Soulful Travel: Tolay Lake Regional Park
More than (just) a premier Wine Country destination, Sonoma County’s myriad of options allow travelers to connect with the destination in ways that support each traveler’s personal needs. No matter how you choose to decompress, how you prefer to explore, or how you like to connect (or disconnect), you can do more than you expected in Sonoma County.
Here, we help you have that experience at Tolay Lake Regional Park.
A Quiet Stroll
The bags are packed and loaded, and outside, the car is honking as you shut down your computer, but not before one last check of email and a quick glance at an article forwarded by a friend.
“What took you so long and why are you laughing?” your traveling companion says when you finally climb in the car.
“Gen Z has invented ‘Silent Walking,’” you chuckle. “It’s basically just going outside but without technology beaming in your brain. Hold on, I think I forgot my phone …”
“Check your left hand, Mr. Roboto.”
And with an embarrassed smile you hug your phone to your chest, sit back, and proceed to embark on your trip to beautiful Sonoma County, California. First stop, Tolay Lake Regional Park, where you’re about to get a humbling lesson in technology addiction, balanced by powerful insight into the secret science of creativity.
“Silent Walking” really is a new trend among young people who grew up in front of a screen. And while you may not be a member of Generation Z, it’s highly probably you too have been kidnapped by technology and its ability to suck you down rabbit holes that leave you in a state of frazzled exhaustion. That’s all supposed to get reined in on this hard-reset vacation to Sonoma County, and at a marvelous time of year to take a meditative and restorative stroll through the great outdoors.
At 3,400 acres, Tolay Lake is Sonoma County’s largest regional park, with 11 miles of trails for hikers, bikers and equestrians. Seasoned mountain-scalers can set their sights on Three Bridges Vista Point, which rewards with views of the Bay Bridge, Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, and Highway 37 overpass hovering on the horizon. Those seeking a quiet stroll as part of an afternoon outing can begin with lunch and shopping in Petaluma’s historic downtown before taking a short drive to Tolay Park, with wine-tasting options along the way. Once parked at the end of a winding road, within a few minutes, you’ll find yourself in the middle of open grasslands so silent you can practically hear the footsteps of the caterpillars that share the trail. Soon, you and your traveling companion feel no need to speak, as if you’re able to silently communicate just by experiencing the 360-degree view of the sky and protruding hilltops.
But it’s also as if a mysterious form of communication is going on inside of you – with yourself. Based on their TikTok videos, this is the ecstatic sensation Gen Zers get when they go out and blend seamlessly into natural reality with its sky and earth, animals and insects, and their own cornucopia of thoughts and impressions.
It’s as if they’ve discovered what it means to be a human being, with an emphasis on being. That’s because when you exit the Matrix and let your organism return to its natural state, your inner powers begin to flow. As subtle as breathing in and breathing out, mental activity flows seamlessly from action to reflection, will to imagination, possibility to actuality.
The ancients created many symbols to express the primordial energy of the universe, including the Greco-Egyptian caduceus, the yin-yang symbol from ancient China, and the Seal of Solomon in the Hebrew tradition. In what we might call with tongue in cheek the American wisdom tradition, since ours is far less ancient and august, a mysterious guru writing under the name The Three Initiates published “The Kybalion” in 1908. It had a large impact on subsequent “New Age” thought, and it is still in print today. In the chapter entitled “Mental Gender,” the wise author explains how all ideas, inventions, and flights of fancy are created in the human mind.
If we closely examine our inner dynamic, we will find that there is a dimension of ourselves that answers to the term “I,” and a different part that answers to “me.” The Kybalion ascribes the “I” sense to the masculine or active principle, and the “me” to the feminine or receptive one. Cosmologically, they correspond to the sun, which directs light, and the moon, which reflects it.
The masculine principle has the narrow but crucial role of directing the will, of deciding what to think and do. The work of the feminine principle is far more expansive, as it is responsible for providing the mind with a constant flow of fresh thoughts, impressions, ideas and creations. But without sufficient direction and take-charge energy from our active side, our receptive side, the author explains, “is apt to rest content with generating mental images which are the result of impressions received from outside, instead of producing original mental creations.” Most people are too passive and impressionable, the author warns, and are therefore subject to the power of other people’s wills rather than their own. Too lazy to captain their own ship, they let someone else take them wherever that person decides.
In modern terms, we’d say such people are programmed.
Finishing up your quiet stroll through Tolay Lake’s eerie valley of silence, winding your way back to the parking lot, watching out for crisscrossing caterpillars, your companion offers congratulations.
“What for?” you inquire.
“For not checking your phone,” they smirk. “You were too anxious to leave it in the car, but I’m impressed you didn’t check it once, unless you did it behind my back.”
“You’re right,” you say in astonishment. “I can’t believe it. Maybe the kids might be on to something with this whole silent walking thing.”
Indeed they are. “Silent walking” – or just being alone with our thoughts – lets the active part of ourselves unite with our receptive side. The ecstatic feeling that results from this union is nothing less than our energy flowing freely from one polarity to the other, just as it’s supposed to do. Our conscious mind becomes flooded with our own self-generated impressions stimulated by the environment in which we find ourselves, tapping the creative wellspring from which the solutions to all of life’s challenges are born. Using the dual powers of “mental gender” to fecundate ourselves, life suddenly becomes pregnant with possibilities. Silent walking – or even just sitting, for that matter – lets us be alone with our thoughts, to feel complete, and experience all the powers of potentiality that lie within us. It means being present to ourselves, feeling not merely the doing trivial tasks, but the weighty power of being.
So regenerative is this power of inner silence that when you get home, you just might find yourself shouting it from the rooftops.
Other Soulful Adventures
This trip through Sonoma County’s Tolay Lake 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