Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series, The 4hr. Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.
Emerald Pharms would be the world’s best pot shop, but it is, in fact, so much more than that. Sure: As long as you’re legal, you’ll find your choice of flowers, concentrates, tincture, topicals and a Whole Foods' worth of edibles, ranging from hemp milk to Madame Munchie macarons. Think of this stylish complex, though, not as a destination dispensary but an all-purpose HQ for better living through natural goods and old-school Nor Cal activism, with a 12-acre “demonstration site” with wildflowers, a living conference room (with olive tree walls), an aquaponics dome, and Tesla car charging-station.
Sometimes you want a break from the fancy-schmancy vibe of the counties to the south — which is why we head east, to Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the state*. You’ll have your choice of privately rented lakeside bungalows, but our top pick is this waterfront house in Lakeport (a clear favorite relative to some less salubrious options on the lake's southern edge) with your very own dock. Weber barbecue, sunset from the patio, or maybe from a kayak. Count blessings. Etc.
Pick up sandwiches and morning coffee before heading off for a hike up nearby Wright Peak. You’re spoiled for choice here — look northeast across Clear Lake and you’re staring into the expanse of Mendocino National Forest, which could provide a lifetime’s worth of outdoor activities. For a shorter trip, we recommend the trail to the summit of Wright Peak. Move with purpose and you can make it up and back in around three hours, with views at the top that’ll make it worth the trip — if you're lucky, you might even get a look at volcanic Mount Lassen, the southern tip of the Cascades.
* Yes, geography friends, Tahoe is bigger, but we share it with Nevada.