Tour Placer County's interesting nooks and crannies

Published: Friday, Nov. 12, 2010 - 12:17 pm | Page 6TICKET
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 10, 2011 - 12:14 pm

Today through Sunday in Placer County, art lovers can visit creative types in their natural habitat as part of the Autumn Art Studios Tour.

This annual rite always requires some cruising – 90 artists, 57 locations – in a county that rambles from Roseville to Lake Tahoe, from Folsom Lake to Donner Lake.

Placer's hectic, urban south gives way to hilly and winding lanes, pine-filled forests, and former gold mining towns such as Dutch Flat, where one cinnamon-colored pooch lounged on the sun-warmed pavement of Main Street with no fear of oncoming cars.

So, although art is a good excuse to cruise here, Placer County offers so much more that a tour guide would certainly come in handy.

That's why the Ticket staff assembled some artful advisers – Auburn glass blowers Rick and Janet Nicholson, Loomis batik artist Helen W. Phillips and PlacerArts' Executive Director Angela Tahti – and commissioned them to help provide favorite haunts, drives, dining and more.

– C.M. Anderson

A GREAT CRUISE

In one of life's little injustices, the driver misses all the scenic views, so be sure to note the strolls and hikes. (Careful, cyclists share the roads.)

• Study color. Fall foliage is the attraction along northbound Highway 49 from Auburn (Placer County) to Grass Valley (Nevada County). You'll have to drive a few miles before the hectic pace of suburban life ebbs, but it's worth it. The name of the game is exploration, so don't be shy about turning off 49 and onto side roads. If you're pressed for time, just cruise along Bell Road in Auburn, a winding road where trees are just beginning to turn bright with color.

• Drive out to Sugar Pine Reservoir, and admire how shadows and sunlight create different shades of blues, greens and golds. Since the campsites are closed to motorized vehicles this time of year, park near the boat ramp. To get here from Auburn, take Foresthill Road toward the Foresthill Bridge. This span has long been acclaimed as the tallest in California, and many remember it for the amazing jump Vin Diesel's character, Xander Cage, makes from it in the movie "xXx." (You can park on either side of the bridge and walk the pedestrian bridge, if you dare.)

You'll go through the community of Foresthill, and drive about seven miles farther to Sugar Pine Road No. 10. (No sign denotes the road's name, but you'll know it by the green sign that says Sugar Pine Rec Area.) Turn left and continue five miles on Road 10 to the reservoir.

You'll find a moderately level three- to four-mile hiking trail circling the lake. It can be accessed from the boat ramp area. Since park services are closed this time of year, take all garbage with you.

• Head for Hidden Falls Regional Park, formerly known as Didion Ranch, where Mother Nature has composed a soundtrack of birds, water dancing over rocks and hooves on grass. Go north on Highway 49 from Auburn, then take Atwood Road west until it becomes Mount Vernon Road. Follow Mount Vernon Road to Mears Road (about 3.5 miles from DeWitt Center). Turn right (north) on Mears Road and follow to Mears Place.

You'll find trailheads for easy, moderate and difficult walks, said PlacerArts' Angela Tahti, and you can picnic, fish (with valid state permits) and take photos. Google the park name, and you'll find a website packed with information. Park hours are from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

A STROLL OR HIKE

• Note the geometric forms, architectural influences and cultural changes in Old Auburn, artist Helen W. Phillips recommends. Explore the Placer County Courthouse (1898) and other historic buildings in Old Auburn on a free one-hour tour sponsored by the Placer County Museum Docent Guild. Meet at 10 a.m. Saturdays "rain or shine" on the courthouse steps. (530) 889-6500, www.oldtownauburnca.com.

• Take a walk down to the river in the popular confluence area of the American River, where Highway 49 crosses the North Fork. A hike of the moderately difficult Confluence Trail will take about 1 1/2 hours. Directions according to www.visitplacer.com: To get to the trailhead from the Foresthill Bridge, drive about three miles toward Foresthill. Turn right onto Old Foresthill Road at the sign for Cool, Placerville, and Highway 49. Drive down for 1.5 miles. Parking is on the left in a small dirt turnoff in front of a bulletin board, just before the entrance to the Mammoth Bar OHV area. To reach the Confluence Trailhead, walk down the Mammoth Bar Road for 0.2 miles, past the self-pay kiosk. The trailhead is on your right behind the yellow gate. Maps for this and other trails can be found at www.visitplacer.com, or call (530) 887-2111.

BICYCLE ROUTES

Mountain and road cyclists frequent this county. For more options, search "Placer County bike rides" online. (Careful, motorists share the road.)

• Tahti suggests that those who are gluttons for punishment take on a portion of Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour. Go to sacbee.com/links to view that route.

• The staff at REI provided an "easy, fun" ride they often take: Park near Johnson-Springview Park or Old Timers Park in Rocklin. Make your way south on Rocklin Road. Turn left on Sierra College Boulevard, right on Brace Road, left on Horsehoe Bar Road, right on Val Verde Road, right on Wells Avenue, left on Laird Road, right on Cavitt Stallman Road and right on Barton Road. At Rocklin Road, turn left and head back to your car. Or, when you get to Sierra College Boulevard, turn right and repeat the loop.

• Intermediate to advanced mountain bike enthusiasts often tackle the Lake Clementine Loop. (Careful, hikers share the trail.) Directions according to www.bmxnonstop.com: To get to the trailhead from Interstate 80, take the Elm Street exit and head toward Highway 49 south. Turn left onto Lincoln and then proceed north to Russell Road. Make a right onto Russell and follow until the road turns hard right. The trailhead will be on the left, near a small dirt turnout where you may see parked cars. You'll find route details at sacbee.com/links.

CASUAL DINING

High Hand Nursery Conservatory, 3750 Taylor Road in Loomis, is a local institution, but the advisory board had plenty of other ideas.

Auburn Valley Country Club, 8800 Auburn Valley Road, Auburn; (530) 269-2775, www.auburnvalley gc.com.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday.

This hidden gem, which is open to the public, boasts views over the foothills into the valley, Janet Nicholson said, and they have reasonably priced salads and sandwiches.

Club Car Bar and Restaurant, 836 Lincoln Way, Auburn; (530) 887-9732, www.clubcarauburn.com

Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-around 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday

The buffalo wings mix honey barbecue and buffalo flavors. If you're looking for club music, Nicholson said, this would be your place. Check out alternative rockers Joe Getty & the Dead Flowers at 9 tonight and jazz and neo-soul chanteuse Jessa Evans at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Newcastle Produce, 9230 Cypress St., Newcastle; (916) 663-2016, www.newcastleproduce.net

Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m Sunday

Proprietors Francis and Jan Thompson continue a tradition started by Jan's great-great grandfather, who started out with a 40-acre farm more than 150 years ago. If you go, you might find yourself in line behind Tahti. "Eat there, or pack up a fresh, locally grown sandwich to take on that picnic at Hidden Falls," she says.

Wild Chicken Coffee, 3640 Taylor Road, Loomis; (916) 652-3332, www.wildchickencoffee.com. Hours: 5:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Wild Chicken Coffee is an ideal refueling stop on your Placer Country travels. The breakfast-lunch-dinner house specializes in coffee drinks (25 of them) brewed from beans roasted on the premises, along with 20 types of loose-leaf tea. Don't forget the homemade scones, quiche and cakes, and the made-to-order deli sandwiches. While you're there, check out the refurbished historic train station next door.

FANCY DINING

Alexander's Horseshoe Bar Grill, 3645 Taylor Road, Loomis; (916) 652-4100, horseshoebargrill.us.

Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays- Fridays; dinner, 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and Sundays, 5-9:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.

Last year, chef Vincent Paul Alexander bought and reinvented the Horseshoe Bar Grill, turning it into an intimate dining destination. Specialties include salmon, ahi, pork tenderloin and beef Wellington.

Hawks, 5530 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay; (916) 791-6200, www.hawksrestaurant.com.

Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; brunch, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month; dinner, 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday.

Executive chefs Molly Hawks and Michael Fagnoni worked at critically acclaimed San Francisco restaurants before deciding to strike out on their own in Granite Bay.

Carpe Vino, 1568 Lincoln Way, Auburn; (530) 823-0320, www.carpevinoauburn.com.

Hours: Wine bar open noon-5 p.m. Tuesdays, noon - 10 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. The restaurant serves from 5-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.

Sipping reds and whites by the glass, the flight or the bottle is the best way to get a group conversation going at Carpe Vino wine bar in Old Town Auburn. Add small-plate and full-entree dining to the mix and suddenly you're on the town.

BED & BREAKFAST INNS

• Dutch Flat Hotel B&B: 32798 Main St., Dutch Flat; (530) 389-2698, www.dutchflathotel.com. Rooms range from $125-$150 a night. It sits at 3,200 feet in the Sierra between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, off Interstate 80.

Once you've found this spot, you may wish to forget that I-80 exists. With a map, you can navigate local roads instead. Tom and Sussy Flanigan have created elegant, sumptuous spaces for sleeping and conversing at this three-story, nine-bedroom B&B. You won't soon forget the Puccini room, the fishing room or the bordello room. The bed-and-breakfast has a full-service cafe for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is to go.

• Flower Farm Inn: 4150 Auburn Folsom Road (at Horseshoe Bar Road) in Loomis; (916) 652-4200 or (800) 870-1104, www.flowerfarminn.com. Rooms range from $100 to $220 a night. The cottages sit in the middle of a working fruit orchard. Gaze out the original leaded glass windows as you breakfast in the dining room. A coffeehouse sells light meals.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT

If you're seeking more evening family entertainment, take a look at www.visitplacer.com, where you'll find links to indoor skateparks, bowling alleys, miniature golf courses, racing simulators and more under "Things To Do."

Autumn Art Studios Tour presented by PlacerArts, The Arts Building, 808 Lincoln Way, Auburn; www.PlacerArts.org; (530) 885-5670.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Check materials provided with ticket, as not all galleries will be open each day.)

As many as 90 artists in 57 locations will open their private studios this weekend, and some artists will have activities for children. Before you head out, though, get a feel for each artist's work at a preview show at the Arts Building Gallery. Each adult must pay $10 for a ticket to enter studios, but children through 12th grade can come for free.

Thunder Valley Casino, 1200 Athens Ave., Lincoln; (916) 408-7777, www.thundervalley resort.com.

Technically, you're on the United Auburn Indian Community's tribal land when you get to the casino, but it's close enough. Try your hand at a game of chance or take in a show. R&B and funk band Powerhouse plays at 9:10 tonight, or at the same time Saturday, check out hip-hop, disco and Top 40 from the Cheeseballs. The gambling action happens nonstop.

Annual Cowpoke Fall Gathering at the Blue Goose Fruit Shed, 3550 Taylor Road, Loomis; (916) 652-6290, www.cowpoke fallgathering.com.

Hours: 6:30 p.m. to as late as 9:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to as late as 9:30 p.m. Saturday; cowboy church service, 10 a.m. Sunday

Go Western to help preserve the American cowboy heritage with stagecoach rides, cowboy poetry, barbecue and old-time religion to wrap it up.

Admission ranges from free to $45.

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