“Do you know the way to San Jose” (downtown San Jose) via ACE commuter rail

 

ACE Train idles at Stockton's Robert Cabral ACE/Amtrak station, just before dusk.

“Do you know the way to San Jose? I’ve been away for so long.  I may go wrong and lose my way,” went the popular 1968 song by Dionne Warwick.  It sold over a million copies and won Warwick her first Grammy.

My pals and I had not been to downtown San Jose for almost 25 years, but had heard how revived and visitor-friendly the town had become.  And, as a center of the Silicon Valley and high-tech, San Jose justified our trip on the ACE (Altamont Corridor Express) Train from Stockton. 

Our plan was take the ACE train, all the way to San Jose to explore and see what had changed.  It’s a scenic, memorable and relaxing way to cover the 90-some miles! And, true to what we had heard, downtown San Jose is full of interesting, high-tech and visitor-friendly attractions.

With the ACE train, the latest morning train departs Stockton’s Robert Cabral Amtrak/ACE station at 7:05 AM, with stops in Manteca, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Santa Clara and into downtown San Jose’s historic Southern Pacific Diridon Station a little after 9 AM.

The two hour train ride traverses a number of old downtown areas, climbs over the Altamont Pass and through beautiful Niles Canyon and the southern border of the San Francisco Bay.  Stunning scenery presents itself at many a stretch, just out of sight of autos – adults and kids will delight in the train ride portion of the adventure!

In the final two miles of the train ride, one passes the new 49ers Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, a new stadium being built for the San Jose Quakes (professional soccer) and, two blocks from the Diridon station, the SAP Arena, home of the San Jose Sharks hockey team. For 49ers games, ACE runs a Sunday train from Stockton to Santa Clara.

The earliest return on ACE is 3:35 PM – it is a commuter rail line, after all.  There are also three later departures in the afternoon. The ACE train has virtually all new rolling stock, immaculate rail cars, including one equipped to hold about 15 bicycles. So a tour of San Jose with your bike is another option. 

A free DASH shuttle bus takes you to many intriguing downtown San Jose stops, so no money is required to take the bus. Along the route are the Martin Luther King Library, San Jose State University, the Tech Museum of Innovation, the San Jose Museum of Art and a number of interesting historical buildings, hotels and unique restaurants such as Original Joe’s.

Our primary destination was the Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose’s world-class museum dedicated to innovative and creative spirits that inspired Silicon Valley.  Special exhibits at “The Tech” include the Tech Studio, Social Robots, the Earthquake Platform (we adults and a passel of kids were awestruck by the simulation of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake and other more recent temblors), Moon-landing simulator, Body Metrics, the Tech Virtual Gallery, Health and Biotech Gallery, the Silicon Valley Innovation Gallery and much more. 

This is a center for youngsters and teens; it was impressive to see Stanford University present with a Genome exhibit, enthralling a dozen young future scientists!  The entire three floors of The Tech are kid-friendly, designed to be hands-on; all four of our adult tourists were energized to plan a future visit with grandkids of all ages. The Hackworth IMAX dome theater (inside The Tech) is the largest in the west; an additional fee is required to see movies on the massive circular screen.

Shopping highlights of San Jose’s downtown include the Historic District, with a number of unique boutiques and eclectic shops, interesting shops at both the museums, and a variety of stores at the San Jose Market Center on Coleman Avenue. We picked up a copy of Silicon Valley Metro, a free weekly paper at the train station; it’s loaded with activities, night spots, restaurant recommendations and “what to see and do”; they also have a slick web site full of similar info:  www.metroactive.com.

Just two blocks from the Tech Museum of Innovation (“The Tech”), we found the ornate and historic Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph at the corner San Fernando and Market. The San Jose Museum of Art, with Café and museum store, (originally the 1892 San Jose Post Office), is just across the street.

DASH offers free shuttle to various points around downtown, including Martin Luther King Library, San Jose State University, San Jose Convention Center and the aforementioned shopping areas.  All in all, it’s a pretty, historic and tourist-friendly destination, enhanced by the ease of getting there on the ACE train!  Though, the ACE Train service, except for San Francisco 49er’s games, is not available on weekends.

For those seeking further rail exploration, the San Jose Diridon Station is served by CalTrain, the rail line that runs north to San Francisco (seven days a week), and one can also take Amtrak from San Francisco to Stockton, and vice versa.  All three rail lines are “bike friendly”, as well. Hence, a several day rail excursion can make for even more fun!

So, purchase your ACE ticket, “find your way to San Jose”, and do some innovative exploring!

What to take: Binoculars, camera and snacks for the trip and good walking shoes.

For more information: The Tech Museum of Innovation, 201 South Market St., San Jose 95113, phone 408–294–8324, the tech.org; opens daily at 10 AM, groups save up to 25%, IMAX films and special exhibits require a separate fee. Downtown San Jose Association, 28 North First Street #1000, San Jose, Ca 95113; (408) 279-1775; www.sjdowntown.com.  ACE Train: Robert Cabral Station, 949 E. Channel Street, Stockton, CA 95202; www.acerail.com; fares, adults, round-trip, $24.50, kids 6 to 12 and seniors 65 and over, half price or $12.25 each.  CalTrain rail service from San Jose to San Francisco, www.caltrain.com.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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Spring training; Arizona’s Cactus League opens to 15 major league teams in early February!

 

Cleveland Indians warm-up, across the field from the San Francisco Giants.

Member of the Cleveland Indians signs autographs, chats with fans prior to game in 2014.
Chicago Cubs new ballpark, opened in 2014, helped club set Cactus League attendance record.
Author’s spouse, Susan, poses next to Welcome to Old Town Scottsdale sign; try the nearby Pink Pony Restaurant!

 

 

 

The Super Bowl is still more than a week away, we’ve thankfully finished those interminable college football bowl games, and the NBA and NHL are in full swing.

But, for diehard baseball fans, spring training in Arizona and Florida will soon be underway! For fans of the San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians and 10 other teams – the Phoenix area is Spring Training Central, in late February through end of March. Said owner Bill Veeck in 1976, “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.”

The Cactus League, as spring training in Phoenix is called, is home to half of major-league teams; the other half train in Florida’s Grapefruit League. In Phoenix, the teams spend their workouts and competitive Cactus League games at 11 ballparks, with several teams sharing the same park.

Ball fans can frequently take in two games in one day by visiting the same park for a day game, followed by an evening game, or take in games at two different parks, just miles apart.

During spring training, fans can see players up-close and personal. Our experience last spring was that members of the San Francisco Giants and the Cleveland Indians chat alongside the fence, joke and have a good time with fans. We watched as the Giants took a 10-2 lead over the Cleveland Indians (yes, I am an Indian’s fan), then the Indians came back to take the game, 11 to 10. Players on both teams chatted with fans between innings, and acted as if they delighted in the game.

All the Phoenix-area ballparks are much smaller than MLB stadiums, and more intimate, seating about 10,000 fans –not a bad seat in the house. Ticket prices are lower, and a cold beer seems to taste better amid such intimate and pleasant surroundings.  And, no alligators as in Florida!  In Spring Training, 1921 in St. Petersburg, FL, Yankees Manager Miller Huggins ordered a young Babe Ruth, resting on the bench, “What are you doing here on the bench?  You’re supposed to be running in the outfield to get your legs in shape,” Huggins said.  The Babe replied: “I ain’t going out there anymore…There are alligators out there!” 

For the Giants, pitchers and catchers are scheduled for the first workout on February 18; the first full squad workout is set for February 23. Their first competitive Cactus League game is set for March 3 with a two game series against the Athletics. They conclude their spring training season with an April 1 game against my favorite, the Cleveland Indians.

The Giants return much of their world championship team, but will work to fill the third-base void left by Pablo Sandoval (departed to Boston) with Casey McGehee signed to fill that spot. Fans are looking forward to the continuing development of second baseman Joe Panic and dominant pitching of Madison Bumgarner and veteran presence of Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy.  Relief pitching should remain strong, and manager Bruce Bochy will be busy rotating new faces into the lineup and filling Sandoval’s vacated clean-up spot.

The Oakland Athletics have pitchers and catchers reporting February 18 and the first full squad work out on February 24. Their Cactus League opener is against the Giants on March 3 and their final Arizona exhibition game is April 1 against the Los Angeles Angels.

The A’s, shaking up the roster for a stronger playoff run, made 10 trades involving almost 30 players.  Gone are their best player, Josh Donaldson, and several stellar pitchers including Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester. But the A’s brought in new and younger blood, with a new infield including Brett Lawrie and Ben Zobrist. With returning star pitchers Sonny Gray, Drew Pomeranz and Scott Kazmir, several vets back from surgery and new, young arms, pitching won’t be the club’s challenge.

The Giants and the A’s square off in a three game “Bay Bridge” exhibition series, at AT&T Park and O.co Coliseum, April 2-4, with the regular season then getting underway for both teams immediately following.

The Phoenix area has plenty to offer, in addition to the Cactus League. It’s a golf Mecca, and Scottsdale’s quaint Old Town shops and unique restaurants are always a pleasure. Dine at the Pink Pony in Scottsdale for a real treat, and be transported back to the city in the 1960s. Greater Phoenix offers the Desert Botanical Garden to explore desert plants, the Heard Museum offering world-class insights into Native American culture and art and the Phoenix Art Museum. 

For kids and family activities, the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Science Center and Children’s Museum are featured attractions. This region is centered in the lush and colorful Sonoran Desert surrounded by tall mountains; plenty of hiking and biking trails will take you to new and alien places!

Another idea, for California travelers, is to couple the spring training visit with a stopover in a national park such as Grand Canyon, several hours to the north. We did just that, camping several nights along the south rim of the canyon, then touring south through the artistic town of Sedona, then into the Phoenix area. It made for a spectacular week-long trip.

Both Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks are also along the route to Phoenix. The spring is the perfect time to visit these natural wonders, when wildflowers typically blanket the otherwise arid landscape!

How to get there: From Stockton, Phoenix is about 710 miles and a bit over 10.5 hours.  A natural detour can include a stop at the Grand Canyon, then traveling south to Sedona, before reaching Phoenix.  The Giants play in Scottsdale Stadium, 7408 E. Osborn Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85251; nearby, the As play at renovated Hohokam Stadium, 1235 N Center St, Mesa, AZ 85201.

What to take: Binoculars, camera and snacks for the trip. And, your favorite team’s hat and jersey!

For more information:  For Cactus League teams, stadiums, schedules: http://www.cactusleague.com. For Phoenix vacation planning: www.visitphoenix.com.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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Skiing close to home, Bear Valley and Dodge Ridge; Martin Luther King holiday and coming events!

Family enjoys the snow and takes in the view from Boulder Creek Canyon at Dodge Ridge Ski Area.

Bear Valley has sunny skies, and a great view looking down into the Mokelumne River Valley to its north.

It’s Martin Luther King’s Birthday and holiday weekend coming up; and that means your two ski areas with “closest snows to the Central Valley” have a few special treats in store to go with good snows and sunny skies!  And, some weather is predicted in next 4-5 days; think snow!

Dodge Ridge Resort

Dodge Ridge, the closest resort to my north Stockton home at 98 miles, reports the following:
The resort’s Sean Waterman notes the Dodge Ridge Race Team Delivers a Commanding Performance at the USSA Far West Central Series Rassmusen Classic Slalom and Giant Slalom Race.

Sixty-four total U8 – U14 racers (ages 13 and under) got the USSA Far West Central Series Junior Race Season underway at Bear Valley this past weekend.  The Dodge Ridge Race Team took a commanding position this past weekend, January 10 & 11, winning the first Far West Central Series Ski Race of the 2015 season against teams from Bear Valley, China Peak, and Yosemite Winter Club.  The two day Slalom and Giant Slalom event hosted by Bear Valley kicked off the USSA Far West Central Series with anxious racers vying for the top position in this first time trial race of the season.   

Highlights from the weekend include 1st  place podiums in 5 of the 12 races across all divisions with 24 of 36 medals awarded going to the Dodge Ridge Race Team (DRRT).   

The U10 (ages 9 and under) girls division was dominated by Meara McCarthy and Avery Booth with Booth finishing 1st  on Saturday and 2nd on Sunday and McCarthy finishing 3rd both days with fellow teammate Sarah Azevedo taking 2nd place on Saturday. The U10 boys division was strong as well with Owen Bartholow picking up a 2nd  place finish with Tej Suklikar in 3rd  on Saturday. On Sunday the two racers swapped positions with Suklikar in 2nd and Bartholow 3rd.  

For the U12 (age 10 & 11) boys Evan Lear dominated the weekend with a 2nd place on Saturday and a win on Sunday with DRRT racer Ian Fergunson in 3rd on Saturday. Lear recorded the fastest single run of the weekend on Saturday and had the fastest overall combined time on Sunday. In the U12 girls division Victoria Gast finished 3rd on Saturday and Rylie Booth earned the 3rd spot on the podium on Sunday. 
Dodge Ridge’s U14 (age 12 & 13) division was just as successful with Ava Law in 2nd on Saturday and 1st place on Sunday followed by Jensen Perry in 3rd place on both days. 

In the U14 boys division,  Dodge Ridge’s Varun Suklikar won on both days and he was followed by Ethan Perry in 2nd on Saturday and 3rd on Sunday with Stash Perry in 2nd on Sunday.  In addition, Ava Law and Varun Suklikar received special recognition on Sunday for having the fastest male and female combined times for the entire weekend.  

Congratulations to all of the competitors from this past weekend whose team spirit and commitment continually pushes the sport of ski racing in a positive direction. A big thank you also goes out to Bear Valley for preparing the race course for the Rassmusen Classic. 

The next USSA Far West Central Series races will be held at Dodge Ridge, February 7 & 8 as they host the annual Ryan Lavagnino Classic Giant Slalom event.  Races to follow will be at China Peak on February 28 and March 1, Yosemite/Badger Pass on March 14 & 15, and finally moving on to the U14 Championships at Squaw Valley on March 26-29  and the U10/U12 Championships at Northstar April 4-7. Visit www.DodgeRidge.com for details.   

Located in Tuolumne County off highway 108, Dodge Ridge is by far the closest skiing and riding to Bay Area & Central Valley locations. The resort offers 1,600 vertical feet, 67 runs, 12 lifts and 852 acres of skiable terrain. For reservations and additional information please visit DodgeRidge.com or call (209) 965-3474. 

Editor’s clarification to my Record feature that ran January 8 (find it at http://blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel/2015/01/07/sierra-snows-skiing-boarding-xc-snowshoeing-or-sledding-just-two-hours-from-stockton/): The first version of this feature read: “Dodge Ridge’s access road also offers several places where you can use those sleds or inner tubes!”; the ski area management wanted to clarify that sentence, along these lines: “Under Dodge Ridge’s permit agreement with the US Forest Service we can not have any sledding within our permit area. That area extends down Dodge Ridge Road to the big rock and the area extends well beyond this section of Dodge Ridge Road”.

Bear Valley Resort:

Just a few miles further distant  (just over 100 miles from my home), Bear Valley Resort’s Rosie Sundell offers this info for the Martin Luther King weekend – this weekend!  She notes there are countless reasons to choose Bear Valley for the holiday weekend including some of the best skiing/boarding conditions in Northern California, lift lines that allow barely enough time to upload a snowy selfie and not one, but four performances by indie alt-rocker Megan Slankard. <http://www.bearvalley.com/events/megan-slankard-2-shows-bear-valley>

 As long as we are talking about PURE MOUNTAIN FUN…the Torchlight Parade<http://www.bearvalley.com/events/winter-explosion-january-17th-1> is high on the list. If you’ve participated then you know what we are talking about. If not, well, make 2015 the year to do it. Many of our guests make it an annual tradition for family and friends and this year we will be running Rodeo and Porridge bowl, so if you are a low intermediate to advanced level skier and can wield a torch, be sure to sign up. Space is limited so stop by early.

 Here is how the day will unfold.  When the lifts stop turning this Saturday, Winter Explosion festivities begin! <http://www.bearvalley.com/events/winter-explosion-january-17th-1>

 Winter Explosion @ BVM Breakdown:
 * Torchlight Parade SIGN-UP -Sunroom between 1-4pm @ the kiosk
 * Sledding after the lifts stop turning approx 4:15pm
 * Megan Slankard @/near Monte Wolfe Saloon 4:15pm
 * Mexican Fiesta – 5:00pm
 * Kid-Friendly Flick approx 5:15pm
 * LOAD CHAIR – 6:00pm Torch Light Parade… featuring YOU + YOUR FAMILY approx 6:20pm
 * Fireworks Approx 6:30pm
 * Head to the Village for more Megan Slankard after the fireworks

After the fun at Bear Valley Mountain subsides, head to Bear Valley Village for a full-length show from Megan Slankard beginning at 7:30 PM in the Cathedral Lounge of the Bear Valley Lodge. Grab a beverage and try out the new menus at one of the village eateries! A perfect end, we think, to a perfect day.

How to get there: The start of the route from Stockton is the same for both ski resorts; take Highway 4 30 miles east to Copperopolis.  There, to reach Dodge Ridge, go right/south on O Bryrne’s Ferry Road, then left/east on Highway 108 to the ski area. For Bear Valley, stay on Hwy. 4 all the way to the ski area.

What to take: Pack cold weather gear, skis, boards, binoculars, camera, snacks for the trip and chains are always advised for winter weather.
What’s nearby: Calaveras Big Trees State Park along Hwy. 4; Columbia State Historic Park just off Hwy. 49 (a Gold Rush town preserved) and Jamestown’s Railtown 1897 (the Sierra Railroad) just off Hwy. 108.

For more information: Bear Valley Ski Resort, www.bearvalley.com, 209.753.2301; Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, www.dodgeridge.com, 209.965.3474.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Think snow, and happy winter travels in the West!

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Hetch Hetchy Valley and Reservoir; undiscovered but stunning part of Yosemite!

 

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, with Hetch Hetchy Dome on left, Kolana Rock on right, view towards Tuolumne Meadows area in distance, with only light Sierra snows.

 

 

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and the Tuolumne Valley are close cousins to the mighty Yosemite Valley, virtually undiscovered and almost equally stunning.  Hetch Hetchy is just 115 miles and a scenic day-tour from Stockton!

The Hetch Hetchy Valley was the scene of one of the most epic environmental battles 100 years ago, as John Muir, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups fought to keep this valley pristine and free of development.

Muir’s exploration of both Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite, and writings in the influential Century Magazine, helped to get Yosemite National Park established in 1890. However, the much less-visited Hetch Hetchy Valley portion of the park remained in peril.

San Francisco had eyed the valley for extending its water supply since the 1890s and applied several times to the federal government for water rights but was denied. The huge San Francisco earthquake in 1906, when much of the city burned, underlined the city’s need for more water and turned the political winds in the city’s favor.

In 1908, US Secretary of interior Garfield granted the city the rights to development of the Tuolumne River, provoking a multi-year environmental battle led by the Sierra Club and John Muir. Muir observed, “Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well damn for water tanks the peoples’ cathedrals and churches for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man”.

 In 1913, writing to Robert Johnson of Century Magazine, he pressed his argument, noting “The Hetch Hetchy Valley is a wonderfully exact counterpart of the great Yosemite, not only in its sublime cliffs and waterfalls and it’s peaceful river, but in the gardens, groves, meadows and campgrounds on its flowery park-like floor”. He would continue to fight the city of San Francisco to his death in 1914. Muir’s writings are archived at the University of Pacific and can be read online at go.pacific.edu/specialcollections.

In 1913, the US Congress passed and President Wilson signed the Raker Act, which permitted the flooding of the valley. Muir died the following year, bitter to have lost the fight. Construction on the O’Shaughnessy Dam would begin in 1919 and end in 1923; it was further heightened in 1938 and now supplies water to almost 2.5 million San Franciscans.

What remains is a still stunning valley and pristine 8-mile long reservoir, nearly the equal of Yosemite Valley, and visitors have this part of the park almost unto themselves and can still appreciate the treasure that so stoked John Muir’s soul.

One can drive to the parking lot right beside the O’Shaughnessy Dam. Views from the dam are memorable, but hike a half-mile or several miles along the north side of the reservoir for the most indelible views.  Hetch Hetchy’s relatively low elevation makes for one of the central Sierra’s longest hiking seasons, but, check weather forecasts for winter trips.

Looking up the valley, on the right one sees the massive Kolana Rock, on the left, the Hetch Hetchy Dome. The view extends east, up the reservoir and through the Tuolumne Valley; serious hikers can continue even further east into the Tuolumne Meadows area. Hikers will find varied views both remarkable, and reminiscent of nearby Yosemite Valley.

Crossing the dam, our trail took us past the base of Tueeulala Falls, dry for lack of snowmelt, and to the base of Wapama Falls, surging mightily with early snow melt. It’s about a 2 mile hike from the dam to Wapama Falls on an easy, well-maintained trail (note to self: return in April or May to admire these falls when more water is flowing!).

The discussion over water supplied to San Francisco, and ongoing battle over restoration of the valley by removing the dam, continues – but entering our fourth year of California drought, probably won’t gain traction in the near-term. Until then, pack your binoculars and camera and set forth on a serious day tour, or longer!  If you are planning a longer trip to Yosemite in general, include a day to tour Hetch Hetchy!

One of the side benefits of such a trip is you pass through a couple of historic towns worth a stop. Chinese Camp is a true Gold Rush ghost town, right on Highway 120. Take the walk down the three block stretch of Main Street, with an old abandoned hotel, post office, merchant’s buildings, rooming house and homes slowly moldering away. Just up the hill on Main is the St. Francis Xavier Mission Church/cemetery, established in 1854.  You will find family plots and pioneer tombstones dating to the 1860s.

Groveland is closer to Hetch Hetchy, also on Hwy. 120, a quaint Gold Rush town catering to tourists with the historic Groveland Hotel, jail dating to 1854 and Groveland Pizza, on north edge of town, a fine family food stop.

Camp Mather, and Mather Family Camp, just nine miles from Hetch Hetchy, offers a store, restaurant and variety of accommodations, from cabins to lodge, in a bucolic wooded setting. Vast stands of scorched forest along Evergreen Road, both before and after Camp Mather, offer mute testimony to the ferocious Rim Fire of a year ago.

How to get there: From Stockton, 115 miles, 2.75 hours. Take Highway 4 east to Copperopolis, turn right on O’Byrnes Ferry Road, take a left on highway 120/108 and follow Highway 120 past Chinese camp and Groveland. Then, left on Evergreen Road to the reservoir.  Leave early, particularly if you want time to see Chinese Camp and Groveland; and this portion of Yosemite closes at 5 PM.

What to take: Pack cold weather gear, binoculars, camera and snacks for the trip. Fishing rods and your CA fishing license!

For more information: Yosemite National Park, go to www.nps.gov/yose; call 209/372-0200 (then dial 3, then 5) or by mail: Public Information Office, PO Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389 (the park does charge a day-use fee).

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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January outdoor events make for travel inspiration!

Bald Eagle Tours are coming soon to Pardee and Comanche Reservoirs, Jan. 10 and 24!

With sunny skies and mild temperatures, even in the Sierra foothills, several upcoming events make for good reason to travel an hour or so for you outdoors lovers!

The 2015 International Sportsmen’s Exposition – Sacramento is going on right now, our area’s largest gathering of outdoor sports equipment, programs and inspiration for fishermen, boaters, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.  It’s held at Cal Expo, State Fairgrounds, Sacramento, California, runs from Thursday, January 08, 2015 through Sunday, January 11, 2015.  Hours are Thursday, 11:00 – 8:00 pm; Friday, 11:00 – 8:00 pm; Saturday, 10:00 am – 7:00 pm and Sunday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission: Adults: $15.00, Children (15 and under): FREE; Parking: $10.00 per car. For information; http://www.sportsexpos.com/attend/2015/sacramento/ or call 800-545-6100.

Take a Bald Eagle Viewing Tour, at Pardee and Comanche Reservoirs, on Saturdays, Jan. 10 and Jan. 24, 2015, with morning and afternoon tours.  These tours are led by EBMUD Rangers on pontoon bots with metal seats and side rails, but are unprotected from wind – tour-goers should dress for cold and/or windy weather!  Tours are recommended for adults and children age 7 and older (kids younger than that get bored, notes EBMUD).  Bring binoculars, warm drinks and snacks.  With limited number of seats, reservations are required: call 209.772.8204.

This is also the time of year when scores of birds of all size, shape and variety pass through our nearby wetlands.  See recent articles by Pete Otteson in the Record, who profiles destinations like the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, just north on Interstate 5 near Elk Grove.  Another local favorite is the Consumnes River Preserve, just north of Thornton and only 20 minutes from Stockton.  Take binoculars, cameras, warm clothes and hot drinks and enjoy the show of nature’s finery!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy winter travels in the West!

 

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Sierra snows; skiing, boarding, XC, snowshoeing or sledding, just two hours from Stockton!

A family of five enjoys the snow and the Sierra scenery in the Boulder Creek Canyon area of Dodge Ridge Ski Area.

 

For Christmas, perhaps you received new skis or a snowboard, snowshoes or cross-country skis and want to try them out. Or, now that the holidays are past, you finally have time to get up to the Sierra snow country.

From Stockton, the two “closest snows to home” are Dodge Ridge Ski Resort 30 miles east of Sonora on Highway 108, and Bear Valley Ski Resort, 50 miles east of Angel’s Camp on Highway 4.

From my home in North Stockton, Dodge Ridge is 98 miles, Bear Valley, 106 miles – considerably closer than other options in the Sierra and Lake Tahoe areas. Each resort is family-friendly, generally less expensive than resorts in the Tahoe area, offer good conditions at this point in early January – with each only about two hours from Stockton or Modesto.

Bear Valley Ski Resort is just off Hwy. 4, sports a top elevation of 8,495’, a mid-way day-lodge at 7,750’ and bottom elevation (the Grizzly Chair) of 6,595’.  Bear offers 1,680 acres when fully open; with 8 chairlifts (one a high-speed quad) and two carpet lifts, with snow-making on some of its upper slopes.  Currently Bear has a 34+ inch base, is running six chairs and is about 47% open with packed powder conditions.
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For scenic runs, try several off of Bear Top, where views can stretch south to Dodge Ridge and down into the Mokelumne River Valley.  Additionally, the Bear Valley Cross-country Center at Bear Valley Village (el. 7,100’) offers XC skiing and snowshoeing; they also rent platters, tubes for snow play.

Bear Valley spokesperson Rosie Sundell notes that “excitement is in the air, with recent new ownership by Skyline Investments.  Despite just acquiring the ski area, Skyline has invested in additional snow making equipment and has moved quickly to offer live music each weekend (Tracy native Megan Slankard plays on the Martin Luther King weekend; see Bear’s web site for a listing of coming events)”.

Bear Valley offers a variety of food and drink choices at its mid-way Day Lodge, including delicious outdoor BBQ when we visited last week.  Several dining options are offered nearby.  In Bear Valley Village, the Lodge offers light fare in the Grizzly Lounge and steaks and seafood in the classy Creekside Dining Room and has recently updated the Lodge’s Trattoria, with pizza, pasta and libations, for taking a large family with big appetites! 

A bit closer to the Valley, one can find numerous dining options in Arnold, and even more good eats in Murphy’s, including the highly rated Alchemy Restaurant and the historic Murphy’s Hotel.  Arnold and Murphys both offer a variety of hotels and motels for overnighting.

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort is just off Hwy 108 above Pinecrest Lake, with 8 chairlifts (one quad), one T-bar, two carpet lifts and a rope tow, a top elevation of 8,200’, base of 6,600’; 67 runs and 862 acres when fully open.  Earlier this week, the area reports sunshine, packed powder, plenty of groomed runs and 75% of their terrain open, including chairs 7 and 8.

Spokesperson Sean Waterman notes the area was “delighted to have opened on December 17, and experienced a fun and busy holiday season”.  He notes that the mountain is gearing up for several events, and the fast-approaching Martin Luther King’s birthday weekend. “Bring the family, we look forward to seeing you”, he adds!

Dodge Ridge prides itself on being a family-focused area, further enhanced when it opened its new Family Lodge a few years ago.  The area offers a variety of gentle slopes for beginning skiers and snowboarders and challenging “double black diamond runs” off Chair 8 in the Boulder Creek Canyon area. Check the stunning scenery serviced by Chair 8, with both easy and energizing runs and a view north into the Sierra that is spectacular.  Graceland is a favorite run, scenic, rated “blue” (more difficult) and a family favorite for both schussing and photos!

A number of cross-country ski trails emanate from the Dodge Ridge base area and access road. The resort is not permitted for sledding or tubing, but you can visit the Family Lodge, have lunch or hot chocolate and consider skiing, snow-boarding or a fun lesson. 

Clarification: The first version of this feature read: “Dodge Ridge’s access road also offers several places where you can use those sleds or inner tubes!”. Dodge Ridge management wanted to clarify that sentence, along these lines: “Under Dodge Ridge’s permit agreement with the US Forest Service we can not have any sledding within our permit area. That area extends down Dodge Ridge Road to the big rock and the area extends well beyond this section of Dodge Ridge Road”.  I would also add that sledding and snow play areas can be found in the Pinecrest Lake area (below Dodge Ridge) and at Leland Snow Play area, about seven miles further east of Dodge Ridge off Highway 108.

Dodge Ridge offers a number of dining options at the ski area, including the Creekside Lodge and Café, with a large variety of food and drink. On weekends and holidays, the North Fork Bistro in the Family Lodge is a great place for families to dine, and slopeside dining is also offered at Local’s Café, with tasty BBQ at the bottom of Chair 7.

Other reliable dining options are found nearby: The Pie Pizza in Sugar Pine, Mia’s Italian in Cold Springs or The Steam Donkey (steaks, seafood, pasta) in Pinecrest. Overnight lodging is found at Pinecrest Lake Lodge or Pinecrest Chalet in Pinecrest, the Christmas Tree Inn in Mi Wuk Village or the Long Barn Lodge in Long Barn, all along Hwy 108. 

If you are seeking snow play, with sleds, tubes or platters, you can find areas on the approach to both ski areas; however snow levels can vary by the day.

How to get there: The start of the route from Stockton is the same for both destinations; take Highway 4 east to Copperopolis.  There, to reach Dodge Ridge, go right/south on O Bryrne’s Ferry Road, then left/east on Highway 108 to the ski area. For Bear Valley, stay on Hwy. 4 all the way to the ski area.

What to take: Pack cold weather gear, binoculars, camera, snacks for the trip and chains are always advised for winter weather.

What’s nearby: Calaveras Big Trees State Park along Hwy. 4; Columbia State Historic Park just off Hwy. 49 (a Gold Rush town preserved) and Jamestown’s Railtown 1897 (the Sierra Railroad) just off Hwy. 108.

For more information: Bear Valley Ski Resort, www.bearvalley.com, 209.753.2301; Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, www.dodgeridge.com, 209.965.3474.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Think snow, and happy winter travels in the West!

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Visions of San Francisco; best breakfast, the “crookedist street” and a sad Candlestick Park

 

 

Breakfast of Bacon, avocado and cheese omlet, clam chowder, coffee and Bloody Mary at The Ramp restaurant, a mile south of AT&T Ballpark.

My spouse Susan and I spent New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day in San Francisco, on two spectacularly sunny, clear and nippy days. On New Year’s Day, we had breakfast at our favorite waterfront restaurant, the Ramp, a mile south of AT&T Park, then journeyed to see one of the crookedist streets in the world and the crookedist street in the City.

Can you guess which street we toured to?  And, no, it’s not the one you think…; unlike its better-known challenger, this one has little traffic and is virtually undiscovered!  Here is the explanation (thanks to Wikipedia):

Vermont Street is a north-south street in the Potrero Hill district of San Francisco, one of a series of streets in the Potrero Hill district named after American states. It begins at Division Street near the South of Market area and runs south, paralleling the U.S. 101 freeway. At 22nd Street Vermont Street jumps to the other side of the freeway via a pedestrian bridge. That piece ends at 25th Street; Vermont resumes at 26th Street back on the east side of the freeway and continues to its south end at Cesar Chavez Street.[1]

Between 20th and 22nd Street, near McKinley Square, the street has seven sharp turns. This has led the street to be dubbed the crookedest in the world in competition with the better-known Lombard Street (Vermont, while steeper than Lombard, has fewer turns).[2] In an episode of Fact or Fiction on the Travel Channel, Jayms Ramirez measured the sinuosity of Lombard and Vermont streets and found that Vermont is indeed more crooked (with a sinuosity of 1.56 versus 1.2 for Lombard Street).[citation needed] This is also backed up by various members of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works on “California’s Gold” episode #13011.[3]

Unlike the famous block of Lombard Street, which is paved with red brick, Vermont Street is paved with concrete.

Vermont Street is featured in a chase scene in the Clint Eastwood movie Magnum Force (1973).[

We then toured further south, through the gritty Hunter’s Point area, and came upon a forlorn Candlestick Park.  Scene of some of the greatest Giant’s victories (heroes like Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey played here); and The Play took place at “the Stick”, when Joe Montana connected with Dwight Clark for the 49ers Superbowl victory – it sits sadly, with crumbling parking lots, awaiting the wrecker’s ball, to come down for future housing for The City.

Get off the beaten path and explore San Francisco, starting with a brunch or lunch break at The Ramp!

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com.

Happy travels in the West!

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Epic western US travel destinations; update your “bucket List” for 2015

 

The Grand Canyon from Mather Point is a wonder of colors in the late afternoon!

 

We central Californians are blessed by close proximity to the American West’s incredible spaces, all within a several day drive or closer. With so many spectacular destinations at your back door and a New Year, take the time to update your bucket list of western destinations.  Two weeks ago, we offered insights into California’s incredible places; here are some of our favorites in the west.

Of the USA’s 59 national parks, several in nearby states stand out: California leads the nation with nine parks, Alaska has eight, Utah, five, Colorado, four, Arizona and Washington, three each and Wyoming two parks.  With the exception of Alaska, all are within a two-day drive of central California.  Our short list of favorites in the west are the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake,  Yellowstone and Grand Teton and Glacier Park. 

I first visited the Grand Canyon with my family as a 15 year-old, and several times as an adult.  Each visit comes with the jaw-dropping, catch-your-breath amazement that accompanies the first look into that huge, colorful abyss, some 5,000 feet deep in the Arizona high desert. 

A year ago, my wife and I recently approached the park’s south rim at 5 PM to find the canyon bathed in stunning hues from the setting sun – incredible!  This is a landscape to inspire the multitudes; the Colorado River runs 277 miles through the park, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep.

The majority of visitors enter the Grand Canyon at the south entrance. Tour the south rim, running for miles with unique vistas and history, including the Tusayan Ruins and Museum; noting the history of the native people that once made their life on the rim. Take a hike down the Bright Angel Trail used by mules to take people all the way to the canyon bottom – we hiked about a mile down the trail, then had approximately 700 vertical feet to climb out – definitely tougher than the trek down!

Near the top of our list is Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, just north of the California border and offering wonderous vistas. Start at the Crater Lake Lodge area on Rim Drive’s southside.  Walking to the crater’s nearby rim, that first view remains always inspirational.  Crater Lake, which filled a collapsed volcano’s caldera some 7,700 years ago, 5 miles across and 6 miles long, is the bluest blue you’ll ever see.

Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks are also must-dos.  Located in Montana and Wyoming, they offer a double shot of western beauty, sharing a common border.  Most visitors plan to spend several days in each park, to see Yellowstone’s scores of geysers and thermal basins and to share in the bison, elk, moose and stunning mountains that call both parks home.

A tour of Glacier National Park in north central Montana can be linked to a visit to Yellowstone, though the two parks are separated by almost 500 miles of monumental Montana scenery.  Glacier, home to most of the US’s surviving glaciers, is a gem of carved, rugged Rocky Mountains.  If you can add a few days, plan also to voyage north to Canada’s Lake Louise and Banff area, about 300 miles further north. 

For destinations “not quite a national park, but awe-inspiring none-the-less”, Mount St. Helens, WA, is a national monument and well worth the visit.  Just 50 miles northeast of Portland, a wonderful route shows the swath cut in 1980 when the mountain’s northside erupted with immense force.  Almost one cubic mile of the mountain’s northeast side exploded, reducing the once grand 9,677 foot peak to  8,365 feet, leaving a gaping, horseshoe crater. devastating an area about six miles wide and 20 miles in length and killing 57 people. Just 60 miles further north is Mt. Rainier National Park, so couple the two destinations into one. 

Mt. Rushmore National Monument, in South Dakota, though created by the hand of man, is also a destination for anyone’s bucket list and the surrounding Black Hills hold their own scenic rewards.

For cities with special urban delights, Seattle would rank at the top of our list.  With waterfront vistas almost everywhere, marvelous seafood dining, the old Pioneer Square area, the Space Needle and Pike Street Market, Seattle is an eminently walkable, bikeable and tour-worthy city.  Running a close second are Portland, OR, and Vancouver, British Columbia.  Each have similar attributes and their own special character to rank near Seattle.

Look for unique experiences that, coupled with great destinations in their own right, make for special memories.  Spring training baseball, late February to March, makes the Phoenix area an even more special place to visit.  Mix in a stop at the Grand Canyon, and you’ve added several noteworthy places to your expanding list. 

Fifteen major league teams make the Phoenix area their Cactus League headquarters.  Last March, we saw the Cleveland Indians beat the San Francisco Giants, and toured the parks of the Chicago Cubs, Oakland As and others. Or, couple a summer vacation with visits to football training camps for your favorite teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos!

When traveling, watch for unique “by accident finds” like the Imperial Dam on the Colorado River, just outside Yuma, AZ.  The dam and huge settling ponds allow sediment to settle before the irrigation water is pumped to the Imperial Valley, CA, one of the US’s largest agricultural regions.  Nearby is the eerie Salton Sea, a former barren valley well below sea level (similar to Death Valley).  It became an environmental disaster in the early 1900s when the flood-stricken Colorado River overflowed its banks, forming a landlocked sea now 35 miles long and 25 miles wide; floods in the 1970s created five ghost resorts surrounding the lake. 

Take the New Year’s start to update your own Western USA bucket list – and, get exploring! No list can ever be complete, so polish up your own and share notable destinations that I have missed.  I’ll publish other reader favorites in my upcoming Record Valley Travel blogs!

What to take: fishing rods, good hiking shoes, binoculars and camera, maps and/or a GPS unit. 

Where to stay: The nice thing is that all these destinations have in-park lodges (many historic and memorable), fine campgrounds in beautiful settings and good-value motels nearby.  If you are a senior, get the America the Beautiful Pass, costing $10, getting you into most national parks free and saving you up to ½ off federal campgrounds! 

For more information on any of our National Parks, go to: http://www.nps.gov and pick your destination.  For insight into Seattle, go to www.visitseattle.org (or similar visitor sites for the other cities). For Phoenix and Cactus League baseball games, www.cactusleague.com.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

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Benicia, CA, a great side-trip on the trail of John Muir!

 

 

 

In my last blog (and article in the Record newspaper this week), we shared the idea of exploring the footsteps of John Muir, storied conservationist, founder of the Sierra Club and (some would say), father of our national parks, by touring both his grand home on the edge of Martinez, CA, and in his vast writing and research archives at the University of Pacific in Stockton. So, if that convinced you to trek to both the UOP archives and over to Martinez to check out eminent conservationist  - spend a bit of time in both historic Martinez, and take the I-780 bridge across the Carquinez Straits to the historic town of Benicia!

In Martinez you will find a quaint, well-preserved downtown, much like John Muir would have found in the early 1900s.  Additionally, the Martinez Marina, and large public park surrounding it, offers exploration, views and fishing like few others.  And, a huge Southern Pacific locomotive and tender graces the park’s entrance.

But, don’t go as far as Martinez without crossing the mighty Carquinez Straits and checking out historic Benicia.  And, crossing the bridge, look to the east and see the remaining huge Navy ships of the “Ghost Fleet” (once numbering scores of old war and cargo ships, now only about 18 lay at anchor, awaiting reuse or scrap yards).  In Benicia, the California statehouse is preserved, from the 13 months in 1853-54 that Benicia served as the third state capital – before the growing state moved to its current capital city of Sacramento.  The old statehouse is open daily for tours, and is right on Benicia’s historic main drag, lined with cute shops and great restaurants. 

For a restaurant that has long been a favorite, head to the waterfront end of Front Street, the city’s main drag, to  Sailor Jack’s, 123 First Street, (707) 746-8500 – try the clam chowder and fish and chips while admiring the busy waterfront from your window!

Head the opposite way on Front Street from downtown, east, and you will find the historic Benicia Arsenal, dating back to the 1860s, and preserving the grand Commandant’s House, circa 1859, and the first stone fortress in California, just a block from the Commandant’s lovely abode.

For more info: For insight into Benicia (attractions, shopping, dining, events) see the Benicia Visitor’s Bureau, www.visitbenicia.org. For UOP’s archives in Stockton, contact Michael Wurtz, 209-945-3105, mwurtz@Pacific.edu.  Many of Muir’s writings and sketches are also available, online: go.Pacific.edu/special collections – and the University is seeking volunteers to help transcribe many writings not yet transcribed. For more info on the John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA 94553 go to www.nps.gov/jomu; or call 925–228–8860.  Muir’s home is open daily, no charge, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

 

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On the trail of John Muir; the road runs through Stockton and UOP!

 

A small portion of the Muir peach orchards, with a period-correct horse-drawn sprayer.

 

John Muir, arguably the world’s first conservationist, father of the National Park Service and cofounder of the Sierra Club, spent his adult years in nearby Martinez, California and more than occasionally traveled through Stockton. The largest collection of his papers, research and writings are archived in University of Pacific’s climate controlled archive, open to Stocktonians.  His treasure trove of papers, and travels through Stockton, make him almost a native son!

Join us on the trail of John Muir – with nearby exciting opportunities to learn and explore!

Muir was born in 1838 in Scotland and immigrated in 1849 with his family to a farm in Wisconsin. After reaching adulthood, starting university and then a factory job in a carriage works, an eye injury almost cost Muir use of his eye and led to his decision to begin a life of wanderlust.

In 1868, he traveled to California and quickly  visited the sights in Yosemite. He then spent three years living in Yosemite, much of it as a shepherd, built a small cabin and recorded his adventures in notebooks and journals. Muir always professed a difficulty in writing up his travels, but would become his era’s best known conservationist and champion of preserving our wild lands.

In Yosemite, he met and toured with Ralph Waldo Emerson; inspired by that author, Thoreau and others he began writing for Overland Monthly magazine in 1872, the same year Yellowstone National Park was established.

For The next 10 years, he traveled throughout the west, including many visits to Yosemite and the Sierra and several trips to Alaska before settling in Martinez.  There he would tend the fruit ranch owned by his father-in-law. His ongoing work to preserve and expand Yosemite, incorporate Sequoia as a park and interaction with President Theodore Roosevelt would lead to the establishment of the National Park Service.

During the late 1880s/early 1890s, he would campaign for Yosemite National Park, explore Muir Glacier in Alaska, and help found the Sierra Club and was elected its first president.

From 1882 to 1890, he lived in a nice home in Martinez; upon the death of his father in law, he and his spouse moved into their grand Italianate Victorian home on 2600 acres on the edge of Martinez.

In 1893, his first book was published, The Mountains of California.  In his lifetime, he would publish six volumes; four additional books were published after his death in 1914.

Muir also apparently traveled frequently through Stockton, one of the main jumping-off points to the middle and southern Sierra. He befriended at least one Stockton family, that of Edward Hughes, a Stockton teacher.

Hughes and Muir camped in similar Yosemite campsites, and Hughes worked to befriend Muir by taking the train to Muir’s Martinez home.  Muir, in turn, would visit Hughes home in Stockton (since demolished) and letters between the two attest to their friendship and his visits to Stockton.

Muir’s grand home is open year-round in Martinez, only an hour from Stockton, and is a wonder of his life and work. His study is preserved just as he left it, with this writing desk and many of his papers, and 300 of the estate’s acres (once with over 50 varieties of peach trees) remain surrounding the home.

The home is testimony to his writings and life work; his writing study literally resonates with his indomitable outlook on wild America: “God never made an ugly landscape.  All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild…”, he wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, January, 1869. 

Later he would continue his strong advocacy for protecting America’s great places, noting in 1895: “Government protection should be thrown around every wild grove and forest on the mountains, as it is around every private orchard and the trees in public parks. To say nothing of their value as fountains of timber, they are worth infinitely more than all the gardens and parks of town”.

It’s in the University of Pacific’s archives – open to the public – where Muir’s work really comes alive. I arranged a tour with UOP head of Special Collections Michael Wurtz, who arranged to show me many of his original writings and sketches.

I delighted in seeing several of his letters, written in Sequoia-ink, and his research books showing his sketches of Yosemite Valley, just as it looks today in photographs. The University contains the vast majority of Muir’s writing and research notes, his original writing desk, and two bookcases full of his books.

Read several of Muir’s works; a favorite, available in paperback or at the library, is ‘The Wild Muir’, which profiles many of his hair-raising adventures.  Typical of his matter-of-fact writing is this example; in 1875 he and a climbing partner were caught near the top of Mt. Shasta at 14,000 feet, he scribed:

“…down the ridge and past the hissing fumaroles, the storm became inconceivably violent.  The thermometer fell 22 degrees in a few minutes and soon dropped below zero.  The hail gave place to snow, and darkness came on like night.  The wind, rising to the the highest ;pitch of violence, boomed and surged amid the desolate crags…”. 

Muir and partner hunkered down amidst the fumaroles, alternately freezing and getting scorched, but survived the ordeal with only moderate frostbite!

Take the 60 mile journey to the beautiful Muir home in Martinez, and spend several hours touring his home and wandering through some of the peach orchards that remain. Just a mile away is historic downtown Martinez, itself a worthy side trip with stately Victorian homes and classic downtown.

Then arrange a tour of UOP’s archives – or go online, – where you can see most of his recorded works so arduously scribed by the old conservationist more than 100 years ago and deposited with the university by his descendants, some of them UOP alumni.

The collection includes over 7,000 items of correspondence from 1858 to 1914, including from such luminaries as Emerson, Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and others.  Also included are 300 sketches by Muir and about 3,000 photos taken of landscapes or portraits of the author.

For more info: For UOP’s archives, contact Michael Wurtz, 209-945-3105, mwurtz@Pacific.edu.  Many of Muir’s writings and sketches are also available, online: go.Pacific.edu/special collections – and the University is seeking volunteers to help transcribe many writings not yet transcribed. For more info on the John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA 94553 go to www.nps.gov/jomu; or call 925–228–8860.  Muir’s home is open daily, no charge, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. To get there, take Highway 4 west out of Stockton, travel about 60 miles and take the Martinez exit. The Muir historic site is just off Hwy. 4.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, tviall@msn.com. 

Happy travels in the West!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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