Soulful Travel: Riverfront Regional Park

Riverfront Regional Park

When done with intention, travel can rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit. The secret lies in the details. Take time to appreciate every sight, every sound, every smell. Slow down, enjoy the experience, and maybe, just maybe, you will uncover something within yourself.

Here, we help you experience Riverfront Regional Park.

Finding Your Path at Riverfront Regional Park

Wherever you are on the path of life, you’ve likely figured out that regardless of how well things are going, one thing is certain: It’s your life, not anyone else’s. No one can replace your position as the protagonist of the adventure in which you’ve found yourself. Reluctant though we may feel, we’re all forced to be the hero of our own stories.

Arriving at Riverfront Regional Park for the first time after learning it’s a pleasant spot to stroll around a lake, you wouldn’t think an adventure lies in wait. After all, how much excitement could there be making a circle around a body of water? But if you merely glanced at a map, parked near the entrance, took the nearest path to the water, and proceeded counter-clockwise, you might be in for a surprise. For life is full of illusions, and things aren’t always what they seem. It’s easy to get lost, and can you really navigate your way through life relying solely on your rational mind?

Let’s find out.

Riverfront Regional Park
Riverfront Regional Park at Sunset

Located just a few miles outside charming downtown Windsor, Riverfront Regional Park takes its name from the Russian River, which snakes along the back end of the park, providing another body of water to ponder, or even dive into. It’s just one of the many picturesque corners packed into Riverfront’s small but potent acreage. Near the main picnic area, there’s a redwood grove and short hilltop loop more than capable of stimulating the imagination, especially on a late autumn afternoon.

On busy days, the lake is traversed by kayaks and paddle boards, but the lake-loop is usually quiet enough to lose oneself in the majestic views of the southside trees intersecting with the sky, and the golden sunlight that turns silver when it strikes the lake’s blue waters. Fish that gather near the banks will happily take any sandwich crumbs you care to spare, and with hardly a sound but the rustling of the trees, thoughts of the harried digital life we’ve all convinced ourselves is necessary and good evaporates like fog in the light of truth, and you might just find yourself saying, “This is a little slice of paradise.”

Riverfront Regional Park
Riverfront Regional Park Trail

Adventures are like labyrinths, where getting lost is part of the experience. Every action-movie hero must eventually face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle that requires all their ingenuity to finagle their escape. So it’s fitting that as you make the first turn around the path that circumnavigates the lake, hopping stone to stone through a miniature quarry, you notice there’s a smaller lake to your right. But you signed up for the three-mile, hour-long hike around the other lake, and so with a gulp of water, since the sun shines extra strong in this part of Sonoma County, you continue among darting lizards, soaking up the rays, and come into a long stretch sheltered by trees and hedges, where the lake disappears from view.

Riverfront Regional Park
A View of the Lake from Riverfront Regional Park

“Life is lived forwards,” said the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “but understood backwards.” Those who’ve lived to a ripe old age will tell you they could never have predicted the surprises life had in store for them. But everything kind of worked itself out, they’ll say, as if — in some inexplicable way and from a higher point of view — all was meant to be. The deepest crises — which are necessary to truly become the hero of your own life — are those times when we feel lost in a forest. Not the kind made of trees, of course, but rather of doubts, fears, anxieties and despondency. “I don’t know where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing,” we cry out as the forest closes in on us and the sickly yellow eyes of the watching goblins appear. “I’m lost and can’t find my way out.”

If only there were someone who could show us the way.

Riverfront Regional Park
A View from the Trees at Riverfront Regional Park

As Riverfront’s shimmering lake comes back into view, the trail sweeps around that beautiful line of redwoods reaching to the sky, who add their fragrance to the gentle breeze. It was a wonderful hike, and as you head down a gravel path back to the parking lot, an alarm goes off, and not from your car. This is the kind of alarm that bursts into your mind with a jolt of queasy adrenaline. Suddenly something doesn’t feel right. It’s hot and you’re parched, so you’re not thinking clearly. “The path was so simple,” you tell yourself. “Just follow the lake. Then why do I feel lost?”

Indeed, Riverfront Regional Park contains an optical illusion — one, alas, we’ve gone and spoiled for you! — for there is not one lake, not even two, but three. And during that back stretch when the view was blocked by the forest, you passed around one lake and on to another. So, continuing around lake three will not take you back to your car, but around in circles. And if the feeling of being lost in nature is spooky enough, getting hopelessly entangled in the story of your own life is downright terrifying.

But just as an intelligence higher than your own ego-identified sense of reason sounded an alarm that the path you were taking was not what you thought it was, so does this higher part of you have a tendency to plague you with sleepless nights and waves of panic until you stop avoiding your problems, be brutally honest with yourself, and find your way back on track to the highest ideal of yourself that is everyone’s birthright. The inner wisdom that can guide you has been variously called the subconscious, a guardian angel, the voice of ancestors, or the spirit part of us called the higher self.

“Walking the path,” says the character Morpheus in the movie “The Matrix,” “is not the same as knowing the path.” When we feel lost in life, trying to find some ultimate answer often just leads us deeper into the forest of confusion. In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy doesn’t know what she will find along the way, only that if she follows the Yellow Brick Road, she’ll eventually arrive at her destination, a word that shares its root with destiny. So, there is someone who knows all you were meant to do, and who can guide you every time you get lost, for they know you better than you know yourself. And by now, you probably have a pretty good idea who that special someone is.

Other Soulful Adventures

This trip to Riverfront Regional Park is just one of a series on soulful travel. For other experiences, visit our Soulful Travel page.

Remember the Leave No Trace Principles

Experiencing our destination through the Sonoma County Leave No Trace Seven Principles gives travelers an opportunity to make a difference. Together, we can protect and preserve this special corner of the world for generations to come. Find more info about sustainable travel in Sonoma County here.

For a list of local businesses helping promote the important message of Leave No Trace, click here.

Written by Christian Chensvold

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