Travel & Recreation

On trails, in caves and down holes

Row, row, row your really long boat on Lake Natoma. Or just rent a little kayak or canoe for a mellow sunset paddle.

Row, row, row your really long boat on Lake Natoma. Or just rent a little kayak or canoe for a mellow sunset paddle.

Photo By kyle monk

Fraggle adventure

Calaveras County caverns

Dance your cares away, indeed. There’s a bevy of underworld wonderlands about 80 miles away from Sacramento in Calaveras County, perfect to escape the heat. The temperature in these caverns is usually around 60 degrees, plus, it’s a natural spectacle. Stalagmite and stalactite formations that took thousands of years to create will amaze, and tours with different levels of adventure are offered: walking tours, crawling-on-your-belly spelunking tours (one includes subterranean rafting), rappelling and even zip gliding (outside, of course). It’ll make you feel a little bit like a Fraggle.

California Caverns at Cave City, 9565 Cave City Road in Mountain Ranch; (866) 762-2837;Moaning Cavern, 5350 Moaning Cave Road in Vallecito; (866) 762-2837; Mercer Caverns, Sheep Ranch Road in Murphys; (209) 728-2101;

Glorious golf hole

No. 3 at William Land Park Golf Course

It’s not much of a challenge: a horizontal green, flanked by front-left and rear-right bunkers, plus two towering trees 20 yards in front. It plays about 145 yards, and a solid eight iron, hit on a line and with respectable arc, should have you putting for birdie. But something always goes awry on Land Park’s third hole, the course’s flagship par three. You’ll probably go long in the bunker if the pin’s up close. If it’s to the left, you’ll hit the tree in a vain, perhaps even cocky, attempt to clear it. Good luck trying to save par, Skills.

1701 Sutterville Road, (916) 277-1207,

To spot a blackbird

Cosumnes River Preserve

The Cosumnes River is the only unrestricted river on the western slope of the Sierra, which means that its riverbanks are rich with myriad bird and plant species—many of which you can check out at the Cosumnes River Preserve, just off of Interstate 5, south of Sacramento. Lace up comfy sneakers and a light hoodie, because cool summer mornings are the ideal time to check out flocks of egrets, European starlings, blackbirds and orioles. This summer’s preserve activities include a guided river-walk bird count, guided paddle tour and a volunteer-driven restoration day.

For complete information including directions, visit

The secret garden

Rooftop park on Eighth and O streets

Downstairs, there is a cold, cemented office space surrounded by light-rail tracks. Up the steep ramp and on the roof, however, there is a sunny, surprisingly serene park where monarch butterflies mingle and rad games of hide-and-seek are played. Huge pots of plants, hefty patches of picnicking grass, a few art sculptures and oddly placed bleacher-type things all grace this roof. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go there on a summer afternoon, but when day succumbs to night or in the wee hours of the morning, the rooftop park on Eighth and O streets is magic. (A.C.)

Biker intelligence

Urban Bike Skills workshop

Ever get unnerved by all those beeping horns and aggressive drivers who don’t want to share the road? Smart Cycling Sacramento offers monthly Urban Bike Skills classes to help bring you up to speed—pun intended—on the two-wheeled rules of the road. Learn basic bike maintenance (fixing a flat, brake adjustment, general upkeep, et al.) as well as important road-safety tips on lane positioning, emergency maneuvers and how to avoid crashes (which, interestingly enough, doesn’t include just holding your breath and praying to the deity of choice—who knew?).

For class schedules and registration, visit

Foothill festivities

Bell Tower Brewfest & Craft Faire

Placerville is so close, yet far enough to forget sometimes. Here are a few good excuses to make a day trip to the historical Foothill town: It’s cooler up in the hills, and they close off streets to have festivals. The Bell Tower Brewfest on Saturday, June 26, will have more than 30 microbrewies pouring samples, and with live music to boot. Tickets are $30, but they’re limited. If beer isn’t your thing, Main Street will be closed off for its 14th annual Craft Faire with more than 100 artisans peddling their wares, such as pottery, dolls, food and soap. And everyone needs soap. Yeah, and food.

Bell Tower Brewfest, Saturday, June 26, 6-9 p.m. in downtown Placerville. Craft Faire, Saturday, August 8, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Main Street in Placerville; (530) 672-3436;

Make believe travel

The Sacramento International Airport

You’ve got travel on your mind but lack the budget to give you wings. Sometimes, however, my husband and I find that dreaming of the journey leads us to new mental destinations. On balmy summer evenings, we like nothing better than donning a pair of sunglasses, packing a small picnic dinner—fruit, cheese, bread and your drink of choice should be enough—and driving out to the airport for a little midsummer’s night fancy. Pick a spot beneath a flight pattern along the nearby river road, lay down a blanket and enjoy the sight of all those arrivals and departures—one of which may someday be yours.

Anti-Napa wine getaway

Amador County wineries

For those looking for a romantic day trip off of the beaten path, a scenic 40-minute drive down Jackson Highway brings you to what is shaping up to be the newer, friendlier Napa Valley. Lush hills play host to some of the most charming and unpretentious wineries around. Play hooky one day and pay a visit to a few of the small, hospitable, Amador County wineries on a weekday. If you play it up, you’ll probably be the best oenophile at the tasting bar. Pack a small picnic lunch, find a quiet nook at one of the picnic tables at the Dobra Zemlja Vineyards and Winery in Plymouth and enjoy the view. (L.H.)

River running for beginners

Try a canoe

Some of us don’t do well with the whole outdoorsy thing, but we’re willing to try. The best place to go for beginners who want to check out the water is the Sacramento State Aquatic Center at Lake Natoma. For openers, there are plenty of lessons, reasonably priced, to put even a novice on the water quickly and with minimal fuss. What’s more, canoe and kayak rentals are cheap, easy and fun to use in the relatively quiet lake area (and they provide the life jackets, just in case someone decides to stand up in the canoe). For those of us with a round shape and a low center of gravity, a canoe may be the best bet. If you opt for the kayak, wear a swimming suit, because buddy, you’re going to get wet (and if you’re short and round, once you’ve got a life jacket on, it will be hard to steer the kayak). This is a great place for kids, it’s true, but it’s also a great place for adults who aren’t quite ready to try the whitewater and are a little too sedate for a floating party. Bring a picnic lunch and pull up on one of the beaches—but don’t forget the sunscreen.

Sacramento State Aquatic Center, 1901 Hazel Ave.; (916) 278-2842;

Unexpected people-watching kudos

Westfield Galleria at Roseville

I enjoy going to the mall like I enjoy heartburn after Indian buffet. You know: strange, sometimes panic-inducing rumbling and fire. Anyway, I recently ventured, for the first time, out to the Westfield Galleria at Roseville’s epic mall, which is Sacto suburbia’s Taj Mahal, the only place in town where kids half your age charge Coach bags or electronic devices that cost twice what you earn in a month. Depressing, sure, but also fun. And you can always hit up the Apple store and check Facebook on the new iPad, which kills a good hour. And it’s better than tikka masala indigestion.

1151 Galleria Boulevard, (916) 787-2000,

One mile down and only 31 miles to go on the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail along the American River.

Photo By don button

If they built it, you must ride

Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

Get on your wheels this summer (two, not four) and take to the 32-mile bike path that is the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. The river-scenic path runs from Discovery Park, near the confluence of the Sacramento River and American River, all the way to Beal’s Point at Folsom Lake. The long stretch of blue is a summer magnet for all-ages recreation. Still maintained by the county of Sacramento (keep your fingers crossed, since it’s on the chopping block in this time of drastic budget cuts), the trail is one of the longest paved paths in the United States.

Not standing idly by

Volunteer Center of Sacramento

For some folks, summer means more free time. Why spend it idly when there’s plenty of ways to positively impact the community? The Volunteer Center of Sacramento is a perfect starting point to find out where help is needed. Its online search engine filters results by region and interest. The possibilities are broad, and there are even opportunities for minors. Volunteer just one time or for an ongoing basis—be a naturalist, feed the hungry, join a search-and-rescue team, instruct hula, help puppies, be a theater usher—because any time donated is time well spent.

Volunteer Center of Sacramento, 1111 Howe Avenue, Suite 600; (916) 567-3100;

Where’s a great spot for a summer picnic?

SN&R’s Facebook friends respond:

Clint Durkee: There is a spot at Discovery Park, [with] a little cliff that is at the edge of the water. You can watch the boats, people, animals. It’s a great place to picnic.