Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Highlights from 2008 Wilderville Road Trip

So far, we have made two trips from San Diego to Wilderville, and expect to make many more. We would like to share some of the highlights we visited during the 2008 trip.


San Joaquin Valley:

We decided to drive some byways instead of the freeways, to capture a bit of the small town atmosphere of the San Joaquin Valley.

First was Wasco, located at the intersection of CA-SR 43 and 46. Huell Howser of California Gold fame highlighted the 1928 Wasco High School Auditorium, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The Renaissance-style building is an architectural jewel that was lovingly restored after a 10-year effort.

Further north, outside of Erlimart was
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. This park encompasses the remnants of Allensworth, an utopian settlement financed and settled by African-Americans. It was founded in 1908 and achieved its peak of success in 1910. However, the ambitious goals of the town's founders were not sustainable, and the State of California acquired the townsite in 1974. The restoration and reconstruction efforts are on-going, and several buildings, including the Colonel's residence, are open to the public.

Fresno County Blossom Trail, heading east of US 99 between Visalia and Clovis is best seen in late February, when the almond orchards are in bloom. Although we were past peak for the orchard bloom, a special treat was the drive into Wonder Valley in the Sierra foothills. The rolling grassy hills were splashed with swaths of golden poppy, purple lupine, snow-like patches of tiny white flowers and occasional red/orange paintbrush. Western redbud trees, common in northern and central California, were at their best with their clouds of magenta blossoms.

Sierra Foothills:

Forty-Niner's Highway (CA-SR 49) is one of the most historic routes in California. There are so many interesting towns along this route that we'll select just a few to highlight.

One of our favorites is
Mariposa, gateway to Yosemite. We stayed there in January, 2008 while were attending the Chef's Holiday Yosemite event at the Ahwahnee Hotel. The Mariposa County Historical Courthouse, built in 1854, is the oldest courthouse still in use in the state of California. Another worthwhile stop is the funky Mariposa Museum and History Center.

Murphys, on CA-SR 4, located about 10 miles east of Angels Camp, is a favorite way station largely because two of Doug's childhood friends, Fred and Margo, live there. But the lively downtown is fun to experience day and night. Calaveras and Amador counties have become important wine producing areas, and many wineries have set up tasting rooms lined up along Main Street. Our preference is for some of the smaller boutique vintners, such as Stevenot and Zucca Mountain.

Sutter Creek, located at the junction of CA-SR 49 and 88, is one of the more pedestrian friendly historic towns. Unlike downtowns of some of the better known cities such as Sonora, Angels Camp and Jackson where traffic flows freely, a bypass carries through traffic around Sutter Creek's commercial district. It is a true pleasure to take a stroll through the picturesque historic neighborhoods without fear of being run over.

Sacramento Valley:

A good alternative to the I-5 Freeway is CA-SR 99 between
Chico and Red Bluff. A worthwhile stop is in the hamlet of Vina. The star attraction is the Abbey of New Clairvaux, a Cistercian-Trappist monastery. A special treat is the Winery, which is open to the public on weekends.

Redding is a favorite stop, due to the fact that our friends Terri and Jay live there. Now retired, they enjoy traveling as much as we do, and we love to swap travel stories.

Redding has embarked upon several major revitalization efforts, both in the historic downtown and on a bend of the Sacramento River. We visited the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, located on the Sacramento River. The Park offers the fine environmentally-oriented Turtle Bay Museum and extensive botanical gardens as well as Paul Bunyan's Forest Camp, an educational outdoor exhibit.

The most iconic attraction at Turtle Bay is the spectacular Sundial Bridge, designed by the famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. This pedestrian-only bridge was completed in 2004 to much acclaim and controversy (the latter over cost). It is actually a working sundial!

While in Wilderville, we did a day trip to Grants Pass, to visit the historical downtown. Grants Pass is known for its many antique shops and purveyors of vintage goods from the early and mid 20th Century. We must have visited every one of these establishments!

There really is a lot to see and do in the area, The larger towns of Medford and Ashland have their commercial and cultural attractions; the latter is best known for its Ashland Shakespeare Festival. Perhaps one of the most interesting nearby historical towns is Jacksonville, a former Gold Rush mining center and county seat brought back from near ghost town status. It is now a National Historic Landmark Community with many restored buildings dating to the 1850s.

We will highlight more area attractions in future blogs about Wilderville.


Mendocino County:

We headed south on US 101, and visited several attractions in the Ukiah area, brought to our attention, again courtesy of Huell Howser and his California Gold series.

First was the Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House, 431 S. Main, Ukiah. Grace Hudson (1865-1937) was a portraiture painter of American Indians, primarily of the Pomo Tribe. Her husband, John Hudson (1857-1936), was a physician before moving to northern California where he devoted his life to studying and collecting California Indian basketry and other artifacts. Their Native American-oriented art and artifact collections, and related research documents, form the nucleus of the Museum's holdings. We highly recommend a visit to this priceless resource.

Just outside of the small town of Talmage is the City of 10,000 Buddhas. Their Web site indicates that "this is the first large Buddhist monastic community in the United States." The 488-acre campus was formerly the Mendocino State Hospital, which the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association acquired in 1976.

The centerpiece is the Jeweled Hall of 10,000 Buddhas, completed in 1982. We were able to go in and visit its spectacular interior, but no photos could do it justice.

San José:

The major highlight attraction was the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
, 1664 Park Avenue in the heart of San José. We especially enjoyed their collection of smaller artifacts, as represented here.

Santa Barbara County:

We stretched our legs in the small town of Santa Ynez, and enjoyed a picnic on the grounds of the Old Mission Santa Inés.

This view is of the Santa Ynez River Valley, taken from the grounds of the Mission.

Our deepest thanks to all family and friends who made this trip so enjoyable:

Pasadena: Doug's cousin, Linda, whose company we always enjoy.

Murphys: Doug's childhood chum Fred, for putting up with us for two nights!

Santa Rosa: George and his friend Clara, for a wonderful winery tour, capped off by a great dinner and overnight stay!

Redding: Terri & Jay, for their gracious hospitality and tour of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

Wilderville: Laurene & Jim, for a comfortable stay and great conversation, as always.

Fort Bragg: Julie, Esmé and sadly, the late Carrie, for a wonderful stay on the "farmette", a shining example of sustainable living and environmental consciousness.

Santa Barbara: Paul & Joanne, for a comfortable bed, great food and conversation, and another chance to explore Santa Barbara.

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