Road trip time |

Road trip time

Dorothy Talan-Quaid

The warm days and cool, crisp nights of fall are here, bringing nature’s harvest color spectrum to the foothills. What better time for a road trip?

My other half and I scooped up our grandson and headed for Apple Hill on Sunday, a nice day trip from just about anywhere in the Sierra. From Grass Valley, it’s about an hour and half drive straight south on Highway 49, through Auburn, with a short jog east on Highway 50 when you get to Placerville.

The drive down Highway 49 from Auburn to Placerville through the American River canyon is gorgeous at this time of year. Every shade of gold, red, green and brown is on display, providing a colorful backdrop to the bridges near Auburn and

the historic buildings tucked into the landscape alongside the road. The twists and turns of the highway keeps speeds down to about 25 mph for much of the trip, so you can really see the countryside as you travel through Placer and El Dorado counties. There has been a little bit of development in Cool and Pine Hill Ð gas stations, markets, restaurants, etc. – so if you need to make a stop for any reason, facilities are available along the way.

One of the best locations on the route is the Marshall Gold Discover State Historic Park, in Coloma. The highway runs right through park property and there are picnic areas on both sides of the road. Coloma is very proud of its gold-rush history and sponsors a variety of events through much of the year. There’s a museum, merchantile (with clothing styled after that worn during the gold rush period), walking tours, Sutter’s Mill, even gold-panning!

We drove through the state park just as the second day of the annual Coloma Gold Rush Live event was beginning. Tents were set up all over the park and people in period dress were recreating life as it was during the gold rush, complete with sawmill demonstrations and gold panning contests for all ages. By the time we returned from Apple Hill, the park was very full, so we decided to pencil this event into our schedule next year and arrive early.

There are other events at this historical site, including the upcoming Christmas in Coloma on December 10th, an annual old-fashioned Christmas celebration. The park’s historic buildings will be open and snow is guaranteed! More information about Christmas in Coloma is available by calling 530-295-2162. Park information is available at or by calling 530-622-6198.

For those of you unfamiliar with Apple Hill, it’s part of the village of Camino, where apple orchards dominate the landscape. Growers have banded together to create “Apple Hill”, and visitors are treated to a variety of events year-round. There are numerous vendors peddling all sorts of goodies, from homemade fudge and handcrafts to food, fruit, and, of course, everything “apple”. There are even a few vineyards scattered throughout the region, for those who might enjoy a bit of wine with their apple pie.

Labor Day is the beginning of the fall season at Apple Hill and there is something to do on almost every day somewhere on Apple Hill. There are baking classes for kids and adults, educational tours, all kinds of “tasting” events, musical entertainment and “pick-your-own” farms, where visitors can select their favorite fruit and vegetables right off the vine/tree Ð it doesn’t get any fresher than that! More information about Apple Hill, including maps or the area, is available at

The fall colors are just as pretty in Nevada County, home to spectacular scenery on winding country roads and beautiful, tree-lined streets in Grass Valley and Nevada City, drenched in nature’s autumn finery. There are only a few more weeks to enjoy this season’s colorful show before winter begins Ð why not pack a picnic lunch, schedule a road trip now and “discover gold” in the Sierra foothills?

Nuts and Bolts: If you haven’t visited the new Weaver Auto and Truck Center, on Idaho-Maryland Road in Grass Valley, you’re missing out. It’s a top-quality facility, both in the sales and service departments. The sales building is beautifully designed and the service bay floors are as spotless as those in any NASCAR garage Ð so clean, you can practically eat off them! The staff is friendly, the waiting areas are comfortable and the Starbucks coffee is free!

Have you seen the new “Welcome To Nevada County” sign on northbound Highway 49, just past the Bear River? It’s a huge piece of granite set into the hillside with two miners etched into the face, below those welcoming words.

The NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase For The Championship has reached the halfway point. Jeff Burton still leads the points chase, followed by Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The next race on the schedule is on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia.

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