Monday, September 27, 2021

CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH TOWNS: Mokelumne Hill


Driving along highway 49 in Calaveras County, seeing the old, abandoned steakhouse and only a small shopping center with a café, store and gas station, you might think that Mokelunme hill has become a ghost of the Gold Rush. Truth is that today's highway 49 is not the same one from recent history. This is a modern bypass...you need to get off and see the historic highway to visit this tiny, historic town.


When you do follow the signs, you'll find a three-block stretch of historic downtown Mokelumne Hill. Don't worry about pronunciation, just call it Moke Hill.


Mostly, you'll find a pleasant but quiet stretch of 1850's era buildings. Some still inhabited and others sitting vacant. Hit it just right and you can find yourself in Shutter Tree Park, at the turn in the road in the middle of town, listening to live music from the stage or from the winery across the street with a glass of wine in your hand and, maybe, a little pizza from that winery.


That winery, Renegade Winery, seems more like a restaurant than tasting room. They do have quite tasty sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and salads to go along with their housemade wine and several taps of craft beer. Live music frequently appears on their outdoor stage in the warmer months, reservations are essential for those days.


Otherwise, you can grab some food and drink to go (or bring your own), settle into some lawn chairs or a picnic table across the street in the park, and enjoy the show.


If you craving a little more refined dinner, head to the other end of Main Street to the Hotel Leger. Serving guests since 1851, you can get steaks, seafood, and other delights in their dining room.

Across the street, you can satisfy your sweet tooth at Whoopsie Daisy which has a nice assortment of candies and treats.

Be aware that to get from one of of Main Street to the other requires wheelchair users to occasionally go into the street to navigate around stairs. It's not a busy street, usually, but do be careful.

It's a pretty tiny town so you can probably get most of the flavor of this historic town in just a few hours. It makes a nice stop on your way along highway 49 when travelling between Calaveras and Amador Counties.

Darryl Musick
Colpyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Cocktail Hour: Grigio, Schmigio


Still Lent here so we're trying some different wines supplied by the Wine of the Month Club. Today is one I don't normally look forward too.

Pinot Grigio, like Vognier, is usually too tart and maybe a little sour for me. I'd rather have a smooth chardonnay or even a sweet chenin blanc if I'm to drink a white.

Give the gift of wine this Mother's Day from WineoftheMonthClub.com!


Still, this is what was in this month's selection...so let's give it a shot.

Sycamore Lane is but one of the brands the Trinchero Estate sells. You might be more familiar with their low budget name, Sutter Home. Their line of low priced wines are better than the price suggest. At the winery, I was told this is because they own everything, the land, the winery...everything.  Nothing is leased, it's all paid for and they don't have to price in their mortgage in the price of their wines.

So, lets get on with it. The bouquet is clean, sweet, with maybe a hint of pineapple.  The taste is more sweet, dry, and less tart than I'm used to. Another sip, and there's that tartness, under the back of my tongue.

Still, not a bad refreshment for this 70 degree afternoon on the patio.

Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, September 24, 2021

Top Wheelchair Hiking Trails - Northern California


Back when we were based in the Los Angeles area, we came up with a list of Southern California's Top Wheelchair hiking trails. Now that we live in the northern half of the state, we figure it's time to start another list up here. We're also lucky that Tim is finally starting to show an interest in the world outdoors so we're able to attack it a little better now than we were back in L.A. 

This will be an ongoing list, with additions as we find and experience them. Here is our list of the best wheelchair accessible hiking trails in Northern California.


EARTHQUAKE TRAIL, Point Reyes National Seashore - A flat, paved, quarter-mile loop takes you to the San Andreas Fault and back.


You can see where a fence was torn in two during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the two sections displaces 16 feet from each other along with many other interpretive exhibits of tectonic geology.


It's shady with a few meadows to transit but be aware of poison oak. Handicapped parking, accessible restrooms, and a picnic area with tables are at the trailhead.


CALAVERAS BIG TREES, Arnold - A not quite two mile long trail runs through the North Grove in this state park giving you an up close and personal look at the largest living things on earth, the Giant Sequoia trees of California. Paved in parts, boardwalked in others, but mostly hard packed dirt, this mostly level trail can have some minor bumps along the way but almost any chair user can handle it.


COAST TRAIL, Half Moon Bay - This 11 mile, mostly paved and all-accessible trail runs from Half Moon Bay Golf Links at the south end of the bay to Maverick's Beach at the north. Along the way, you'll travel on top of cliffs, roll through nature preserves, get in some bird watching, get close to the water, and...if you're lucky...see surfers tackle some of the biggest and most dangerous waves in the world.


CONSUMNES RIVER PRESERVE, Galt - A one and a half mile accessible trail leads to wetlands, ponds, forests, and river habitat.


In the fall, thousands of sandhill cranes migrate to the ponds here. The trails are either paved, hard packed, or boardwalk and are very easy on wheelchairs.


DONNER CAMP HISTORICAL TRAIL, Truckee - Most people have heard of the Donner Party tragedy that took place in the brutal winter of 1846-47 and a lot of people have visited the Donner Memorial near Donner Lake next to Interstate 80. There was also another camp, where the Donner's split off from the rest of the party, 6 miles away at Alder Creek, just north of Truckee.


A 1/3 mile loop trail with interpretive markers map out the area the the Donner family made camp at, including a dead tree trunk marking where they made shelter. It is here that George Donner and his wife, Tamsen, met their ends, along with several others.


The trail can get narrow and a little rough at times but most wheelchairs can get through the hard packed dirt and occasional boardwalk. Tim is navigating the roughest and narrowest part of the trail, above.


FRAZIER FALLS TRAIL, Plumas National Forest - A true, high-altitude mountain trail to a large, Alpine waterfall is usually off-limits to wheelers but someone found a way to pave a trail that climbs over a rocky, boulder strewn ridge to get to two very nice viewing platforms for this fall.


Frazier Falls drops 176 feet down a glacier carved cliff 6,000 feet up into the Sierras. Just getting to the parking lot is an adventure. You'll need your own car to drive off of highway 89 near Graeagle to head west on Gold Lake Highway for a couple of miles, and then pay close attention to find Frazier Creek Road. It's another five miles on basically a single lane, potholed road where you will finally find a small parking lot with half a dozen spaces, one handicapped, and two accessible pit toilets. 


This is the trailhead. It's a quarter mile to a wooden bridge crossing Frazier Creek...the source of the falls...and another quarter over the ridge to the platform across the canyon to see the falls for a mile round trip.


The trail is smooth and paved the entire way and fairly level. There are a couple of small uphill sections that might challenge solo manual chair users but if you have someone to help push or are confident of your upper body strength, you should be fine. Power chairs will have no problems, just make sure your battery is charged.


SUNDIAL BRIDGE, Redding - A stunning landmark which is an actual and giant sundial, crosses the Sacramento River here in Redding and connects to the 12 mile accessible Sacramento River Trail on the other side. There's also a zoo and botanical garden here on either side of the bridge (bridge and trails are free, entrance fees apply to the zoo and garden).


SUTTER AMADOR HOSPITAL WALKING TRAIL, Jackson - Not advertised (you won't find it on the Sutter hospital or Sutter Health websites) but there is a very nice little one mile, hard packed dirt loop next to the hospital that starts in a small meadow next to the outpatient parking lot where a sign denotes the start of the trail.


It loops down to the banks of Jackson Creek then up into the rolling hills behind the hospital. Free parking is available at the outpatient parking lot.

TRUCKEE RIVER BIKE TRAIL, Tahoe City - Starting at the outflow of the Truckee River as it drains Lake Tahoe, this trail goes for seven and half miles along the banks of the river. Traffic can get a bit heavy with bikes so keep you wits about you as you enjoy the river scenery filled with rafters heading down the gentle rapids.


YOSEMITE VALLEY, Yosemite National Park - Not a single trail but a series made of of miles of accessible trails crisscross the Yosemite Valley taking you over the Merced River and affording million-dollar views of the sheer cliffs of the valley mountains and stunning waterfalls, including the tallest waterfall in the nation, Yosemite Falls (pictured behind Tim, above).

Darryl Musick
Copyrigh 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 20, 2021

Where the Tule Elk Roam - Point Reyes, California


One more day of exploring here on the Point Reyes Peninsula, a bit north of San Francisco.

First, let's eat. There are a handful of restaurants up here but one stood out, to me, as a bit more unique than the others. That would be Vladmir's Czech Restaurant in nearby Inverness. They're serving lunch today so let's start there.


Here for six decades, the woody cozy diner also has a bar, serves American staples such as burgers, plus a half dozen Czech specialties. The old sign outside says "Czechoslovakian," giving away the restaurant's age as dating before the split of those two countries.

While Tim goes for a burger, my wife goes with a kolkata sausage plate and I have a roast duck with sauerkraut, dumpling, and potato salad. 


It's all very good...more than I can eat, really...and sets us up nicely for our last adventure.

Earlier, we went to the southern end of the Point Reyes Peninsula, where we saw the historic lighthouse. Now, we're going as far north to the other end as we can with our car, which still leaves us a couple of miles short of the northern point. You can park here and take the trail to the end but it's not wheelchair accessible.

We'll just do an auto tour to the end of the road and see what we can find.


The asphault could use some repairing. I try to miss the potholes as best I can. We drive by old cattle ranches, still operating on agreement with the National Park Service after their land became federalized.

On a hill to the right, I point out a coyote to my wife. A few minutes later, she points out a bobcat strolling nearby.


A few miles in, we come across a large fence that crosses the peninsula from the bay to the ocean. This is the start of the Tule Elk Reserve. On the other side is a protected herd of the animals but a big bull didn't get the memo and is hovering around on this side of the fence.

On the other side, we see groups of the animals here and there on top of some of the ridges.

We get to the end of the road where the historic Pierce Point ranch is preserved as a walk-through museum. There is some parking and restrooms here so it makes a nice resting point before returning back.

Scanning the hilltops, we find some more antlers sticking above the brush. We sight the bull with binoculars and find is harem of six cow a few feet to the right.

After this tour of the local wildlife, we head back to the hotel in the setting sun. Tomorrow, we'll head home more relaxed and refreshed.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 19, 2021

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Brown Ale Taste Off

Picture courtesy of Flickr
Bernt Rostad under CC BY 2.0 license

Tim joins me again for another Cocktail Hour here on The World on Wheels.


Watch the Video


Today, we're tasting two brown ales, Arrogant Bastard Ale and Mission Street Brown Ale.


Arrogant Bastard is brewed by Stone Brewery in Escondido, California...just north of San Diego.  Stone is doing a lot of interesting things in beer these days.  They brew some great sour ales and have tried to make a great beer garden at the brewer...a garden I have yet to try.


The Bastard is a strongly hoppy ale, a little rough around the edges, but popular among the microbrew set.  A 20 oz. bottle will set you back $3.99 at Trader Joe's.  It's also widely available at various retailers and bars.


Mission Street is brewed by Firestone Walker Brewery specifically for Trader Joe's in Paso Robles, California...just north of San Luis Obispo.  A 20 oz. bottle is $1.99 there.


We like the Mission Street a bit better than the Arrogant Bastard...see the video for full details...and thought that if we like the beer, and it was half the price of the challenger...well... we'd just have to buy twice as much!

Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, September 17, 2021

Shaky History on Solid Ground: Point Reyes, California


Up and at 'em! Time to go explore this peninsula.

After some bagels for breakfast at the Inverness Park Store, we head over to Bear Valley, a part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Today, we're hiking the Earthquake Trail.

This trail, 3/4 of a mile...paved, no discernible elevation grade...takes you on an up-close and personal tour of the infamous San Andreas Fault with interpretive sign stations explaning everything you would want to know about earthquakes.


There's a way more popular (and not as accessible) trail nearby so the parking lot here is fairly empty and easy to find a space. A few handicapped spaces are at the trailhead, which is also where two accessible restrooms are. There are also several picnic tables here so you may want to bring a lunch with you. Of course, there are several nearby restaurants nearby that you can visit before or after too.

The trail pretty much forks as soon as you start. Take the left fork. It will loop back to this point before it's over.


There are a lot of trees, so this is mostly a shady walk. A gurgling creek is crossed by a wooden bridge. 


At the far reaches of the trail, where this used to be a farm, an old fence goes off up the hill. This fence was here in 1906 when the fault snapped and caused the huge 7.8 San Francisco quake. The fence was split in two. One section sits 16 feet away from the other one at the fault line.


You can stand on the fault, straddle it, jump up and down on it if you want. Wheelchair users will have to watch about 10 feet away, though, because there are a half dozen stair steps up to it.  The fault is marked by blue posts situated every few feet along the line.


Stay on the trail because there is a lot of poison oak here. Other than that, is a nice, easy, shady stroll through some oak forest and a few meadows.


Next, we're going to take a drive to the south end of the peninsula that is Point Reyes. Just past our hotel, we take the left turn going south. After a few bumpy miles on the main road, it's nice that this road has been freshly paved and is smooth for the rest of the way.

We drive for about 20 miles past beaches, historic cattle ranches, dairies, and a lot of open grassland.


At the end of the road, we reach the parking lot for the Point Reyes Lighthouse. The lighthouse, itself, and the visitor's center is closed on this Thursday but we can still walk out to it and enjoy the view. 


If it was open, vehicles with handicapped plates or placards can drive up to the visitor's center and take advantage of the parking up there.


For us, it's a fairly simple half mile walk each way up the paved access road.


It is on a very high ridge and some of the looks down to the bottom of the cliffs can inspire a quick breath or two. It also is a great way to see the miles of empty beaches and unspoiled land stretching to the horizon.

At the end, where the visitor's center and restrooms are, there is a paved sidewalk taking you around the point to a paved platform where you can view the lighthouse and crashing waves far below.


When the visitor's center is open, able bodied people can descend the 300+ stairs to the lighthouse to get a close-up look. Otherwise, you'll just be able to get to this viewing platform...which also has an accessible picnic table if you didn't have lunch at the Earthquake Trail...but it's a grand place to take in some spectacular views of the northern California coastline.


On the way back, we take a few moments to look at the gray whale skull that has been placed next to the trail.


We're going to go back to the van and continue on but we'll leave it here for now and pick up the rest of it in our next dispatch.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 13, 2021

Cool Summer Times in Tomales Bay, California


August in northern California can be uncomfortable. Temperatures regularly head north of 100 degrees and smoke from wildfires can make you choke on the thick air. 

With that in mind, I scheduled a couple of days on the coast north of San Francisco where the air should be cool and clear.

Without stopping, it's about two and a half hours from our home to our destination of Inverness, a tiny little town on the Point Reyes Peninsula on Tomales Bay, west of Petaluma and about 40 miles northwest of San Francisco.

There's not a lot of accessible rooms on the north coast and even fewer that will accomodate three adults. Our choice for this trip came down to a room with a roll-in shower with a bay view and two queen beds or an accessible cottage with a tub with three beds a couple of blocks inland where we would not have an ocean view but would have 14 acres to relax in.


This time, beds and comfort won over the view of the water. Our destination is The Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore about a mile north of that little town of Inverness. Our cottage has a wide, reserved handicapped parking spot that is plenty big enough for our van. A queen bed in the living room will be Tim's, since that's the only one his wheelchair can get to. Letty and I will be on two twin beds in a separate bedroom. 


A hallway give Tim access to the bathroom in the back where there is also a small, well-equipped kitchen.


Tim can keep up on his baseball games on a tiny, wall mounted TV in the living room where there is also a very comfortable recliner, three somewhat less comfortable desk chairs, and a small table. The redwood decked porch also has a couple of Adirondack chairs, a picnic table, and a bench.

There is also a pool and hot tub on site- with lifts-tennis courts, horseshoe pits, and a fenced in dog run with a nice hiking trail leading into the woods and hills.

We take a little time to explore the town of Point Reyes Station, about 6 miles away, where we find some very creamy soft serve ice cream made out of local Buffalo milk in the local market.


We also find some accessible restrooms behind Toby's, a local garden center.

It's time to start thinking about dinner but, first on our way back, we stop in at the Inverness store. Behind here is where you'll find the Point Reyes Shipwreck (picture at the top of this post). It's not accessible out to the wreck but you can see in well enough from the back of the parking lot.


While many stories abound about this decaying boat on the sandbar, including a very improbable one that it wrecked there over a century ago (a pretty impressive accomplishment for a boat built in 1944), the most probable one is that local fisherman Merrel Rocca, Sr. bought the surplus troop tender planning on restoring it into a fishing boat.

The boat washed up onto the sandbar in a storm and, lacking the funds to do anything about it, the owner abandoned it where it sat. Being in a protected estuary, plans were made to remove it but local photographers banded together to save this very picturesque "shipwreck" and it still sits behind the little local store, waiting for visitors like us to snap its picture.


It's back south a couple of miles to the Tap Room, a tiny restaurant on the side of the Inverness Park Store (not to be confused with the Inverness Store, above) where it's sushi night.


It's accessible but a bit of a squeeze to get into the three table dining room (more tables are available outside) where my wife has a nice poke bowl while Tim and I...non-sushi eaters...enjoy some potstickers.


Back at our hotel, we enjoy some wine on our porch before calling it a night and planning for some more adventures tomorrow.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved