Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” May 2010.
In Calistoga, a Few of My Favorite Things
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop
I live at the south end of the Napa Valley and the town of Calistoga is a beautiful 25 mile drive to the north end. I have a lot of favorite things up yonder in that quaint, historic town. A favorite pastime of mine is to wander through the Sharpsteen Museum at 1311 Washington Street where the detailed dioramas transport me back to the 1800’s, and I can see and feel history through the life-size exhibits of natives and settlers that came before us. Another favorite is that Calistoga is such a great “walking town.” I enjoy strolling down Lincoln Avenue to see what’s new in the stores and then lunch at the Sarafornia Café for, of course, another favorite: the best BLT sandwich I have found in the valley (don’t forget the avocado!). Recently, after enjoying one of those great BLT’s, I wanted to check out the new Logvy Community Park at the north end of Washington Street.
From Lincoln Avenue you can easily walk or bike to Logvy Community Park; about six blocks up Washington Street to N. Oak Street. The park covers 10.5 acres, providing pristine sports fields, the new community pool and Community Gardens. A very special addition to the park is the Veterans Memorial Plaza. The memorial has six striking granite columns, one dedicated to each of the military services. In front of the columns are 300 bricks inlaid on the plaza with the names of veterans engraved in each. This memorial was a vision held for over a decade by three locals, Jim Barnes, Paul Coates and William Albright. Their mission is to honor any veteran with the memorial and, in November 2009, an estimated 300 to 500 people proudly witnessed the unveiling of the memorial. After taking in the peaceful reverence of the Veterans Memorial Plaza I was moved to make a connection with another of my favorite sites in Calistoga.
About four blocks back up Washington Street I turned right on Berry Street and headed to Foothill Blvd (Hwy 29) where I turned right. Just a mile from where I started at Logvy Park I reached Calistoga’s Pioneer Cemetery. For me this cemetery is one of the most intriguing, picturesque places in Napa Valley.
The entrance is a log-and-post gateway with limited space for parking; better to park off Foothill Blvd. and walk in. Established circa 1877, the cemetery spans up and over the wooded hillside, the family plots and burial grounds roughly outlined with worn out stone borders. Here and there, moss covered, uneven stone steps lead up to nothing; burial places disintegrated over time. Aged, ragged and crumbling I find Pioneer Cemetery comforting, not eerie; as if I can visit with the settlers of the past in this quiet, peaceful resting place.
In the spring, the grounds are covered from roadside to hilltop with the lush green vines and periwinkle blossoms of Vinca. Wildflowers and hardy pink Amaryllis grow in clusters around blank wood and stone grave markers, where the names have long been weathered away. Plain, wood plank markers, lean together, holding each other up through the centuries; perhaps a family long gone, but hopefully not forgotten. Our stalwart pioneer families are buried here under tall, twisting oak trees and gnarly, peeling, red-barked Madrones, whose ruddy hue complements a few fancier red granite headstones.
Calistoga’s roots run deep in our valley’s history. Here, in our slam-bang present time, we can visit this quiet, sunny, pretty town and drift back in time. In the spring the many charming homes show off old fashioned gardens full of colorful blooms and grasses. This summer, take some time to visit Calistoga where the sultry summer heat will force you to slow down, wander around and enjoy life.
Walking or biking through the residential part of town admiring the beautiful Victorian homes is a great way to experience the history of this town. I recommend covering the whole town and area by bicycle to experience the full spectrum of this end of the valley. The City of Calistoga is working diligently to provide the ease and safety of bike riding throughout the area. In 2009, the City of Calistoga was honored as a Bronze Level Bicycle-Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists. This program provides incentives and recognition to cities like Calistoga which actively support bicycling in their communities. You can read the full report of this honor at the Napa County Bicycle Coalition website: http://www.napabike.org/newsletter.html
The City of Calistoga has an extensive website with lots of information for residents and visitors. Visit: http://www.ci.calistoga.ca.us/ Do a search for “bike map” and you’ll find links on the page to download the map; or just ask at local shops in the area.