Like I mentioned in my first post of this series, in September of this year I visited all eight of California’s rural regions. I was surprised in the best ways by how much I enjoyed each place for its own merits. In visiting Gold Country, there was the expectation amongst our group that we’d find remnants and reminders of the Gold Rush era in the United States. We found that in the town of Coloma but we also found more. So much more!
I am so excited to be promoting California’s 8 rural regions for VisitCalifornia‘s #CaliforniaWild campaign with my fellow bloggers Ottsworld, Stuffed Suitcase and Border Free Travels. The ATTA is coordinating this effort and has given me freedom in how I share my experiences with you so that even though this is a paid project, I can assure you all opinions and words are my own.
Visiting Gold Country – The Food and the People
After walking around the town of Volcano, which only has around 100 residents, we spent several hours with Tracey Berkner at Volcano Union Inn & Pub. At one time, Volcano was a boom town during the Gold Rush. Tracey took a former boarding house that was built for $400 in 1880 and turned it into a culinary destination in and of itself. Tracey serves up wine and beer pairings with beef, duck, salmon and trays of herbs to tempt or challenge your palette. I think our entire group was sad to part from her company and I know we all wished to stay overnight.
We also enjoyed meeting Steve, Bea, Tyler and Trevor at Lewis Grace Winery in Placerville. They are a family of talents that range from medicine to cinematography to wine-making and who are as kind and welcoming as their wines are exceptional. (And surprising! Who knew amazing wine was made in Gold Country of all places! I didn’t.) We visited their winery around Golden Hour and long past sunset with a host of folks that work in tourism from the area. It was a night that I never wanted to end. From the light that shined on the rows of gleaming Tempranillo grapes as Steve showed us around, to the taste of their Golden Bear award-winning wines, to the laughter that flowed freely and quickly over a delectable dinner as I sat alongside Mo from Amador County who had been showing us around all morning — I’ll cherish those moments forever. Fittingly, the night ended with an extraordinary sunset that seemed to set the sky on fire.
Visiting Gold Country – The Adventure Activities
I don’t think there’s an adventure activity I love more than white water rafting, except maybe hot air ballooning. Though I don’t really put those in the exact same category. So you can imagine how excited I was to spend a morning rafting the South Fork of the American River with OARS. Class 2 and 3 rapids provide the big adrenaline rush. In between the rapids, there are gorgeous stretches of calm water that flow through a canyon dotted with historic sites from the Gold Rush days, bridges, beaches, clusters of wild flowers and serene forests hiding wildlife. With my GoPro Hero 5 Black in one hand and a paddle in the other, I was so darn happy I could have kept going for hours and hours and hours.
Our group also visited Black Chasm Cavern and its accompanying Zen Garden, a short hike downhill from the visitor’s center for the cavern. Underground we marveled at the stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and rare delicate helictite crystals. Back above ground, we learned how to crack open a geode. The Zen Garden reminded me of a set from Game of Thrones. I just loved how ancient the rocks are, how covered in moss, how otherworldly it looks.
We couldn’t leave Gold Country without learning to pan for gold by hand. We did that alongside the American River in Coloma where we had also gone white water rafting. We were taught by a local couple who pan for gold on a regular basis and have been doing so for a long time. It just proves that even with all the technological advancements of this age, sometimes doing things by hand just is the best way to do it.
Visiting Gold Country – Where to Stay
Close to where Gold Country becomes the High Sierras, there’s Rush Creek Lodge. It’s a fairly new property with something for everyone of every age. I particularly loved the complimentary s’mores each night at the open fire pits, the chic decor and the fun public areas that encourage relaxation. The bar serves up the most amazing cocktails as well.
Future posts in this series will cover the remaining seven of California’s eight rural regions referenced in the map below. Please let me know in the comments what you enjoyed most about this region or what you’re most looking forward to learning next!
My thanks to GoPro for the gifted Hero 5 Black that I took the white water rafting photos with. It’s a great camera for action and sports!