River's Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips' owner Lollie Mercer likes to joke about being in the business of curing nature-deficiency disorder. It's certainly true that sunlight and exercise provide the body with a whole host of benefits, and Lollie's customers get plenty of those riding the rapids of the Russian River. She and her staff outfit guests with one of six types of boats, which include styles that range from the classic canoe to double kayaks. Self-guided groups embark on three- to six-hour trips where they navigate Class I and II rapids. When the water calms, they can view the abundant wildlife along the river's banks, including osprey, eagles, otters, and turtles. Eventually, groups land at River's Edge Beach, where Lollie and her crew collect gear and guests reunite with their less-awesome land-based vehicles.
Beneath the high ceilings of Cast Away's yarn shop, towering shelves overflow with bundles of color-coordinated wool, cashmere, and alpaca yarn. Cobblers' tool shelves, iron baby bathtubs, and even a dingy retired from its maritime duties catch the runoff, creating a homey space peppered with vibrant colors for a distinctly bohemian feel.
At the center of this antique bliss is a pair of vintage armchairs, where customers can recline and survey how-to books or familiarize themselves with the supplies for one of Cast Away's staff-taught classes. Though the calendar implies a steady buzz of activity, the shop's proprietor doesn't stop there. She regularly books notable authors and designers for workshops and special lessons that center around projects such as knitted afghan squares and lace vests that add old-timey charm to an outfit without forcing one to wear steel gauntlets.
The sun slowly dips on the horizon, glazing the waters of the Russian River with a rippling coat of light as the water snakes through the forest to the coast. High above the tips of the ancient, sunset-drenched trees, the hum of a small airplane piloted by Rob Clark—a seasoned commercial pilot with 33 years of experience under his belt—punctuates the bird song emanating from their branches.
The natural world feels closer than the altitude would suggest on North Coast Air’s scenic air tours, which fly high above the coastline from San Francisco to Sonoma County. When they aren’t regaling passengers with anecdotes about the land’s natural history, Rob and his team of FAA–certified pilots share their passion for flight during individualized flight-instruction programs. Dedicated to helping students to become aviators in their own right, the team patiently teaches the skills necessary to attain a pilot’s license or complete the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.