One Block of Pure Awesome
Don’t judge Graton on the size of its downtown–there’s more here than meets the eye. And even if it’s just one block long, what meets the eye is pretty sweet. Graton’s residents enjoy a quiet, rural lifestyle with quick access to the city of Santa Rosa and the 101 corridor via Occidental Road/Highway 12. This out of the way town boasts excellent schools, a quiet lifestyle, a quaint but hip downtown, and award-winning wineries. Not to be confused with the eponymous casino in Rohnert Park, the town of Graton hides just off Highway 116 between sleepy Forestville and bubbly Sebastopol. Like many rural California towns that exploded during the state’s agricultural boom, modern Graton is a fraction of its former size. The unincorporated town, covering about a square mile and a half, once lay on the railroad that hauled out apples and carried in visitors, not to mention seasonal harvest labor. As farm technology, the economy, and car culture evolved, the rails disappeared and the downtown became more cozy.
Today, locals and visitors alike mosey through this quiet gem for the arts, antiques, food, good company, bocce ball, and perhaps a late night cocktail. Running north and south through Graton, the West County Regional Trail connects Forestville to Sebastopol. The WCRT offers a safe, paved experience for walking, bicycle riding, and roller skating through quiet and fragrant West County, with a parallel dirt horseback path catering to the area’s many equestrian-friendly properties. Adventurous cyclists can follow the WCRT for scenic and placid access to the local wineries on the Russian River Wine Road.
In a daily noontime blast of nostalgia, the Graton Volunteer Fire Department tests its WWII era air raid siren, which will also sound in emergencies to summon firefighters from the hills and valleys where cell signal can still be inconsistent. The distinctive siren might briefly chill newcomers still haunted by the duck-and-cover Cold War, but for most residents it is now the familiar sound of old-school comfort. Graton continues to honor its prosperous history of seasonal and migrant labor by hosting the Graton Day Labor Center, where locals can make a fair deal with ready and capable hands-for-hire.
There’s still more to explore in this seemingly small town than we have time for here. Watch my blog for more stories and photos!