Islands in the Sky

Well, this weekend didn’t start out the way we had planned – but don’t most of the best adventures start out this way? Our original plans included a camping trip to Mendocino, with several hikes planned during the weekend. But you know what they say about plans, right? Thirty minutes before we were going to leave for the weekend, we got a call from the campground cancelling our weekend plans (thanks, Covid-19). If my transplant recovery has taught me anything, is that when plans don’t go the way you planned, you improvise! So we looked for alternatives and ended up in a campground along the Russian River in Duncans Mills, CA. Then, we started looking for a great hike to take in the area – and boy, did we find it! Stay tuned after this trail review to find out about a hidden labyrinth we found on the way home!

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We were lucky to snag a campsite near the Russian River just a few steps away from this amazing view

We took several walks along the river while at the campground, but on Saturday morning, we got up early and headed to the Islands in the Sky trail head, which is right near the little town of Duncans Mills. There is easy parking, but there isn’t any restroom facility available. The Islands in the Sky trail loop is about 4 miles overall, but there are plenty of other trails options available once you get to the top.

This isn’t an easy hike, but it isn’t really hard either. As you climb to the top, there is plenty of shade with beautiful trees. Once you get to the top, it is open grassy fields with lots of sunshine, so wear sunscreen and a hat!

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The views from the top, including a distant view of the coast, are definitely worth the climb!

We added a few extra miles on by exploring the Seven Springs Trail, Fern Springs and the Full Monty trails as well, before starting the trek down. This must be a popular thing to do for the mountain bikers we came across on the trail as we kept running into the same people doing similar loops. In total, we only ran into a few people on the trail, and were easily able to keep our distance. As an immuno-compromised person, even during non Covid times, I’ve always been aware of keeping my personal space on the trail, as my risk is always pretty high.

As with most trails in Northern California in the summer, there are parts of the trail that are overgrown with poison oak, wear tall socks. I did a tick check when I got to the bottom (there weren’t any, thank goodness!), and we did see a snake, which is pretty common to that area.

We were able to get a lot of great pictures on this hike so please check out the gallery below!

Pros: This is a great hike – beautiful shaded forest that opens to scenic open views from the top.

Cons: No restrooms and lots of poison oak!

Hike Rating:



On our way home, we decided to spend a little time hiking along the Kortum Trail, which is a coastal trail that is about 9 miles long in total. We had heard that near where the trail meets Shell Beach, there is a hidden labyrinth that we were determined to find. We started at Shell Beach (which is one of my favorite small beaches in Sonoma County) and headed north. We walked to where we thought it might be, but didn’t find it, so we backtracked and on the south side of the bridge not too far from the parking lot, we found a little side trail, headed east and found it! It’s a bit overgrown, but a lovely little labyrinth full of loving tributes to people who have passed on. You’ll have to check it out! And you know me – I found some amazing little hearts in nature, a constant reminder to me that miracles are all around us, we just have to look for them.

And while you’re here, please check out our home page and consider donating to support transplant recipients that are struggling to afford their post-transplant care.