Many tourist hot-spots create such a draw that very often beautiful places near them are largely ignored as people swarm to see the more famous sights. This happens with Yosemite National Park. The surrounding mountains and towns tend to get very little airtime, so, taking the road less traveled we decided to do some exploring in and around Oakhurst, California. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the town is fourteen miles south of the entrance to Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove. Next week, I will blog in detail about Yosemite.
Curious to explore some of the road that we had traveled along a couple of weeks ago, we headed south for Gilroy and picked up the 152 heading East.
The first stop was Casa de Fruta. Here we bought some treats to eat on our trip. I’d heard a lot about this place but was a little disappointed at the quality of the fruit, considering the high price we were paying for it. Put it this way – it wasn’t going to become a traditional stopping point for future road trips. However, the Halloween display was cool.
Kids might get more out of this stop than we did, though it did provide some good photo opportunities .
We definitely won’t run into any vampires here!
Next, we stopped at the San Louis Reservoir visitors center. They have lots of displays, nice toilets but no coffee shop. It seems that Californians are adverse to coupling coffee shops (or indeed restaurants) with views!
The San Louis Reservoir is the largest off stream reservoir in the USA. Off stream just means that it is not sited on a river nor does it get significant surface runoff. It’s water comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta via the California Aqueducts – those huge canals I saw on the last road trip.
The dam is the fourth largest in the USA – though I can’t figure out why they needed a dam if they aren’t damming a river. Maybe, they were just intending to make a great big bowl to store water in.
Perhaps he wasn’t too far off the mark – we were approaching Chowchilla. I’d done a little research on the place before we decided not (definitely NOT) to stay there. Chowchilla seems to be best known not just for it’s two women’s penitentiaries but for a horrific kidnapping in 1976 of a busload of children aged 5 to 14, along with their driver. The bus turned up empty, the 26 kids and one adult having been transferred to a van and entombed in a Quarry in Livermore. Fortunately, the driver and the children were able to dig their way out and all survived. Happily, (though perhaps not for them) the kidnappers were found and were sent to prison.
Chowchilla looks like a normal little town. One last comment though – The name “Chowchilla” comes from the indigenous tribe of Chauchila and translates as “Murderers” referring to the warlike reputation of that tribe.
Maybe my husband sensed it in the air. Luckily, we were fine!
After Chowchilla the landscape buckled into hills again.
I liked how this road exactly matched the shape in the sign!
We stayed in the Queen’s Inn in Oakhurst. This delightful, family run business also has a winery on the premises.
There is a gorgeous little wine bar and beer garden attached to the Inn. It a great way to spend the evening, enjoying the wine they make – aptly called Idle Hour, and making friends with the locals.
We weren’t disappointed. The drive was spectacular and there was actually a marker to show us the exact spot!
We drove on to Redinger Lake, down a one-car-wide lane.
And across a rickety bridge
Really dodgey looking…
But then I tend to have a thing about driving over bridges – you should see me crossing the Bay Bridge – white knuckles on the steering wheel – even if I’m not the driver! And I have not attempted it since they put the s-bend in it, especially after that poor lorry driver plunged over the edge. I see that to avoid any similar court action this bridge has warned truck drivers not to do that.
But what a view from the bridge…
Safely across the bridge we continued through beautiful Californian foothill vistas.
It was really remote and we saw no other traffic. I wondered that my Husband wasn’t as worried about axe murderers here. Even after we stopped to take photos of the above view and found this by the side of the road!
Non human, thankfully. We were happy to get back in the car and keep driving, though I couldn’t stop snapping pictures out through the window. Most I had to delete, but some did capture that feeling we had of being on top of the world.
California continues to amaze and delight me. Every fold in the land has stories to share and secrets to unravel. If these here hills could talk, maybe the tales would be worth as much as the gold they hold.