Stockton/San Joaquin road trip on a budget…Adventure, mystery, history, good wine and great food

The Cosumnes River Preserve offers plenty of hiking along riparian waterways, much as they were for the Miwuk tribe hundreds of years ago.

Adventure, mystery, history, good wine and great food…close to home!

A long-time Stocktonian recently said to me “there’s not much to do in this town, unless you’ve got a lot of money”. I responded with “come-on, two people could find adventure, mystery, history, good wine and great food for about $50”, and offered several suggestions.

This is the story of my wife’s and my adventure, in an attempt to do just that.

Our full-day’s journey would include an early morning trek at Cosumnes River Preserve (adventure, mystery), exploration of our county’s historic underpinnings at San Joaquin Historical Museum in Micke Grove Park, for great olive oil, balsamic vinegar and wine, Consumnes River Farms and for good food, Garlic Brothers Restaurant, on the Delta in Stockton. To keep expenses down, we packed a picnic lunch.

Off we went to the Cosumnes River Preserve, three miles north of Thornton (a cute town, including a bull-ring!). The preserve centers on the confluence of the Cosumnes and Mokelumne rivers and remains much in the condition that Native Americans would’ve found it, hundreds of years ago. Stop at the visitors center for a map and docent insight.

The preserve is rich in flora and fauna, particularly waterfowl, (depending on time of year, egrets, snowy plovers, ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, eagles and scores more) with miles of paved and dirt hiking trails along the riparian waterways. As one parallels the Mokelumne River, the ghosts of old Mokelumne City call from across the river. Founded in 1850, the city had grown by 1861 to the second largest town and port in San Joaquin county. A huge flood in 1862 washed all of the wood buildings miles downstream – the city disappeared, never to be rebuilt.

Consumnes River Farms, just south of the Cosumnes River Preserve, is a fine place to sample olive oil, balsamic vinegars and wines!

Exiting the preserve, we stopped just a half-mile south at Consumnes River Farms to sample olive oils, balsamic vinegars and wines. The first two tastings are free, while wine tasting is five dollars (waived if you purchase a bottle). We purchased a tasty bottle of flavored olive oil, but passed on the wine-tasting, having further to journey.

Another nearby option for classy wine tasting: Jessie’s Grove Winery on Turner Road. It’s long been a favorite, due both to the shady, historic grove of valley oaks it’s nestled in and that they host a series of rollicking summer concerts (June 4, Jackson Michelson, pop country; June 25, Spazmatics, 80’s hits).

Museum Director Dave Stuart offers insights to visitors for the Native American People's gallery.

To make more sense of the agricultural underpinnings of our county our next stop was the San Joaquin Historical Museum at Micke Grove Park south of Lodi. The museum recently expanded its Native Peoples Gallery, offering insight into the Native Americans who have been living in what is now San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years.

The museum traces the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, all with very rich cultures and lifestyles. Native peoples here put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California.

Entrance to the new Innovators in Agricultural exhibit.

“We added videos showing traditional basket making, acorn preparation, and deer hunting—we hope folks will associate artifacts displayed in the exhibit cases with those shown in the videos”, notes museum director Dave Stuart.

An inter-active circular wooden bench allows visitors to listen to three recorded messages. In one recording Glen Villa, Jr. (Northern Miwok/Plains Miwok) tells about the First People and a traditional creation narrative. Another recording shares a traditional Yokuts story, told by Sylvia Ross (Chukchansi Yokuts), a third of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and County were named.

“The new exhibits work perfectly with the other exhibits in the Erickson Building,” said Stuart. “Visitors can go in chronological order from the Native peoples who first inhabited the area, to an exhibit on the early trappers and the founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Continue on to a new exhibition on the early American settlers, then on to exhibits on the Gold Rush, a hands-on children’s gallery, and the adjacent Weber Gallery.

A new agricultural exhibit recently opened, Innovators of Agriculture.  It features the development of intensive, irrigated agriculture in the county beginning around 1900. Six crops are the focus: dry beans, asparagus, cherries, walnuts, canning tomatoes and truck farming (growing of fruits and veggies, trucked to local markets). If you want insight into why our county is so ag-centric, start at this museum wonder!

A tasty beverage on the Delta, on the deck at Garlic Brothers Restaurant (photo courtesy of Blair Hake).

We ended the day at our favorite Stockton restaurant, Garlic Brothers, at the western end of Ben Holt. Hard against the San Joaquin Delta, it offers a wonderful view from the deck of pleasure boats anchored at Village West Marina and the afternoon’s setting sun over Mt. Diablo. For out-of-town guests, it’s a must.

This evening, we’ll stretch our budget with a margarita pizza, a draft beer and a Pinot Noir – $31. including tip. A wonderful view, Stocktonians reveling in the Delta and, as luck would have it, a gorgeous sunset to cap a busy day!

Get exploring in your hometown; find your own excellent adventure!

Our day’s expenses, Cosumnes River Preserve, free; Consumnes River Farms for olive oil, balsamic tasting, free; San Joaquin Historical Museum, $6. Park admission, $4. each museum senior admission, total $14.; Garlic Bros., $14 Marquerita pizza, $7 for Pinot Noir, $6. beer, $4. tip, total $31; gas; 67 miles, 2 gallons @$2.50/gallon, $5.00; grand total $50.

For more information: Cosumnes River Preserve, 13501 Franklin Blvd, Galt,, visitor center open 9am to 5pm weekends and holidays; Consumes River Farm, 28305 N Thornton Road, Thornton, (209) 334-5544,, open Thursday-Sunday 11:30am to 5:00pm; Jessie’s Grove Estate and Home Winery, 1973 West Turner Road, Lodi, open Daily 12pm-5pm; San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum, Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi,, (209) 953-3460, open Wednesday through Sunday, 11am to 4pm; for other Stockton/San Joaquin adventures, Visit Stockton,, (209) 938-1555.

Visitors to Garlic Brothers Restaurant will often be treated to great sunsets over the Delta and Mt. Diable in the distance (photo courtesy of Blair Hake).

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at Happy travels in your world!

Author’s note: Special thanks to friend Blare Hake, for allowing use of the last two photos (both taken at Garlic Brothers Restaurant).  Blare is one of the best Delta “fun photographers”, regularly shooting great shots of his adventures on the San Joaquin Delta, and some of the best sunset shots I ever see!).


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