5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 5 Tuolumne County

Finishing off this Gold Country series today with Tuolumne County. It is located in the Sierra Nevada region and also holds the northern half of the Yosemite National Park. It is one of the original counties of California that was created in 1850.

Sonora and Jamestown are two of the major towns located in the county. Jamestown is a former California Gold Rush Town that has now become a historic region, which has been featured in countless movies and Hollywood productions over the years. It is also home to some local wine tasting rooms such as Inner Sanctum Cellars, that offers 6 different wine varietals such as the Marsanne, Merlot and Barbera.

Inner Sanctum Cellars is renown for it’s delicious wines and also beautiful and original labels.

Sonora on the other hand, which was initially known for its lumber and mining industries is now notorious for being the closest city to Yosemite National Park. The Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is also located in the sector. There are lots of trails to explore right in the vicinity of downtown such as the Dragoon Gulch Trail, which is walking distance from the main strip.

Views from the top of Dragoon Gulch, which is a nice 3.5k loop trail.

Also located in Sonora is the Indigeny Reserve, a family-run cidery and distillery that makes hand-crafted hard cider and apple brandy in oak barrels. They have 160 acres of mostly Granny Smith and organic Honey Crisp apples. They are pesticide-free and produce 500 000 – 700 000 pounds of apples per year. The cidery also prides itself in being waste-free, giving the pulp from the cider and brandy production to local farmers or ranchers. They started in 2008 and released their first cider back in 2012.

The entrance to the stunning Indigeny Reserve, just a few minutes from downtown Sonora.

Also worth visiting in the county is the Columbia State Historic Park, which is a preserved historic downtown of the city of Columbia that originated in 1850. In 1961, it was declared a National Historic Landmark and includes almost 30 buildings that have been preserved since the California Gold Rush. The area operates as an open-air museum, with people walking around in period costumes and running handmade candy stores, stagecoach rides and other period-inspired businesses. Each year, they also organize special exhibits and hands-on activities that reminisce the Gold Rush Days.

The perfect place to have a breakfast or lunch while exploring Columbia – Browns Coffee House and Sweets Saloon.

In recent years, the county has also become a hotspot for the wedding industry and for people looking for rustic weddings, says local marketer and business consultant Tiffany Phillips of GetSocialWithTiffany. The area is also home to many festivals, fairs and even races that attract people from the county and beyond all throughout the year.

For more information on Tuolumne County, go here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Gold Country series this past week. To find out even more about the area, go here. Thank you once again to Visit California for making this trip possible!

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 4 Calaveras County

Destination 4 in my Gold Country series is Calaveras County. Located a little further inland and north, this county has a whole lot to offer.

Downtown Angels Camp.

If you’re visiting the area for the first time, you may be wondering why there are so many frog-related items, signage, etc. in the area and more specifically in the city of Angels Camp. The love affair with frogs dates back to the publication of Mark Twain‘s 1865 short story called The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which was based on a true story about a local gambler named Jim Smiley used to organize some frog jumping bets.  And since 1928, the county has been organizing an annual Jumping Frog Jubilee, which has now grown into an international frog jumping contest. It is the longest running and biggest county fair in the area with more than 50 000 attendees, farm exhibits, cake baking, free entertainment, rodeos, demolition derbys and of course, a frog jumping contest.

But frog jumping isn’t the only thing the county is renown for, the county is also home to 100 miles of hiking trails as well as one of the largest reservoirs in California. Outdoor recreation is one of the main draws of the area, with the presence of river rafting, cycling and equestrian trails in the area. The Calaveras Big Trees State Park is where the sequoias were found in 1853.

The Moaning Cavern Adventure Park is also a big draw in the area. The park offers not only a cavern tour but also the opportunity zip line. The cavern is California’s deepest cave chamber, it takes you sixteen stories underground via a spiral staircase. The cavern tour teaches you the history and geology of the cavern including how the massive stalagmites and flowstones formed and how people first explored the cave. Lengthier tours are also available for those seeking to climb, crawl and squeeze themselves through wilder areas of the cave.

The zip line is located just a few steps away from the cavern and offers a twin 1/4 mile zip line experience with incredible views of the local valley. It’s a great activity to do with the entire family.

One of the main towns of the county, Murphys is recognized as a culinary centre with a large offering of independent restaurants and shops. There are more than two dozen wine tasting rooms just on Main Street. Murphys is also the birthplace of local favourite Gold Country Roasters, which is THE place for coffee in the county and beyond.

All of the local shops and restaurant in Murphys have been preserved so well.

In addition to attracting the outdoor and culinary types, the towns of Murphys, Angels Camp and Arnold are also a very popular destination for the motorcycle community. Hundreds of motorcyclists cruise around the windy country roads of the county and populate the roads throughout the year.

Just some of the hundreds of motorcycles that roam through the area every week.

For more information on Calaveras County, go here.

Check back tomorrow for my final Gold Country destination – Tuolumne County.

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 3 Amador County

This week’s 3rd Gold Country destination and my personal favourite from my most recent trip to the area is Amador County.

Located in the Sierra Nevada, Amador County is home to some of the best wineries and cutest little historic villages in all of California. The beautiful rolling hills and sun-drenched area has made it a prime location for family-run wineries. Wineries such as Vino Noceto (“California’s Sangiovese Specialist”) and Iron Hub (which has the prettiest tasting room in all of California no doubt), offer award-winning food-friendly wines and the most luxurious wine tasting experience. A lot of these wineries are solar powered and use their properties to educate locals and tourists alike on the art wine making.

Vino Noceto produces 10 000 cases of wine a year and once a year, during the 1st weekend of March, they organize a “Behind the Cellar Doors” event, where the public gets to learn about the evolution of wine with tastings from the barrel, bottle to vintage wines.
This family-run winery distributes its wine only locally so paying them a visit is well worth it!

In addition to wine making, the area is renown for its top notch farm to fork restaurant selections including, Plymouth’s Taste Restaurant, which not only has vegetarian offerings but also a full vegan menu. It’s the best place for a date night or an elegant evening of fine dining. The use of local and fresh produce is key to chefs and restauranteurs in the area.

This is a pb&j sandwich done dessert style. The most delicious!

A must-visit in the area is the historic village of Sutter Creek, named after prospector John Sutter. There are tons of unique accommodations, shops and bars to check out on the village’s main drag.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the area, The Foxes Inn, is a beautiful Victorian gem dating back from the mid 19th century. Their sumptuous guest rooms take you back in time and offer a royalty-like stay. Plus, their quality chef-prepared 2-course breakfast is cooked-to-order and features some of the most delicious local produce.

You sleep like a king or queen in this vintage bed!

Outdoor enthusiasts won’t be disappointed as there is ample terrain to explore in the county. The Eldorado National Forest is a wonderful option for hiking, camping and fishing. There are a handful of lakes and reservoirs to also visit. Plus, with the county’s 10,000-foot rise in elevation, you can even do some winter activities like skiing or snowshoeing in the colder months on the slopes of the Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

Amador County is without a doubt one of the best kept secrets of Gold Country and California as a whole. An absolutely charming region!

Tomorrow, the Gold Country series continues with – Calaveras County!

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 2 El Dorado County

Today’s Gold Country destination is El Dorado County. The county is located entirely in the Sierra Nevada and ranges from the western foothills to the High Sierra in the east.

This is the location where gold was found for the first time!

Situated just a 45 min drive from Sacramento, El Dorado County is where James W. Marshall discovered gold in Coloma on January 24th 1848. Soon after, the population of the area exploded with miners hoping to strike it rich. Today, the area is home to more than 181 000 residents.

These days, the area is known for its wineries, 26 miles of biking and hiking trails, pristine public lands, glamping tents as well as fun outdoor water activities on the American River.

White water rafting has become a huge attraction in the area, thanks to companies like Raft California, that offer a multitude of organized excursions from a simple rafting trip to rafting and wine tasting, camping and so on. Rafting with the crew from Raft California, was hands down one of the coolest experiences of my life!

Talk about a thrilling adventure. I would go white water rafting again in a heartbeat!

The area is also filled with tons of cute farm to fork cafés such as The Argonaut, which is located just a stone’s throw from the river and the historic Sutter’s Mill Site, where gold was first found.

The first covered bridge in California was built in Coloma.

In addition to the protecting the rich history of the area, locals have worked hard at protecting the local environment and unique lands such as the Lake Tahoe area since the 1960 Winter Olympics hosted at Squaw Valley Ski Resort.

El Dorado County is an easy getaway to the Californian countryside for anyone coming from Sacramento and beyond.

For more information on El Dorado County, go here.

Tomorrow’s Destination – Amador County!

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 1 Sacramento

Thinking of heading to California this summer? Why not check out beautiful Gold Country? It’s now just a quick 90-min direct flight from YVR to Sacramento, thanks to Air Canada‘s new daily non-stop flight. Gold Country is without a doubt one of the most underrated areas of California. It has so much to offer – from its incredible history, to diverse landscapes, excellent wine and culinary experiences, just to name a few.

It was such a privilege to be able to take Air Canada’s inaugural flight to Sacramento!

I recently had the opportunity to explore some of Gold Country‘s most unique counties thanks to Visit California. Today we explore the 1st of 5 counties – Sacramento!

Sacramento

Did you know that Sacramento is the California’s state capital? Located right on the American River, this culturally and historically rich city offers its 500 000 residents and tourists, a plentitude of activities for history buffs, foodies, recreation enthusiasts, coolness seekers and beer drinkers. With more than 2 dozen museums, including the California State Railroad Museum (the biggest railway museum in North America) and the the Crocker Art Museum (which boast most than 18 000 works of art and is a great place for families and events!), the city of Sacramento will not only entertain you but also educate you on some of America’s most important history.

This is part of Cyrus Tilton’s exhibit entitled “The Cycle”. He was awarded the Crocker Art Museum’s inaugural John S. Knudsen prize for his overall body of work last March but sadly passed away before his exhibit was put up in the museum.

In 2019, the city will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. Sacramento used to be the western terminus of the Pony Express (which was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail before the telegraph was established in 1861!) and then Transcontinental Railroad. The city used to be the furthest west you could go before reaching San Francisco.

Old Scaramento allows visitors to go back in time and rediscover the 1800’s. Due to serious flooding issues resulting from its proximity to the American River, Old Sac is now approximately 9 feet higher than in the 1800s. As a visitor, you can see some of the city’s remains and really get a feel for what it was like to be in an area that was bustling thanks to the Gold Rush in the 1800s.

Sacramento is a great destination for runners and cyclists because there are tons of beautiful trails to explore. The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail leaves Old Sacramento and takes you on 32-miles along the American River. There’s also the Folsom Lake Trail than spans 34 miles and the Sacramento Northern Bike Trail, just to name a few. The city is also renown for it’s great running races such as the the CIM (a Boston qualifier event) and the American River Parkway Half Marathon.

I loved discovering cool local neighbourhoods when I travel so was excited to find out about Midtown and Lowbrau, thanks to the Sac Brew Bike tour. One thing visitors will notice is that the city is decorated with an abundance of beautiful street art. Also, the region of Sacramento has more than 60 breweries and used to be the biggest area in the world for hops before prohibition. Thanks to organizations like the Sac Brew Bike, the area is trying to bring back the hops to the city.

The entire Gold Country is renown for it’s farm to fork type-dining, a movement that sources local and fresh produces for its local consumers and restaurants. Many of Sacramento’s restaurants follow this practice, notably Lucca former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s go-to restaurant.

All in all, a visit to Sacramento will not only fill your cup of history but also culture, good food and good times!

For more information on the new Air Canada direct flight between Vancouver and Sacramento, go here. Thanks to Visit California for setting up this trip.

Tomorrow’s destination: El Dorado County!

5 Things to do on the Ventura County Coast

Ventura County Coast is a beautiful coastal area located just north of Los Angeles. The area encompasses Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme. There are lots of amazing outdoor adventures that can be had in the area so I’m sharing with you today some of my favourites.

1) Go hike on Santa Cruz Island with Island Packers – Head out for a day-long adventure from Ventura Harbour to Santa Cruz Island, the largest island in California. There are 3 mountain ranges, canyons, springs and streams to explore as well as coastline cliffs, sea caves and stunning beaches. It’s the perfect place to go for a day-hike or swimming and snorkelling around their pristine beaches. It takes just over an hour to get to the island with the Island Packers boat. While on the island you will be able to spot tons of local wildlife such as birds, foxes and maybe even whales. We saw tons of local dolphins on our way there. It’s also possible to camp overnight as there are lots of camping sites available on the island.

2) Go for a run at San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura – This multipurpose trail runs along the ocean past the Ventura pier. Along the way, you will see a few local surf spots, lots of pretty places to picnic, kitesurfers, volleyball nets as well as majestic sand dunes. The paved trail also goes past the Ventura County Fairgrounds and then connects to the Seaside Wilderness Park. You can easily park along the street close to the entrance of San Buenaventura State Beach.

3) Relax at the Residence Inn Marriott Camarillo – This luxurious property is located just a few minutes away from historic Old Town Camarillo, where there are lots of shops and restaurants to check out. The Residence Inn Marriott offers guests a wide array of amenities – they have a basketball and tennis court, a pool, state of the art gym as well as free breakfast in the morning. The hotel is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of exploring around the area. Some rooms are even come equipped with a full kitchenette so that you can make your own meals, if you’re planning a lengthier stay.

4) Explore the Oxnard coast on a Jet Ski –  Located in the Channel Islands Harbor, Southern California Jet Skis offers 1-2 hour jet ski rentals so that you can head out and explore the Oxnard coast and open ocean. Chances are, you will spot local wildlife like dolphins or even sea lions during your excursion. It’s a great way to also check out the surf at Silver Strand or off the Oxnard Shores. Once you’re done riding, you can grab a post-excursion snack at Honey Cup Café located adjacent the departure area.

5) Surf at Port Hueneme – Nestled between Oxnard and Ventura, this little oceanside community offers gorgeous sandy beaches and quality surf spots for locals and visitors alike. Port Hueneme Beach Park is a beachbreak located on the north side of the pier. It’s right by the walking and biking trails so the commute to and from the beach can be done easily.

Other activities worth checking out: Ventura Pop Up Yoga in Marina Park – outdoor donation based yoga classes, catch the sunset at Surfer’s Knoll beach, walk along the Ventura boardwalk and pier.

For more information on Ventura County Coast or more travel recommendations, go here. A big thank you to the Ventura County Coast for their help setting up this trip!

A City Girl Goes Camping: Camping Tips for New Campers!

Since moving to British Columbia last year, I’ve learned a whole lot about the outdoors but one area that I still consider myself a newbie in is camping. That said, thanks to MEC‘s gear rental program, last summer I got my first taste of camping and was pleasantly surprised by how fun and easy the whole experience was.

As a girl who grew up outside of Montreal and then spent most of her adult life in downtown Toronto, camping was never a part of my life. Before moving to Vancouver last year, I 100% considered myself a city girl. Fast forward a few months later, I would say that I’m now close to being 50% city, 50% nature. There’s still so much for me to learn about camping and the outdoors but working with MEC and being surrounded by so many adventure enthusiasts has really taught me a whole lot about the great outdoors.

So I wanted to share with you today some of my newfound wisdom and tips for camping so that all you who want to give camping a go or who are still novices to camping, can have a great time!

1) Packing – One of the major differences between going camping and going to stay at a hotel or an Airbnb, is how you pack for a camping trip. There are so many more variables to think of and therefore packing for a camping weekend can be more complex but it really doesn’t have to be. If you’re simply going car camping for the weekend (and don’t have an RV or van to store all your camping stuff in), I would first suggest making a packing list. I would also suggest breaking that list down into different categories: clothing, sleeping, food, safety, entertainment, transportation, etc. This will help get you organized and can easily be cross-referenced as you’re loading everything into the car.

2) Gear – In my experience thus far, I have learned that gear can make or break your camping experience. If you’re a city person like me, chances are you probably don’t own very much or any camping gear at all. Thankfully, MEC has a great gear rental program, which is available across Canada that allows people like us to rent all sorts of amazing camping gear at a super reasonable rate for your upcoming camping trips. You can rent anything from tents, to sleeping pads, sleeping bags, backpacks, kid carriers, etc. You can even rent a canoe or kayak, if you’re thinking of portaging or even doing some water sports while out camping. Rentals are available either daily or weekly.

If you’re like me and hoping to have a ton of camping experiences this summer, you can also purchase some of the best and top of the line camping gear at an MEC store or even online. For someone like myself who spent most of their life in a city, walking into a MEC is like a kid walking into a candy shop. This week, I had the opportunity to try out MEC’s Cabin 4 tent, which was totally revolutionary for me. Not only was it incredibly simple to put up (even a rookie like myself was able to figure it out and put it up in under 10 minutes!) but it was also tall enough so I didn’t have to crouch when in my tent. I could easily get changed and stand up in the tent, which brings the comfort level up a big notch. I also used the MEC Reactor 6.5 Sleeping Pad, which is a super comfy self-inflating pad that makes sleeping in a tent that much more enjoyable. Goodbye uncomfortable sleeps! And did I mention my MEC Hut Booties? As someone who always has cold feet, these are a game changer!

3) Food – Camping food doesn’t have to be boring and tasteless. Thanks to all the options that are now available, cooking while in nature is easier than ever. There are lots of great ways make food while camping. If you’re not someone that likes to cook, there are plenty of dehydrated snacks or even meals that you can purchase in advance and just re-heat or add hot water to. There are many vegetarian and vegan options to choose from, so being plant-based while camping isn’t an obstacle at all.

You can also make meals ahead of time or pack a lunch that you can store in this large MEC Muskoka Soft-Sided Cooler, that is light, durable and waterproof. You can also opt to bring some cooking items like this Primus gas stove or GSI percolator for your morning coffee or tea.

It’s also important to make sure that you dispose of the food your bring with you or any waste you create while cooking or even camping properly. For more information, I highly recommend you check out this post here (which also includes lots of great other camping tips).

4) Safety – Though I have yet to learn everything about camping safety, there are a few key things I now keep in mind when preparing for a camping trip or going camping. Packing things like a whistle, bug spray, first aid kit, headlamps, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, etc. is important. Since I am now camping in BC, I’m also careful to not leave any food in the tent or close to my tent. I’ll keep the food stored in a sealed container if I’m car camping. I pack lots of water and additional snacks for hikes and runs and I also make sure that someone outside of my camping group knows where I am and how long I’ll be there for. It’s also important to respect wildlife. Though it may be exciting to spot eagles, deers, bears, chipmunks etc., on your adventures, it’s important to not feed them and give them their space, not only for our own safety but also for the safety of the animals.

5) Entertainment – Not sure if it’s the city that made me a restless person or maybe it’s just my personality but one of the things I struggle with the most in life is not being able to just sit still or relax. And with camping being all about relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, this definitely comes as a challenge for me. That said, there are many ways to stay entertained while camping and tons of things to do. If you want to be active, chances are there are some trails located close to your campground, so going for a hike or a trail run (like I did below at Golden Ears this past week!) is a great way to not only get some fresh air but also discover the area.

A lot of campgrounds are also located close to a lake, an ocean or even a river, so going for a swim or taking part in some water sports (kayaking, canoeing, SUPing, etc.) may also be a possibility.

If you’re someone that prefers to lounge a little more, reading a book fireside on a MEC Park Chair or bringing portable boardgames or outdoor games like Bocce Ball is another way to have a great time. The reason why I’ve been loving camping is because it forces me to ditch my electronics and in many ways makes me feel like a kid again, just being outdoors and finding creative ways to pass time.

I’m really excited to take my camping experience to the next level this spring and summer. I’m even thinking of going from car camping to trying out camping in the backcountry… Got some camping tips that I didn’t mention in this post? Share them with me below!

If you’re planning a camping getaway for the May long weekend or later on in the summer and want to get more info on the MEC gear rental program, go here. For more camping tips go here. For a full camp kitchen checklist, check out the following article here.

This article was written in collaboration with MEC but all opinions are my own.

Why TAG is your Go-To for All-Year-Round Adventures in Whistler

Spring might be in full swing in the city, but it still feels very much like winter in Whistler. So there are still lots of winter adventures to be had with The Adventure Group (TAG)  this season and all-year-round for that matter!

TAG offers a wide-variety of outdoor adventures for everyone from 7 to 77 years-old. They offer a ton of kid and family-friendly expeditions as well as some more extreme adventures for all you thrill-seekers out there. The one constant with TAG, is the good vibes and professional service you get throughout.

I had the chance to go one two of their winter expeditions. Last year, I tried their Cruiser Tour, one of their snowmobiling tour for beginners. Since I hadn’t been on a sled in a while, it was the perfect 2-hour re-introduction tour. They took us all around the trails on Cougar Mountain and also let us zip around on the frozen lake for some added thrills. This year, I took their BC Tour, which was a little more advanced and the perfect balance between single-track trail riding and “off-roading” through the Ancient Cedar Forest.  They also offer more advanced backcountry and custom tours for those looking to only ride the most difficult terrain.

But sledding isn’t all… TAG also offers Zipline and Snowshoe Tours during winter and spring plus they offer Heli Sightseeing, Bungee Jumping as well as Scandinave Spa experiences.

If you’re thinking of heading up to Whistler once the snow has melted, you’ll also have a ton of summer activities to choose from. TAG offers everything from RZR Tours, Whitewater Rafting, Treetop Adventure Courses, Jet Boating, Mountain Biking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding, just to name a few.

What’s great about their tours is that they all happen in small groups. The ratio of guide to guest always makes you feel like you’re having a semi-private experience. On the latest sledding tour I just did, we were four guests total with one guide. All the guides are super friendly and professional. The guests’ safety is their number one priority and they also make sure that each guest feels comfortable no matter what activity they’re doing. They’ve also got a great shuttle service that will bring you from the Whistler Village to their base camp, where they have restrooms, lockers to store the guests’ belongings, snacks, etc.

I’m really excited for summer to arrive so that I can go back and try some of their other excursions. Whitewater Rafting is definitely on the bucket list!

For more info on TAG, check them out here.

MELSAYS PODCAST – EP. 10 – Kelsey Serwa

Thrilled to have already reached the 10th podcast mark!

My guest for this 10th episode is Kelsey Serwa. She is a Canadian freestyle skier that just recently won, a gold medal at the 2018 Olympics, in ski cross. This is the British Columbia native’s 3rd Olympic games and 2nd Olympic medal, she had won silver at the 2014 Sochi games. I got to speak to her a couple of weeks ago, just a few hours after landing in Vancouver, post-Olympics. So without further a due, here’s Kelsey Serwa.

The podcast is just one click away or you can also listen to it below. If you enjoyed our chat, make sure you subscribe to the MELSAYS PODCAST here -> iTunes and Google Play.