Where to go around Northern California when the world’s too much

Groomed pathways meander through a garden at the Ananda Meditation Retreat 25 miles northeast of Nevada City.
Groomed pathways meander through a garden at the Ananda Meditation Retreat 25 miles northeast of Nevada City. Sacramento Bee file

The outside world has demanded a lot of us lately.

We Americans have had to weather an ugly, harrowing election season marked by attacks and disturbing revelations, and then what for many in California was a devastating presidential result. Social media have been filled with anguished messages, at least from those opposed to Donald Trump. And even for those who voted for him, the past few months have been a whiplash of a ride.

Yes, big battles loom over climate change, health care and other important issues, but some of us could use a little break from the ups and downs of the news cycle. For some, it’s time to remember who we are and what we value before pushing back into the fray.

Thankfully, Northern California enjoys just the kinds of soothing landscapes and carefully crafted retreats that make it easy to take a break from the world’s demands. At most of these spots, you’ll find comfortable beds, peaceful hiking trails and sublime views. A few retreats serve healthful meals made from organic produce grown on site as well as lessons in meditation, yoga and other Blue State healing arts.

Most importantly, they offer plenty of peace – a precious commodity this past year – be they in forests or on coastlines.

Deep in the Sierra foothills, the Ananda Meditation Retreat (14618 Tyler Foote Road #114, Nevada City, 530-478-7557) has been providing refuge for the spiritually hungry for almost 50 years. Ananda follows the teachings of the Indian guru Paramahansa Yogananda of “Autobiography of a Yogi” fame, but its mix of Hinduism and other religious traditions isn’t pushed on visitors.

Instead, peace-seekers can unwind in its yurts, cabins and framed tents to write, work or meditate, while deer and birds traverse the forest outside. Cellphone service only works for a few carriers, and Wi-Fi is limited to the main house. As a bonus, the vegetarian food is scrumptious, and the staff go out of their way to leave visitors alone.

To the west, the Point Reyes Hostel (1390 Limantour Spit Road, Point Reyes, 415-663-8811) sits in remote, wood-framed coziness in the middle of the 70,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore. Visitors can stay in private bedrooms or shared dorm rooms, but also can mingle if they want in the book-filled living room or kitchen. Outside await 140 miles of trails as well as elephant seal rookeries, tule elk herds and seabirds.

The hostel offers a bonus for those feeling like digital-era Pavlov’s dogs – it has no cellphone reception or Wi-Fi whatsoever. If you really need to check your email, there’s a pay-as-you-go internet kiosk. It just might be easier to start a real live conversation with another guest.

Finally, Mercey Hot Springs (62964 Little Panoche Road, Firebaugh, 209-826-3388) in the Central Valley adds water to the getaway recipe. Pools, bathhouses and saunas dot the sprawling property in the middle of the golden hills between Salinas and Fresno, along with a few private cabins. The facility bills itself as a sustainable resort committed to solar power, natural hot spring water and eco-friendly building materials.

Once you’re properly re-centered, hurry back home. You’ll be desperately needed as this new political era takes off. Blue, red or purple, everyone will have to work smartly and cooperatively to build the best future possible.

Tree Lighting

Mammoth Lakes

What: The Village at Mammoth is throwing a holiday party around its 30-foot Christmas tree. Bring your family to help Santa and Wooly the wooly mammoth light the tree and sing carols.

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday; 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Village at Mammoth, 6201 Minaret Road

Cost: Free


Festival of Lights


What: This Southern California city holds its annual fireworks and lighting spectacular at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, with the resort illuminated by more than 4.5 million lights. In 2014, USA Today readers named the event the nation’s best public lights display.

When: Noon to 10 p.m. on switch-on day, Friday. The display then runs through Jan. 7 except for Christmas Day.

Where: Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, 3649 Mission Inn Ave.

Cost: Free


Sugar Castles and Sweets

San Francisco

What: The Westin St. Francis will present its enchanted and sugar castles holidays display.

When: Wednesday through Monday, Jan. 2

Where: 335 Powell St.

Cost: Free


Jessica Hice