weeklong trip: napa valley, california

19,341 feet. Kilimanjaro summit.

19,341 feet. Kilimanjaro summit.

The story of why we took a weeklong trip to the Napa Valley this November began in January of this year, in Africa. At the start of 2017, Dylan and I traveled with a team of 39 cancer survivors and caregivers to film the experience of the group’s attempt to summit the legendary Mt. Kilimanjaro. When we had finished editing the short documentary, we submitted it to a couple of film festivals. Here’s how we decided which festivals to submit to…

Dylan: Where do you think it would be fun to visit?

Me: Oo, how about California wine country? 

Dylan: Great! Done!

When we heard the news that we got in, I was so excited. I didn’t think I’d be so excited, but I was! And then I got really, really nervous. What is a film festival like? What would I wear? Oh, goodness, please tell me I don’t have to talk to anyone! Luckily, Dylan had been to several film festivals in the past, so he was able to tell me a lot of what to expect. And then he invited my parents along on this trip to help celebrate (and keep me calm). (I was too excited/nervous about getting in that I didn’t even think about anyone joining us!) 

So, alas, flights and accommodation were booked, promotional materials were created, festival programs were studied, and all the while our collective excitement rose to palpable levels. And then, with exactly one month to go before we hopped on our plane, the Napa Valley wildfires started on October 8th. 

Perhaps we followed the fires more closely than our neighbors on the East Coast because we were headed out there, but each day we saw new reports that were devastating, frightening, and heart-breaking. We were shocked to see fires moving with unpredictable and rapid speed scorching everything in its path, catching citizens unaware. These fires, at the time the most destructive in California history, burned more than 200,000 acres, destroyed 8,900 structures, and killed 43 people. Full containment of all the fires was not reached until October 31st.

We figured that they would cancel the film festival.

It was a while before we heard news about the state of the film festival. And when we did, it was that, ‘the show will go on.’ Logistics had to be figured out, but the festival organizers acted quickly to start a wildfire fund, sending proceeds from the festival to recovery efforts. With this news, and in the support of such worthy aims, we decided to go. (Sadly, as I am writing this blog post, wildfires are now devastating Southern California. Praying for them.)

We saw signs of the fire damage. In fact, just outside our vacation rental, homes had been reduced to ash. We saw scorched hills and singed vines and the remnants of buildings and vehicles. But the most obvious reminder of the recent fires were the signs, posters, and banners thanking the First Responders who worked tirelessly around the clock to save lives and structures. Even good can come from devastation. #NapaStrong 

Wine and Wool

Get to know Twirl Yarn, and Fibershed - such inspiration for makers! 

Get to know Twirl Yarn, and Fibershed - such inspiration for makers! 

So, it was definitely a film festival, but given the destination, there was also a lot of wine. It’s a unique platform, really. Get a bunch of people together to celebrate creativity that’s projected on the big screen and swirled in the glass. Needless to say, we did not go thirsty. 

We actually found it quite difficult to schedule in everything - between the screenings of the films in our block, the daily wine tastings, meals and nighttime festivities, we had little time to ‘see the sights.’ However, I simply cannot travel to any destination without looking up both yarn and yoga. So, despite our time crunch, on the day that we were checking out the town of Napa we made it to the yarn shop, Yarns on First

As far as location goes, this LYS is right in the heart of the incredibly walkable downtown with close proximity to shops and restaurants. The quaint shop had a nice selection of yarn, books and notions. There was a room in the back that had sale items, and a table where they must do their classes (they have quite a few offerings of classes!). 

In searching for something unique, I actually stumbled upon their small collection of local yarn, Twirl Yarn. The label is what drew me in for a closer look - there appeared to be an adorable hand drawn sheep and a fun letter font. Instead of the usual label information like weight and care, this label gave a little insight into the animals that gave their fiber for the yarn. I grabbed two 50g balls, Naturals Bosco Twirl and Ditto Iota. 

As I discover more out about Twirl yarn, I am so elated that I bought some. Twirl is a yarn company by Mary Pettis-Sarley, who somewhat accidentally landed on a fiber farming adventures some 20 years ago. Today, she raises sheep, angora goats, llamas and alpacas, and imagines their fiber into beautifully crafted yarn, sometimes dying them with natural elements from her farm. 

Twirl yarn is a member of Fibershed, a nonprofit that supports and nurtures land-based economies by developing regional and regenerative fiber systems. Fibershed was started in Northern California by Rebecca Burgess, who essentially started asking the question, ‘how do you wear the landscape?’ Fibershed’s incredible mission of education, sustainability, and conservation is centered around ‘climate beneficial clothing,’ with a vision of connecting ‘the wearer to the local field where the clothes were grown, building a system that can last for countless generations to come.’ 

Now knowing all of this, I find it encouraging and amazing to see how much thought, inspiration, consideration, care, dedication, industriousness, passion, and purpose can be woven into a ball of yarn. Thank you Fibershed, and Twirl yarn, for your endeavors and meaningful work! 

Quaint LYS in downtown Napa

Quaint LYS in downtown Napa

Yarn, notions, books and more!

Yarn, notions, books and more!

Screenings and Savasana

Seeing the whole picture of Fibershed and the Twirl yarn that I purchased while in Napa for the Film Festival, it all makes serendipitous sense. Dylan and I put a great deal of care, consideration, passion and purpose into making our film, and the festival was our way to celebrate its potential to reach the greater community, showcasing the remarkable work that Above and Beyond Cancer do. 

In between our screenings and the festivities for the ‘Artists,’ I snuck out to a yoga class. When I Googled, ‘Napa yoga,’ a couple different studios popped up. Based on their class offerings (Ashtanga, Vinyasa), and schedule times, I decided on Ekam Yoga. (Ekam is ‘one’ in Sanskrit.) 

The studio is in a warehouse - it’s that big. Inside the door is an expansive boutique with I dunno, 40ft ceiling? Drop-ins are $19 (bummer, no special for first class) and, I found out later, you can use a complimentary mat. (I had traveled with my own.) The actual practice space is up the stairs, in a large, welcoming room complete with prop wall, beautiful handprinted artwork wall, and a shrine to Pattabhi Jois, the grandfather of Ashtanga. 

I felt immediately at home in the space. The teacher came over to welcome me, and even had ties to Western North Carolina, so that just drove home the homey-feeling. The class was challenging and invigorating, and I know that if I lived in Napa, that would definitely be my studio. I saw, upon getting a glass of water after class, a sign saying that in December they were opening a second, Ashtanga-only location. Total yoga-envy for that place. Needless to say, if you’re in Napa, go to Ekam! 

Toast and Trees

The culmination of film festival week was an wards ceremony, and while we didn’t take home the juried or audience award for best short-doc, we still did a lot of toasting and celebrating! 

Dylan and I had the red-eye home on Sunday night, so we had all day to get back to San Francisco. I convinced the group to travel via Santa Rosa, so I could get a glimpse of Cast Away and Folk, 4000 square feet of yarn, notions, bags, looms and gifts. (Also the location of The Weaving School.) 

Cast Away and Folk is a giant yarn store in Santa Rosa, CA. 

Cast Away and Folk is a giant yarn store in Santa Rosa, CA. 

My brain was on overload, and I could easily have spent a long time in here. But alas, just grabbed a quick skein from the sale boat and we were off! 

My brain was on overload, and I could easily have spent a long time in here. But alas, just grabbed a quick skein from the sale boat and we were off! 

But the real highlight of our journey home was stopping in Muir Woods. Back in 2012, Dylan took me on a surprise trip to San Francisco, and in the middle of the giant redwoods of Muir Woods, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. This was our first time back since that day, and the very first time for my parents to see the park. 

Even though it was really busy, and really wet, we walked for over an hour among the giants. They are single-handedly the most impressive trees I have been in the company of. My dad told us that he had just heard a story about redwoods - that they have very shallow root systems, but that in a forest, all of their roots intertwine. Essentially, they hold each other up. (I looked it up, just to corroborate, and sure enough, this is what parks.ca.gov says, “These trees have shallow root systems that extend over one hundred feet from the base, intertwining with the roots of other redwoods. This increases their stability during strong winds and floods.”) It made me think of the strength and courage of all the survivors of the fires - coming together to hold each other up at this vulnerable time - knowing that they will stand tall and thrive as a community.

To realize their scope you must look up and soak in their grandeur.

To realize their scope you must look up and soak in their grandeur.

It was the perfect ending of the perfect week. Film, wine, yarn, yoga, trees. Witnessing viability, ingenuity, artistry, imagination and fortitude. Sign me up any day. 

Check out the gallery below to see some photos of the highlights from our trip! Included are pics from my dad, Dylan and my phone.