• Murphys, California



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    Murphys, originally Murphys New Diggings then Murphy's Camp, is an unincorporated village located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Calaveras County, California, United States. The population was 2,213 at the 2010 census, up from 2,061 at the 2000 census. A former gold mining settlement, the main street today is lined with over two dozen wine tasting rooms and surrounded by local vineyards. Nearby attractions include Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Bear Valley Ski Resort and historic Mercer Caverns. The world's largest crystalline gold leaf is displayed just south of town at Ironstone Vineyards. The town also hosts an annual Irish Days parade and street fair every March on Main Street, with some years seeing over 35,000 people in attendance.
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    The USA’s Best Fall Wine Harvest Festivals

    Come September and October, vineyards begin to harvest the grapes that they’ve ever so carefully grown and cared for all season. Vineyards around the world celebrate their bounty with end-of-harvest festivities. Marking the occasion with music and dancing in the vines to food, grape stomping contests and plenty of vino. Willamette Valley Vineyards – Turner, Oregon Every year Willamette Valley Vineyards, celebrates the end of harvest with a Grape Stomp Championship and Harvest Celebration. So kick off your shoes and get ready to stomp! This year marks the 29th year, and it will take place on September 21st and 22nd in Oregon wine country. The winners of the competition receive an all-expense paid trip to the World Championship Grape Stomp in Santa Rosa. In addition to stomping, guests can enjoy Willamette Valley Vineyards’ latest wine releases (a tasting flight is included with the $15 admission). Guests are also welcome to try the custom harvest-inspired menu created by Winery Chef, DJ MacIntyre, along with live music and lawn games. Calaveras Winegrape Alliance – Murphys, California You’ll feel like you’re going back in time in Murphys, California, a historic Gold Country town nestled in the Sierra foothills. But don’t let that fool you; they sure know how to celebrate the end of harvest. Every first Saturday in October, the town of Murphys transforms into a frenzy of activity with two popular events. Organized by the Calaveras Wine Alliance, the Annual Calaveras Grape Stomp includes energetic stomp competitions every half hour. You can also look forward to live and silent auctions, a team costumes contest and wine tastings of course. Just half a block away, there’s something for everyone at the Annual Gold Rush Street Faire. Main Street fills with over 100 booths of local food, handmade jewelry, unique fashion, art and crafts and more. Château Elan Winery & Resort – Braselton, Georgia The good thing about this winery is that it has a resort just in case you taste too much delicious wine. Château Elan celebrates the end of harvest season with a massive Vineyard Fest on November 17th in the north Georgia foothills. With 1500 guests annually, the festival is sure to be even bigger this year after a $25 million renovation that will be unveiled. This year’s theme is “Flavors of the South” with a spotlight on the local restaurants. Guests can look forward to tasting over 100 beers and wines and a myriad of food stations with everything from pralines to fried green tomatoes. Don’t worry – there will be plenty of grape-stomping to burn off those calories. Niagara Falls Wine Region – Niagara Falls, New York This is a celebration to remember! More than 20 vineyards throughout Niagara Falls USA’s wine region come together for the annual Harvest Festival on September 21st and 22nd. As part of the festival, each vineyard pairs its wine with a harvest-themed appetizer, salad, soup, side dish or dessert. So come hungry! Tickets are $22 and include a tasting of three wines with a food sample at each participating winery. Some dishes to look out for include a lavender and sage ratatouille paired with Liten Buffel’s 2017 Perfetto Vineyard Pinot Noir. Or Long Cliff Winery & Vineyards savory pumpkin macaroni and cheese paired with their 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir. The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey – Cañon City, Colorado Head to The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey for a free harvest event in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. The Harvest Festival is an annual event where partygoers can indulge in local foods and enjoy blues and jazz bands. Want to make your own wine? Anyone attending ehe Harvest Festival is able to bring their own grapes to be added to that year’s unique “Canon Harvest” wine batch. This all goes down on September 28th and 29th, and the community batch will eventually be bottled and sold. Guests can also splurge on a special dining experience with the Winemakers Dinner Friday night for a cost of $125 per ticket. The chef will highlight Colorado produce, meats, fish, and cheeses in the creation of the menus. Think miso trout and brown butter sage gnocchi, all paired with divine wine. Morgan Creek Vineyards – New Ulm, Minnesota Thanks to its strong German heritage, New Ulm, Minnesota, does Oktoberfest like no other the first two weekends every October. Part of New Ulm’s Oktoberfest celebration, Morgan Creek Vineyards’ annual Grape Stomp kicks off the first Saturday in October. Visitors can enjoy German music and dance performances, food and wine pairings, tours and more. Now, back to the main event. October 5th is the grape stomp competition day, where teams of three to five stompers compete to produce the largest volume of juice stomped from fresh grapes. The prize: bragging rights and a free case of wine. A costume contest is also held in conjunction with the grape stomp. Good luck!


    Sierra Gold Country

    With a flick of the reins, the driver urged his sturdy horses into a gallop as the lumbering old stagecoach approached an incline in the dusty road ahead. Bouncing behind him, my wife, Sandy, and I grabbed the edge of our hardwood seats and held on tightly. "Keep your eyes open," the driver shouted over the rackety din. "We might run into bandits around the next bend." And, sure enough, we did. Stagecoach? Bandits? What's going on here? As excited as kids, we were reliving the romance of the 1849 California Gold Rush. Stagecoaches like the one to which we clung once linked the mining camps that sprang up in the rugged foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The rare chance to ride in an authentic coach was just one historical episode among many in our four-day, 540-mile drive into Gold Country. Though some forty-niners struck it rich, you won't need a bag of nuggets to explore the region, which has become a popular weekend retreat for folks from the nearby San Francisco Bay Area. This is good budget travel territory, where appealing lodgings and Old West-style caf,s come at affordable prices. Much of what you will want to see and do is free-or almost so. Speaking of nuggets, many visitors still pan for gold in the rushing streams that cascade out of the Sierras. And with a quick lesson in the art of handling the pan-offered throughout Gold Country-you might go home with a bit of gold dust, a nugget, or even your own bonanza. California still mines millions of dollars of gold annually. But panning is hard work; I know firsthand. For less-demanding fun: Go white-water rafting; tour a former gold mine; view one of the world's largest gold nuggets (13 pounds); hike among giant sequoia trees; quaff a beer in an authentic miner's saloon; or sip (for free) the very fine wines of Amador County, where more than 20 wineries are clustered in the sunny hills just outside the town of Plymouth. Relics of the legendary quest for gold are everywhere on this very scenic drive-in the crumbling stone walls of a former Wells Fargo office or the rusting machinery of abandoned mines. But the principal vestiges of the colorful era are the onetime camps and boomtowns scattered about the hills wherever gold was discovered, some all but hidden now down shady country roads. Many became decaying ghost towns, but others have prospered from tourism, like Angels Camp, where Mark Twain was inspired to write The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. The two once-rollicking towns of Columbia and Coloma (site of the first gold discovery) have been carefully preserved as state historic parks, where the Gold Rush story is excitingly told. The discovery had a profound impact on California and America, uniting the eastern seaboard with the vast western lands that had recently been won from Mexico. As you tour, count the easygoing history lesson as a value-added bonus of the drive. Getting started For us, Gold Country made an ideal add-on to a trip to San Francisco, getting us out of the city and into the quieter countryside. The San Francisco Bay Area's three major airports-San Francisco International, Oakland International, and San Jose International-are reasonably convenient to the drive. Airfares into Oakland and San Jose, served by Southwest Airlines, the nation's largest no-frills airline, tend to be cheaper. No discount airline currently flies into San Francisco. When we made our arrangements, the Internet showed seven car-rental agencies at Oakland's airport-including Budget (800/527-0700,, Thrifty (800/847-4389,, and Dollar (800/800-4000, offering a compact car for a week with unlimited miles for about $150. The main road threading Gold Country, California Route 49, is aptly dubbed the "Mother Lode Highway." Mostly two lanes and endlessly winding, it stretches 310 miles north from the foothill town of Oakhurst, just outside Yosemite National Park, to Vinton, north of Lake Tahoe. You may want to tackle the entire route, but I've shortened the itinerary to focus on the most historically interesting and scenic segment. (Lodging rates listed are for two people during summer high season.) Day one: On the road San Francisco to Mariposa, 215 miles One good reason to make Mariposa your first stop in Gold Country is that it still has the look of a frontier town that briefly lured fortune hunters from around the world. But the number one reason, I think, is to gaze in awe at the huge, 13-pound Fricot Nugget. One of the largest and finest specimens in the world, it was found in 1865 in the Middle Fork on the American River about 100 miles north. Value: about $1 million to $3 million-if you discount all historical worth. Imagine stumbling across it. Sort of makes you want to spend a little time panning on your own, no matter how strenuous. The crystalline nugget, bright and shiny, is displayed at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum (adults, $2), where exhibits provide a good introduction to gold-mining techniques. The first forty-niners sifted the rivers flowing down the western slopes of the Sierras for placer gold, flakes, and nuggets swept from the mountains as gravel by raging currents. By the mid-1850s, however, the easy gold was gone, and big investment money was needed to tunnel for the hard-rock gold that remained. To learn more about this aspect of the frantic gold quest, step into the museum's 175-foot-long simulated mine tunnel. It's so realistic, I sort of hurried through, fearful that the ceiling might cave in. Save time, too, for the Mariposa Museum and History Center ($3), which displays even more gold-mining artifacts, including a typical one-room miner's cabin, a giant freight wagon, and a stamp mill-a monster machine that crushed ore to particles of sand, releasing the gold from the quartz. Excerpts from miners' letters sent back home to family and friends detail the hardscrabble life in a mining camp. Details From San Francisco, take I-80 and I-580 east to I-5 south. At Gustine, head east on Route 140 via Merced to Mariposa. The stretch from Gustine to Merced cuts through the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world's most productive agricultural areas. In summer, sniff the rich scent of ripening fruit and vegetables. In Mariposa, stay at the eight-room Sierra View Motel (800/627-8439), $59; the 28-room E.C. Lodge Yosemite (209/742-6800), $69; or the 77-room Miner's Inn Motel (888/646-2244), $75. Dine at the Miner's Inn Motel; the barbecued-chicken plate is just $9.95. Information 888/554-9013, Day two: A Hollywood favorite Mariposa to Jackson, via Calaveras Big Trees State Park, 145 miles Just north of Mariposa, Route 49 plunges for about 50 miles into a mostly untouched land of deep canyons and rumpled hills blanketed by sunburned grass. Here and there cattle graze. Traffic is light, and providently so. At times, the road edges steep precipices, ultimately dropping down the side in ten-miles-per-hour hairpin turns. At Coulterville, detour briefly off the highway to stroll Main Street. The sleepy little village, where adobe structures dating back to 1851 still stand, calls itself "the most unspoiled Gold Rush town in California." Indeed. We turned into a parking space just off Main and flushed a covey of wild quail. Still a gold-mining town, Coulterville doesn't discourage the legend that "When it rains, sometimes you find gold in the streets." Jamestown, another Old West charmer, is a Hollywood star. It served as a backdrop for High Noon and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as countless other movies and TV shows. Here, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park ($2 for a tour) re-creates turn-of-the-century mountain railroading. Its historic steam locomotives and cars claim title as "the movie railroad," having appeared in Little House on the Prairie and other TV shows and films. In Columbia State Historic Park catch a 12-minute ride ($5) into the piney woods on a stagecoach. But watch out for Trigger Mortis, who might pop out from behind a monster boulder. He's a not-so-threatening masked bandit easily talked out of robbing passengers of wallets, watches, chewing gum, and other valuables. At ride's end, parched from the sun and dust, we slaked our thirst at the Douglass Saloon, downing a mug of homemade sarsaparilla, on tap for $1. Gold was first discovered in the area in 1850, and in one month 6,000 fortune hunters arrived. Before the placer deposits ran out, Columbia produced about $87 million in gold, most of it weighed on the set of scales displayed in the Wells Fargo office. Unlike many early settlements, the town, which grew to 15,000 in its heyday, never succumbed to fire, vandalism, or the elements, nor was it ever completely deserted. The best preserved of the boomtowns, its oak-shaded Main Street, stretching four blocks, is lined with two- and three-story wood and brick buildings housing a mixture of museums and shops. Over-hanging balconies and wood sidewalks reflect the frontier heritage. At Matelot Gulch Mine Supply Store, sign up for a gold-panning lesson ($5) and learn for yourself that panning is harder than it looks. For the price, you get a pan and a packet of sand "salted" with a fleck of gold so you recognize what you are looking for. Dip the pan in water and swirl gently again and again, trusting that the gold, which is heavier than the silt, sinks to the bottom of the pan. From Columbia, continue on to Angels Camp, and then detour east here for 23 miles on Route 4 into the lofty Sierras. The goal is Calaveras Big Trees State Park ($2 per car) and its impressive stand of giant sequoia redwoods. To see them up close, take the easy one-and-a-half-mile hike on North Grove Trail, where some sequoias-the largest living things on earth-grow nearly 30 feet in diameter at the base. In 1852, a grizzly hunter stumbled into the grove; his was the Western world's first recorded glimpse of these magnificent trees. Like gold, they astonish those who lay eyes on them as yet another remarkable feature of California. En route back to Angels Camp, take a walk through Murphys, another former mining camp turned vibrant weekender's retreat, and then end your day in Jackson. On Main Street at California Street, we recently discovered Hein & Co., a huge warehouse of bargain-priced used books. We stuffed every pocket of our suitcases with the armful we carried away. Details From Mariposa, take Route 49 north to Jackson. The detour on Route 4 from Angels Camp to Calaveras Big Trees, 23 miles (each way), adds about two hours to your day if you hike the trail. Stay in Jackson at the 36-room Jackson Gold Lodge (209/223-0486), $55 weekdays/$65 weekends; or the 119-room Best Western Amador Inn (800/543-5221), $79 weekdays/$84 weekends. Dine on Mexican dishes with the locals at Jos,'s; the chile relleno plate, $9.95. Information 209/223-0350, Day three: Where it all began Jackson to Auburn, 60 miles Don't let the short distance fool you; the day ahead is full. If you are in Jackson on a Saturday or Sunday, you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast before catching the 10 a.m. opening of the Kennedy Gold Mine ($9). It's reputed to have been the richest and deepest gold mine in California. Preserved as a museum of Gold Rush history, the above-ground structures-the mine office, the changing house, the dynamite storage shed, the stamp mill-can be seen on 90-minute escorted or self-guided tours. If the mine is closed, take Jackson Gate Road (Main Street extended) behind the mine to see the Kennedy Tailings Wheels, four massive, Ferris wheel-like structures (two standing, two collapsed) that once lifted tons of gravel over two hills. They are an especially photogenic relic. You can frame the hillside mine structures through the giant spokes of the standing wheel. In the town of Plymouth just ahead, look for Shenandoah Road, a turn to the right. It's the gateway to Amador County Wine Country, a cluster of more than 20 fine wineries with tasting rooms that don't charge a penny to sip. Their red zinfandels are said to be among the finest in the world. In summer, the rolling hills are traced by rows of vines hanging heavy with ripening grapes. We thought we were in Tuscany. And then, just ahead is Villa Toscano (209/245-3800, general information), a vineyard-encircled winery with a tasting room designed to look like an ancient Tuscan villa. Classical statues line the walkway and fountains splash in the garden. Even wine, we recently learned, has a link to forty-niner gold. Newly rich, the lucky miners spurred a new economy providing them with comfortable lodgings and fine dining. Soon enough, Gold Country boasted more wineries than the rest of the state. Justification enough, we figure, to stop at two more wineries before heading on. In a topsy-turvy way, you'll arrive at the site where the Gold Rush began-now the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park ($4 per car) in Coloma-only near the end of the drive. No matter; you will have acquired the background to fully appreciate the significance of what happened here. In the 1840s, John Sutter was assembling an empire for himself in the nearby Sacramento Valley. He needed wood, so he went into partnership with James W. Marshall to build a sawmill in the Coloma Valley along the American River. The mill was almost complete when Marshall found his gold. Hordes scurried to Coloma, creating an overnight town of thousands. From Coloma, miners spread out to other streams and canyons north and south pursuing reports of other strikes. The rush was on. By 1857, however, the placer gold had given out, and Coloma became a quiet grape-growing town. Still quiet, much of Coloma is now incorporated into the park. In mid-summer, the American River, which slices through the preserve, draws big crowds to raft, wade, or swim in its rock-strewn channel. On the far shore, an area is set aside for recreational gold panning, and a park concessionaire provides lessons. "Does anyone ever find gold?" I recently asked John Hutchinson, a senior park aide. "Some do," he said, "if they work hard enough and long enough." On occasion, he has scored a bit of gold himself. Though a swim is tempting, Sandy and I set out dutifully to walk the park's interpretive trail, which follows the shoreline. A replica of Marshall's sawmill sits back from the water next to a weathered cabin used by his workmen. Further on, the trail turns abruptly toward the river's edge. On a gravelly bank behind a sheltered backwater, we reached the discovery site. Except for a small sign, it's simply a riverbank. North of Coloma, Route 49 snakes through a rugged mountain realm, offering some of the most dramatic scenery on the drive. Initially, the road traces the American River, where white-water rafters go splashing past. Climbing high above a deep gorge, it suddenly tops a summit and then quickly descends into Auburn, one of California's prettiest little cities. Details Except for the wine-sampling detour in Plymouth, stick to Route 49. In Auburn, stay at the 52-room Super 8 (530/888-8808), $59 weekdays/$63 weekends; or the 57-room Motel 6 (530/888-7829), $62 weekdays/$68 weekends. Dine at Tio Pepe's Restaurant; the hefty taco plate includes taco, enchilada, burrito, tostadas, and rice and beans for $7.95. Information 530/887-2111, Day four: Auburn to San Francisco, 120 miles Return quickly to San Francisco on I-80 to catch your flight home. Or for more Gold Rush lore, continue north 130 miles on the Mother Lode Highway to its terminus at Vinton. Either way, you might reflect on this thought: A state-park ranger once told me that practically every inch of the streams and rivers of the Sierras has been worked for gold at one time or another. But more washes down from the mountains every spring, when melting snow turns placid streams into racing torrents. The lure of California gold may have diminished, but it is far from gone.


    The Sea Islands of Georgia

    Day 1: Savannah to Tybee Island My husband, Michael, and I land in Savannah around lunchtime. Georgia's First City, as Savannah declares itself, is architecturally awesome--and maddening for drivers. Tour buses slowly crawl around historic squares. Tourists cluster in the middle of the street to peer at the impeccably restored 18th- and 19th-century houses. We have to go through town to get to our evening's destination, Tybee Island, so our plan is to park, fortify with some food, and get on our way. Our first attempt at finding barbecue is unsuccessful. We make do with a black-eyed-pea sandwich at B. Matthews Bakery; it's a delicious approximation of a spicy falafel. I pocket a chocolate-chip cookie for the 18-mile drive to Tybee. Georgia's most developed island feels kind of like Atlantic City meets Coney Island--a little shabby, but that shabbiness often translates to a retro charm. The Basta family runs the Georgianne Inn, three houses in from the beach, and the adult son Nick is our enthusiastic host. We borrow two cruiser bikes, and Nick gives us 10 minutes of pointers. Tybee's tides are remarkably low, so from mid-afternoon until sunset there's at least 50 feet of packed sand to play on. The southern side of the beach, beyond a long pier, has high winds, which attract kitesurfers, kiteboarders, and old-fashioned kite fliers. For dinner, we head over to The Crab Shack, a Tybee institution whose motto is "Where the Elite Eat in Their Bare Feet"--but which we'll always remember as the kind of establishment where patrons bring their own beer cozies. Calling it a shack is either false humility or wishful nostalgia--it's more like a Crab Complex, with cutesy signs (DRINKING TO FORGET? PLEASE PAY IN ADVANCE), Jimmy Buffett on rotation, and a Gift Shack. We put our names on the waiting list and visit the man-made Gator Lagoon, where antsy kids are poking at baby alligators with sticks. We order salty snow crab; a low-country boil of shrimp, potatoes, and sausage; and steamed oysters, which arrive unshucked. The food is good, but I'm otherwise engaged. There's a garbage can embedded in the center of each of the tables, and for some reason this excites me. No sooner has Michael shucked an oyster than I've tossed the shell into the pail. When our waitress comes to clear, I proudly declare that I've taken care of it for her. Day one  Lodging Georgianne Inn1312 Butler Ave., Tybee Island, 800/596-5301,, from $65 Food B Matthews Eatery325 E. Bay St., Savannah, 912/233-1319, black-eyed-pea sandwich $6 The Crab Shack40 Estill Hammock Rd., Tybee Island, 912/786-9857, low-country boil $13 Day 2: Tybee Island to St. Simons Island By 8:30 a.m., there are 20 people waiting for a table at The Breakfast Club, a squat stucco house two blocks from the Georgianne. Joseph Sadowsky, an alum of the Culinary Institute of America, was recruited by John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette to cater their wedding. He's pretty great on less fancy fare, too. I have a spicy homemade sausage patty with poached eggs and buttery grits. The low-ceilinged room, with sticky brown plastic tablecloths, isn't built for lingering--just as well, considering the line outside. Highway 17, the main scenic road tracing the coast, doesn't offer much to look at until we put some distance between us and Savannah. But by the time we reach Riceboro, we're breezing under a canopy of live oaks. At South Newport, we pull off the two-lane highway to see what's billed as the smallest church in America, the Memory Park Christ Chapel. The 56-year-old nondenominational church--open 24/7 and rentable for weddings--is just 10 feet by 15 feet, with seating for only 12. A sign asks visitors to shut the door tight when leaving, which turns off the lights. I follow the instructions, perhaps too much so--the church is still rattling as we walk back to the car. Most of the islands connect to the mainland by causeways. Getting to Sapelo Island, however, requires a 30-minute ferry from Meridian across the Intracoastal Waterway. It could just as well be a time machine. When the Civil War came, the heirs of a big plantation owner, Thomas Spalding, abandoned the island, their cotton and sugarcane plantations, and many slaves. The isolation allowed the former slaves, originally from West Africa, to sustain their own self-governing community and their own language, called Geechee. To this day, 57 descendants live on Hog Hammock, a 434-acre spread. Tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds bought the island in 1934 but didn't mess around with Hog Hammock; he breathed new life into an existing mansion and established a wildlife area that's now run by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The island also has a marine institute operated by the University of Georgia. To get access to Sapelo you have to have a reservation, either for a tour or at one of the island's two inns. (Before you board, you'll be asked who'll be greeting you on the other end; no name, no go.) I'd booked a tour with Yvonne Grovner, who runs trips five days a week for the Georgia D.N.R. Yvonne grew up on the mainland; she met her husband, a Geechee, in high school and moved to Hog Hammock once they got married. During a three-hour drive, Yvonne introduces us to other residents and points out the pastel, one-story shacks, most of which are abandoned. We see ruins of an old sugar mill, miles of deserted dunes on Nannygoat Beach, and the exquisitely faded Reynolds mansion. It looks like a double for the one in the 1998 movie of Great Expectations. When Yvonne moved to Hog Hammock in 1980, there were more than 100 people; today, there are about half that. Fifteen school-age kids take the ferry each day to go to school; as they get older, there's not much to keep them on the island. One person she takes us to meet is Cornelia Bailey, who runs the bar (The Trough) and the gift shop (The Pig Pen), where she sells shells and Yvonne's handmade sweetgrass baskets. Michael asks Cornelia if she's always lived in Hog Hammock. "Is there anywhere else?" she says, with a wry smile. The ferry ride back is lulling, the horizon interrupted only by green reeds and salt marshes. We drive south toward Brunswick, and then over a causeway. St. Simons Island is a world away from Sapelo. Kids in fluorescent flip-flops march giddily along the main drag, while dads golf and moms go shopping. We hunt down one of the island's five tree spirits--droopy, somewhat spooky faces that were carved into live oaks to commemorate sailors who died on boats made from St. Simons trees. (The easiest one to find is on Mallery Street, next to Murphy's Tavern.) At Zuzu's, a '50s-style diner adjacent to the pier, we share a root beer float. It suitably ruins our appetites, so all we need for dinner is a bowl of thick Brunswick stew--shredded chicken, ground pork, corn, and okra--at the nautical-themed Blackwater Grill. Day two  Transportation Sapelo Island ferryLanding Road, off Hwy. 99, 912/437-3224,, $2 round trip Lodging Sea Palms5445 Frederica Rd., St. Simons Island, 800/841-6268,, from $129 Food The Breakfast Club1500 Butler Ave., Tybee Island, 912/786-5984, two eggs and sausage $5.50 The Troughno address, Sapelo Island, 912/485-2206 Zuzu's119 Mallery St., St. Simons Island, 912/ 638-8655, root beer float $3.50 Blackwater Grill260 Redfern Village, St. Simons Island, 912/634-6333, Brunswick stew $5.50 Activities Memory Park Christ ChapelHwy. 17, South Newport, no phone Georgia Department of Natural Resources912/485-2300, half- or full-day tour $10 Shopping The Pig Penno address, Sapelo Island, 912/485-2206 Day 3: St. Simons Island to St. Marys Rice was the most common--and notoriously brutal--crop in coastal Georgia: Slaves who worked the soggy paddies often caught malaria. Following the Civil War, not many rice plantations survived. On a tour of the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation in Brunswick, we learn it was one of the few that did, in part due to a pair of savvy sisters who turned it around by converting it into a dairy farm. A terrific thunderstorm erupts right as we arrive on Jekyll Island. The Georgia coast has a subtropical climate; humid summer stretches well into October, and afternoon thunderstorms are common. We take shelter on the wide porch of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, formerly the clubhouse commissioned by J.P. Morgan, William K. Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller, and Joseph Pulitzer, who were all part of the Jekyll Island Club, which owned the island in the late 1880s. Jekyll Island, including the hotel, was purchased by the state in 1947. I rock in a white wicker chair and admire the sailboats. For all its former wealth, Jekyll is much more casual than St. Simons. Beyond the historic district, the interior is family-friendly and modest, with mostly small ranch houses. It would be sacrilegious not to play some kind of golf, so during a break in the storm, we squeeze in a round of miniature golf, then head back to Highway 17. By the time we reach St. Marys, it's past 9 p.m. and the sleepy town is in full R.E.M. We check into the Spencer House Inn, a huge pink Victorian run by Mike and Mary Neff. Our huge top-floor room has a four-poster bed and a claw-foot tub. But the real draw is a DVD player; we borrow Friday Night Lights from Mike and Mary, who say it's one of the few DVDs in their collection that they were able to agree on, and settle in for the night. Day three  Lodging Spencer House Inn101 E. Bryant St., St. Marys, 888/840-1872,, from $100 Activities Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation5556 Hwy. 17, Brunswick, 912/264-7333,, $5 Jekyll Island Miniature GolfCourse 2, Beachview Dr., 912/635-2648, $5.30 Resources Jekyll Island Visitors Center901 Downing Musgrove Cswy., 877/453-5955, Day 4: St. Marys to Savannah St. Marys is where you board a ferry to Cumberland Island, which is run by the National Park Service. Thomas Carnegie owned the island in the late 19th century, and now wild horses and turkeys run free amid the ruins of his mansion. The sole lodging, the posh Greyfield Inn, is a mansion built by his widow; it was the site of the Kennedy-Bessette reception. Only 300 people are allowed on Cumberland each day, and it's wise to reserve months ahead for the 45-minute ferry. Yesterday's rain messed up the ferry schedule, and there's no way to see the island and make our flight. So we look into renting a kayak from Up the Creek Xpeditions and walk around St. Marys. It's the prettiest town of our trip. Day four  Activities Cumberland Island912/882-4335,, $4, round-trip ferry $15 Up the Creek Xpeditions111 Osborne St., St. Marys, 912/882-0911,, kayaks $40-$60 per day Finding your way Causeways link most of the islands to the mainland, and in all but one case, they're free. The exception: There's a $3 daily car fee to visit state-owned Jekyll Island. The ferries to Cumberland and Sapelo islands depart only a couple of times a day, so plan your schedule in advance, and be sure to make the ferry back to the mainland. (There aren't any places to buy food on Cumberland, so bring your own lunch and water.) And when driving back up to Savannah, Highway 95 may seem like the speedy route, but it can take over three hours when the traffic is bad, which is often.


    Murphys, California

    Jeff and Mary Stai experienced their first Mayberry moment eight years ago, while paying a weekend visit to this high Sierras town. Picnicking in a park with a river running through it, the Stais stared in surprise as a boy ambled out from the woods. "He was barefoot and carrying a fishing pole over his shoulder, with fresh-caught fish," Jeff Stai says. "We said to ourselves, 'We've got to keep an eye on this town.' " Five years later, the Stais uprooted from their home in Orange County and transplanted themselves to Murphys, three hours east of San Francisco. They bought a home and started Twisted Oak Winery, one of a dozen wineries within a three-mile radius of downtown (350 Main St., 209/736-9080). Murphys has been drawing new residents at a rate unrivaled since the mid-1800s, when it was founded by prospecting brothers Dan and John Murphy. At that time, fortunes in gold were hauled out of the hills. But Murphys' current commodity is its quality of life. "People here are most concerned with friendships and community," says Jennifer Wren Stoicheff, who left behind her Bay Area catering business to move to Murphys. She founded Alchemy Market and Wine Bar, a gourmet emporium and restaurant (191 Main St., 209/728-0700, smoked turkey sandwich with jalepeño chutney $10). "They don't care what you do for a living, or what kind of car you drive. And everyone seems to know everyone else's kids." The elm-shaded Main Street retains time-capsule touches, such as the Gold Rush-era Murphys Hotel, where Mark Twain and President Ulysses S. Grant each stayed (457 Main St., 209/728-3444,, from $49). New housing developments on the edge of town are an indication that fresh crops of urban exiles are on the horizon. In the meantime, Murphys continues to offer more of those Mayberry moments--the doctor who makes house calls, the barista who knows exactly how each local takes his cup of coffee. "Murphys has that small-town sensibility in the truest sense," says Stoicheff.

    Travel Tips

    Best Reader Tips for Flying with an Infant

    Well, we survived our first flight! It actually wasn't so bad and our son was a trooper (that's him, taking it all in). Thanks to all of you that weighed in. The advice that came in handy the most was to stay calm—something I had to remind myself to do on a couple occasions. I've listed some of the most useful advice below, and I'll give you a couple of my own. Screening processes are different at every airport. We flew out of JFK and sailed through security no problem, even with bottles of formula and liquid antibiotics (which we packed separately and flagged for the TSA agent, per your advice). But while going through security at Tampa for our return flight, the TSA agent had to inspect each bottle separately via a different machine. Thankfully, it was able to read the contents through the plastic bottle, or we would have had to throw the formula out. Which would have delighted our fellow passengers, I'm sure. Next time, I'll pack powder formula instead. Lesson learned. Here are some of your best tips: Security with a baby is really not that bad, and I have encountered, much to my surprise, some very helpful TSA screeners. Put liquids in their own ziplock for easy removal. Baby on the front in a carrier. Slip on shoes (I wear slip on sneakers, yeah, not a great fashion statement, but who cares). Deal with the carry-ons first, once they are going through slip baby into your arms and walk on through. Baby goes back in carrier, you get your stuff and be on your way! —Abby Have everything ready before you get into the security line instead of pulling out your liquids, untying shoes, taking off jackets, etc. while in line. —Kim Feed baby liquid during take off and landing to help with ear pressure. The swallowing helps their little ears and limits the "people with the screaming kid flight." And RELAX. Kids pick up on how you're feeling. If you are stressed about it they will sense it and reflect that back though more crying and acting more needy than usual and being generally fussy. —Jennifer Be prepared for Murphy's Law. Pack twice as many things in the baby carry on as you think you will need. If you calculate three diaper changes in X number of hours, pack six, if you think you might need two changes of clothes for baby, pack four (they are tiny one-piece things, you can roll them up small). The time I didn't was of course the time we were on the runway for several hours delayed, and by the time the airline let us off the plane into the airport again, shops were closed. —Amy Now that we have the first trip under our belt, where will we go next? If you have suggestions, head here to nominate your favorite family-travel destination. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Flying With Kids: A Survival Guide This Summer, Travel With Your Little One—and Your Sanity 5 Easy Overnight Adventures for Kids


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    DESTINATION IN California


    Calaveras County, officially the County of Calaveras, is a county in the northern part of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 40,171. The county seat is San Andreas. Angels Camp is the county's only incorporated city. Calaveras is Spanish for "skulls"; the county was reportedly named for the remains of Native Americans discovered by the Spanish explorer Captain Gabriel Moraga. Calaveras County is in both the Gold Country and High Sierra regions. Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a preserve of giant sequoia trees, is in the county several miles east of the town of Arnold on State Highway 4. Credit for the discovery of giant sequoias there is given to Augustus T. Dowd, a trapper who made the discovery in 1852 while tracking a bear. When the bark from the "Discovery Tree" was removed and taken on tour around the world, the trees became a worldwide sensation and one of the county's first tourist attractions. The uncommon gold telluride mineral calaverite was discovered in the county in 1861 and is named for it. Mark Twain set his story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" in the county. The county hosts an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, featuring a frog-jumping contest, to celebrate the association with Twain's story. Each year's winner is commemorated with a brass plaque mounted in the sidewalk of downtown Historic Angels Camp and this feature is known as the Frog Hop of Fame. In 2015, Calaveras County had the highest rate of suicide deaths in the United States, with 49.1 per 100,000 people.