Last month, the crew at Camp Navarro invited me up to experience their redwood-covered oasis for a weekend. A private camp for over 100 years, Camp Navarro began as a lumber camp of the Albion Lumber Company in the very early 1900s. In 1956, the Mendocino Area Boy Scout Council bought the property and up until five years ago, it served as Camp Masonite Navarro, a premiere Scout camp in the US.
With the hope of preserving this special natural place, a group of outdoor enthusiasts called the Camp Navarro Stewards bought the property to turn it into a private retreat. The team, including Dan Braun, owner of Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, and Property Manager, Skip Bell, who welcomed us to camp, has been working hard to revamp the once neglected property and turn it into a modern glamping experience, while keeping some of the Boy Scout charm in the process. Their mission is to provide a place where people can connect with nature, participate in human powered activities, and benefit from relating with others, all without distraction.
Located a couple hours north of San Francisco, Camp Navarro can easily sleep and feed 500-1,000 people, if not more. Sprinkled throughout the grounds, you’ll find 23 cabins, 21 Adirondacks (open air cabins with bunkbeds), and 42 canvas tents. At the center of the camp sits a beautiful 10,000-square-foot lodge, complete with great hall and commercial kitchen.
The 200+ acres of redwood-covered camp property that meanders along the Navarro River is blissfully void of cell service. For the always-connected obsessives, there is WiFi access, but we decided not to even ask for the password. Instead, we brought books, cozied up by the fire, and enjoyed the silence.
We stayed in the Shannon Memorial Lodge — a large, two-bed, two-bath cabin where the beds were made up with sheets and cozy Rumpl blankets, bathrooms featured hot showers (make it short), and a full kitchen with enormous griddle for whipping up a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes, all made from local produce.
Adorned with twinkle lights throughout the property, Camp Navarro is magical at night. At the huge fire pit outside the main lodge, you can roast s’mores, sip on your favorite beverage, and tell stories well into the wee hours. We took a hike up to the star viewing spot — with no city lights to spoil the view, we sat on a bench mesmerized by the Milky Way, picked out constellations, and watched shooting stars fly by.
The camp itself offers plenty of activities on sight — hiking, rock climbing, archery, lawn games, hammock time, tubing, canoeing, and swimming in the river, among other things. We brought our road bikes and set out to explore a bit of the surrounding Mendocino County. Leaving right out the front gates of camp, we rode a 50 mile loop up to Comptche and out to Mendocino for coffee, along the coast, and back through Navarro River Redwoods State Park, where the Ewok scenes of Star Wars were filmed, by the way.
Camp Navarro sits right on the edge of Anderson Valley wine country which stretches from Boonville to the town of Navarro 15 miles away. We spent a lazy Sunday tasting wine at the various vineyards sprinkled along the Hwy 128 wine route, including Navarro Vineyards and Roederer Estate. Not only oenophiles but also foodies flock to Mendocino County, whether it’s for the pork belly at The Bewildered Pig or wood fired pizzas at Stone and Embers. And if you need a break from wine, there are plenty of craft breweries to check out, such as Ukiah Brewing Company and Anderson Valley Brewing.
Although Camp Navarro is not open to the public, it is available to rent for events such as weddings, corporate retreats, festivals, or large family gatherings. For anyone in the outdoor industry, this is where the Outpost Trade flagship event is held every year so be sure not to miss it in 2018.
For the rest of you, I encourage you to visit Mendocino County and wine country in general. This was our first time really exploring this corner of Northern California and I can’t wait to go back. After the devastating fires in surrounding Sonoma and Napa counties, where people lost homes if not also their businesses, the region needs our patronage and is ready to welcome you.