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Time-Traveling to Freewheeling Summers on the Russian River

For a pair of local photographers, a short drive to Forestville’s Summerhome Park evokes sepia-toned summers of yore.

SLIDESHOW

Dawn—the precrowd hour—at a dramatic bend in the Russian River.

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Veggies on display at a farmers’ market in Forestville.

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A historic lodge overlooking the Russian River bears Summerhome Park’s initials.

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The deck hammock at Camp Noon practically demands a midafternoon nap.

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A school bus run by Burke’s Canoe Trips shepherds boaters from Guerneville back up the road to their starting point in Forestville.

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Emily Dulla and Daniel Glazer's route to Forestville.

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Travelers: Emily Dulla and Daniel Glazer
Quest: Time-travel to summer camp

It’s only 90 minutes away, give or take, but when Emily Dulla and her boyfriend, Daniel Glazer, traveled to Forestville’s Summerhome Park for four days this summer, the couple felt transported to another era entirely. “The whole community there kind of feels like it’s from a Wes Anderson movie,” Dulla says. “It’s really quaint and sweet. It has a summer-camp feel to it.” 

There’s a good reason the place feels like a blast from an imaginary past—and it’s not because you’ll find Bill Murray running around in short pants. City slickers have been decamping to the peaceful private resort, which claims one of the most picturesque bends in West Sonoma’s Russian River, since it opened in 1908. Since then, generations of San Franciscans have flocked north as soon as school lets out to lounge by the river, hike through redwood forests, and enjoy life in the slow lane.

Luckily for Dulla and Glazer, both San Francisco–based photographers, not much has changed. Through Airbnb, the pair found a century-old rental home named Camp Noon in the private community—which includes a historic lodge building, private beach access, and a small outdoor movie theater—and hit the road. When they arrived, they found the place practically dripping with charm.

Dulla says that during their four-day stay, the couple came across several families who’ve made the North Bay pilgrimage for years. One woman they met had been summering in Summerhome Park since she was a child. “It’s a generational thing for some people,” Dulla says. “They’ve been going there their whole lives.”

As for passing the time, well, bring a good book. Dulla says she and a few friends who came up to stay a night whiled away the hours by taking walks through the redwoods, cooking big meals, and lounging at the resort’s idyllic private beach. They also rented canoes and paddled 10 miles down the Russian River to Guerneville, the hippie-meets-townie-meets-gay enclave, where they were picked up in a funky old school bus and driven back to their digs.

Even Camp Noon, constructed next to the site of the original Summerhome Park Dance Pavilion, invoked a sort of timelessness. “It was kind of rustic—perfectly decorated,” Dulla says. “You could tell the owners put a lot of attention to detail in how they put the house together and decorated it. Everything was just right.

“Every cup and mug seemed like it’d been there forever.”

 

DO THE TRIP
Destination: Summerhome Park, Forestville
Distance: 70 miles
Accommodations: Vacation rentals available through VRBO or Airbnb
Necessities: Books and magazines for lazy river days, hiking boots, shoes you can wear in the water (Converse, as evidenced above, dry out quickly), beach essentials (blanket, cooler, sunscreen, towels, swimwear), a good wool sweater for the evenings, and an umbrella—just in case.

 

Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco 

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