery and California Drive that starts on the north side of museum and leads the way to Highway 29 and Yountville. This route is the best for anyone to enjoy. All ages and abilities can take pleasure in this easy sidewalk as it meanders through the trees. You could walk with your grandparent or a senior friend, take the babies in a stroller and even join with a friend who uses a wheelchair or scooter. I also noted that the Vine bus is very accessible for wheelchairs and scooters.
Starting on this sidewalk, it was about a fifteen minute walk to reach the intersection of Highway 29, then to proceed under the overpass, heading to Washington Street. At the corner, instead of continuing to Washington Street, I decided to take the pedestrian bridge and turned left onto the path that runs along a stream; on the opposite side is the Villagio Inn. Along the stream were tall grasses and twisting vines, ragged trees with warbling birds. The cat-tails were high and puffed out. When they spew out their seeds they become reminiscent of cotton candy; a fuzzy fluff-on-a-stick. I considered how this path provides a more natural setting for my walk, except for an “indigenous” plastic shopping bag, snagged on the wire fence. Finally, at the end of the path I crossed Villagio’s parking lot and continued along a pergola covered walkway toward the center of town. From here, I could have roamed around the unique shops or kept going through town, admiring the quaint and historical neighborhoods. But, for this excursion, I was keeping pace for my training and distance. So, I headed back to Washington Street, and made the return trip to California Drive.
For a change of pace, I decided to walk up Domaine Chandon’s driveway. Along the driveway the vineyards stretch over the landscape with the western hillsides looming beyond. If you look closely, just off the road you’ll find semi-camouflaged rock and metal sculptures; an art garden, along the way. I paused to enjoy the naturalized stream, originating at Chandon’s beautifully landscaped garden and pond, which has a sparkling fountain in the center. I recommend taking the time to stroll around Domaine Chandon’s park-like setting.
I found an easy access from Chandon’s driveway back to the sidewalk that leads to the Napa Valley Museum and, ultimately, over to the bus stop at the Veteran’s Home. To find it, keep walking on Chandon’s driveway to just beyond the first right turn into the parking lot. To the left will be a small path to a gate in the chain link fence.
I guesstimate that my walk was between three and four miles, roundtrip. With the beauty of the gardens and landscaping around Yountville’s landmarks, the effort of the walk was wonderfully diminished. If I have to train for this upcoming long-distance walk, I’ll be taking the scenic route for sure!
If you’d like an historical option, the Town of Yountville and the Yountville Chamber of Commerce have produced a “Walking Historical Tour and Pathway Map”. The brochures are available at the Napa Valley Museum and other locations in town.