Sierra snow play at its finest in several seasons!

Enjoy Sierra snow play; recent storms offer incredible spring season of fun in

I was all set to do a travel feature about the coming wildflower bloom in the Sierra foothills and Southern California – then the big storms of the recent weeks hit the Sierra and I have shifted gears. A trip two weeks ago to the Lake Tahoe area, and more recently, up Highway 108 to Dodge Ridge Ski Resort and Pinecrest had me thinking “six more weeks of delightful winter snow play”.

With the northern and central Sierra receiving 6 to 12 feet of snow in the last few weeks, and the lovely, sunny days of March and April yet to come, let’s revisit some of the nearby snow play areas less than two hours from Stockton.  Snow play is defined as skiing, boarding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and tubing in this article. 

Family stops for the view off Dodge Ridge’s Chair 8.

Let’s take a look at Highway 108, just east of Sonora. Snow level is currently at about 4500 feet in Me Wuk Village, though yesterday the roads all the way to Dodge Ridge Ski Resort area were clear and dry.

For sledding or tubing, if you have your own gear, you can find some gently sloped areas just below Cold Springs and in the Strawberry area just beyond the Pinecrest turn-off. For cross country skiing and snowshoeing, you can find trails emanating out of the Pinecrest Lake area. For skiing, boarding, cross country and snowshoeing, Dodge Ridge offers a variety of options, as well as rental gear. Heidi’s Ski Shop in Cold Springs also offers rental options.

Author moving cautiously on his cross country skis in the Pinecrest area.

Dodge Ridge Resort obviously offers plenty of skiing and snowboarding opportunities, and several cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails emanate off the Dodge Ridge access road. On a recent Thursday, there was a good crowd, social distancing and wearing masks when in proximity to other skiers, the lodge providing a reduced but delicious menu and plendy to outdoor sitting for diners in the sunshine. Nearby restaurants of quality include the Steam Donkey in Pinecrest, and Mia’s in Cold Springs, but check for pandemic status before counting upon dining out.

Just a few miles further east on Highway 108, take the turn off to reach Leland Meadows Snow Park, with a full service lift-served Snow Park with two tows to take you to the top! 15 acres of tubing terrain for every age, with all tubes included with lift tickets. Hills groomed daily.

Tubers readying for a sunny day at Leland Meadows Snow Park area.

Highway 4, east of Angels Camp: Calaveras Big Trees State Park is your first opportunity, with the lovely state park offering miles of trails winding through the two groves of giant sequoia trees. At 4,700 feet, it currently has plenty of snow, just right for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing (or even hiking along trails packed by foot traffic.

You’ll find some sledding and tubing options along Highway 4 between Camp Connell and Cottage Springs (once home to a small ski area on the edge of town). Near the end of Highway 4’s plowed winter status is Bear Valley Ski Resort, offering skiing, boarding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. At road’s end is the Lake Alpine Snow Park, where serious snowshoers and cross-country skiers head off into the scenic winter wonders of the Lake Alpine area. You will find several ski shops along Hwy. 4, as well as Bear Valley Resort offering gear rental. Favorite dining options include the restaurant in Bear Valley Lodge, as well as Alchemy and the venerable Murphys Hotel in Murphys (but check pandemic opening options).

Snowshoer group with Ranger on shores of Lake Tahoe.

More distant destinations include the Lake Tahoe area: With plenty of trails that follow near the Lakeshore between South Lake Tahoe, headed north up Highway 89, this is an ideal place for snowshoeing and cross country skiing (enterprising XC-aficionados can also figure out some of the remaining ski trails from the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics). Prior to the pandemic, rangers used to lead snowshoe tours out of Sugar Pine Point State Park, but that activity is currently on hiatus.

Yosemite National Park: Yosemite’s in-park ski area, Badger Pass, is not operating this year, but allows one with their own gear to park a car and cross country ski or snowshoe along the road to Glacier Point; side trails will take you to heart-stopping views of the Yosemite Valley, just a few miles distant from the closed ski area.

Cross country skiers on the Glacier Point Road, Yosemite National Park
(photo, courtesy, National Park Service)

Finally, both a pandemic and snow advisory: With the changing face of the pandemic, check ahead to your destinations to be sure you understand what the county and the destination’s rules are tied to travel and hospitality during the pandemic, pack your vehicle with snacks and drinks and all the PPE gear you will need to stay heathy and maintain social distancing. If you’re venturing out into wild snow country, be sure to pay attention to avalanche advisories, with avalanches already killing almost 20 people throughout the western US this snow season. And, we’ll save that wildflower feature for a few weeks!

For more info: Bear Valley Ski Resort, bearvalley.com; Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, dodgeridge.com; Leland Meadows Snow Playsnowplay.com; Sno-park permits, ohv.parks.ca.gov; for Stanislaus National Forest insight on cross-country and snow-shoeing options along both Hwy. 4 and 108; fs.usda.gov/activity/stanislaus/recreation/wintersports/?recid=14833&actid=91

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in the west!

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Road trip; the lovely East Bay, Los Vaqueros, Mt. Diablo, Black Diamond Mines Parks

Touring the lovely East Bay; Los Vaqueros, Round Valley, Mt. Diablo, Black Diamond Mines Parks

With progress in the COVID-19 battle, including declining hospitalizations and infection rates, more folks vaccinated and travel restrictions being loosened, people are gearing up for short road trips taking them into adjoining cities and counties.

A destination particularly appropriate because of it’s proximity to San Joaquin County, beauty, emerging wildflowers and historic significance is the East Bay area. This compact road trip will wind across the San Joaquin River Delta, and find, nestled amongst the coastal range, sparkling reservoirs, the highest peak in the Bay Area, several hikeable ghost towns set among old mines, John Muir’s retirement home, the state’s early capital at Benicia and lovely old towns like Martinez, Benicia and others.

A lone cyclist, my brother John, heads west towards Mt. Diablo.

Pandemic best practices would suggest packing a cooler with snacks and drinks, checking the cities and counties of your destinations as to pandemic protocols, embarking with a full gas tank, appropriate PPE and avoiding all populated areas. This is a trip where you can get out into nature and avoid mixing with people you don’t know.

From Stockton, head west on Hwy. 4, south to Byron, west again towards Mt. Diablo on the backroads of Camino Diablo and Marsh Creek Roads to Los Vaqueros Reservoir, Round Valley Regional Preserve and the Bay Area’s stately and highest peak. This is also, arguably, the prettiest and one of the shortest routes to the East Bay, Concord and Walnut Creek.

Huge eyeball painted on rocks along Marsh Creek Canyon Road, headed to Mt. Diablo.

Los Vaqueros Reservoir and Watershed is a few miles off Camino Diablo Road; the lake impounds water pumped from the Delta for East Bay residents. The lake is regularly stocked with largemouth and striped bass, catfish and rainbow trout (a daily fee and CA fishing license is required).  The park is also a hiking and bicycling Mecca; with a variety of trails/roads in the hills surrounding the reservoir; sightings of both wildflowers and golden eagles are almost assured.

Spouse Susan ascends Hardy Canyon Trail in Round Valley Regional Park.
Wildflowers along Marsh Creek in Round Valley Regional Park.

Head just miles further west on Camino Diablo to Round Valley Preserve, a lovely foothills park on the flanks of Mt. Diablo, with hills and canyons turned emerald green after recent rains. It offers 30+ miles of hiking trails through old oaks: valley, live, blue and black oak along with buckeye trees and California bay laurel. The park is open for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling (with some restrictions); no dogs allowed.

Cross a foot bridge over Marsh Creek and ascend the Hardy Canyon Trail into the foothills beside High Creek. Watch for signs of deer, pawprints of either bobcats or cougars, and spot hawks lazily circling on high. Often spotted are San Joaquin pocket mice, Audubon‘s cottontail rabbits, red fox, coyotes, endangered San Joaquin kit fox and Golden eagles soaring above. The Miwok Trail will take hikers all the way into the adjoining Los Vaqueros Reservoir/Watershed to the south.

For Mt. Diablo State Park, continue west on Marsh Creek Road and turn left on Ygnacio Valley Road, then left on Oak Grove Road to the park’s North Gate Road entrance. North Gate Road into Mount Diablo State Park yields an incredibly scenic drive with some of the best views in all of Northern California. Plan your trip for a day where the skies are clear – clouds or smog will truncate the best views in N. California. 

Mt. Diablo view, looking northwest towards Bay Area.

North Gate Road offers fine views from every turn to reach Mt. Diablo’s 3,849 foot summit, where the Summit Visitor Center offers insight.  The North Peak is about a mile distant, reaching 3,557 feet into the sky.  With three campgrounds (Juniper, at 3,000 feet, offers spectacular vistas and star gazing), gorgeous picnic areas and over 150 miles of hiking trails, the park offers untold adventures.

Wildflowers cover hillside heading towards Mt. Diablo.

Just seven miles northeast lies Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, a gem of a park featuring scenic hikes and preserving the history of California’s lively coal mining district. Active from the 1850s to early 1900s, coal mining birthed several towns, including Nortonville and Somersville, now ghost towns with only foundations indicating their presence.

Rose Hill Cemetery in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

These towns were once the center of Contra Costa County’s population, with several thousand miners and their families mining deep veins of coal, shipping the black diamonds to Pittsburg where the coal powered steamboats, railroads and heated homes in San Francisco and Sacramento. A ½ mile hike to Rose Hill Cemetery above the parking area leads to the final resting place of over 200 miners and their families, where the voices of the past seem all too real.

Somersville townsite and Markley Canyon, looking down from Rose Hill Cemetery
in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

You can extend your road trip if time, to take in John Muir’s stately home in Martinez, and across the Carquinez Straights to Benicia, the site of the early state capitol building, both featuring the historic sites and lovely old towns. I’ll offer more on these in a future installment.

For more info: For Black Diamond Mines and Round Valley Parks,East Bay Regional Park District’s website, ebparks.org; for Los Vaqueros Watershed, ccwater.com/losvaqueros; for Mt. Diablo State Park, parks.ca.gov. Both Los Vaqueros and Mt. Diablo State Park charge an auto admission charge. For camping in Mt. Diablo State Park, reserveamerican.com.

Contact Tim, tviall@msn.com; find more, recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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Traveling locally for views, exercise and local history

These local gems offer views, adventure, exercise and local history

Signs of progress on the Covid19 front are beginning to emerge, with reduced hospitalizations, more people receiving vaccines and expectation that that vaccination pace will accelerate. This feature focuses upon nearby local destinations offering fresh air, hiking/biking opportunities, stellar views and historical significance.

Before you travel, review of Center for Disease Control travel recommendations:     cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html, and check with the city and county of your destination to know any Covid travel restrictions in force. Plan to travel self-contained, taking snacks and drinks and avoiding the need to interact with busy food or retail outlets, and pack all the PPE needed for such trips (the subject of my column last week).

Happily, many of us have broken in new running shoes or lubed up those bicycles, and cruised many of the local walking and biking opportunities near home. Here are suggestions for places nearby, within about an hour of San Joaquin County, offering fresh air, expansive horizons, a sense of exploration as well as historic significance. Use the AllTrails or TrailLink phone apps, for trail directions, distances, topography and reviews, as well as additional nearby trails.

Pack your travel pandemic kit to be self-contained. Take all your PPE gear, plenty of rubbing alcohol and hand-sanitizer, snacks and drinks and maintain social distancing, avoiding crowded spaces like indoor restaurants.

The first is almost too close to mention, but many overlook it. Take a walk or a ride along Stockton‘s Deep Water Channel and historic downtown. The Joan Darrah Promenade starts behind the Stockton Ballpark on the North Channel, heads east behind the Stockton Arena, past the University Park Hotel, around Weber Point Event Center (where Weber’s home’s outline is enshrined on the Point’s southwestern portion), then heads west along the South Channel, passing the old Sperry Flour headquarters, the old Sperry Flour Mill and ending at Morelli Park under the I-5 bridge.

The Port of Stockton, in the 1850s to the late 1800s was one of the west’s busiest port cities, supplier to the central Sierra gold mines and helped build the historic downtown just blocks east. Walk along Weber Avenue to see the 1910-era Stockton Hotel, and a few blocks further, turn south to Main Street to see the old Bank of Stockton Building, California Building and venerable Fox California/Bob Hope Theatre (downtownstockton.org offers a self-guided tour of the historic district).

The Downtown Stockton Alliance (downtownstockton.org) offers a slick, self-guided downtown Stockton walking tour, including the historic B&M Building.

Turn your sights to the east and visit the Sierra foothills (with wildflower blooms soon to come) for Indian Grinding Rock State Park, 11 miles northeast of Jackson on Pine Grove-Volcano Road. The park, nestled in a lovely valley at 2400 feet, brought Native Americans together for centuries to harvest acorns from Valley Oaks and grind acorn flour in one of almost 1200 bedrock mortars carved into the marbleized lime stone. A one mile trail is part nature walk and historical tour, taking one past the mortars, huge round house, bark homes and campground. The renowned Chaw’se Regional Indian Museum is closed currently, due to Covid restrictions. For insight: parks.ca.gov/.

Indian Grinding Rocks State Historical Park near Volcano, CA, features almost 1200 mortars formed in marbleized-limestone by Native Americans who gathered here to grind acorns in summer and fall for millennia.

Visit Marshal Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, site of the original gold discovery in January 1848, which inspired the California Gold Rush, the 49ers and resulted in quadrupling of California’s population in the following 10 years. Walk along the original gold discovery site, see the recreated Sutter’s Sawmill, miner’s cabins, the stores run by Chinese merchants and a wide panoply of gold mining equipment and insight. Insight: parks.ca.gov/.

Tour a bit further south to nearby attractions like Columbia State Historic Park, 3 miles north of Sonora off Highway 49 and Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, just off Highway 108. Columbia was once known as the ‘Gem of the Southern Gold Mines” and preserves the old town much as it looked in the 1850s. Much earlier, the Central Sierra Miwok tribe lived in the area, but the Gold Rush upended their life, bringing disease and warfare. The historic city offers plenty of walking opportunities and trails nearby course along the Tuolumne River. Insight: parks.ca.gov/.

Stores built by Chinese merchants are a part of Marshal Gold Discovery Park in the old town of Coloma, where gold was discovered in January, 1848.

Don’t over look Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, off Highway 108. Home to an operating steam railroad, complete with 100 year-old steam engines, the oldest continuously operated roundhouse in the West and movie history literally dripping from the rafters!  Toss in the Gold Rush history of Jamestown itself, and family memories are just waiting for you!

Also known as the “Movie Railroad”, flicks like “High Noon” were shot using the Sierra Railroad’s vintage steam engines and rolling stock.  A tour took us behind the scenes, where we could climb up into the cabs of several mammoth steam engines, marvel at the huge drive wheels and learn what was a “sand dome” (the portion of the locomotive loaded with sand, for sprinkling sand on the track for additional traction). 

The locomotive turntable and roundhouse are part of the visit to Railtown 1897 in Jamestown, CA.

The Sierra Railroad started to the west in Oakdale in 1897, and ran as the main trunk line to connect the lumbering railroads of Pickering Lumber, West Side Lumber and the Hetch Hetchy Railroads to the major rail lines that came to Oakdale.  Ore, lumber and marble were its main freight (from the marble quarry in Columbia, now behind an RV Park).

Engine #3 in Railtown 1897’s roundhouse has appeared in scores of motion pictures and television shows, after retiring after years on the Sierra Railroad.

One of the earliest films shot here was “The Virginian”, shot in 1929 in Jamestown and the Sonora areas.  Hundreds of other films and television shows have used the Sierra Railroad’s engines and rolling stock for “High Noon”, “My Little Chickadee”, “Petticoat Junction” and many more. After your Railtown visit, rent one and enjoy the railroad’s starring role! Insight, Railtown1897.org.

Should you have other suggestions for hiking targets combining scenery, adventure and history, please send them to me.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in the west!

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Traveling in the pandemic; safe travel precautions

Traveling in pandemic times; tips for safe travel…

Last week I wrote a travel feature about a proposed winter trip to Yellowstone National Park, utilizing pandemic travel precautions. Our plan is to drive and spend six or seven nights in Wyoming and Montana motels we have frequented before. Both the article about the wondrous winter in Yellowstone, as well as needed pandemic precautions, brought a number of positive reactions and questions as to safe travel.

Hence, I decided to review both Center for Disease Control travel recommendations and consult with three medical doctors who are members of the several National Ski and Bike Patrols I am a member of. Here are the highlights of what both CDC and the doctors recommend.

Bighorn Sheep, Gardiner, MT, just outside Yellowstone’s North Entrance.

The CDC offers extensive advice: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html, offering considerable detail including:

  • Get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
  • Know when to delay your travel. Do not travel if you or your travel companions are sick.
  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings.
  • Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not from your travel group.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Also suggested are the following recommendations:

  • For 14 days before you travel, take everyday precautions like wearing masks, social distancing, and washing your hands. Avoid the following activities that can put you at higher risk for COVID-19:
  • Going to a large social gathering like a wedding, funeral, or party.
  • Attending a mass gathering like a sporting event, concert, or parade, or crowds like in restaurants, bars, fitness centers, or movie theaters.
  • Pack food and water in case restaurants and stores are closed, or if drive-through, take-out, and outdoor-dining options aren’t available.
  • If you are considering cleaning your travel lodgings, see CDC’s guidance on how to clean and disinfect.
  • Consider getting tested with a viral test 1-3 days before you travel. Keep a copy of your test results with you during travel; you may be asked for them.
  • Do not travel if you test positive; immediately isolate yourself, and follow public health recommendations.
  • Check and follow State and county regulations.

I also did a web search for the hotels we’re considering and was reassured by the detail offered by Antlers Motel in Jackson, WY and our other choices:

Bison crossing the Lamar River, in Yellowstone’s northeastern portion.
  • A shield between guests and staff in main contact areas 
  • Contactless check-out is available 
  • Property confirms they are implementing guest safety measures 
  • Temperature checks are available to guests 
  • Social distancing measures are in place 
  • Property follows sanitization practices of SafeStay (AHLA – USA) 
  • Guests are provided with free hand sanitizer 
  • Commonly-touched surfaces are cleaned with disinfectant 
  • No elevators (we typically pick one or two story motels, to avoid elevator rides with people we don’t know).

All three doctors backed the CDC recommendations, and reaffirmed the suggestion to avoid crowded areas like indoor restaurants. Noting the appearance of several new Covid mutations, all three emphasized the need for the utmost in pandemic precautions for months into the future.

Our “must take” travel items, including, from top right (below our snowshoes), bottled water, good binoculars, trail mix (walnuts and dried cranberries), PPE including an N95 mask, latex gloves, multiple face masks that can be doubled up, antiseptic wipes, rubbing alcohol for disinfectant, two sizes of hand sanitizer, milk and oatmeal, and small cooler.

We expect we will be vaccinated before our trip, hence we should be fairly safe from airborne virus, though we will continue to practice mask protocols and strict social distancing for months down the road.  We will arrange almost-staff-less check-in and checkout for the several motels, take plenty of alcohol wipes for door knobs, sinks and common surfaces. As to meals, we shall pack our own breakfasts and lunches, and do takeout for evening meals. I expect that many restaurants in Wyoming and Montana will be open for indoor dining – but we’re going to steer clear until the pandemic is way less prevalent, even with vaccinations.

In September, 2020, we spent two weeks on the road, arranging inexpensive weeks through Interval International. One week was at a lovely new slope-slide hotel in Breckenridge, Colorado, the other was slope-side at Snowbird Ski Resort, Utah. Both hotels publicized that they exercised the highest of pandemic protocols and practiced the utmost in social-distancing (as they encouraged their patrons to do). The hotel in Breckenridge definitely did so, and guests practiced precautions as well. The Lodge in Utah, not nearly as well, hence, we departed Utah five days early. That week in Colorado, we felt about as safe in that hotel as we did had we stayed at home.

Hope I’ve offered you some insight, and we wouldn’t do such a national parks trip unless we’re vaccinated by then. If vaccinations are delayed, we will likely delay our trip. For more on the proposed Yellowstone trip, see my Record blog for last week’s feature.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Parks in winter splendor

Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Parks, where animals outnumber people in winter

After almost 10 months of sheltering at home, doing primarily short local and a few regional travel trips, we’re facing lack-of-travel anxiety. We also had a two week ski trip planned, and canceled, with 40+ National Ski Patrol alumni and family to Whitefish, Montana (just west of Glacier National Park), that would’ve us allowed us also to drop down to visit Yellowstone National Park, as we have for most of the last 10 years.

Glacier and Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks are special places, particularly in winter. With other-worldly scenery and generally more animals than people, the cancellation of our week-plus trip really hurt.

Buffalo and calf, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park.
Trumpeter swans in Yellowstone’s Firehole River.

But my spouse and I realize that we should be vaccinated by around the end of February, so we’re planning a trip, just the two of us, up to the Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks in March. We can pack our own food, take a small portable camp stove for preparing some of our evening meals, stay in nice motels and steer clear of crowds (and we will check state and county regulations for pandemic visitation before departing). Interestingly, average cost of motel rooms will be under $100/night, and with low gas prices, we can do an eight day trip quite inexpensively.

Happily we have a four-cylinder, all-wheel-drive small SUV, good on snowy roads and I can still stand a day or two where I drive 700 or 800 miles in a day. Packing skis and snowshoes, here is where we will be headed and what we plan to see when we get there.

We are going to do the grand tour of Yellowstone, starting in Jackson, WY, then up to West Yellowstone, then north and down to Gardiner/Mammoth Hot Springs, MT. From early November until late March, roads inside Yellowstone are closed to all but snowcoach and snowmobile traffic, with the exception of the north, Mammoth Entrance, where the road all the way to the park’s northeast entrance is open year-round.

Bighorn Sheep, just outside Mammoth Hot Springs entrance, Yellowstone Park.

Starting in Jackson, Wyoming, we will tour the Grand Tetons and up to Yellowstone’s south entrance.Jackson is a busy ski town bookended  by two ski areas; with scores of motels, nice restaurants and shops, no lack of things to do and see. The National Elk Refuge adjoins the city allowing one to actually drive into the refuge to see these majestic animals. By auto you can tour a good deal of Tetons Park, but again, snowshoeing or cross-country skis are required to get deep into winter’s splendor.

From Jackson, we will head up the west side of the towering Teton range, reaching 13,776 feet into blue skies, to West Yellowstone, MT, and spend several nights at our favorite hotel, the Stagecoach Inn. Cross country ski and snowshoe trails extend along the park’s western edge, and the Riverside Trail takes one down to the Madison River where both elk and bison are frequently spotted. West Yellowstone, frequented by lots of snowmobilers, is a lively place, with noisy restaurants and good cheer, though, with the pandemic, we will keep our distance.

West Yellowstone Historic Center and Museum under a blanket of February snow.

A variety of concessionaires offer guided tours in cozy snowcoaches into the park, as well as snowmobile tours into the park, all the way to the Old Faithful area. A few years ago, we took the snowcoach 31 miles into Old Faithful and spent three lovely nights at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, just a superb choice. Morning walks or ski trips took us to the Firehole River, where Trumpeter swans cruised and huge bison wandered through the geyser basins. When we departed the final morning, our coach had to honk and delay, awaiting 60-some sleeping elk to rouse themselves and move.

A word to the wise – on that trip, temperatures in western Montana stayed around -15 to +5° most of the time we were there. A few years earlier, we spent the night in West Yellowstone when the temperature reached 40 below zero. Prepare your vehicle, and dress accordingly.

Old Faithful Geyser erupts into a January night sky; this evening, on the boardwalk around the geyser, there was one other person, and a lone coyote to witness this majesty.

We will finally head north to the park’s Gardiner, MT/Mammoth Hot Springs entryway. Here, a lovely hotel awaits, the Park Inn Yellowstone, right across from the park boundary. In winter, roads are open through the Mammoth Hot Springs thermal features, and US Highway 212 is plowed all the way to the Park’s northeast entryway, allowing unfettered access to the Lamar Valley and frequent wolf sightings. Our last visit, as we had experienced in several previous stops, we counted hundreds of elk, scores of bison and a handful of bighorn sheep. Don’t be surprised to be stuck in a traffic jam caused by 2000 pound bison lumbering along snowy roads.

Wolves on ridge, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone Park; courtesy NPS photo.
Four bison cross the Lamar River, about 20 miles east of
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone Park.

What to take: Binoculars and camera, of course, all of your cold-winter clothing, and skis or showshoes if you are into that.  Chains for your vehicle and jumper cables make sense, if temps are predicted down to -20 or lower! 

Where to stay: In Jackson, we have enjoyed the Antler Inn, (855) 516-1090, just a block off Jackson’s town square with its huge elk-antler aches. In West Yellowstone, we choose the Stagecoach Inn, yellowstoneinn.com/; in Gardiner, the Park Hotel Yellowstone,parkhotelyellowstone.com; in Yellowstone Park itself, the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge are the only winter lodging choices (yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/); the campground at Mammoth is open year-round for hardy campers. For more information on Yellowstone National Park, nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/visting-yellowstone-in-winter.htm. 

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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Time for a small travel trailer to sate your wanderlust?

How a small travel trailer can sate your wanderlust, save you money and take you to new horizons…

Vaccines are slowly starting to roll out through California and in the west, and while it may be months before we can put the worst of the pandemic behind us, we can start to see the hopeful end in the distance. As we approach more normal lives, the American desire to travel in this country and beyond will quickly accelerate.

This column suggests small travel trailers as a fun and relatively safe mode of travel, whether it’s in your home state, the west or throughout the US and Canada. Even in the last nine months, we’ve made a couple of in-state trips (to Lassen National Park and oceanside campgrounds north of Bodega Bay) with our little vintage Scotty trailer, my wife and me, camping in style and comfort and able to avoid almost all other human contact. If you can revel in the beauty of nature and don’t mind avoiding restaurants (preparing your own food at campsite) and other people, it’s a delightful break from being home-bound.

Our 64 Scotty trailer and Ford Escape tow vehicle, and Yosemite Falls.

So, let’s consider small trailers, including vintage trailers, newer used trailers and new trailers. I recommend trailers generally shorter than 20 feet, which offer a room for several adults and several kids, and many of them are able to be towed behind small to midsize to vehicles – not those huge, fuel-guzzling pick-up trucks becoming so popular with Americans. 

We tow a 1400 pound, 13 foot vintage Scotty trailer behind a four-cylinder, turbo-charged Ford Escape (with 3500 pound towing capacity), and can achieve 19 miles per gallon towing our little trailer. Compare that to the 6 to 9 miles per gallon pulling larger trailers, as well as the ease of backing our small trailer into tight national park or national forest campsites, and we will happily sacrifice the additional legroom and sleeping capacity. A side benefit, our Scotty will fit in a standard garage, or behind a six-foot fence and not bother neighbors.

Spouse Susan and our Scotty, June Lakes Loop, eastern Sierra in May.

Consider the size and type: The smallest of travel trailers are those popularized after World War II, teardrop trailers, typically 4 to 5 feet wide, 8 to 10 feet long, and primarily offering a sleeping compartment for two adults and a rear kitchen. We have owned two teardrops, a Kit Kamper, and currently a 58 Scotty Junior reproduction trailer. After 10 years with the teardrops, we upgraded four years ago to a 1964 Scotty Sportsmen, 13 feet in length, offering a double bed in the rear, small center cabinets including a two-burner stove and small sink, and an upfront dinette large enough for four trim adults (which can be made into another bed at night). Not huge, but spacious compared to a teardrop!

Vintage trailers popular in the west include Scotty, Shasta, Airstream, DeVille, Lawton and more. However, trailers that are 50 to 60 years old come in three states; total disrepair, in need of repair (and with faults papered-over) and those meticulously maintained and often totally rebuilt. One can find “basket case trailers” with good bones, but be prepared to put in hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars should an old trailer need a frame-up rebuild. Our Scotty, costing only $900, required another $4500 in materials and almost 500 hours in the rebuild. Redeeming qualities; it’s cute, gets lots of comments in campgrounds and could be resold for thousands more than the investment.

Susan and our 58 Scotty teardrop trailer, Redwoods National Park.

Used trailers: You’ll find a wide variety of used trailers on trailer-dealer lots, in people’s backyards and many advertised on both craigslist and eBay. If you want a modern trailer but aren’t willing to pay the steep costs for new, finding a several year-old trailer – many of them wonderfully maintained and lightly-used – can save you about 1/3 to 1/2 on purchasing the same trailer new. Modern trailers include T@B, R-pod, Cassita, A-liner, Airstream and many more.

Purchasing new: A new trailer comes with that pristine, never-used aura, and allows dealer or bank financing, but you’ll pay a considerable price over a vintage or slightly used trailer. As an example, a new T@B or Cassita trailer, several of our favorites, will cost in the low- to high-$20 thousand range.

An almost new T@B trailer, owned by friends Christine and Steve Lewis.

Suggestion: Rent a trailer for a couple of days to determine whether you’re truly going to like the experience. Local dealerships like Pan Pacific RV in Lathrop allow rentals of small trailers and offer you a chance to try out the trailer camping vibe. And, with pent-up demand for travel and as the pandemic begins to reside and summer approaches, demand for trailers will ramp up – so consider starting your search soon.

Long before purchasing a new or used trailer, research your intended tow vehicle – can it handle the weight of both trailer and the contents of the tow vehicle?  As example, if your vehicle is rated at 3,000 lbs. tow capability, and your trailer weighs 2,500 pounds, when loaded with camp goods and two adults and additional camp items in the car – you’ll exceed the car’s tow capabilities.

A newer R-pod trailer, owned by cousin Anne Linton of Oregon.
A vintage Airstream and its equally vintage woodie tow vehicle.

Where to find a trailer: Most brands can be found locally; do a web search for favored models. Vintage and used versions can be found on Craigslist or eBay; put up a daily search for favored brand or “vintage trailer”. For additional insight into classics, see Tin Can Tourists site, tincantourists.com; for info on particular trailers, search the Internet where you will find owner’s sites or Facebook groups like the National Serro Scotty site, nationalserroscotty.org (you will find our 64 Scotty rebuild profiled on the Rebuilds page).

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, find more photos at recordnet.com/travelblogSafe travels in your world!

Posted in Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta exploration; the Delta Meadows Trail

River Delta exploration; the Delta Meadows Trail near Locke and Walnut Grove, CA…

Another travel column as Covid19 bears down on the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Capital Region area in California. My task in the new year is to offer thoughtful, safe choices to sate one’s travel desires as we await vaccines and a rebound of the health of our communities.

I asked last week when will we reach an end of this travel quarantine; when will vaccines allow us to resume life “as near normal”? County and state infectious disease experts suggest the majority of residents of our cities, counties and the United States must be vaccinated before we reach the point of “herd immunity”. But with initial slower-than-projected roll-out of vaccines, it’s likely that we will be deep into 2021 before the freedom to travel returns.

My spouse Susan and I are now planning any serious travel in the second half of 2021, including a cross-country mid-summer trip (in our well-equipped personal vehicle carrying all the suggested Covid-fighting tools and taking the utmost precautions) to visit our daughter, just moved to Tennessee, relatives in Ohio and friends in Minnesota, and returning with a housesitting gig in Denver in mid-August. However, should a large percentage of the US remain un-vaccinated, we will postpone such a trip.

In the meantime, we are looking very locally to sate our wanderlust. We love local destinations where we can walk, hike or bike, with carefully-planned and self-contained auto trips to nearby destinations, avoiding crowds, planning to avoid crossing county lines and avoiding almost all personal contact. In the last three weeks, I have profiled a goodly number of destinations suggested by friends (see my Record blog, below, for past features).

AllTrails is one handy smart phone application for finding
new hiking and cycling trails across the USA.

The pandemic has caused me to look even deeper into modern technology to find new, inspiring destinations. For hiking and biking, I have become quite adept at using smart phone apps like AllTrails and TrailLink. Realizing that we had not recently explored the Delta just to our west, I did a search for hiking destinations near two favorite and historic river towns, Locke and Walnut Grove.

AllTrails offered a host of suggestions, including both the Meadows Slough Trail and Delta Meadows State Park. Having heard of neither, I looked to the app for both a map and instructions to get there. It turns out that the two trail systems, on top of old levees, are linked and offer a 5.9 mile option in an out-and-back, almost flat hike. And, to my amazement, the trails cut through riparian woodlands, marshes, meadows and quiet solitude.

Delta Meadows Trail, south end, near old town of Locke, CA.
A mile in, the Meadows Trail heads off to the the west, bordered by vast Delta marshlands.

My assumption that most all the Delta had long been developed for either agricultural crops or livestock grazing was quickly proven wrong; much to our surprise almost the entire round trip was flanked by wild forest, marshes, sloughs and meadows. In our two hours walking and shooting memorable photos, we saw cormorants, ducks, egrets, geese, three healthy vultures, and just two other hikers in this quiet paradise.

That the trail starts between Walnut Grove and Locke, parallels the latter for 1/4 mile, then takes one into virtual wilderness was such a pleasant revelation. The unincorporated town of Locke began as the town of Lockeport in 1912 when Chinese businessmen from nearby towns constructed three buildings, including a dry goods store, beer parlor, gambling hall and the Lockeport Hotel.  In October, 1915, the Chinatown of Walnut Grove, just south, burned to the ground, displacing hundreds of Chinese residents – Locke was a natural choice for relocation. 

Cormorants wing along the Meadow Slough beside the trail.
Three vultures perched on an old fence line, on the only area along the trail
bordered by agricultural or grazing land. Balance of adjoining trail is “wild California”.

The land was leased from George Locke – at the time California law prohibited selling of farmland to Asian immigrants.  Hence, Locke became a town built by the Chinese, for Chinese, and offered a Chinese-language school and businesses and restaurants with direct appeal to the Chinese.  Nearby canneries also offered jobs, and a lively town developed.

Al’s Restaurant, also known historically as Al the Wops, anchors Main Street in old Locke.
The old Chinese Medicine Shop in Locke.

By the 1950s, many of the town residents began moving on to larger cities and the town fell into disuse.  Today, it is part of the Locke Historic District, which preserves many of the buildings and way of life from the 1920s.  Normally, visitors would be wise to stop first at the the former Main Street boarding house, now the Locke Boarding House Visitors’ Center, offering historic overview and free of charge (website offers insight into pandemic restrictions). 

Other Locke attractions include the Chinese Association Museum, former home of the Jan Ying Benevolent Association, the Locke Chinese School, a language school that opened in 1926, Locke Memorial Park and Monument (which honors the Chinese who labored in agriculture and helped build the levees and railroads early in the century) and the Dai Loy Museum (showcasing gambling paraphernalia).  One of the Delta’s most fabled restaurants, Al’s Place (known originally as Al the Wops) anchors the town, though pandemic challenges have it currently shuttered.

Old boarding house, now the Locke Visitor’s Center.

Just south is Walnut Grove, one of the early thriving port cities on the river, home to a large number of historic buildings and homes.  To reach Walnut Grove and Locke, take the Walnut Grove-Thornton Road west from I-5. For insight into the Locke Historic District: nps.gov/places/locke-historic-district.htm.

Search out nearby attractions like these; apply universal precautions, await coming vaccines and consider local pandemic travel regulations before departing. For future more distant travels, collect your ideas and those of your family, tap friends for insightful recommendations, boost your planning mode and begin to book key destinations. In the meantime, explore the wonderful world just outside your door.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A look forward to post-pandemic travel in 2021

Finish your planning to be ready for post-pandemic travel in 2021

My task on this New Year’s Day is to finish a column on travels in the new year, while still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic.

My spouse and I spent several hours last night celebrating New Year’s Eve with three other couples, fellow travelers all, via Zoom. A portion of the call had each of us bemoaning our limited travel during 2020, and sharing hopes for destinations to come in 2021.

Hence, what are we hearing from experts as to travel in the coming 12 months? Most all agree, with the pandemic raging and some of the worst weeks to come, now is the time to plan future travels, not to actually do them. And, to satisfy your wanderlust, look to your back door for places that you can walk or bicycle to, or reach by short, self-contained and cautious auto trips, avoiding people and complying with local and state pandemic requirements.

When will we reach an end of this travel quarantine; or, when will vaccines allow us to resume life “as normal”? I’m not an infectious disease expert, but if you listen to varied expert sources, you’ll realize that most experts suggest something like 70% of the United States must be vaccinated before we reach the point of “herd immunity”. With initial slower-than-projected roll-out of vaccines, well probably be well into the second half of 2021 before the freedom to travel returns.

How to both dream about, and plan, those special destinations? Along those lines, spouse Susan and I are projecting any serious travel we will take into the second half of 2021, including a cross-country mid-summer trip (by our well provisioned personal vehicle carrying all the suggested Covid-fighting tools and taking the highest precautions) to visit our daughter, just moved to Tennessee, relatives in Ohio and friends in Minnesota, and returning with a housesitting gig in Denver in mid-August. Should we and a large percentage of the US remain un-vaccinated, we will postpone such a trip.

How far out should we be planning? I encourage families to finish their thinking and planning relatively soon – when US and international travel reaches relative safety, a huge pent-up demand will max out favorite destinations, resorts, campgrounds and the like. Hence, if you have a favorite destination, like New York during the Christmas season, a couple of national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton in the fall, or a European river cruise, book soon. Virtually all hotels motels and tour operators will refund most of your money should you have to cancel, as well as will online booking sites for lodging and camping in national parks, like recreation.gov or reserveamerica.com.

When will the “dam break“ and special destinations or trips be “sold out“? If, Indeed, the pace of vaccinations increases and we are able to vaccinate older Americans, our first line and healthcare workers, people with pre-existing medical conditions and the like, people will have confidence to quite quickly begin to book their latent travel plans. So, finish the planning, book your dream trip, cement those airline reservations and let your relatives know your plan.

Sunset photo from beach of The Sanctuary, Marina, CA (photo by Yvonne Derby).

What do we do in the meantime to salve our wanderlust? Look to local destinations where you can walk, hike or bike. Take short, carefully-planned and self-contained auto trips to lovely nearby destinations, avoiding crowds and personal contact. Ask friends who are frequent travelers as to their own secret, nearby gems. Friends and family offered a host of travel suggestions which I profiled in the last two weeks (see my travel blog for past features).

Yvonne and husband toast the sunset vibe in Marina, CA (photo by Yvonne Derby).

Former co-worker Yvonne Derby of Tracy shares one of her secrets, “I’ve lived in California all of my life and always loved the California coast; my husband and I discovered the little hotel called The Sanctuary in Marina, California, with rooms offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the most stunning of sunsets. The Sanctuary is worthy of your visit and it’s paid for in just the views, alone. It’s our go-to place for special occasions, secluded enough but also close to eateries and shops. With Seaside, Monterey and Pacific Grove just south, so much to see and do”.

Gather your ideas and those of your family, tap friends for insightful recommendations, accelerate your planning mode and begin to book key destinations. In the meantime, explore the wonderful world just outside your door; when the pandemic resides, then visit nearby attractions. Apply those universal pandemic precautions, await coming vaccines and act now for future travels. And, as always, consider local and destination pandemic travel regulations before departing.

Bike trail in Pacific Grove connects to Monterey and north to Marina, CA.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

Posted in Central California, San Francisco Bay Area | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pandemic travels close to San Joaquin County…careful travel by automobile

Find lovely pandemic travel destinations close to San Joaquin County…

I am writing on Christmas day, with planned Zoom calls coming up with both our family, and my spouse’s Pacific Northwest cousins. We plan to discuss 2021 trips and lay plans to see one-another “post pandemic”. Thankfully, Covid19 vaccines are reaching our community and our health care workers are utilizing the best practices in combatting the virus. But, with Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday activities; infections, hospitalizations and loss of loved ones are reaching all-time highs – New Year’s holidays may sadly further that horrific trend.

Hence, once again, health care professionals emphasize remaining mostly home-bound, limiting your travels to only the most required destinations and using your holiday and family time (connected to distant loved ones electronically via phone, Zoom or Facebook Messenger) to research and plan for future travels. To help whet your appetite for nearby attractions and special places, a host of Stockton fellow-travelers have offered creative ideas.

Interestingly, two Stockton friends suggest the same Highway 4 destinations, Murphys and Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Mary Hickman offers, “we have enjoyed excursions to the former Gold Rush town of Murphys, CA. Located an hour east of Stockton on Highway 4, it is an easy drive to find good restaurants (like Murphys Pourhouse), wine tasting opportunities and many small shops. Most of the historic buildings have been restored, giving it an authentic feel. While we could spend the day there, we also find it is a perfect stop-off on a trip to Calaveras Big Trees (15 miles up the highway) or Mercer Caverns, located just outside of town”.

Food, always a good reason to travel; photo from Murphys Pourhouse,
courtesy, Mary Hickman.

Stewart Jacoby also recommends Calaveras Big Trees State Park – with a twist – visiting in winter. He adds, “The Big Trees grove is a different experience in the snow, all quiet and clean, not so crowded.  And with the undergrowth buried, the place is very different.  The road is often clear even when there is snow on the ground.  Great for kids—the snow makes the trees even more majestic, and we worked in a snowball fight and snow angel activities.  If driving conditions allow, we like to go up to Arnold for a meal and hot chocolate to finish the trip.  Here’s a shot from November, 2019 BC (Before Covid).  Allow 60-70 minutes from Stockton or Lodi in good weather”.

Jacoby also adds even closer hiking options, “explore the Coast to Crest Trail, which is a wonderful resource in our area.  The finished sections are on East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) land, running from Camanche Reservoir areas (east of Lodi) up to Highway 49.  Trailheads are 35-50 minutes from Stockton on scenic roads.  Trails can be muddy in the wet season, too hot in summer, but are great for fall and spring.  Good exercise close to home, easy to middling demand on hikers.  EMBUD requires a pass, which gets you through their gates; they have good maps and trail guides.  Visit the Wildermuth House—a hewn-stone homestead from the 1860s; or choose lake vistas or views of the Sierra and the great valley.  Lots of wildlife (and cows…), popular with horse travelers (no bikes).  A number of trailheads break the whole into manageable sections; California’s oak belt is unexpectedly beautiful, and sunsets are often spectacular”.

View of Comanche Lake, from China Gulch Trail, photo courtesy Stewart Jacoby.
A child walks through Calaveras Big Trees Park in depths of winter
(photo courtesy, Steward Jacoby)

A trip to our central California coast is recommended by Dave Frederickson; enthusing “need a Covid-19 get-away, consider the coast near Half Moon Bay, just two hours west.Can’t have that usual family gathering, that long awaited holiday trip to some glamorous spot…consider the Half Moon Bay area. Long before the coronavirus we discovered the unique joys of a Half Moon Bay holiday break.

Lighthouse on coast near Half Moon Bay (photo, courtesy Dave Frederickson)

For starters, drop by the Ritz Carlton and stroll through the lobby to the outside terrace, decorated for the Season. Then, perhaps a visit to one of the area lighthouses. For lunch, try the “Prohibition Era” Moss Beach Distillery for take-out and viewing of the spectacular beach and ocean scenery. Finally, back to the Ritz Carlton, for a sundown bagpipe serenade and a warm hot toddy… Happy holidays”!

David Anderson offers, “our favorite getaway region is the eastern Sierra, between Bishop and Mammoth, with spectacular alpine mountain views all year. A generally mild climate, beautiful hiking, kayaking, fishing, and skiing, snowshoeing in winter.

Lake Sabrina, just west of Bishop is a must for wildflowers, fall colors, deer-spotting, fishing, peace and quiet. The June Lake loop is full of color in the fall.  This entire region is rarely crowded and features stunning views all year long, as well as motels, B&Bs and campgrounds.

Final call for your submissions: submit your suggestions for nearby trips in northern/central California, 50 to 70 words and a photo if you have one to:  tviall@msn.com. I’ll feature some of the best suggestions in my Record article next Tuesday, and many of the balance in my Record blog. Your deadline: December 31. We’ll publish these submissions in an article to appear Tuesday, January 5.

Make the holidays a close family affair, remain at home, explore the wonderful world outside your front door, and – perhaps – visit nearby attractions. Practice heightened pandemic precautions, await coming vaccines and plan for the future. And, as always, consider local and destination pandemic travel regulations before departing.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay, and travel, safe!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sierra Nevada | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pandemic travels, close to home, on foot, by bike, by automobile…

Pandemic travels, in San Joaquin County, on foot, by bike, by automobile…

Do you want the good news, or, the bad news? The good news is Covid19 vaccines are reaching our community and our health care workers are utilizing the best practices in combatting the virus. The bad news; infections, hospitalizations and loss of loved ones are reaching all-time highs – and Christmas and New Year’s holidays may further wreak havoc with our community’s health.

Hence, once again, I suggest remaining mostly home-bound, limiting your travels to only the most required, and use your holiday and family time (connected to distant loved ones electronically) to research and plan for future travels. And, to whet your appetite for local attractions and special places, a host of Stocktonians offer creative local travel ideas.

Here, Stockton runners take a tour of the Calaveras Trail,
just east of Interstate 5 (photo by Ralph Womack).

Set your sights on walking, jogging or biking to nearby treasures in your neighborhood. Stocktonian Ralph Womack notes, “as to local places in the Stockton area, I still like to run along Bear Creek/Pixley Slough/White Slough pathway because it is easy access, paved and very little interaction with traffic. The only time you cross a street is at the dead-end of Trinity Parkway, Thornton road, Davis road then you continue to where the path is no longer paved at Lower Sacramento Road. It is a pleasant place to run or bike and easily get anywhere from 3-6 miles or more distance if desired”.

Ralph also recommends “Lodi Lake Park is located a small and inviting park with easy access by parking on nearby streets and simply walking in. Upon entering you see others as they get their exercise but, due to trails and pathways around the park and within the nature area, you never feel crowded. It is simply a delightful place to spend some time. In warmer months, swimmers and kayakers enjoy the park.”

Lodi Lake kayakers enjoy this lovely Lodi park just off the Mokelumne River (photo by Ralph Womack).
The San Joaquin Trail in Stockton’s Weston Ranch is a favorite
of Mary Jo Gohlke, who submits this photo.

Mary Jo Gohlke of Stockton’s Weston Ranch offers, “I’ve been spending much of my time during this latest pandemic crisis on the San Joaquin Trail that runs through Weston Ranch. I catch up to it a block from my house. It goes west, forking right about half a mile to a levee, and left past this sign and onward to Wolf Road with lovely San Joaquin River Delta views. Someday I’ll make it to Wolf Road. Right now doing 3 miles a day walking 4 days a week”.

Record photographer/journalist Cliff Oto offers locations for scenic views and fine photos, sharing,it depends on what kind of place you want to visit. If you want to see a nice sunset you can go to Empire Tract at the far west end of Eight Mile Road in Stockton or the Turning Basin of the Port of Stockton, if you want more of an urban/industrial vibe. For something that feels typically Stockton the University of the Pacific campus is a good place; if you want something that’s a little more “not-from-here” then the Japanese Tea Garden at Micke Grove Park might work. A back-to-nature place would be Lodi Lake or the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve off of Woodbridge Road, just west of I-5”.

The sunsets over the Port of Stockton’s turning basin in Stockton
(photo by CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Just a bit further a-field, on the edges of our county to the north lie the placid Cosumnes River Preserve (just north of Thornton), and to the south on the Stanislaus River, Caswell Memorial State Park (just southwest of Ripon). Woodbridge friend Gary Pierce recommends Cosumnes River Preserve, noting “it’s a lovely place, almost untouched by the modern world, where quiet paths lead you down to the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers, riparian forest is alive with critters and birds of all types; it’s also a wonderful destination for kayakers or canoeists!”.

An egret lifts off from wetlands at Cosumnes River Preserve (photo by Chuck Higgs)

Stocktonian Dave Frederickson suggests making local merchants part of your travels, “sensational cinnamon rolls and fresh coffee that stirs the soul are among the treats that have kept us returning to Stockton’s Toot Sweets Bakery Cafe for more than 25 years. In these pandemic times we continue to support them. Our focus, in getting through this, is supporting our small family owned businesses such as Podesta’s Groceries, Payters, Whirlows, Martinizing Cleaners, Cocoon Salon – those entrepreneurs who are the core of our community!”.

One of Stocktonian Dave Frederickson’s favorite stops is Toot Sweet Bakery Cafe, on Quail Lakes Drive just north of March Lane.
Aerial view of Stockton’s Meadow Avenue, looking toward Mt. Diablo
and spectacular sunset (photo courtesy of Visit Stockton).
Thousands of lights brighten this home in Lodi on Tiendra Drive
(photo courtesy, Clifford Oto, The Record).

And, in the coming several weeks, tour spectacular holiday light displays in your nearby neighborhood. In Stockton, Meadow Avenue, just west of Pershing, is an annual light-extravaganza, and in Lodi, check the lights like on Tiendra Drive near Mills Avenue, Lodi. Just about any neighborhood in the county has lights to enjoy; take an evening stroll or short drive.

I also connected with our Visit Stockton staff, and once again come away with fresh ideas and new insights. On the visitstockton.org website, you’ll find itineraries for touring movie destinations of eight feature films shot in Stockton, California: classics like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark (featuring the University of Pacific campus), the Hotel Stockton featured in All the Kings Men, University of Pacific again featured in Dreamscape, and a number of Stockton locations featured in the gritty classic, Fat City.  

Visit Stockton’s site also includes a host a fun family event recommendations, such as the six best burger joints in town, the top three disc golf courses, eight stops for best tacos and their top 10 Visit Stockton Blogs of the 2020 year, full of fresh nearby travel stops. You will also find links to the websites of Stockton Children’s Museum, the Haggin Museum, the San Joaquin County Historical Museum and a host of other city and county travel stars.

You are invited to submit: We are seeking your suggestions for California and Western states travel destinations: submit your suggestions, in 50 to 70 words and a photo if you have one to:  tviall@msn.com. I’ll feature some of the best suggestions in my Record articles, and many of the balance in my Record blog. Here are deadlines: for California favorites, December 23; for nearby western states, December 30. We’ll publish these submissions in articles to appear the Tuesdays of New Year’s and the following Tuesday, January 5.

Make the holidays a close family affair, stay close to home, explore the wonderful world outside your front door, and – maybe – visit local attractions. Keep holiday family gatherings to immediate family (for more distant, use Facebook Messenger or Zoom), share your travel ideas and plan your destinations for later in 2021! In the meantime, stick to day-trips where you can walk, hike or bike in our incredible outdoors or do short auto trips.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblogStay home, plan future travels, remain resolute!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
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