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EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Russian River Part Two

EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Russian River Part Two

Rise to new heights with a morning champagne brunch hot air balloon flight with Aerostat Adventures (800-579-0183 or 707-433-3777). Private charters are available. Talk about the highlights of your trip so far as you savor the pastas and pizzas on the patio at Andorno's Pizza (16205 First St; 707-869-0651; $8-$24).

It really is all about The River, so if you're not staying at one of the bigger resorts, such as the Triple R (see Part One), ask the staff at your resort for directions to Wohler Bridge. It's popular with gay and lesbian visitors and locals.

Follow the river to its delicious conclusion at restaurant River's End (11048 Highway 1, Jenner; 707-865-2484; $17-$43), around 10 miles away from Guerneville. Its wonderful ocean views, where the Russian River meets the Pacific, are worth the drive. A strong local wine list adds to its attraction. Once back in Guerneville, opt for a romantic stroll or the more rambunctious option of the Triple R resort's remodeled Piano Bar (16390 Fourth St.; 707-869-0691).

Start the day off with The Roadhouse Restaurant's (at Dawn Ranch Lodge, 16467 River Rd.; 707-869-0656 or 800-734-3371; $9-$21) popular weekend brunch, before picking up some vital supplies. The sunny Russian River area, around Guerneville, Monte Rio, Jenner, Forestville, Graton and Duncan Mills, boasts renowned artisan cheesemakers and a vital farming community, while fresh seafood is whisked from the ocean along the stunning coastline. Very much San Francisco's larder, Sonoma County provides Bay Area chefs with meat, produce and other delicious tools of their trade. Get a taste for the area with a picnic, including cheese from gay-owned and operated Sophie's Cellars (20293 Highway 116, Monte Rio; 707-865-1122).

Hit the trails through Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve (enter at end of Armstrong Woods Rd; 707-869-2015, 707-865-2391 or 877-444-6777) and work off brunch hiking among spectacular old-growth redwoods, just five minutes from downtown Guerneville. Once you've worked up an appetite again, tuck into your picnic among the impressive, towering trees.

If you don't feel ready to come out of the woods, call Armstrong Woods Pack Station (17000 Armstrong Woods Rd.; 707-887-2939), a privately owned horseback-riding stable, which operates out of the state reserve. Laura and Jonathan Ayers grew up on the property and are dedicated naturalists, well versed in the history of the area. They offer a variety of rides, from two-hour ambles to overnights. You must make reservations by phone.

If you've done enough time in the trees, there are a few nice stores in town offering everything from clothing to books and crystals. River Wolf (14016 Armstrong Woods Rd.; 707-869-3449) offers unique gifts for animals and animal lovers. Russian River Floral Company (16222 Main St.; 707-869-3343 or 800-260-7009) can meet any floral need. The Guerneville 5 & 10 (16252 Main St.; 707869-3404) is one of the last five & dimes in California and serves as a kind of general store to the area. Et cetera Et cetera (16270 Main St; 707-869-5808) features a great selection of unique gifts and accessories.

Grab a latte at Coffee Bazaar (14045 Armstrong Woods Rd.; 707-869-9706), the local gay coffeehouse, before sauntering along to the Triple R Bar and Grill (at the Russian River Resort; 16390 Fourth St.; 707-869-0672; $9-22) for dinner. A women-popular option is Wild Jane's (16440 4th St.; 707-869-3600; $9-$22), with an adults-only upstairs lounge with a wood-burning stove, perfect for a cocktail or full dinner. Concerts and events often take place in their main events room.

Finish off the visit with a few brews at the mixed gay/straight sports bar McT's Bull Pen (16246 First St; 707-869-3377).

Part One | Part Two

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