Anyone who has dropped into Pomo Canyon coming over the ridge from the Sonoma Coast can relate to the beauty and quiet of this special place.
Strolling amid the ferns and redwoods by day offers a taste of the peace and solitude of an earlier time.
By night, the steeply sloping walls make for a dark and cozy refuge, sounds of hidden life in the shadows infusing the air with just enough mystery to hint at the many species with whom we humans share space.
Come summer, campers can again lay their heads beneath the redwood canopy and awaken to the verdant plant life all around. Pomo Canyon Environmental Campground, part of the Sonoma Coast State Park, is being readied to reopen.
Long a favorite of local campers, this secluded campground south of the Russian River near Jenner was closed indefinitely four years ago amid recession-era budget cuts that left many wondering if it might be lost for good.
But an improved economic outlook and the simple campground’s relatively low operating costs mean the state park system is able to put it back in business, according to Mike Lair, acting superintendent of the park system’s Sonoma-Mendocino Coast District.
“It’s a cool little spot,” Lair said simply.
Located off the beaten path, three miles down a battered county road from Highway 1 and tucked into a redwood grove at the edge of the Willow Creek Watershed, Pomo Canyon is easy enough to get to — in a sturdy car — but feels far from civilization nonetheless.
A path along a rocky creek leads visitors back into the forest a quarter mile, past huge, mossy stumps that sprout fairy rings of younger trees. Trillium, sorrel and redwood duff blanket the ground amid ferns and shrubs, bay trees and redwoods.
Though the campground is closed, the canyon remains open for day use. To reach it, visitors must walk the last quarter mile up the road, past a locked gate.
Sebastopol resident Steve Trombley, 61, was spotted walking nearby last week with two friends and said it’s one of many local areas he savors.
“I’ve come to the canyon many times to hike,” he said. “I just enjoy the ferns and the deepness and the quiet.”
Sequoia Etcheverry, a program coordinator with the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, which has been maintaining the site, said she appreciates its cultural history and “the opportunity to connect with ancient experience in nature.”
“This place has been loved by humans for thousands of years,” she said. “You can see a legacy of all the different people and their impacts or their legacy of tending to it.”
Resurrection of the 21-site campground restores access to a haven fans will return to time and again, while offering new opportunities for exploration to those who have never had the good fortune to set foot in it. Others know it as the end-point for the popular Dr. David C. Joseph/Pomo Canyon Memorial Trail between Pomo Canyon and Shell Beach, and they may appreciate a chance to settle in a bit and set up camp.
Lair said he hopes to have the spot open for overnights in June.