Recreating in Calaveras county
October 25, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I took a trip down the hill to the little town of Murphys in Calaveras County. I had not been down there since I was a young boy, when I made the trip with my uncle. My family and I used to camp a little farther south, off the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus near the town of Dardanelle.
The drive from Truckee to Calaveras County was not too long. I actually made it in just under three hours. The distance is not too great, but the roads wind through the foothills. The fall scenery made the drive very pleasant.
All you have to do is take Highway 49 from Auburn to Placerville and continue on to Angels Camp. Murphys is located just off Highway 4 about four miles northeast of Angels Camp ” a town made famous by Mark Twain’s story about the jumping frogs of Calaveras County.
The region is rich in mining history, and more recently has gained a tremendous recreational draw. I was also impressed with the amount of wine growing in the region and the large amount of growth. I was fortunate to visit a couple of wineries during my stay.
The first was Ironstone Vinyards located just a short distance from downtown Murphys. The owner, Stephen Kautz, gave us a tour and allowed us to sample quite a few of his wines with appetizers and dinner. The grounds are beautiful and have a huge outdoor amphitheater that hosts big-name entertainment each summer.
The grounds are also available for other special events. A wedding was being held while our group was in attendance. The beautiful horse-drawn carriage bringing in the bride and groom is a real highlight for those holding a wedding at the vineyard.
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Kautz also has two private ponds that hold bass in one and trophy rainbow trout in the other. He is a fly fisher and lets his friends fish the ponds.
The second vineyard, Indian Rock, was the site of a barbecue one evening. It is a much smaller operation than Ironstone, but it, too, had a catch-and-release trout pond. They let some in our group take turns with a fly rod to catch a number of very large fish. Professional outdoor photographer Rick Martin landed the largest fish ” a 5-pound rainbow before the barbecue.
There is a tremendous amount of fishing, hiking, camping and new golf courses to draw tourists, as well as the many wineries. Fishing is always of interest to me, so I liked the fact that there are a number of lakes and streams in the area for anglers.
Because of the lower elevation of most of the lakes such as Pardee, New Hogan and New Melones, they are primarily bass fishing lakes, though they do have both trout and kokanee salmon.
The higher elevation lakes and streams such as the Mokelumne and the North Fork of the Stanislaus are trout waters. We had the opportunity to try a day of fishing the North Fork of the Stanislaus. Next week I will talk about that experience.
The Calaveras County region is a tremendous recreational area. As I said before, it seems to have something for everyone. I certainly enjoyed everything during my stay.
If you get the chance to spend some time in this region, I am sure that you will find it a great vacation destination.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.