Travel Tips for a Day Trip to a California Gold & Ghost Town
When we think of traveling we see images of far-flung and exotic places play out like an advertisement on TV of people on sunny and white sandy beaches, or of foreign destinations like Paris, Rome, Machu Pichu, am I correct?
Well, we did none of the sort. It's harvest time, or "Crush" for my husband who is in the wine industry and he's up to his eyeballs with bringing in grapes from hundreds of growers around the State for crushing. They call it "Crush" for the obvious reason of crushing grapes to make wine, but to those who are affected like the working stiff and their families, they are crushed with long and exhausting hours. Unlike in the 90s, with the invention of the cell phones, he can sort of take one day a week off on Sundays, though still taking calls when they come in.
On our only day off together we took a Sunday Drive to Oroville, California and despite the fact that it was an impromptu and completely un-researched day trip, it turned out to be a fabulous find with so many fun things to do and see. It was a complete pleasant surprise because we didn't expect anything beyond getting outdoors and spending time catching up with each other.
How it started was pretty spontaneous by my husband asking what I'd like to do for the day and I blurted out, "I'd like to visit a Lavender Farm". Since he traveled a lot for work, he knew that there was one in Oroville, a part of the state that he liked driving across where it can be bucolic and barren but beautiful in its own ways. After breakfast at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant we drove up State Highway 99 passed Sutter Buttes and found Bayliss Lavender Farm to find their gift shop closed, but we parked the car and walked amongst the harvested hilly rows and the fragrance was overwhelmingly lovely. It was a very hot day over 100 degrees and the air was still, but I loved being there enjoying the fragrant lavenders and seeing the cyprus in the distance. It was not Siena but it was lovely and close to home.
Read about this lavender farm and plan your visit http://www.bayliss-ranch.com
After a short stroll at the farm we drove into downtown Oroville, an old gold town now but seemed like a ghost town on Sunday. No shops were opened and we strolled down Miner's Alley where skinny, tall windows and doors with old rusty hardware against red brick walls made me wonder what it was like in the gold rush days. I imagined it was pretty raucous back in 1848 when gold was first discovered, unlike the silence and emptiness I found it that afternoon. It was a bit unnerving that the streets were so quiet and empty that we only came across a couple guys walking down the streets with their Raley's grocery bags.
Find out more about Oroville, California
For a day trip that we didn't plan for things to do and see, we scored pretty well. We came upon a Chinese Temple Museum which was still in use by the local residents and paid $3 each for admission. We had only half an hour to walk around before they closed at four o'clock and would definitely come back to enjoy the many displays of tapestries, paintings, and artifacts more leisurely. For more information on the museum: http://www.cityoforoville.org/Home/Components/FacilityDirectory/FacilityDirectory/2/773
We also stopped by the Salmon Hatchery where we could see the enormous fish in the glass front tank, the spawning Chinook and Steelhead salmon jumping out of the water, and the ones averted the waterfall fish barrier dam to "climb" the ladder to a holding tank. Even if you are not into fish, it is a lovely place to take in the rushing water fall from the dam and the fish displaying their silvery bodies when they emerged briefly and disappeared back into the river. See this article for more
If you have a few hours in the area or looking for a leisurely day trip, check out Oroville and take a step back in time strolling along the Miners Alley, Chinese Temple, the Salmon Hatchery, and Bayliss Lavender Farm. Next time, we're bring our kayaks to paddle in the flat water of the Lower Feather River because we spotted some great areas for paddling and will report back to you!
Until next time, go out and play and you'd never know what you'll find when you're least expecting it!