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Mel’s Birthday Weekend

For Mel’s birthday we had a nice road trip. We took Ras the wonderhound and drove from home in South Lake Tahoe over Carson Pass on highway 88 and down to the Shenandoah Valley area near Plymouth, CA just off of highway 49. This is Sierra Foothill gold country, and some good wine country as well. Mel and I both enjoy Amador county wines from the Shenandoah appellation, especially Zinfandels. Yum!

We spent Saturday afternoon tasting and buying wine. We are especially fond of the first winery we visited Sobon Estate . We had had luck there before (2001) buying a sort of sleeper Zinfandel that went on to win just about every gold medal that year at the fair tastings.

There are 30 wineries or so in the area, the terrain is beautiful and in late September the weather is delightful. Amador Vintners have a nice website with information on this favorite area of ours.

We then continued south on highway 49. Near Sonora we visited Columbia, a mining town that is preserved as a state park. These mining towns were subject to periodic fires that burned them to the ground. After 3 devastating fires in 4 or so years the residents rebuilt in brick. The town is semi-preserved and the circa-1855 buildings along the old main street are fun to stroll by and explore. There is a hotel operating in one of these buildings – the City Hotel. This hotel is of particular interest as it is run by students from the nearby Community College. On the ground floor is the hotel restaurant, operated by culinary arts students from the same college. Truly fine dining here!

After heading further south on highway 49, we turned east on highway 120 for Yosemite. Mel had no idea where we were staying that night, but as we approached Groveland she began to get the drift. I’d made reservations at the Groveland Hotel for both a room and dinner at its very fine restaurant.

After checking in, strolling with Ras, and taking a brief nap, we dressed for dinner and went downstairs to eat. The wine list is extensive and reasonably priced, and we ordered a 1997 Spring Mountain meritage we thought we’d like. We made out – the bartender opened the wrong bottle of wine, a 1997 Spring Mountain reserve meritage that was just out of this world – holy smokes! They’d caught their error and we paid for the wine we ordered. Oh, the dinner was wonderful too!

The next day we took off for Yosemite National Park. That day in the valley was simply wonderful – warm, uncrowded, a lovely indian summer day. We found a picnic area parking lot we’d not know about before and pulled in. From there we followed a path to a beach on the Merced river with views upstream to Half Dome, and downstream to El Capitan. Mel and I both agreed this was the moment of the weekend.

View of Half Dome From Merced River Beach
View of Half Dome from a beach on the Merced River in Yosemite Valley

Ras at the beach in Yosemite Valley
Ras the wonderhound in the Merced River, Yosemite Valley

Meadow and Half Dome, Yosemite Valley
View of Half Dome from the meadow near the Orchard at Camp Currie, Yosemite Valley

We continued east from the valley up and over Tioga pass via Tuolumne Meadows and then down to Lee Vining, Mono lake and highway 395. This route provides magnificent views of the Cathedral Range and other ranges of the high country of Yosemite – magnificent!

View of Half Dome and Cloud's Rest
View of Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest from the road to Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park

Once we descended down to highway 395 we were in familiar and happy territory – this route along the east side of the Sierra Nevada is a very special one for us. We have enjoyed it for years.

We drove northwards back towards home and stopped for dinner at Walker Burger in Walker, California. Walker Burger is a great road-food place with really nice gardens with tables under the shade trees and lawn for Ras to enjoy. A traditional stop for us while driving this route.

Back home we relaxed after a wonderful birthday weekend. Happy Birthday Mel!

And happy travels to you all…

-Steve

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