I am rediscovering the California Gold Country as I travel Highway 49 and update my book chapter titled “Rambling California’s Historic Highway 49: Starting with Columbia, the Preserved Gold Rush Town.” This is a chapter in my book Northern California History Weekends, which will come out in a new edition in 2017.
Author John Steinbeck, if he were alive today and thinking back on his novel Cannery Row, would appreciate the irony that the sardines have had quixotic ups and downs in their population levels off his beloved Monterey Bay in California.
There are still plenty of “nuggets” in the cultural stream for the modern traveler venturing into the Northern Gold Country of California along Highway 49, after leaving I-80 at Auburn and heading north.
The Mendocino Coast intrigues visitors and ranks as one of California’s loveliest and most popular coastal areas. It takes a while to get there, and the road in, Highway 128, is one of California’s more pleasing back-country routes.
One of the great travel pleasures of Monterey, California, today is that its Monterey Aquarium enhances so superbly the area’s earlier legacy of nature attractions. The Aquarium presents the wonders of the sea, such as fish in a huge kelp forest, as a diver would experience them offshore. This wonder, so thoroughly scientific and precise, does not need enhancement with amusement park attractions.
What are the best beaches both north and south of San Francisco, as well as in San Francisco? My recommendations: Baker Beach in San Francisco, followed by Ocean Beach and Fort Funston. North, consider Limantour, then Heart's Desire, Bodega Dunes, Goat Rock, and Manchester. South, try Montara and then Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and Ano Nuevo.
Yosemite Valley is a joy to visit any time of the year. Each season has its special pleasures. You could return to Yosemite Valley time and again over a lifetime and never exhaust its beauty. Late spring, around mid-May, is an especially auspicious time for a visit.