Sacramento day-trips to regional secret gardens

Gardens grow everything from edibles and flowers to botanical history and strange works of art. Use leisure time to explore nearby secret gardens – conventional and not. Slow down. Enjoy the landscapes. Getting there is half the fun. To unearth these secrets use GPS, Google Maps, road maps, and age-old technology of calling ahead for directions.

Go Discover! Lotus Valley Nursery & Gardens
Petersen Lane, Lotus, CA 

Lotus Valley Nursery & Garden Credit Barbara L Steinberg3A quick retreat up Highway 50 east to Ponderosa Road, left across the highway and right on North Shingle. Wind your way and stay left at the ‘Y’ onto Lotus Road, left at the Bassi Road stop sign and stay straight onto Petersen Lane. Views of the American River are on your right before turning into Lotus Valley Nursery & Gardens’ secreted entrance.

Owners, Joe and Bob, turned a three-acre old homestead into a heaven of ornamental grasses and demonstration gardens. They invite you to come and discover. Bob’s handcrafted sculptures and water features are cleverly displayed in the “Tin Room Gallery” and throughout the garden. You can spend quiet hours strolling, picnicking, and contemplating. A variety of serene sitting areas beckon. Clearly, they want you to stay.  Plenty of other nearby distractions keep you close, including local wineries. Open Wed-Sun 9am to 5pm through November. Open in the winter by appointment. Lotus Valley is magical.

Continue down Lotus Road to Highway 49 north to the Dave Moore Nature Area along the south fork of the American River; half the trails are wheelchair accessible. If you skipped the picnic, there are plenty of breakfast, lunch and dinner options at Lotus and Coloma. You can loop back to Sacramento along Highway 49 to Interstate 80 – enjoy the scenic route which is about 100 miles round-trip.

Go Explore! Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture
Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture Credit Barbara L Steinberg30
South Burson Road, Valley Springs, CA

Take Highway 99 south to Highway 26 east towards Valley Springs. Ready yourself for scenic vistas. Two-lane country roads framed by orchards, vineyards, and small towns are visually soothing. On 52 acres, owners Denise and Kresimir are cultivating art and relationships along groomed trails and undulating hillsides. The winding road delivers sculptures, hospitality, wine tasting, spring wildflowers, and beautiful views. Ranch hikes are an adventure in search of sometimes elusive art installations and views of Calaveras County foothills from the “Top of the World.” Call ahead for an appointment and directions.

If you still have time on your return, Lodi wineries are plentiful and freeway-close.

Go Seek! Regional Parks Botanic Garden
Intersection of Wildcat Canyon Road & South Park Drive, Berkeley, CA

It’s a straight shot down Interstate 80 to urbane and sometimes eccentric Berkeley. Day-trippers overlook that East Bay Regional Park District protects
secret gardens and thousands of acres of open space in the Berkeley hills. The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is a charming destination and less than 90 miles from downtown Sacramento. Ten acres of California native plants are organized by geographic regions of the state.  The garden was established by James Roof in the 1940s and contains rare and endangered species such as Presidio Manzanita and Small-leaved Rose. Regional Parks Botanic Garden Credit Barbara L Steinberg3Built along meandering trails and bridges the garden feels primordial. Grassy areas are perfect for running; children are welcome to do so.


The annual April spring plant sale is a rare opportunity to purchase plants propagated from the Garden’s collection. Many of these California native plants are available nowhere else.  All proceeds benefit the Garden. Free public tours are held most rain-free weekends and group tours are available by special arrangement.

Just a few miles away, the stunning University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is 34 acres of formal gardens and glasshouses, with more than 13,000 different kinds of plants from around the world.

Go Sac! Go Yol! Go Sol! Gardens Galore
Gardens at Sacramento Old City Cemetery Credit Anita Clevenger3Sacramento gardens are many. Don’t be surprised, but none more special than those at the Old City Cemetery! The 3-acre Historic Rose Garden gives life to nearly 500 antique and old garden roses many found in abandoned sites, homesteads, cemeteries, and roadsides throughout northern California. The aroma is heavenly.  Hamilton Square, named after Alexander Hamilton’s youngest son, contains perennials from all five Mediterranean climates of the world.  A California Native Plant Society has created a garden among the headstones. It’s phenomenal in the springtime.

Garden lovers rejoice! The options are many and close-by. In adjacent Yolo County, the 1.5-acre UC Davis Good Life Garden at the Mondavi Center Institute for Wine and Food Science is an edible and ornamental Fairfield Suisun Valley Glashoff Sculpture Credit Are You That Womanlandscape. Learn new gardening concepts and eat healthy, too!

Cross one more county border into Solano. A well-kept secret, Suisun Valley hides the fantastical Phillip Glashoff Sculpture Garden. Williams Road, a country lane off Suisun Valley Road, does not easily give up this secret. Wander the driveway and no farther. Dozens of sculptures along the way and in the field will leave you wide-eyed.  Easier to spot is another small collection on Rockville Road.

 

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Barbera Festival Highlights California's Celebrated Varietal Wine

Barbera festivalCourtesy of Balzac Communications & Marketing

More than 70 California wineries will present their wines at the 7th Annual Barbera Festival, taking place on September 16, 2017 at Terra d’Oro Winery in the Amador Foothills. New this year, wineries will not only showcase Barbera varietal wines, but also a limited selection of other Italian varietals, such as Sangiovese, Vermentino, Montepulciano, Fiano, and Nebbiolo.

The Barbera Festival is an outdoor wine and food festival highlighting Barbera varietal wines from more than 70 wineries from throughout California and beyond, including the Sierra Foothills, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Paso Robles, Livermore, Ventura County, Lodi and the Bay Area. In addition, noted area restaurants and chefs will again offer prepared gourmet food for sale, and more than 60 vendors of art and artisan crafts will be showcasing their wares.

“While Barbera becomes more and more popular in California, these wines still remain fairly obscure,” says Brian Miller, founder of the festival. “We started the festival several years ago to draw focus to this delicious varietal wine, and it’s grown into a huge success. Each year is a sell-out and we constantly get feedback from wine enthusiasts how much they love it.”

Barbera originated in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. John Doyle (Cupertino Wine Company, and later Las Palmas Winery) first imported Barbera into California and produced his first Barbera vintage in 1884. Post-prohibition, Louis Martini was the first to produce a varietal Barbera (a wine labeled as Barbera) in 1954. Today, about 7,000 acres are planted in California and nearly 200 California wineries produce Barbera wines. Barbera can also be found from Washington State, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa.

The 2017 Barbera Festival will again be held at Terra d’Oro/Montevina Winery, from 11:00am to 4:00pm on September 16, 2017. Tickets are $50 and must be purchased online in advance at http://barberafestival.com. Tickets include admittance, wine tasting, and commemorative wine glass. Food is sold separately. Free parking is available on-site. Attendees must be 21 or older to taste or purchase wine, and will be required to show photo I.D. as proof of age.

Check here for lists of participating wineries, artists, restaurants, and musicians.

All proceeds from the festival benefit the Amador Community Foundation.

Terra d'Oro Winery
20680 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, California 

Balzac Communications & Marketing


Whitney Portal Store & Hostel

4 Star Star Star Star - You don't have to climb to #loveWhitneyHostel

Whitney Portal Store & HostelSo remiss on my part for not penning this review sooner.  Whitney Portal Store & Hostel was the perfect overnight location on my short visit to Lone Pine.  I arrived later than expected and found the lobby open and staff waiting to check me in. A long day in Bishop, I happily climbed the stairs to my second-story private room and queen bed. Clean, quiet, TV, microwave and in-room coffee maker. I was a happy camper; minus the camping, of course. I was in Lone Pine for the annual Owens Lake Bird Festival. The hostel was conveniently located just a few blocks from the festival headquarters. Up just after dawn, it made for an easy morning commute.

For those on a budget, the dorm-style Owens Lake Bird Festival OWAC Bishiop 2017 Credit Barbara L Steinberg04rooms (male and female) are the best deal and all rooms have private baths. Views of Mt. Whitney come at no extra charge. The hostel is downtown Lone Pine and an easy walk to local stores and restaurants.


I didn't have a chance to really check out all the hostel has to offer as I was up and gone so early - I would likely have give then that fifth star had I been there longer. Thank you to owners Doug and Earlene Thompson!

Next time a longer visit and that extra star!

 

 

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Make Lemonade

Interesting that I wrote this more than 10 years ago, just publishing for the first time today and adding the current year's date. California will remember the winter of 2017.

We've all heard the old adage about when life gives you lemons.

Caples Lake Sierra Nevada Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2017The same can be said about California waters. Dry winters of little rain or snow translate into lackluster springs. The early browning of grasses across mountains and valleys; a mere window of time between the chill of winter and the fire of summer. In other words, no lemonade.

But in winters of plenty: Plenty of snow, plenty of rain and plenty of cold, that's a lemonade year. Hills above Fish Slough Credit David Mazel

While Californians pine and moan about the winter weather, I say, "Go live where they actually have winter weather! Places like South Dakota or Minnesota. Our winters of plenty--such as 2017--translate into a spring exploding with wildflowers from the hottest desert valleys to the coldest mountain peak. Our winters of plenty mean landscapes of wildflower eye candy.

Thank you Mother Nature for a winter abundant with lemons and a spring overflowing with lemonade.

 

 

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Roots to Wine in the rolling green valleys of Yolo County California

Barbara Matchbook Wines Credit Janet Fullwood 2016

After too many years of little rain, California's valleys are lush with agricultural bounty thanks to plentiful rainfall. The back-roads of western Yolo County are shaking off their winter blues for the rich greens of spring and summer. Vineyards and orchards are humming back to life and soon will be burdened with luscious fruit. Family farms will labor to produce world-class wines, olive oils, and jams and jellies -- providing eager visitors with Mother Earth's very best.

That "best" isn't just about buttery Chardonnays and deeply rich Tempranillo or grassy olive oil. It's also about a sense of place, restful views, and family-friendly farms full of smiles. Bring a map and leave GPS behind. Let a quieter pace guide you through rolling hills and along numbered county roads -- a simpler time. Allow yourself to get lost in Yolo.

Roots to Wine, a guide to western Yolo County, is everything you'll need for this idyllic getaway either day-tripping or overnight. More is always better! Like so many before, you'll be saying, "I never knew this existed!"

Now you do!


Back roads lead to Vannatta Wine in Elk Grove

Vannatta winery Credit Are You That Woman 2016Sweet, warm, welcoming. Country charm, family-friendly, so unexpected! The back roads of Elk Grove lead to Vannatta Wine. So glad I took that long and winding Sheldon Road under oak canopies to their "front door". Jamie greeted me so fantastically -- big hug! Steve was hurrying behind the pour on this Harvest Festival weekend. A good crowd, but not overwhelming. Live music on the patio under shade and sunny, blue skies. Tiny feet tirelessly enjoyed their first time on the grape stomp while the adults savored reds and whites paired with handmade pizzas by Flour Dust Pizza Company. I sampled the Chardonnay 2015 -- peachy and tropical -- and the Batalla 2014 aged for 24 months in French Oak -- it's yummy!  This is wine country the way I like it -- slow and easy. Many people I spoke with said, "It's my first time - it's amazing!" I agree and I'll definitely be back. Bocce ball and dog lovers head this way! 
Tastings are $5. If you purchase a bottle, the fee is deducted. 

Hours
M-Th by appointment
F 5-9pm
Sa-Su Noon-5pm
8718 Grant Line Road
Elk Grove, Ca 95624

 
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Stay the night in Visit Woodland in Yolo County on the road again

Fairfield Inn Suites  Sacramento  Airport Woodland  Credit Are You  That WomanYes, very much on the road again and loving it! Just minutes from historic downtown Woodland  and Sacramento, I couldn't be happier. While not usually the chain hotel traveler, these brands are working hard to please their mostly business clientele, but everyone will feel at home here. 

This newly-opened (March 2016) Fairfield Inn & Suites Sacramento Airport Woodland (a mouthful) is freeway close! However, inside the cocooned comfort of my king-room, the world was quiet and peaceful. Love the work space. Yes, always working. From the street, you wouldn't expect to find this uber-cool mid-century modern interior. Kudos to the design team. Sleek and colorful. I could live here. Wait! I've already moved in. I only wish these decor classics would fit into my own MCM abode. 

All the amenities for business travel including free WiFi with both PC and Apple computers in the lobby, complimentary breakfast, in-room microwave, mini-fridge and coffeemaker, and FREE shuttle to Sacramento International Airport with 24-hour advance notice. Outdoor pool and whirlpool -- yet to be explored. Of course, a fitness center where, yes, I actually worked out! Hey, long days of wining and dining require I squeeze in a short cardio program at the crack of dawn. There are electrical outlets galore in sleeping and breakfast room(s). You won't have to search or move furniture to find them. Brilliant!

Love, love, love the bathroom. Also, very modern and spacious; thank you very much! The walk-in shower is HUGE! So far, my only ding would be to say they need plusher towels. Also, reminders to conserve water should be an absolute requirement even with abundant winter rains.

Visit woodlandFor leisure and business travelers, proximity to historic downtown Woodland means local dining and wining. Don't let the small town moniker fool you. Woodland is up and coming plus (remember) Yolo County back roads and great adventures to other local wineries, breweries, and agricultural bounty. Slowly working my way down the list, Morgan's on Main, Savory Cafe, Father Paddy's - it's exhausting work but I'm just the Are You That Woman to get the job done. Catch your breath and drop by Woodland's new wine bar, Uvaggio, for a little pre- or post-dining wine, cheese, and dessert. Yum!

Dashing off now. Visit Yolo adventures await.

 

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Secret Gardens of the California Gold Country

Go Explore! Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture by Barbara L. Steinberg

You'll need all your best navigational devices to find this most secret art garden. Take Highway 99 south and enjoy some comfort food – breakfast or lunch – at the very local Woodlon Diner, Jahant Road exit in Acampo and then head towards Highway 26. If you know the back roads, you'll exit at Liberty Road and breath deep as you cruise into the foothills.  Clements Ridge produce stand at highways 88 and 12 is a must! The very best homemade pies, local fruits and veggies, and more, more, more! Check online for seasonal hours.
Melanie Pickrell – Antioch, CA Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture Nov 2011 Credit www.AreYouThatWoman.com
Hunger sated, continue east towards Valley Springs. Ready yourself for scenic vistas. Two-lane country roads framed by orchards, vineyards, and small towns are visually soothing.  On 52 acres in Calaveras County, owners/artists Denise Mayfield and Kresimir Luckars are cultivating art and relationships along groomed trails and undulating hillsides. The winding road delivers sculptures, hospitality, wine tasting, spring wildflowers, and beautiful views. Ranch hikes are an adventure in search of art installations and views of Gold Country foothills from the “Top of the World.” Call ahead for an appointment and detailed directions.

If you have time on your return, Lodi wineries are plentiful and freeway-close.

Oakwilde Ranch & Sculpture
7111 South Burson Road
Valley Springs, CA  95252
209/931-4561    

 

 

If my Subaru can't get me there, 
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Wild Rivers Coast: There’s a reason why on the Smith and Klamath rivers

The sun was barely breaking through when fog began rolling in across the mouth of the Smith River. Where river and ocean unite feels holy. Harbor seals – almost ghostly – gaze out across the shallow. A community of cormorants Zen(ly) attempt drying their wings. Brown pelicans and gulls share the sandspit. A lone angler casts again and again. He confides it’s been rumored salmon are Mouth of the Klamath at Requa Calfiorniarunning better on the Rogue and Klamath rivers. Still, he’s content. I watch with quiet respect and retreat once my camera is satiated.

Some 30 miles away, we stroll a considerable spit separating the Klamath River from the Pacific Ocean. One more peaceful world, the lone inhabitants walking or sitting quietly we reverently contemplate this sacred space. The tide is returning and waves crash to the shore. A swift undertow – the cold water just licks my naked feet as I scramble away.  The Klamath has journeyed far – 263 miles from Southern Oregon – to wed itself to the churning ocean.

These are the reasons why along the Wild Rivers Coast.

 

WILD RIVERS COAST CMYK no America


How do I spell loyalty? Subaru!

Did You Know That Subaru Spelled Backwords is U-R-A-Bus? by Barbara L. Steinberg

But that's another story.

I am fiercely loyal! That's L-O-Y-A-L! Not just in the usual sense. Of course, loyal to family, friends, and community. Loyal to my acupuncturist, barber, lawn service, manicurist, masseuse, physician and more. Loyal to my pets. My neighbors. My neighborhood.

Also incredibly loyal to inanimate objects that have served me well. An old BMW Bavaria (circa 1972) that was a rock on the road. My first ten-speed bike -- a gift at 16 and mine for more than 30 years until I donated  it to a local fundraiser. My Hamilton Beach mixer (circa 1938) which belonged to my neighbor and was gifted to me after she died at the fabulous age of 94. My Maytag washer/dryter, a gift from my father in 1991. Similarly, my father's old bohemoth Sony a gift from his children on his 70th birthday. Twenty-three years later, it still worked. Nothing sleek and cool; a real dinosaur. I was sad when it had to be e-wasted.

Subaru at Owens Gorge in Good Company  Credit Barbara SteinbergNothing harder than the day I sold my 1994 Subaru Legacy -- yes, U-R-A-Bus and still wondering what that means. I bought her used in 1998 with a scant 74,000+ miles. Her original owners cared for her on those miles back and forth from California to Sun Valley, Idaho. She was barely broken in when they traded her in for something shinier and new. Thankfully, she came home to me!

U-R-A-Bus and I shared more than 170,000 glorious miles of open roads -- urban, rural, back, mountain, ocean view, creekside, and more. She was a  good friend and served me well. Loyal to a fault! She never let me down. The few times she broke down we were never more than a few miles from home and once, actually, in the driveway. A road queen in my world.

SubarusLittle mechanical issues were happening more and more. She needed to be in better hands in her senior years and I made the painful decision to sell. I felt incredibly disloyal and, yes, I was sad when that say came.

Still loyal to my Subaru roots, I have a newer and shinier "Bus" in the form of a 2003 Subaru Outback. Just over 94,000 miles when she pulled into my driveway; we've already enjoyed nearly 10,000 road miles.  Wow, a car built In the current century and endless adventures ahead.


The good news! My Subaru Legacy is still in the family -- so visitation and the occasional road trip are still an option. The loyalty continues as she heads towards the next milestone of 250,000. I know she'll get there!



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