If you live in Sacramento, you know that “the grid” is kind of our thing. All the trendiest bars, clubs, coffee shops and wine bars are “on the grid” while Sacramento’s “off the grid” areas (such as Rancho Cordova and Folsom) are steadily growing as well. But what if I actually want to get “off the grid?” I’m talking no coffee shops, no cell service, no pollution. And, what if I want to do this in the dead of winter with the comforts of a home? Is that too much to ask?
I’m here to tell you it’s not.
Luckily the dead of winter in California consists of 60-degree days with a slight chance of rain rather than heavy snows along with blistering temperatures that freeze your beard when you step outside. We’re “lucky to live in California.”
In a lush, dark green forest there lies a not-so-well-known town to escape the busy-bee feeling of the big city. Dubbed “The Gateway to the Redwoods,” Willits is a small town just inland of Mendocino. I can’t say much of the character of the town as I traveled to Willits to escape the city, but I can tell you it is the hometown of Seabiscuit.
Thanks to Airbnb, you can pretty much take a vacation anywhere in the world now. Even places you have never heard of. Oh, and you can rent tree houses too—it’s on my list. My family and I found a homestead in Willits available on Airbnb, and it just so happened to be nestled on 388 acres of land. When we arrived in the town of Willits, the directions provided informed us to “turn right when you see a church, follow the road until you see a bridge then turn right to follow a windy dirt road that will eventually go through a locked gate.” Turns out, these were the directions for the homeowner’s driveway. After about 20 minutes on the windy dirt road, we arrived at the homestead. A beautiful house surrounded by streams, forests and wild animals.
This modern homestead relies on hydropower; flowing water for clean, sustainable electricity. The fireplace heats the entire home, and up the hill sits large containers catching rainwater which in turn flows back down the mountain to the house. Three ponds surround the house that are available to fish in year-round or swim in during the summer, and the oldest stove I have ever seen in my life resides in the kitchen. The microwave has a sign that reads, “Only use microwave for last resort. The power will likely go out.” We didn’t touch the microwave.
So what is one to do off the grid without cell service and WiFi? If you think this trip sounds boring, perhaps it’s not for you. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city but you don’t want to deal with hotels or winter camping, this, I believe, is the absolute best option. Here are a few activities my family and I took part in on our homestead weekend. Depending on where you choose to stay, there are surely many other options.
1) Get in the spa, look up and enjoy nature’s night light, the Milky Way. Is anything more healing than that?!
2) Jam sessions. My family and I sure as hell don’t make music professionally, but we can break out a jam session like no one’s ever heard (or possibly ever wants to hear). Bust out your old guitar, keyboard or egg shakers and get those vocal chords flowing.
3) If you like to crochet, knit, sew or watch your cat play with the yarn, bring all the goodies.
4) Coloring books are supposed to lower stress levels and create focus. I find they give me anxiety and make my hands tired, but whatever floats your boat.
6) If you find a place with 388 acres like we did, hike. Go out and get lost on all the trails. No need for a GPS or map. Just start walking.
7) Fish in the pond, stream, ocean or lake.
8) Play cards.
9) Cook the good old fashioned way: without a microwave.
10) Test your fire-building skills to keep the house warm.
Compared to my usual outings, this one felt more like a weekend at the spa or meditation center; wake up to the subtle sound of birds chirping near the pond, make a fresh cup of coffee and hit the spa for one of the best mornings you’ve had in a while.