Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley prep for an unusual ski season

Bear Valley, Dodge Ridge ready for an unusual ski season

With winter storms soon to blanket the central Sierra, the two closest resorts to San Joaquin County are gearing up for another snowy season.

Family stops for a break on Dodge Ridge’s Chair 8, with Boulder Creek Canyon behind.

Both Bear Valley and Dodge Ridge ski resorts note they are operating in strange territory, with county-by-county Covid19 strictures governing many of the rules of reopening safely. Each resort is also following recommendations by the National Ski Areas Association (the ‘Ski well, be well’ program), encouraging six feet of distancing, face coverings, frequent handwashing as well as reduced lesson sizes. It shapes up as a year of “grab and go” food, limited access to resort food service, more outdoor barbecuing, dining and parking-lot tailgating!

Bear Valley Ski Resort is known for its welcoming staff, affordable ticket prices, terrain variety, and a commitment to providing the ultimate mountain experience.  The mountain offers 1,680 acres of varied terrain, 8 chairs (2 high-speed) and 2 surface lifts, more than 70 trails (and access to “adventure terrain”), two terrain parks with more than 18 features, and 1,900 vertical feet.  The resort averages over 30 feet of annual snowfall per year. 

Bear Valley on a sunny day, with Mokelumne River Canyon in background.

Several years ago, Bear debuted a new high-speed six-pack chairlift that transports six passengers at a time from the mid-mountain ski lodge to the top of the mountain, increasing guest uphill capacity of the mountain’s main artery. The new lift unloading terminal extended 120  feet further uphill than the previous lift, providing improved access to intermediate and advanced terrain, along with providing service to Bear West (the Backside), the Village Side and areas in the Upper and Lower Mountain bowls.

Bear is applying their Covid19 operations plan throughout each department to ensure the safety of their guests. Planned opening day (weather permitting) is Friday, November 27, then weekends only until full-time opening targeted for December 14. Ticket sales will require no reservations, though, if a day becomes overly busy, it’s conceivable ticket sales might have to be limited.

Families at Bear Valley often include both skiers and boarders.

Bear Valley Adventure Company also offers cross country skiing and snowshoeing on 3000 acres fanning out from Bear Valley Village. A number of season pass options are offered and the mountain has adopted a “Team” concept, with four packages of lessons for all ages and skill levels to improve skiing skills. Lodging is available at Bear Valley Lodge and other options in the village just below the mountain itself. For more insight, or phone (209) 753-2301.

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, family-owned and family-focused, is celebrating its 70th year this season while awaiting a good winter storm before announcing opening day. Throughout its long history the resort remains family-owned and loved by generations of families since its opening in 1950. (Authors note: I was a ski patroller at Dodge for 27 years, and three generations of my family have skied/boarded there).

Three kids and friendly Dodge Ridge instructor enjoy sunshine!

Dodge Ridge offers gentle terrain for learning and works to teach the masses to ski and ride; it also offers incredible tree skiing and advanced terrain, with about 40% rated for advanced skiers. Dodge Ridge’s skiable 862 acres extend far off to the east, to Chair 8 terrain with remarkable variety and stunning Sierra views into Boulder Creek Canyon.

With 1,600 vertical feet serviced by 8 chairlifts, a T-bar, rope tow and two Magic Carpet lifts, Dodge Ridge has something to offer beginners all the way to adrenaline-fueled skiers and riders. Special season pass deals are offered for adults, youth 6-12 and seniors 65-81 through the end of October. Single day lift ticket pricing will soon be announced, and kids five and under and seniors, 82 and older, ski free. The year will be a celebration of Dodge Ridge’s long devotion to family skiing and family-focused fun.

Boarders on one of two Dodge Ridge Magic Carpet lifts.

For cross country skiing or snowshoeing fans, Dodge Ridge rents gear for each and cross country trails fan out from the base area as well as several places along the Dodge Ridge access road. Pinecrest, just below, also offers cross country and snowshoeing opportunities along the snowy lakeshore.

A majority of the route along all-weather Hwy. 108 above Sonora is below the snowline, which makes it one of the easiest ski commutes available. A wide range of lodging and dining options are available in the Pinecrest area, just three miles below the ski resort.

For more information, or phone (209) 965-3474. 

Contact Tim,, follow him at skiing in the Sierra!

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Museums reopening in Stockton and Capital region

Safely visit museums as they reopen in Stockton and nearby towns…

We’ve been sheltering at home, mostly, for seven months, many of us working from home, retirees remaining home-bound – but many of our favorite places are beginning to carefully reopen. I’m talking about museums and visitor attractions in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties.

Openings are all tied to success in controlling the coronavirus. As both counties have moved into the red zone recently, museums are allowed to open at 25% of normal capacity, and museum staff and volunteers are working on re-opening plans exercising the ultimate in pandemic precautions. However, for museums closed for months, operating with reduced staff and facing daily changes in pandemic statistics, reopenings are moving targets – so check with your favorite haunts before heading out. And, plan to make visits exercising your own ultimate viral protections: facemasks, physical-distancing, hand-sanitizer, taking your own snacks and drinks and the like.

Tod Ruhstaller, CEO of the Haggin museum in Stockton‘s Victory Park, notes, “the Museum plans on reopening to the public on Wednesday, October 14th.  The health and safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff remain our highest priorities and we will be implementing protocols and procedures based upon guidelines established by our State and County Health Departments.  These include maximum occupancy of 25%, the wearing of masks, the availability of hand sanitizer within the museum, and signage reminding visitors to observe social distancing.  In addition, we will resume certain events which draw larger audiences such as our Late Night 1st & 3rd Thursdays once it is deemed safe to do so.  We look forward to welcoming back old friends and hopefully introducing the Haggin to first-time visitors.  For information on our hours and current exhibitions, please visit:

The Haines Houser Harvester is part of the Haggin’s collection which
reflects Stockton’s agricultural and industrial history.

The San Joaquin Historical Society, with museum and exhibits in Micke Grove Park between Stockton and Lodi, is working on a re-opening plan. Exec Director Kristina Swanson adds: “we recently launched a new digital educational resource,, which offers exhibits and resources, such as curriculum, for teachers and any students of history”.

Visit Stockton, the visitors bureau for Stockton and much of the county, offers additional insight. Wes Rhea, executive director, suggests watching their website and that of favorite museums for opening schedules since they can be moving targets. He adds, “enjoy the virtual tours of the Haggin at; the Children’s Museum at and I know the County Museum launched this earlier this summer”.

Captain Weber’s cottage graces the grounds of the San Joaquin Historical Museum.

Old Sacramento, west of downtown Sacramento on the Sacramento River, was the world’s seaport to the gold mines, anchored the Pony Express, the Transcontinental Telegraph and the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad.  By 1860 Sacramento had grown to be the second largest city in the west, eclipsed only by San Francisco.

Contained in the historic district are the California Military Museum, the California State Railroad Museum, the Delta King Riverboat (built in Stockton in 1927), the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware, the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum, the Sacramento History Museum and the Wells Fargo History Museum. Several of these museums offer creative on-line virtual tours and story-telling; check them out.

The Delta King, made in Stockton in 1927, is a
floating hotel and museum on the Old Sacramento waterfront.

The California Auto Museum, 2200 West Front St. (just blocks south of Old Sacramento) has just reopened; executive director Mark Steigerwald offers, “we were pleased to reopen the museum on Friday, October 9th. We’ve implemented necessary protocols to ensure the safety of our visitors with mandatory mask-wearing for all staff, volunteers and visitors and frequent sanitizing within the museum.

Tailfin of a 1958 Cadillac highlights the zenith of American car tailfin design, part of the
collection of 120-plus vintage autos at the California Auto Museum.

Our schedule will be somewhat reduced; we’ll be open from 10:00AM until 5:00PM with last admissions at 4:00PM, Thursday through Sunday. Thursdays will be reserved for museum members only. The visiting “Reel Cars” exhibit continues, featuring 20-plus classic vehicles used in movies like Fast and Furious, Ford versus Ferrari, Sabrina and many more. We look forward to welcoming you back”!

Consider your favorite destinations in your hometown and nearby communities, check their websites and plan exploratory, safe visits to help end your cabin fever.

This classic Nash Healey was featured in the Audrey Hepburn film Sabrina, and part
of the Reel Car exhibit on display at the California Auto Museum.
It’s neighbor to right appeared in the Ford versus Ferrari film.

For more info: California Auto Museum,; Haggin Museum,; Old Sacramento Business Association,; San Joaquin Historical Society,; Stockton,

Contact Tim,, or follow him:  Happy travels in the west!

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

Pandemic getaway to Breckenridge and central Colorado

Open-air restaurant dining on this closed section of Breckenridge’s Main Street was one of many eating and noshing options in this lovely old mining town.
Spouse Susan hiking on the Baker’s Tank Trail outside Breckenridge, one of scores of trails that surround this picturesque part of the Rocky Mountains.

Take a pandemic break to Breckenridge and central Colorado…

As the coronavirus pandemic continued and the West Coast
was enveloped in a grey, smoky haze from wildfires threatening multiple states,
our cabin fever mounted and Interval International’s hundreds of “last minute
getaways” for greatly discounted prices struck us a travel opportunity.

We homed in on Colorado, thinking to eyeball future
skiing destinations and more of the state’s grand scenery, and found a week’s
stay at Grand Colorado Resort at Peak 8, Breckenridge, for well less than $400
for the week and tacked on a similar, discounted week at Snowbird Resort in

Our first item was to check the Center for Disease
Control’s travel guidelines, which are very detailed. One of their
recommendations includes checking with state, county and city pandemic
requirements, and for Colorado, it was quickly apparent that all these
government entities took Covid19 seriously. So we packed enough soft drinks and
water for the better part of two weeks, and a sizable supply of bulk walnuts
and dried cranberries for travel snacks.

Prospectors first entered Summit County, Colorado during
the Pikes Peak gold rush in 1859; placer mining just east of Breckenridge
revealed rich gold deposits along the Blue and later, Swan Rivers. Soon deep
rock mining, hydraulic and dredge mining upended streambeds and scarred
mountain slopes east of the town.

In 1961, “white gold” added to the town’s attraction, when several ski trails were
cut on the lower part of Peak 8, connected to the town one mile away by Ski
Hill Road. In the years since, Breckenridge Ski Resort expanded on Peak 9, Peak
10 and other slopes northwest of town, making it one of the more highly
acclaimed Colorado ski resorts.


With the highest lift-serviced skiing in the United States, rising to 12,840 feet on Peak 8, the ski resort offers 35 lifts and the town spread at the base of the ski area –  a wonderful layout. During summer and fall months, the resort offers tram and chair lift rides, an Alpine slide and zip lines and a variety of kids activities.


Breckenridge is a lovely old town, featuring many turn-of-the-century homes and buildings. Due to the pandemic, a six-block stretch of Main Street is currently closed to autos, allowing for many retailers to offer outside merchandise displays and numerous restaurants to offer outside dining, shaded by umbrellas from the sunny skies. The town is also surrounded by scores of hiking and biking trails.


We booked a week at the Grand Colorado Lodge on Peak 8, which offers “people-free check-in”, with extensively equipped lobbies and concierge desks with plastic shields to keep airborne spread to a minimum and free facemasks, latex gloves and hand sanitizer. Their website offers extensive information as to how they’re sanitizing rooms and
common areas, as we witnessed throughout the week. The hotel
complex offered several indoor/outdoor heated pools and numerous hot tubs, all
accessed through a reservation system to keep utilization low and adhere to
pandemic safety guidelines.


From our resort, the Grand Colorado on Peak 8, we found
varying hiking routes, several close to our resort on the Peaks Trail
(highlighted by three moose cavorting in a small lake at end of one of our
outings), and others using the AllTrails app on our phones. One of the most
exciting was the trail into the Golden Horseshoe area, about 4 miles east of
town, a hike that promised in its 3.5 mile length examples of placer mining,
deep rock mining (the Country Boy Mine, open for tours) and dredge mining.


About 2.5 miles into a lovely hike, after seeing several modern prospectors trying their hand in the creek bed with placer mining using their gold pans and spying several hard rock mines on the surrounding sides of the valley, we came upon the remains of the Reiling Dredge, a huge, 250 foot long floating gold mining excavator and mill, which
had operated from 1898 until 1922. Now lying, half sunk in a small lake bed
among the miles of cobblestones piled up from its operation, it still reminds
one of the tremendous draw of gold that inspired legions of early prospectors.


From Breckenridge, a variety of day trips offer options to see other portions of this lovely state. Head south to find old mining towns of Fairplay and Buena Vista, then head west to Aspen, up and over Independence Pass at 12,103 feet, and just below the pass, Independence ghost town, offering the remnants of the old mill and company town that prospered from 1879 to the early 1880s. After the gold ran out, a tremendous snowstorm marooned the final hundred residents, forcing locals to fashion skis out of the battens of the gold mill and ski down to Aspen where most of them relocated. Other day trips can take you north and west to Vail, or east to Denver, with lovely Rocky Mountain
National Park further north.


For more information: BreckenridgeGobreck.comCenter for Disease Control,,


Contact Tim,, or follow him:
Happy travels in the west!


The Reiling Dredge, part of the extensive gold mining operations to east of Breckenridge, lies half submerged in a pond amongst miles of tailings from the mining operation 100 years ago.
Bull moose watches over two more in pond near our Breckenridge hotel.
The Colorado River between Vail and Steamboat Springs resplendent with fall colors.

Posted in Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado) | Leave a comment

Western US travel in pandemic times

Traveling safely the western US in COVID19 times

Months ago, as coronavirus pandemic unfolded and worldwide deaths mounted, we realized that our planned timeshare trips to Maui and Newport Beach, CA were not well-timed, so we joined and deposited our weeks in Interval international. As both our cabin fever mounted and California was enveloped by the catastrophic wildfires, Interval International’s hundreds of “last minute getaways” for greatly discounted prices struck us a nice escape.

So, we took a look at Colorado, with idea of both eyeing future skiing destinations and more of the state’s grand scenery, and found a week’s stay at Grand Colorado Resort at Peak 8, Breckenridge, for well less than $400 for the week. We added a week following, at Snowbird Resort in Utah at similar huge discount, and prepared to travel in the pandemic age.

Bull moose watches over his charges two blocks from our lovely Breckenridge hotel.

Our first measure was to check the Center for Disease Control’s travel guidelines, which are very detailed. One of their recommendations includes checking with state, county and city pandemic requirements, and for Colorado, it was quickly apparent that all these governments took Covid19 seriously.

Following those recommendations for food and drink, we packed enough soft drinks and water for the better part of two weeks, and a sizable supply of bulk walnuts and dried cranberries for travel snacks. For dining along the way, fast food drive through was our only option. In addition to ensuring our SUV had recent oil and filter change and normal travel emergency items, we focused on the pandemic personal protection items. Those included plenty of facemasks, hand sanitizer (with an extra large bottle to replenish smaller personal size containers), and plenty of infectious wipes as well, to wipe down motel/hotel key areas such as door knobs, kitchen or bathroom countertops.

We discussed in advance on our shopping guidelines. For groceries, we agreed on early morning arrival, with few customers. What few retailer visits we experienced were to outside-only displays, as Breckenridge merchants offer along a six-block closed stretch of their old Main Street, allowing lots of outdoor dining and merchandise viewing. Indoor shopping was not a part of our vacation plan! Aspen also featured plenty of outdoor dining and outside retailer merchandise displays.

Breckenridge offered plenty of open air dining and noshing on a closed Main Street.

Since we had the time, we took the scenic Highway 50 route most of the way, taking us across the “Loneliest Highway in America”, as the highway is deemed in Nevada, across Utah and into Colorado. It is a route with fewer travelers than Interstate 80, and rich in Native American, Pony Express and pioneer history, as well as scenic vistas. The route also offered easy detours to such national parks as Great Basin in eastern Nevada and Arches in Utah (our visit to Arches in Utah allowed plenty of social distancing between the parks hundreds of arches and other-worldly rock formations).

On a state by state basis, Nevada retailers seemed lackadaisical in posting and requiring facemasks; about a half of visitors, particularly younger in age, seemed unable to utilize facemasks nor worry about distancing themselves.

Utah showed more attention to that detail, though about half the tourists we passed in Arches National Park had no masks. Fortunately, in that wonderful outdoor temple, plenty of room to give them a wide berth.

Landscape Arch, spanning more than length of a football field, Arches NP.

In Colorado, retailers, gas and convenience stops uniformly post “no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service”, (or signs to that effect). For those few that don’t, we bypass them!

Only in Nevada, and Utah’s Arches National Park, have we witnessed large groups of people with little regard to Covid19 precautions (all too frequently, scofflaws appear to be in the “under-35 group”.

We chose one or two story motels in both Ely, NV, and Grand Junction, CO, so we could avoid elevators to higher floors, and in each case hotel staff exercised high pandemic precautions. In Ely, after reserving a room, the motel emailed us to tell us that if we went to room 11, the door would be unlocked and we could find the key inside the room. Hence, no personal contact whatever in that motel.

In Colorado, we’re staying at the Grand Colorado Lodge on Peak 8, where they offer “people-free check-in”, have extensively equipped lobbies and concierge desks with plastic shields to keep airborne spread to a minimum, and offer free masks, latex gloves and hand sanitizer. Their website offers extensive information as to how they’re sanitizing rooms and common areas, as we witnessed throughout the week. Here we feel almost as safe as if we were sheltering in place at home.

Our primary activities here included 5 to 7 mile morning hikes in the Breckenridge area, where trails allowed lots of room to pass occasional fellow hikers or mountain bikers, and several day tours to destinations such as Aspen, about three hours away. The town appeared to take equally seriously pandemic facts of life, with banners along the streets and signs in the restaurants noting pandemic precautions required. Touring the old ghost town of Independence, we saw only two other people, a quarter of a mile away.

Spouse Susan hiking the Baker’s Tank hiking trail to almost 11,000 feet,
just outside Breckenridge.

One footnote: In such a lovely place as Colorado, it’s easy to forget that the pandemic is prevalent here, as it is elsewhere in the US. So, remembering to wash hands, use hand sanitizer and automatically mask up when outside your vehicle or hotel room can be easily forgotten.

For more information: Breckenridge,; Center for Disease Control,; Colorado,

Contact Tim,, or follow him:  Happy travels in the west!

Aspens, maples changing color above Utah’s Olympic bobsled run near Park City.

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Lassen Volcanic National Park in the age of pandemics

Touring Lassen Volcanic National Park in late summer…

Boiling hot springs, steaming fumaroles, sulfuric mud pots, multiple volcanic peaks – fire and ice. Like a small version of Yellowstone National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park happily lies only 3 1/2 hours from San Joaquin County. One of nine national parks in our state, it’s both inspiring and much more lightly visited. 

Hoping to get out of the wildfire-smoked skies of central California, we looked at the air quality forecasts and bet that Lassen might be out of the smoke. We took the scenic route to get there, following Highway 49 through Nevada city, Downieville, Sierra City and connecting to Highway 89 for a route the took us past scenic Lake Almanor.

The Lakes Region lies above Sierra City, framed by the rugged Sierra Buttes North.

Towing our vintage 64 Scotty camp trailer, we turned off Highway 49 just above Sierra City, following the Gold Lake Road into the Lakes District and spent one night on beautiful Gold Lake at  6500 feet, lying in the shadow of the Sierra Buttes North. The Buttes are jagged peaks, with multiple lakes and campgrounds – though the smoke here was still pretty thick, we made a note to revisit in clearer weather.

Happily, as we reached Lake Almanor and started to ascend towards the southwest Lassen Park entrance, the smoke dissipated and we found ourselves in clear air and blue skies. 

Our Scotty trailer, with Lake Helen and Mt. Lassen in background.
Hwy. 89 winds 32 miles through the park, with frequent stops to
see the volcano’s might from the 1914 to 1921 volcanic activity period.

Lassen, at the south end of the Cascade Mountain Range, is part of the “pacific ring of fire“, a string of volcanoes surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Lassen formed about 27,000 years ago from a volcanic vent on the flank of Brokeoff volcano (which is about a half million years old), resulting in one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes, rising to 10,457 feet. 

The visitor center explains the four types of volcanoes found throughout the world, all of which can be found within the park. Those include composite volcanoes (Brokeoff Volcano), plug dome (Mt. Lassen), shield (Prospect Peak) and cinder cone (Cinder Cone). Mature children and teens will have an interesting time attempting to identify these four types of volcanoes on the park’s horizons.

Bumpass Hell’s boardwalk winds its way through this eerie hydrothermal area.
Hot Rock in foreground, just after the 1915 explosion that leveled the Devastated Area (courtesy, National Park Service photo)

Towing our trailer, we proceeded on to our reserved campsite in scenic Manzanita Lake Campground on the park’s northwest corner. It’s a big campground with several hundred sites spread throughout tall fir and pine trees. We sited our trailer, then walked to the southern campground end and hiked up the Manzanita Creek Trail in the direction of Lassen Volcano (All Trails is a good app to identify nearby hiking trails and their degrees of difficulty).

The next morning, we started early, retracing about half our drive through the park to reach the Bumpass Hell trailhead. Here a 3.5 mile round trip hike took us first up, and then down into the valley called Bumpass Hell. In 1864 mountaineer and explorer Kendall Bumpass first discovered this hissing, steaming hydrothermal area. He and his partner, Major Pearson Reading filed a claim with the intention of developing it as a tourist attraction and mining its minerals. Soon thereafter, Bumpass broke through the thin crust into a boiling mud pot at nearly 240°, causing severe burns and the loss of his leg, interrupting his development dream.

Author’s spouse Susan next to 25,000 lb. boulder hurled off Mt. Lassen,
three miles away, leveling the Devastated Area in 1915.

The 32 mile drive through the park, from south west to north west entrances offers a wealth of interesting points-of-interest, including the Sulfur Works, the Bumpass Hell trail head, the Lassen Peak trailhead (requiring a 2000+ foot ascent of the south east side of the peak), Kings Creek trailhead down to Kings Creek Falls, the Summit Lake area with two campgrounds and the Devastated Area, which was leveled by the volcanic explosion, covered with pumice, ash and mudflows and littered with boulders the size of cars blasted off the peak almost 3 miles away. Stop further down the road at Hot Rock, a huge boulder that remained hot to the touch for days after the volcanic blast. The park is interlaced with 150 miles of trails including 18 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

Visitors can find three campgrounds, Manzanita Lake, Summit Lake North and Summit Lake South. The less-visited eastern side of the park is interlaced with several score large and small lakes, the Painted Dunes area, lava beds and more. It’s a hiker’s paradise, with limited vehicle access to the eastern, wilderness-designated portion of the park.

Lovely Manzanita Lake, looking NW, from the campground on its shore.

Please practicepandemic/leave no trace methods, donning facemasks, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from fellow visitors and packing out all of your trash.

How to get there: from Stockton it’s about 250 miles taking the most direct route (I-5 to Red Bluff, then east on Hwy. 36 and 89 to the park’s southwest entrance). The scenic route, about 100 miles longer, is up I-5, east on I-80, follow scenic and historic Highway 49, connecting with highway 89 into the park. Definitely check the road report – Hwy. 89 through the park is not open until July and close early in fall due to snows.

What’s nearby: Mount Shasta and Burney Falls State Park to the north; Chester and pretty Lake Almanor to the east, and Redding and Shasta State Historic Park to the west.

Burney Falls State Park is a nearby destination.

For more information: Lassen Volcanic National Park, nps/gov/lavo, (530) 595-6100.

Contact Tim,, or follow him:  Happy travels in the west!

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

Record website allows access to hundreds of travel articles!

Search on-line travel features in the Record; a huge variety of destinations and travel topics!

Did you know the Record offers a wide variety of travel features, well over 300 articles, which can be selected by “Category” (various portions of the USA and Canada, Europe and beyond)?

Hence, you can go to the Stockton Record’s blog site, choose ‘Valley Travel: Little Places That I Know’, go to the upper right-hand corner of my home page (under my winsome picture, as you will see, above), and you’ll find “Categories”.

You’ll find this portion of my blog in upper right hand area of the blog home page.

Find the “Categories” option in the upper right-hand corner of my travel blog home page, then click on the appropriate selection. Those categories include:

Canada, Eastern,
Canada, Western,
Central California,
East Coast US,
Midwest US,
Mountain West (Montana Wyoming, Utah, Colorado),
Northern California,
Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho),
Sacramento/Capital region,
San Francisco Bay Area,
Sierra Nevada,
Southeast US,
Southern California,
Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas),
Stockton/San Joaquin county,
Teardrop and tiny travel trailers,
United States beyond

Hence, if you’re headed to the Pacific Northwest, click that category and you’ll find dozens of articles on places and special sites in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. If you have a hot spot for teardrop and tiny travel trailers, click that category for scores of articles about touring the US and Canada in tiny, efficient travel trailers. Freshen your travel planning with advice on just those places you want to go, places you’d like to get to, or modes of travel! Just into a New Year; time to freshen up your travel “bucket list”!

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

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Road trip; Calavaras County, Murphys, Big Trees, Bear Valley, Lake Alpine!

Come explore: Calavaras County, Murphys, Big Trees, Bear Valley, Lake Alpine!

Resorts packed with family activities, towns awash in gold rush history, towering redwood trees, high Sierra lakes and…glamping tents… all along Highway 4 bisecting nearby Calaveras County.

Take a break from the valley heat and our forest fire smoke-laden skies with a road trip up to Calaveras County, and prepare for a laid-back adventure.

New Melones Lake is just south of Highway 4 and is one of the largest reservoirs in the state, winding miles easterly into the Sierra. Houseboats, ski and fishing boats are offered for rent at the marina of the same name (, and two nearby campgrounds just off Highway 49 offer scenic camping options. For an interesting detour, turn south off Highway 4 on Parrots Ferry Road, to the tall concrete bridge over the lake. On your approach to the bridge, note that the center span of the bridge has about a five-foot sag (the drupe not intended) that required special bracing added underneath the bridge to shore it up.

Grove of towering redwoods in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

Stop in Murphys, long a favorite among gold rush fans. Main Street reflects success in  historic preservation and offers many places to dine or spend an overnight. Favorite eateries include the historic Murphys Hotel and, just down the street, the highly-acclaimed Alchemy Restaurant. A variety of quaint shops, B&Bs and wine-tasting outlets (Twisted Oak, Zucca Mountain Vineyards and Milliare are favorites) line a pleasant. shady five-block walk. Ever-popular Ironstone Vineyards and Winery is just a few miles above the town, offering fine wines and outdoor entertainment.

Cruising east, visit Calaveras Big Trees State Park, home to scores of towering redwoods reaching up to 250 feet tall. Largest, in the park’s South Grove, is the Louis Agassiz tree, reaching well over 250 feet in height and 25 feet in diameter. The nearby North Grove is home to the Empire State Tree, almost as large. The park offers brisk, fairly level hiking options, camping among the redwoods, cabins for rent and tours led by rangers offering big tree’s insight.

Historic Murhpys Hotel anchors their venerable main drag and is a favorite for both food and drink in this charming old city.

Heading up highway 4, the town of Arnold offers several places for a snack and late-trip provisioning. Circling the town find the increasingly popular Arnold Rim Trail (, featuring a popular hike to take families up 900 vertical feet on a 4 mile round-trip hike to the top of Cougar Rock for marvelous sunset views spreading across the Sierra foothills.

Bear Valley Resorts popular “glamping tents” offer visitors all the comforts
and view deep into the Mokelumne River Valley.

Bear Valley Resort has long focused on summertime family fun with a host of adventure packages and variety of lodging options. Boasting an adventure park, hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, kids activities, archery, outdoor movies, good food and live music, it’s a mecca for families; though plan pandemic precautions, including masks and plenty of social distancing.

The resort continues to offer it’s popular ‘glamping tent’ options, with expedition-style tents pitched with a stunning view into the Mokelumne River Canyon. The tents are fully furnished with queen bed, bedding, rugs, chairs, tables, lamps wood-burning heaters, perfect for couples or small families (with additional sleeping options). RV camping and hotel accommodations are also offered; and you can plan your coming winter ski or snow-shoe trip!

Bear Valley Village, Bear Valley Mountain and nearby Lake Alpine offer visitors lots of options to venture out into the scenic mountain country. The area is a boon for hiking, fishing, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing and camping. Lying just east of Bear Valley, Lake Alpine is a high Sierra gem set at 7,388 feet, with canoeing, kayaking and fishing and the Lake Alpine Resort as well as nearby campgrounds in the Stanislaus National Forest. For a challenging hike, take the trail up to Inspiration Point for great sunrise or sunset views. For four-wheelers, head south from Lake Alpine on the Slick Rock 4WD Trail to reach both Utica Reservoir and Union Reservoir.

Lake Alpine offers several resorts, fishing, swimming and fine views on Hwy. 4.

Press ever higher, to historic Ebbetts Pass at8,736 feet, reputed to be the first Sierra pass crossed by a non-Native American, when Jedediah Smithcrossed the Sierra in spring, 1827. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail crosses here, offering high altitude hiking options going north or south with the most alluring Sierra views. Views headed either north or south are breath-taking, though altitude of 9,000-plus feet also take one’s breath away!

How to get there: Take Highway 4 east to reach New Melones Reservoir, Murphys, Calaveras Big Trees, Bear Valley and Lake Alpine. Murphys is about 60 miles and 1.5 hours from Stockton.

For more information: Arnold Rim Trail,, Bear Valley Resort,, (209) 753-2301; Calaveras Big Trees Park,, (209) 795-2334; Lake Alpine Resort,, (209) 753-6350; Visit Calaveras,, (800) 225-3764.

Contact Tim at, or follow his blog, Happy travels in your world!

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

Exploring in your own back yard…

In this brave new world we live in, it’s the perfect time to explore, literally, in your own backyard. Admire the plants and fauna that you find in your yard, from native plants, plants you’ve selected/planted, and native populations of bees, birds, butterflies and more. Take your morning coffee outdoors, and admire the excitement of nature around you.

Or explore nearby parks and recreational opportunities; Stockton offers regional parks like Oak Grove Regional Park, estuaries accessed by trails like the Calaveras River Bike Trail, the downtown Deepwater Channel and Joan Darrah Promenade, or miles of hiking possibilities on the San Joaquin Delta just to the west. Lodi offers Lodi Lake Park, Micke Grove Regional Park, and just north of Thorton, the lovely Cosumnes River Preserve. Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy offer a network of parks and hiking/biking trails, and Caswell Memorial State Park follows the Stanislaus River just south of Ripon.

So, grab those walking shoes and your trekking poles, or your bikes and check out local attractions!

Reach Tim at, or follow him Happy travels in your neighborhood!

Egret in marsh, Cosumnes River Preserve.

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

Notes from the road in the age of COVID19

How to travel safely in the age of COVID19

We are now nearing end of month five of the COVID pandemic impact upon our lives. After a few nearby road trips, we are planning an upcoming six day camping trip to California’s north state, with a several night stop in Lassen Volcanic National Park. My spouse and I, retired, are of the age where we pay rapt attention to the pandemic facts of life. A recent rebound in cases and deaths across the US has our highest attention. So, we don’t travel outside our home without considerable circumspection and aforethought. Here are factors that play into our thinking.

Frozen Lake Helen, with Mt. Lassen looming in background, Lassen National Park.

Focus first on the great outdoors, outside your own door. Relax in your backyard, sitting in the shade, with a pair of binoculars and a cold drink, checking out birds, butterflies and critters that visit. Explore your own neighborhood, admiring neighbor’s yards and other nearby attractions. Journey to the great outdoors within your city and county. Oak Grove Regional Park, Lodi Lake Park, Cosumnes River Preserve (just north of the county line, above Thornton), Caswell Memorial State Park in Ripon, the wild areas in Manteca and Tracy and the San Joaquin River Delta along our county’s west side offer truly wild and memorable spaces.

Author’s grandkids picking blackberries in Cosumnes River Preserve,
just north of Thornton, CA.

Bike and hiking trails bisect all of these cities, offering relatively safe and hassle-free access to gems nearby. As example, the Calaveras River bike Trail in Stockton connects east and west destinations and is split in the middle by University of Pacific, a lovely campus full of interesting  destinations and attractions in its own right. And from UOP, follow Kensington and Baker southbound to get to Stockton’s Deepwater channel. The Joan Darrah Promenade circles the channel taking in on the North Shore the Stockton Ports Ballpark, Stockton Arena, linking to Weber Point Event Center, the Waterfront Warehouse, Stockton Marina and Stockton Children’s Museum on the south shore.

The lovely San Joaquin River Delta offers plenty of nearby touring destinations.

In the last five months, following the COVID-19 pandemic machinations, we’ve done a pretty good job of checking out local hiking and biking destinations. We have journeyed a bit further afield to some hiking and biking options in neighboring counties, avoiding weekends when crowds form. Three weeks ago, we took a day trip up to the western shore of Lake Tahoe, hiked the Mt. Tallac Trail and spent a leisurely lunch and early afternoon on Baldwin Beach. We left with a full tank of gas, brought in our own food and drink and had no interaction with Tahoe residents but for passing a few of them on the hiking trail from a distance of 6 to 10 feet (we wore masks, most of the other hikers did not). On the beach, it was easy to keep 20 to 40 feet of distance.

DeRosa University Center, just off the Calaveras Bike Trail,
allows bikers to stop for a respite on the lovely University of Pacific campus.

After I wrote about the trip, I received a thoughtful email from a Tahoe resident, decrying the impacts of the crush of visitors on Lake Tahoe in recent months. She went on to note that their cities are not set up to handle an onslaught of visitors, residents fear the Covid virus being brought into their towns, that many visitors don’t practice medically-sanctioned precautions and too many leave trash. After swapping several emails, I thought it was worth writing about, again.

Hence, Covid19 travel suggestions from my wife and me:

  • First, explore the world near your back door, in your own city and county, first.
  • Second, only when COVID19 realities affirm, look to nearby attractions across county lines.
  • Target attractions on “off-days”; we almost always avoid traveling on weekends, to beat crowds.
  • Target lesser-known destinations for day trips or longer. Skip Lake Tahoe at present, look to parks in the East Bay Hills, like Round Valley Regional Park or Black Diamond Mines Preserve, or Sierra foothills like Indian Grinding Rocks State Park, Marshall Gold Discovery Park, Pinecrest Lake or Silver Lake (plenty of Forest Service campgrounds in the Sierra, as well).
  • Check the county of destination and local chamber of commerce websites for COVID updates.
  • Strive to be self-contained: Leave with a full tank of gas, take your own food and drink; with our little trailer, we do our own meals and can travel to a nearby national park like Lassen Volcanic with nary a brush with other people. In the campground, we stick to ourselves and will hike early, on lesser known trails (hiking apps like All Trails offer low-traffic options).
  • Be the poster child for Covid19 precautions: Gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, maintain more than 6 feet of distance, avoid crowded locations. If you do shop or dine outside, avoid retailers who don’t require shoppers to mask up or restaurants which don’t allow 6 feet or more distance. Focus on outdoor, no crowd destinations (hiking trails, out of way beaches, outdoor seating with plenty of space).

Lassen National Park, here we come, with a vow to “leave no trace”!

Contact Tim at; search his blog, Stay safe, maintain your distance and remain resolute!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Route 66; road tripping with history and panache!

Road trip on Route 66; find history and mystery!

“Get your kicks on Route 66”, goes the popular song from 1946 by Bobby Troup. My first exposure to Route 66 occurred summer of 1962, when my mother packed my two brothers and me in the back of a Ford station wagon towing a Nimrod tent trailer and set off from Ohio to Chicago, then following Route 66 all the way to Southern California. Before our dad flew into Los Angeles to join us – we had two weeks on our own, on a journey that changed my life.

Route 66 was rerouted in the 1930s, from its end in Los Angeles,
to a more scenic conclusion at the Santa Monica Pier.

With travel dreams on your mind and time to plan future trips, consider Route 66. Named America’s Mother Road, the historic route connected existing highways in 1927 and knit them together in a new Route 66; our government responding to the continuing popularity of automobiles and more and more American’s willingness to travel long distances.

For the route’s debut, gas went for $.16-$.18 a gallon, new Fords and Chevys could be bought for $350 and $525, respectively – a large sum in those days – and Americans were beginning to revel in the open road. Then came the Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II and its aftermath – more and more Americans used the highway to head west to rebuild their lives.

Historic gas station in Monrovia, on old Rt. 66.

The new highway took shape in 1926 and debuted in 1927.  The result was a meandering 2,445 mile highway that began in Chicago and crossed Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, ending in Los Angeles (10 years later the western terminus was shifted to Santa Monica). Aggressively promoted by the US 66 Highway Association as “the shortest, best and most scenic route from Chicago to Los Angeles”, travelers poured westward!  

Large to tiny towns along the newly christened Route 66 looked at the road as an opportunity to promote their businesses, restaurants, motor courts and gas stations.  And, today, many of these towns actively promote the “Mother Road” with museums, preserved service stations and motor courts, wall murals and more. Nostalgia reigns supreme!

The El Garces Hotel, once a venerable Harvey House,
on old Rt. 66 in Needles, CA.

President Eisenhower, seeing the success of the German Autobahn during the war, spurred the construction of a new, Federal four-lane highway system in 1956 that would become today’s Interstate system.  Five new Interstates (I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15 and I-10) would steadily replace Route 66 over almost 30 years, and in 1985 Route 66 was decommissioned (Williams, AZ was the last town bypassed).

To tour all eight states, Chicago to Santa Monica, you need at least 2 to 3 weeks. Better, for most, is to tackle the old highway in smaller segments.

Here is the compressed eight state route of historic Route 66.

Today, we’ll focus upon California and Arizona. We toured our first segment, from Williams, Arizona west to California’s border six years ago, followed by the Oklahoma, Texas and eastern New Mexico portion, then the Needles, CA to Santa Monica section four years ago, and, more recently, the stretch from St. Louis, Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma. We still have the Chicago to St. Louis stretch to navigate – hopefully a diversion on our next trip across the central US.

Our favorite Route 66 memories would fill more than this column allows.  But, in California they have to include Needles and the grand old El Garces Hotel (an old Harvey House Hotel) built in 1906, the Needles Theatre, circa 1930 and old Union 76 and Texaco gas stations.  Like most states, California offers a good guidebook, offering notes like the moldering remains of the old Carty’s Camp Motor Court, featured in the Grapes of Wrath movie, just behind the Route 66 Motel. In lovely Monrovia, find the old Aztec Hotel and preserved service stations as they appeared in the 1930s, making the town a worthy stop. Amboy features the historic Roy’s Motel and Restaurant, and the end of the route, the Santa Monica Pier, retains its nostalgia. 

The historic Aztec Hotel in Monrovia, CA.

Arizona’s Williams takes a top spot for creatively capitalizing on the nostalgia of the old highway, and, just west, the tiny town of Ash Fork, with abandoned truck stop and motels, the town almost dried up, is sober testimony of a city that lost its luster when bypassed by the new Interstate. However, the next town west, Seligman, offers an example of how a small town off I-40 can recapture much of its grandeur by focusing on the highway’s drawing power.

The Canyon Club is an historic watering hole on Rt. 66 in Williams, AZ.

Near the California/Arizona border, at the end of a long, lonely stretch of Rt. 66, is the mountain town of Oatman, site of a half-dozen movies, still featuring the vibe of bygone days, and almost overwhelmed by wild burros that roam the city’s streets and mooch from visitors!

The Copper Cart, a local emporium on old Rt. 66, Seligman, AZ.
Wild burros welcome visitors to Oatman, AZ.
Wild burros mooch for food in Oatman, AZ.

By the way, that 1962 family trip down Route 66, then north through California and Idaho into Yellowstone Park, hooked me on the west and left me forever nostalgic about the old highway. That led me to a summer job in Yellowstone Park four years later where I met my future spouse. How can we not tour the balance of that old highway that changed my life?

For more info on Route 66: Overall historic Route 66:; for turn by turn insight,; California,; Arizona, (other states have their own statewide associations).

Abandoned truck stop in Ash Fork, AZ, just three blocks off the then new I-40, offers mute testimony to the destiny of towns bypassed by the Interstate system.

Contact Tim at; search his blog, Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment
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