Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

When people talk about day trips north from San Francisco, they're usually talking about wine tasting. Load up the car, crank up the tunes, and head north into Napa to cruise the main drag, which is dotted with commercial wineries at every intersection, most of which have tasting fees and lobbies crowded with tourists. If you're a little more ambitious, you drive west into Sonoma instead, where the wineries have a much more grass-roots, mom-and-pop style feel; they're often smaller and more personalized, and you drive into Healdsburg or the Russian River Valley in search of great red zins from Alexander Valley or delicate pinots cultivated by the foggy cool air off the river.

And those are fine enough little jaunts for the visitor who can't quite part from her heels or his cell phone.

But what I really prefer, what really gets me going, is what you encounter on the way home south after tasting a few too many wines; that twisting and turning, foggy, sunset ride along the Great Highway through the Marin Headlands. Drive long enough toward the City, and you hit Point Reyes and Muir Woods and the great quiet beauty of the redwoods. It's a strikingly rural contrast to the rush and bustle of the City just over the Golden Gate.

There's a charming little piece in the NYT Travel section today outlining some of the trails you can hit if you decide to skip the wine-tasting and go for the real, fresh-air Marin. Like the writer says, the rustic beauty and the sense of wildness you encounter on these Marin trails is so much like what so many people cross the globe to find. You can find the desolate wind-whipped craggy hills of Britain or the Mediterranean just a short drive away from the City. A nice escape and a dose of nature when you're needing it, for sure.

Make sure to check out the slideshow for some killer scenes from the trail, including Green Gulch Farm, a well-known organic Zen farm that supplies much of the produce to the forward-thinking restaurants about town.

A Wild Ramble, Near the Golden Gate (NY Times)


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