Riding the Rails by Motorcar in Amador County

Take a motorcar ride in a vintage railroad maintenance-of-way work car in Ione, CA. You'll want to bring your camera for this 6 mile round trip ride into the beautiful foothills of Gold Country.

When I first saw information about the motorcar ride in Ione, CA, I was intrigued. The stable where I had my horseback riding business was right next to the railroad tracks in Anaheim, CA. I saw lots of high rail trucks on those rails, but these vintage motorcars were so cute. And they were telling me I could go for a ride in one! On the railroad tracks! The Motorcar If you are wondering what motorcars are and why they are on the railroad tracks, let me give you a little history lesson. You might be familiar with handcars from old western movies. Handcars came on the scene in the 1860s and were mainly used to maintain small sections of track. In 1910, handcars began to be retired and replaced with motorcars, or speeders as they were also called. Although the motorcars are slow compared to a train, they are…

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Dog & Pony Ranch: Luxurious Gold Country Vacation Rental

It's been two decades in the making but Troy and Cyndi Harrell's dream has finally come to fruition. They recently hosted a thank you/open house celebration for their Dog & Pony Ranch in Jackson, California. They officially became residents of Amador County the end of last year but waited for better weather to have the celebration for the completion of their home and luxurious Gold Country vacation rental.

It’s been two decades in the making but Troy and Cyndi Harrell’s dream has finally come to fruition. They recently hosted a thank you/open house celebration for their Dog & Pony Ranch in Jackson, California. They officially became residents of Amador County the end of last year but waited for better weather to have the celebration for the completion of their home and luxurious Gold Country vacation rental. Just like everything else Cyndi does, the celebration was planned to the max. Early in the day there was hiking, basketball, games in the new game room, zip lining if you were brave enough, playing with your dog in the pond, and feeding the farm animals. Later, there was an open bar, a band, super patriotic decorations, a catered barbecue dinner, and an ice cream bar for dessert. Cyndi and Troy purchased the 60 acres of raw land in 1998 and, over the years,…

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Volcano, CA: Where to Eat, Sleep and Play

For such a small hamlet, Volcano, CA, has a surprising number of places to eat, sleep and play. Here's the rundown to help you visit Volcano like a local.

Volcano is located in Amador County in the sierra foothills of Northern California’s Gold Country. It is surrounded by natural beauty and steeped in history. For such a small hamlet, Volcano, CA, population 116, has a surprising number of places to eat, sleep and play, all within walking distance of each other (with the exception of Black Chasm Cavern) on Main Street or just around the corner on Consolation St. Here are the restaurants, hotels and attractions so you can visit Volcano like a local. Where to Eat in Volcano Kneading Dough Bakery Everything at Kneading Dough Bakery is made on site using farm fresh, locally sourced ingredients when available. Of course they have bakery items and artisan bread but they have so much more. They have breakfast entrees, souffles, quiches, sandwiches, soups and salads. Their specialties change daily. They aren’t open for dinner but they have frozen dinners to go. Need…

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Join the Family at Sentivo Vineyards

If you want to be treated like family when you go wine tasting then Sentivo Vineyards is where you want to be. Beautiful location, great wine and food.

A while back, my wine tasting group, the Vineyard Vixens, went to visit a couple of wineries in Fairplay, CA, and to pick up some futures. We had a bit of an unpleasant experience when we went to pick up our futures. Several members of our group had been wine club members at that winery and we had always been treated well and had a good time. Suddenly, since no one was a member anymore, we were treated like persona non grata. We didn’t stay to taste and instead decided to visit Sentivo Vineyards which had been recommended by Mary at Gold Vine Grill where we had lunch. I am so glad we did! The staff at Sentivo Vineyards saved the day for us so that it ended very upbeat. Our First Visit to Sentivo Vineyards From the moment we arrived at Sentivo Vineyards we felt so welcome. Everyone was friendly and…

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Black Chasm Cavern: Amador County Hidden Gem

View a wide variety of formations at Black Chasm Cavern including stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and the vast array of rare helictite crystals.

If you drive through Pine Grove on Highway 88/104 in Northern California, you will most likely notice the signs for Black Chasm Cavern at Pine Grove-Volcano Road. It’s hard to miss them. I have seen these signs hundreds of times and have been meaning to go to Black Chasm Cavern ever since I moved here. Last year, I talked about how I see fun things then forget about them. Well, I finally put this on my calendar and went! Arriving at Black Chasm Cavern The drive to the Cavern and visitor center is over a well-maintained gravel road off of Volcano-Pioneer Road. There are a couple of roads that turn off as you drive up — just follow the signs. Before you reach the center, there is a parking lot for RVs and buses. Automobile parking is farther up the road by the center. Outside the entrance to the visitor center and gift…

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Wildflowers to Snowshoeing in 30 Minutes or Less

I tried snowshoeing for the first time this week. I love that I can go from wildflowers to snowshoeing in 30 minutes or less in Gold Country. Check it out.

When I lived in Southern California, I lived near the beach and loved that I could be in the mountains within a couple of hours. Now, I live in the mountains of Northern California and the beach is only a little farther than a couple of hours away. I live at a great elevation where I get a little snow but not enough that I’ve ever had to dig out, at least not so far. I love that I can go from wildflowers to snowshoeing in 30 minutes or less. If I want to see a lot of snow, I just have to drive up the hill another 30-40 minutes and it’s a winter playground. That’s just what my hiking group did earlier this week. I went along and tried snowshoeing for the first time. Snowshoeing at Iron Mountain Sno-Park We went to Iron Mountain Sno-Park near Mormon-Emigrant Trail Road on…

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Wildflower Train: Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

You can ride the train at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park every weekend April through October. The Wildflower Train is a special event in April.

I have always been fascinated by rail travel and just love riding a train any chance I get. That hasn’t been nearly as often as I’d like, though. I’ve taken the train from Los Angeles to New Orleans and the Coast Starlight from San Jose to Seattle. Rail travel is always an adventure and these two trips were no exception. I’ve also done lots of short trips from Santa Ana to Carlsbad or San Diego. Does the train at Disneyland count? I think it does! There’s just something about it that gets my blood flowing. And the nostalgia of a historic steam engine is even more exciting. Last year, some friends went on a wildflower train ride and just raved about it. I tried to go last year but tickets sold out. The Wildflower Train only runs on two weekends in April, so when tickets went on sale this year, I jumped…

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Electra Road Wildflowers Take a Hike from Ordinary to Extraordinary

The Electra Road wildflowers are spectacular this time of year and offer an added bonus to any hike along the road and the Mokulemne River.

Hiking on Electra Road is not a very traditional hike or much of a challenge, but it is an excellent place to just get up and get outside. The day use area offers clean restrooms, picnic tables, barbecues and a beach for swimming. An added bonus this time of year is that the Electra Road wildflowers can be spectacular. Electra Road is just north of the bridge that crosses the Mokelumne River on Highway 49. Here, the river is nearly 100 feet wide and Electra Road provides easy access for white water boaters. The road is narrow, barely more than one lane, and in poor shape so be sure to drive slowly and share the road with the hikers. The road follows the river for over 3 miles before it ends at the power plant, which makes for an awesomely beautiful and tranquil hike. I have hiked Electra Road quite a few times…

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