As tourist season gets underway in Tuolumne County, visitors and residents alike are eager to get outdoors and enjoy the unique character of the foothills. Here’s an array of attractions you may enjoy.
If you simply wish to take a pleasant nature walk, Sonora now boasts two options for enjoyable strolls. The ever-popular Dragoon Gulch Trail was constructed in 2006-2007. The 3.5-mile trail has two entry points, one from Alpine Lane and the other on Forest Road, and offers a peaceful, sun-dappled walk in the heart of the city.
Across town, two trail professionals with the U.S. Forest Service recently cut the Sonora Community Trail. The gently graded footpath – just of shy of a mile long – extends in a loop behind the senior center-library-park complex on Greenly Road. Though the grand opening of the trail has yet to take place, walkers are already meandering on the natural surface among scrub oaks and lush grasses, which will soon turn golden.
Meanwhile, farmers have a new place for direct sales. The Peaceful Valley Certified Farmers Market opens at 4 p.m. June 7. The market is the brainchild of Erin O’Hare, who ran the Sonora Farmers Market for 10 years.
“I took a gap year,” O’Hare said to explain what happened after she left her position.
In truth, it was a year and half, during which she and her partner traveled the country and Mexico in a motorhome. When O’Hare returned to Sonora, she did odd jobs and got involved in volunteer organizations, particularly those that help the homeless.
“We were doing some work for a friend on Peaceful Valley Road, when he expressed a desire to do something useful with the property,” O’Hare said. “Farmers markets are my heart, and I immediately saw it as a feasible site.”
Because of her experience, O’Hare is certain the county can support and enjoy a fourth option to the Sonora and Tuolumne markets and the Farmory in Columbia.
“People often mentioned Saturday mornings were not convenient or they didn’t want to drive into town from up the hill. The last thing I want to do is compete with other markets,” O’Hare declared.
For that reason, she chose Friday evenings and a spot equidistance from the other markets in the middle of the county. O’Hare plans to have live music every week and showcase local bands. Lelani and the Distractions performs on June 7.
“We are also offering a community booth free each week to a group involved with health and wellness. Resiliency Village is up first.”
In the future, the booth will feature massage therapists, yoga instructors and personal chefs, to name a few.
Additionally, O’Hare’s pizza truck with a wood-fired oven will be on-site.
“We’re specializing in what we call ‘farm-to-fire’ spreads; you know, like farm-to-table, which will include a product from one of our farmers. For instance, mushrooms from Jonathan Anderson.”
You may have seen the pizza truck at the Sonora Farmers Market, where it will still roll up to serve breakfast pizzas during that market.
Speaking of farmers, the Farms of Tuolumne County Farm and Ranch Tour takes place the first weekend in June. This year the tour visits Al’s Bonsai Nursery, M.J. Farms, Lazy JH Farm and Gianelli Vineyards.
According to Marian Zimmerly, the purpose of the Farm and Ranch Tour is to bring awareness to the county’s agricultural heritage. The focus this year is on stewards of the land who love and honor their land and their animals.
“The two animal farms on the tour raise varieties of hogs, poultry and cattle. Their emphasis is on nurturing happy, healthy animals in a clean, respectful and loving environment,” Zimmerly explained.
A secondary focus is education.
“Al’s Bonsai will be doing workshops on growing and caring for bonsai,” Zimmerly said. “Gianelli Vineyards will speak about winemaking. Lazy JH will feature information on poultry issues of special interest to their daughter, an officer in FFA. Additionally, for those interested in straw bale housing, the Lazy JH family home is a beautiful example.” (Note that there are no tours of the house).
Marty Meckler of M.J. Farms is an expert on how to raise a variety of livestock on a 6-acre farm, including hens nurtured specifically to lay eggs with high omega 3 content.
Tuolumne County Farm Bureau representatives will be on hand, and the Tuolumne County Resource Conservation Water Resiliency Project will have an information table. This program provides an opportunity to learn about rainwater catchment or on-site water reuse projects, which are especially well suited for small-scale farms.
“This year, we will feature a barbecued lunch at M.J. Farms,” Zimmerly added.
The lunch costs $10 and must be purchased two days in advance. Each location features food samples from places like Hurst Ranch, Rawhide Meats, Salt of the Earth Personal Chef, Mamma Pegg’s Pantry and Stent Cattle Co., and you can purchase products from Yosemite Gateway Honey Farms and Summerland Farm. Also, you can taste wine at Gianelli Vineyards.
If you are more enthralled by the mystery of flight than the fruits of farming, the 53rd annual Father’s Day Fly-in on June 15 and 16 at the Columbia Airport should definitely make your list. Each year, the hum of flight demonstrations, contests and fee-based rides in aircraft trim the skies over the north end of the county throughout the weekend. Plenty of food and drink vendors are on-site, and for $8, you can purchase a pancake breakfast Saturday or Sunday.
This year, fly-in organizers are partnering with Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 391 to stage the annual bike and car show. Approximately 200 cars and 100 motorcycles will be on display. For a mean machine Father’s Day, head to Columbia.
Roadwork is another thing you might encounter during good weather. This year, the major artery into the county, Highway 120/108, is being developed for a stoplight at the Yosemite Junction, where the two highways diverge. Drivers are often frustrated by the inevitable delays caused by construction. Might I suggest having educational or entertaining podcasts queued up on your smartphone for these waiting periods?
Here are some options: “Bay Curious” has a fascinating episode entitled “Hetch Hetchy Water’s Epic Journey, From Mountains to Tap,” an informative show related to the region and produced by National Public Radio. I enjoy episodes from “Kind World,” which are short, poignant narratives about random acts of kindness. My favorite self-help hacks come from “Happier With Gretchen Rubin,” and for delicious true stories that you’ll want to keep listening to after the traffic gets moving, try “Serial.”
Kick back for a minute and listen while highway workers improve and repair our roads. Remember, they make it possible for us to travel smoothly and comfortably to a lot of fun destinations.
Send word on your Tuolumne County events to email@example.com.