California byways never disappoint. Interstates and boulevards wind their way through the outskirts of San Jose to Big Basin Way and Saratoga Village. The small-town charm and pedestrian-friendly Main Street beckons visitors to walk and explore Saratoga's finest dining, wine tasting, art galleries, and fabulous retail.
Close by, performing arts venues provide astounding entertainment including year-round and seasonal top-name performers. Historic gardens, hiking, horseback riding, wineries, and breathtaking views are just a few distractions to bring you back again and again.
Unwind and Snooze
Many years ago, Saratoga Oaks Lodge shed its 1955 motel cocoon and turned into a beautiful butterfly. From a single-queen room to two-room suites, it’s the ideal hibernation destination. Treehouse bungalows accommodate couples or groups; the perfect haven to de-stress following the day’s explorations. In-room whirlpool bathtubs and steam-bath showers help you find your bliss. Shaded by majestic oaks, balconies and garden patios are a joy any season. Amenities include microwave, mini-fridge, coffeemaker, free Wi-Fi, and modified continental breakfast.
Utterly tranquil, pour yourself into village wine tasting rooms Cinnabar Winery, Roudon Smith Winery, Ruth Roberts Wine Collective, and Uncorked. Walking makes designated drivers obsolete. Nothing goes better with wine than luscious, handcrafted chocolates. Yes, this sinful pleasure is close enough to see and taste at Plumed Horse Chocolaterie by Angelica. Chocolate addicts, this is your new home. Angel’s career as a certified chocolatier was divine intervention. An artist since childhood, she taught herself the fine art and science of chocolate. Delicate works of art, each chocolate gem is hand-painted with colored cocoa butter. Angel created all the recipes - more than 25. Some of the favorites include salted caramel, passion fruit, jalapeno, strawberry, and Sprinkles are for Winners in the shape and flavor of a baby donut.
Vineyards, Views & Performing Arts Preview
On the edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains, zigzagging and sometimes precipitous roads lead from Saratoga Village to stunning vistas, hidden gardens, and a captivating villa and chateau, vineyards, and tasting rooms. Be swept away by the magic!
Arriving at the regal Mountain Winery, you immediately understand why Paul Masson – the original owner – called it his "vineyard in the sky". Views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Silicon Valley below are inspirational. A Saratoga landmark since the early 1900s, the world-class wines and cuisine, and summer concert series catapult Mountain Winery to the top of your bucket list! A sacred feeling exudes within the inner sanctum of the winery.
Just a few miles away, sequestered on a hillside, the Mediterranean-style Montalvo Arts Center is another Saratoga jewel. The 175-acre estate offers extraordinary performing arts programs, year-round concert series, hiking trails, and gardens. Visitors are invited to discover miles of woodland hiking trails, and formal and informal gardens. Go in search of Sculpture on the Grounds – a multi-faceted installation of works of art.
Enjoy the music of waterfalls and Mother Nature at her finest at Hakone Estate & Gardens. Influenced by Buddhist and Zen cultures, this ever-changing 18-acre landscape presents something new each season. In spring and summer, multi-hued wisteria, azaleas, and rhododendron await. Delicate maples show their best fall colors. Winter brings a wall of camellias. The oldest Japanese and Asian estate garden in the Western Hemisphere, it is also a treasure of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Visitors wander the gardens and meditate on benches overlooking the koi pond or bamboo forest. Hakone also conducts several events including tea ceremonies and Maturi (Spring Festival).
Family-owned and operated since 1893, the 28-acre organic and sustainable Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards and Garrod Farms is an experience like no other. Just minutes from the village, enjoy scenic horseback-riding adventures through the vineyards and Fremont-Older Open Space Preserve followed by wine tasting and small bites on the shaded garden patio.
A stunning Victorian houses Bella Saratoga Restaurant. Superbly prepared Italian fare served in an intimate setting makes this a popular destination. Award-winning pastas, local vegetables, fresh fish, filet mignon, and pizzas – plates are bountiful so come hungry. Fronted by a lovely covered patio, ask about dining alfresco in spring and summer.
Haute cuisine! Haute décor! The Michelin-rated Plumed Horse is that. The ambiance exudes chic elegance and comfort. Draped in golden light and warm woods – dining rooms are elegantly decorated – a visual feast. Feel free to roam and ogle the towering wine cellar housing more than 1,800 wines from around the world. But brace yourself! You are about to be treated to gastronomic artistry. Every berry, vegetable, meat, fish, wild game, sauce, and dessert is painstakingly plated. Executive Chef Peter Armellino’s fresh seasonal menus will captivate your palate. Fourteen years on both the tasting and entrée menus, the signature Black Pepper and Parmesan Soufflé, served with uni and Dungeness crab, is the most requested dish. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 5:00 to 10:00 pm. Reservations are available only online and require a three-day advance cancellation.
One Last Tip
Cyclists adore road trips up Highway 9 into the Santa Cruz Mountains. At Big Basin Café, a wide selection of fresh-roasted coffees and specialty drinks make this a perfect locale for a morning wander or post-bike ride hangout.
Eyes closed. The stillness beats in your ears. The hammering Mendocino ocean surf is replaced by giggling streams and fern grotto waterfalls. Blue skies and sunshine swallowed by towering redwoods, ferns and moss – kept lush by the dark, dank, and cold of this rainforest environment. Walking more than five miles in this tranquil woodland, you are alone on the planet. The silence broken mostly by small bird voices and a lone tree frog far and away. Other hikers occasionally cross your path with a nod and a smile.
The magic and spirit of Fern Canyon Trail at Russian Gulch State Park is ancient. Life here began long before humans breathed on this Earth. Despite human intervention, its mystical soul survives. Worth the ascent, the north trail (2.6 miles) is up and over and gets heart and lungs pumping for the Fern Canyon waterfall trail (another .7 miles). Loop back along the flat bike trail.
Slowly come to your senses as you leave this dreamscape behind.
To say there is nothing like Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary is not far from the truth. It is the only cedar enzyme bath in the United States. An experience like no other, there are hardly words to describe the sublime nature of this Japanese therapy. This coupled with the beautiful gardens and atmosphere of the sanctuary, well, you must see it to understand just how special it is. From the moment you enter, you should feel all stress begin to fall away.
Once you have donned your cotton kimono, your personal attendant tends to your every need. Gaze out on the bonsai garden as you relax and enjoy your enzyme tea. Once enveloped in the enzyme bath you'll be wondering why you hadn't done this sooner, and asking yourself, "How soon can I do this again?"
Following the bath, continue to unwind with a massage or simply partake of the meta-sync music, eye pillow, and a 30-minute nap.
I am fortunate to have enjoyed Osmosis more than once over the years. The addition of the Japanese Meditation Garden....could it get any better? Yes, and it did with the addition of the Field of Hammocks!
Osmosis is a treat. Enjoy it alone. With friends. With a lover. Some would say the experience is pricey; that's misleading. It's not inexpensive, but it's worth the cost and certainly much less expensive than other spas I have visited. The experience and ambiance are over the top.
If you're lucky enough to indulge Friday through Monday, be sure to visit Wild Flour Bread across the road. This bakery is to bread what Osmosis is to the "ahhh" in spa.
Take your time. Enjoy the drive to this darling hamlet in west Sonoma County. You'll want to find a place to stay nearby and let all that wonderfulness take over. Unwind. Let go. And let Osmosis.
FALL FOLIAGE IN CALIFORNIA: Places to Go, Colors to See
by Barbara L. Steinberg
Summer’s golden, sun-filled hours have shortened and the evening air is turning crisp and cool, Mother Nature takes her cue to begin a spectacular and colorful show of fall foliage in the Golden State. Autumn’s palette of deep reds, glowing yellows and warm, earthy browns may be enjoyed in many of California’s regions. Visitors taking a relaxing drive, hike or bicycle ride through the scenic countryside will be instantly immersed in the season’s breathtaking beauty.
Click here for some of the more popular places to view the best California fall colors.
The Rest of the Story....
Tags: #AwesomeAutumn, alpine, autumn, autumn, autumn leaves, big bear, Big Bear Lake, bishop, Bishop, Calaveras, California, color, county, Creek Canyon, Fall, fall color, fall foliage, fall leaves, foliage, Grover, hot springs, lake, mammoth, Mammoth Lakes, mountain, national park, photograph, photography, Plumas, Shasta cascade, Sierra, Sierra Nevada, Sonoma, state park, Yosemite
With or without Covid-19, the concept of responsible recreation should come as naturally as breathing. Loving the land. Leaving no trace. Following the rules. Building an inclusive outdoors for all people regardless of race, color, religious, or sexual orientation access to natural resources. It is a human right. Nurturing the soul by thanking Mother Nature for all she has provided - she sets no barriers or borders.
The new #RecreateResponsibly coalition embraces all of these guidelines and more. Seven guidelines, in fact. The guidelines are meant to provide a starting point for getting outside during COVID-19, and as things have evolved in 2020, the guidelines have too. Most importantly, the critical seventh guideline, “Build an Inclusive Outdoors,” recognizing that safety in the outdoors is not just about packing the right gear or bringing a face covering, but ensuring everyone feels safe and welcome.
As we venture more into the great outdoors - urban and rural open spaces, public and private lands - #recreateresponsibly! We have just this one planet that is depending on all of us to help Her survive.
More than 400 organizations have signed onto #RecreateResponsibly. An all volunteer organization, you can join the coalition. Or just adopt and share the guidelines. We all win!
The adjectives: awe-inspiring; breathtaking; spectacular; mesmerizing. The verbs: plunging; plummeting; crashing. The metaphors: like a thundering curtain or the roar of a hurricane; or like the sound of bells or murmuring voices.
Waterfalls. They are mystical and magical. Their size and strength are often times terrifying; their beauty: tranquilizing and hypnotic. Who hasn't dreamed of showering in their chilling spray or swimming in an emerald pool; or longed to track the water's ancient origins in search of a quiet resting place? In California, there are memorable waterfalls to match any you have imagined.
Abundant winter rains and a melting snow pack have California waterfalls exploding with water. Springtime is generally the best time to view these natural wonders as many falls dry-up in the summer heat due to decreased water flows. But during the right winters, waterfalls come crashing back to life. The Native Americans called them "laughing waters." This year, California waterfalls are giggling, chortling, screaming, and lifting their voices in tumultuous laughter.
In Siskiyou County McCloud Falls (upper, middle and lower) are 5.9 miles east of the town of McCloud and can be reached by following the signs to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Fowlers Campground located on the Uppler McCloud River. The three falls are within two miles of each other and Upper McCloud Falls is accessible by car. There is fishing and a natural swimming hole on Hwy. 89. Near Mount Shasta city, Ney Springs Canyon Trail and Faery Falls are easily accessed. The 1.5-mile round-trip hike to Faery Falls passes through the 19th-century ruins of Ney Springs Resort. Located near Dunsmuir are Hedge Creek Falls and Mossbrae Falls. Hedge Creek is well marked and has a picnic area near the base of the falls. The trail leads visitors beneath the falls and, a short distance away, to views of the Sacramento River. Mossbrae is fed by melting water from the glaciers on Mount Shasta. Considered one of the most scenic waterfalls in California, hiking to the falls is trespassing with fines as much as $300.
Burney Falls, once called "the eighth wonder of the world" by Teddy Roosevelt, is fed by spring flows of 200 million gallons daily. Much of the water from these underground streams actually spouts from the rock. The divided falls rumble down a 129-foot cliff into an emerald pool before flowing into Lake Britton. Trails that almost anyone can manage lead down to the pool on both sides. For the best view, hike the 1/2-mile trail that traverses the hillside. You can cross the top of the falls most of the year, but waters run heaviest in the Spring. McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is located mid-way between Lassen National Volcanic Park and Mt. Shasta.
Approximately 41 miles east of Redding, Potem Creek Falls empties into the Pit River. A gentle, winding trail makes the falls accessible to hikers.
Located 25 miles east of Oroville in Butte County, the Feather Falls National Recreation Trail will lead you to 640-feet high Feather Falls. The trail, located within the 15,000-acre Feather Falls Scenic Area, winds through the foothills 3.8 miles to Feather Falls. Water flows at Feather Falls are heaviest during the spring months.
Yosemite Falls, the tallest falls in North America (and fifth tallest in the world), drops 2,425 feet to the valley floor. The Upper Fall plunges 1,430, feet, connecting with the 320-foot Lower Fall by a 675-foot cascade. Follow a 3.6-mile trail, which includes a 270-foot gain in elevation, to reach the top of Yosemite Falls. Start at Lower Yosemite Falls for a 1/2- day hike with excellent views of Half Dome. The best views are about two thirds of the way up, so don't feel as if you're missing out if you don't make it to the top. Impressive views of the falls are seen on the path to the base.
The Merced River flows from the snow fields in the Sierra Nevada, spills over the 594-foot Nevada Falls and then plummets another 317 feet over Vernal Falls. Known as The Mist Trail, the hike starts uphill through the mist sprayed by Vernal Falls. When the light is right, hikers are rewarded with rainbows in the mist of Vernal Falls. The climb to the top of Nevada Falls is difficult; the last 900 feet of elevation gain are up steep polished granite. The half-day round-trip up the falls is 3.4 miles one way.
Yosemite Indians called the 620-foot Bridalveil Fall, Pohono, or "spirit of the puffing winds." Strong winds often lift the thundering water and blow it sideways. Bridalveil is visible from the road, but an easy 10-minute walk will take you to its foaming base.
On a strenuous 9-1/2 mile walk from the Tuolumne Meadows area, you can view the exuberant Tuolumne Falls. Other falls such as the spectacular Waterwheel Falls, are a short distance beyond, near Glen Aulin Camp in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
Other lesser known falls include: Cascade Falls, Chilnualna Cascades, Wapama and Tueeulala Falls. After the winter snow melt, Yosemite is easily accessible by Hwy. 120 and 140 from the west and Hwy. 120 from the east (Mono Lake Area).
Just five miles from the south entrance to Yosemite, along the 3.7-mile Lewis Creek Recreational Trail, lies a hidden treasure -- Corlieu Falls. The trail follows the route of the historical Madera Sugar Pine lumber flume past the 80-foot waterfall, and the smaller Red Rock Falls. With no signs to publicize their existence, Corlieu Falls can be enjoyed in a kind of quiet solitude not possible at some of the better known falls. For additional information, contact: Yosemite Experience.
On the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada is Rainbow Falls, located in the Inyo National Forest south of Devils Postpile National Monument. Along a 1.3-mile trail the San Joaquin River plunges 101 feet over volcanic rock into a box canyon. Multi-colored rainbows are clearly visible in the mist of the mighty falls. Devils Postpile is a brief walk from parking lots and shuttle stops. The trail to Rainbow Falls is a short 1-1/4-mile hike from Devils Postpile.
Drive around the Mammoth Lakes Basin -- Lake Mary, Twin Lakes, Mamie, George and Horseshoe (there is no Mammoth Lake). Spilling down from Lake Mamie west of the town of Mammoth Lakes is Twin Falls, which cascades 300-feet along a granite bed into Twin Lakes. It can be viewed from the overview at Twin Lakes. For additional information, contact: Visit Mammoth.
The diminutive Indian Falls in the Plumas National Forest is just 20 feet high, but creates a dramatic affect falling on Indian Creek. Large sun-bathed rocks, swimming holes, and sandy shores beckon. The 0.5-mile round-trip hike is easy but can be icy in winter months. Well-placed interpretive panels provide insight into the lives of the Maidu tribes who inhabited the region. Ten miles west of Quincy, the falls are two miles north of the intersection of Highways 70 and 89.
The Bay Area has been blessed with a number of beautiful water falls. At a height of 70 feet, Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, may be the Bay Area's most impressive waterfall. A fairly comfortable hike, take the Skyline to the Sea Trail to the falls and back for an 8-mile round-trip.
Twenty-five miles from Foresthill in Placer County is Grouse Falls, one of California's most scenic waterfalls. Cascading down several hundred feet, the falls are hidden at the head of an isolated box canyon. The falls were largely inaccessible until 1992, when a trail constructed to a deck perched along the canyon wall allowed the falls to be seen. The trail is an easy, 1/3-mile walk. The best time for viewing the falls is in the spring when water flows are high.
Truly an oasis in the desert is Darwin Falls, with its sparkling stream and year-round 30-foot cascading waterfalls. Just off Hwy. 190, leading into Death Valley National Park it's an easy half-mile hike to lower Darwin Falls. Another short hike ends at the rushing waters of the upper falls. In sharp contrast to this water wonderland is Fossil Falls, located 45-minutes north of Ridgecrest. The trail is a short 1-1/2 mile, round-trip hike and leads to a sculptured and polished 40-foot dry waterfall. Black lava cliffs were smoothed and shaped over thousands of years by the now-dry Owens River. The graded dirt access road to Fossil Falls is accessible with a two-wheel drive vehicle.
Tags: California, Darwin, Death Valley, Dunsmuir, fall, falls, Feather River, Fossil, Hetch Hetchy, Mammoth Lakes, Merced, National Park, National Park, Native American, Oroville, Owens River, Plumas, Quincy, Rainbow, Ridgecrest, Shasta Cascade, Sierra Nevada, Tuolumne, waterfall, waterfalls, Yosemite
Let the Wind Chimes
To hear the most heavenly sounds click on the wind chime images—harmonically tuned aluminum—longer, clearer resonance. I tell you, once you've heard a Grace Note Chime you'll forever recognize these incredible tones. With a long history (more than 25 years), the business was born out of the inspiration and dreams of brothers Jeff and Mark Kile. And a successful history it's been. This talented California duo still creates their magic in the small community of Mariposa California not far from Yosemite National Park in a warehouse along scenic Hwy. 49 and the back roads of California's Gold Country.
The chimes are addictive and have a dedicated following. With prices ranging from $42 to hundreds of dollars, lovers of Grace Note are true fans. You too can own one, two, or more of these fabulous California made wind chimes - lyrical works of art. The chimes are available online and also at the Grace Note facility in Mariposa, California.
Grace Note also practices environmentally safe policies in the making of each and every wind chime. To help safeguard the planet for current and future generations Grace Note:
Recycles 95% or more of total waste
Scraps of aluminum, saw dust, and shavings always recycled
Grace Notes Wind Chimes are designed for a lifetime, not the trash can!
Use only biodegradable soaps and oils for cutting
No Toxic By-Products Produced When Making Wind Chimes
They primarily use post consumer cardboard and paper for shipping
All wind chimes are guaranteed for 10 years and any that are damaged beyond repair will be recycled by Grace Notes.
Buy California-made and California-grown, the job you save may be your own. Lots more great California-made products are coming your way through the Are You That Woman.
Evening on the Yuba
They flit and float
In gathering darkness
Their bodies quiver.
They kiss the water
In an elusive dance.
And we watch the bats boogie
Above the river.
Barbara L. Steinberg
June 2, 2004
Soda Springs, CA
We'll all be wondering where we were - where we had been - before, during, and after the pandemic! I'm thankful to have enjoyed my first stay at the Abbey House Inn, Winters, California, just before everything went crazy and to reflect on the memory. Once the dust settles, I'll be back again to enjoy the warm hospitality. Every detail! Nothing was overlooked. Intimate seating areas throughout the garden and porches. Public spaces were cozy and, yes, just like coming home - especially if you love small-town life! This is not a B&B in the traditional sense - breakfast is not cooked to order. All types of snacks, beverages, cereals, yogurts, jams, jellies, breads, eggs - uncooked and hard boiled - are there for the taking. Dining room or alfresco, it's up to you.
After settling into our room we enjoyed a quiet beer and glass of wine on the front porch. Then the manager, Annette, treated us to a complimentary pedicab tour around town before dropping us off at Hooby's Brewing - the newest brew in town and locally owned and operated by twin sisters Courtney and Jackie - so much of Winter's seems to be a family affair. Again, you'll feel right at home once you arrive. All the best foods, brews, wines and spirits are within walking distance of the Abbey House Inn, a park and walk destination. Or biking, of course!
Under new ownership since 2017, Abbey House Inn has been meticulously decorated and outfitted to address your every need including free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. Pam and Eric Tavenier, the owners, and Annette appreciate my "feels like home" mantra.
We look forward to coming home to Abbey House Inn in the weeks ahead and the rest of our Visit Yolo story! Stay tuned and stay safe says this California omni-local!