West County Regional Trail
Maybe it’s the slanted light cutting through the willows of the Atascadero Marsh Ecological Reserve, or perhaps it’s the call of geese fading across the spring evening sky, but there is something inherently nostalgic about this four-mile long rail-to-trail stretch of the West County Regional Trail.
We use this particular trail when we want to go easy and be transported by sweetness of cutting through farmlands and open space. We always begin our walk across from the Post Office in downtown Graton, an easy meeting place. If we walk from Graton to Forestville, we’ll cover four miles.
We’ll pass through farms, vineyards, and open spaces. Our first jump off the trail happens when we walk west less than a quarter of a mile along Green Valley Road, but once we drop back on the trail, we cross the bridge and enter the wetlands. The temperature seems to drop under the trees and we are greeted by bird song and buzzing pollinators. We’ve spotted bobcats, quails, mourning cloaks, kestrels and red-tail hawks, California sisters, and elusive egrets gliding like ghosts across the waterways. Berries and wildflowers grow abundantly.
The wide trail is lazy for us in a good way, and wheel chair accessible, and we might choose to stop at the local winery along the way, or enjoy a resting bench by the donkeys. We come out from under the trees to warm sun and are often greeted by other walkers, bikers, and families. If we are feeling especially motivated we might make it all the way to Forestville to enjoy a decadent lunch at Backyard in town.
But we might not. We are just taking our time, dropping into the meditation of walking, noticing the details that make up the landscape – together.