It was at his favorite swimming hole on Austin Creek where Colby Streuli of Cazadero was found early Saturday morning, his clothes folded neatly by his prized sportscar at the road's edge, a small flashlight lashed to his wrist.
Just as he had while still a boy, Streuli, 28, sought peace and relaxation at the swimming spot off Austin Creek Road, whatever the season or time of day, said his mother, Kathleen McKeon.
"It was his favorite place," said McKeon of Brentwood.
But in the dark of late Friday night or early Saturday morning, on his way home to his grandma's place about a mile away, Streuli apparently fell on the steep incline leading down to the water and hit his head, family members said. It was about 1 a.m. He had been drinking.
A passing cab driver saw Streuli's familiar 1975 MGB Roadster parked on the shoulder, its headlights on and door open, family members said. He saw it again on his way back from dropping a fare, stopped to look over the embankment 30 or 40 feet to the water and found Streuli face down in the creek.
The Sonoma County Coroner's office is investigating Streuli's death as an accidental drowning, coroner's Sgt. Greg Stashyn said.
On a different night, at an earlier time, Streuli's death might have aroused uncertainty about his intentions in going to the creek that morning.
Streuli had struggled for years with serious mental health issues and, in 2008, sustained traumatic brain injury in a car crash, family members said.
The past decade held many dark periods for him when he longed to escape, his mother said.
But in recent months, Streuli had found more light than he'd known for a very long time, thanks in large part to a new doctor who had adjusted his medications and brought him renewed balance, she said.