Soulful Travel: Taylor Mountain
For generations, Sonoma County has been a place where people have paused to reflect on their surroundings. Once you pause, you can more clearly see, feel and enjoy the effect of your travel experiences that come as a result of that pause.
Here we help you have that experience at Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve.
Climb E’vry Mountain, Starting with This One
Forests are there to get lost in, rivers are meant to be crossed, and deserts make you wander for 40 days and nights. All the terrains on this lovely blue marble play a dramatic role in world mythology, and towering over all of them – quite literally – is the figure of the mountain. Whether it’s Mount Meru in Hinduism, Mount Sinai in the Judaic tradition, or the Five Sacred Mountains of ancient China, the mountain is the guardian of inaccessible knowledge.
Inaccessible, that is, to everyone but the hero determined to climb it.
Mountains hover in a twilit realm between Earth and the heavens, and as symbols of stability, were said to hide timeless truths about the eternal laws and principles that govern the ever-changing world below. Anyone searching for a dream – as in the song “Climb E’vry Mountain” from “The Sound of Music” – will have many arduous challenges ahead of them, but if they solider on, they’ll eventually find the answer they seek. Knock and the door will be opened, runs the old saying; or, in this case, climb and the knowledge will come. And in Santa Rosa, the perfect spot for such a metaphorical adventure is Taylor Mountain, the apex of Sonoma County.
Part of the Sonoma County Regional Parks system, Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve is a relatively new addition to the North Bay’s sterling portfolio of inspiring nature spots. Seven miles of trails for hiking and biking culminate at the mountain’s summit, a 1,100-foot elevation gain. Along the way are less-strenuous ascents that wind through rolling hills, an 18-hole disc golf course, and grazing cattle.
Hikers desiring a nature excursion without the leg burn can opt for the relatively flat Todd Creek Trail, but those seeking to challenge themselves by scaling the heights of this great mythological symbol will find several routes requiring varying degrees of exertion. Going for the summit is a great challenge to set, but if you’re more inclined, shall we say, to a metaphoric mountain climb, we suggest parking in the lot located on Petaluma Hill Road. From there, take the Red Tail trail entrance on the right. The steepness levels off after about a 15-minute climb, becoming more gradual and offering forks in the road with various loops depending on how high you want to go. A reasonable mid-exertion hike takes you to a surprising grassy plateau nestled between the hills, which is green in the rainy season and brings a rewarding sense of having traversed past rocks and wrangled oak trees to reach a fertile grassy sanctuary.
To get there, just remember a certain determined little guy nobody thought could climb a mountain, and who proved the naysayers wrong.
“The Little Engine That Could” is a children’s tale dating from the dawn of the 20th century, becoming an American classic in the 1930s. In the story, a train stalls on a mountain pass. When large locomotives refuse to help, a small engine rises to the challenge, despite the heavy load and steep incline. In doing so, it transcends itself in a miraculous act of strength and determination. Suffice it to say, when the engine came back down, it wasn’t so little anymore.
The story contains a powerful message for kids that they can do anything they set their minds to. But for the adult seeker after wisdom, the operative word in the little engine’s mantra, “I think I can,” is not can, the act of climbing the mountain, but rather the state of mind that makes the act achievable. “I think” is the part of the formula through which the impossible becomes possible. Here we arrive at one of the great mysteries as to how you go beyond what you think you’re capable of – something you’ll be required to do throughout your life when faced with adversity. What gets you through a radical career change or devastating loss of a loved one is the heroic attitude that you can rise to the challenge.
Think of it like this: When you’re down and out and call on a friend, you know they’ll lend their support because you trust them – you would say you have “faith” in them. But this faith is not some naive wish or hope; it’s something solid and true, the result of a trusted friendship built over time. For some reason, having faith in ourselves is not so easy, since we are always our own worst critics. However, faith in ourselves is an inner affirmation that can be built, and a 19th-century text of ancient wisdom reveals the formula. Simply will something with all your heart and all the powers at your disposal, for it is by absolute devotion that faith builds itself, proves itself, and is ultimately trusted unconditionally. The person armed with such a faith, the book says, “will be able to move mountains.”
When we say “timeless wisdom,” we do not exaggerate, for the power of the mantra “I think I can” was known a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The character Yoda in the “Star Wars” universe teaches a certain young apprentice that whether you think you can do something or think you can’t, you’re right. If you think using the Force to lift a spaceship out of a swamp is impossible, then, as the green guru says, “That is why you fail.” But if you think you can climb a mountain – or solve any one of life’s challenges – then you can, and you will.
It’s that simple, and the feeling you get from this realization as you stand atop Taylor Mountain – at whatever height is a reasonable challenge for you – is both humbling and empowering. And as you wind your way back down the mountain, you can echo the words of the Little Engine and say to yourself, “I thought I could” – or better yet, “I knew I could.”
For you had faith in yourself, and faith can move mountains – or at least climb them.
Other Soulful Adventures
This trip through Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve 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