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THE 209
Donnel1Vista - photo by Photos by KATARINA GOTZMANNOVA

It does not have the glam and glitz of Los Angeles, skyscrapers of San Francisco or golden beaches of Malibu. And that’s a plus, because the 209 area code is filled with quaint towns like Lockeford, famous for their one-of-a-kind foods, natural skyscrapers of majestic Yosemite National Park and the gold mining towns of Mother Lode. If you are based in Manteca, head out north, south or east, in all directions there are towns to be explored and treasures to be found.

Day trip No 1

Off to Yosemite we go

Manteca is centrally located within a two-hour drive to almost everywhere – sandy beaches, snowy mountains, lakes filled with fish and amazing hiking trails. Five years ago I was beyond excited to hear that my not-English-speaking mom will be visiting me, her very first trip to the United States. I immediately planned a thousand trips I can take her to… and then promptly cancelled them all. Let’s start her trip somewhere where she is going to remember it. Majestic Yosemite National Park. Slightly over two hours away, it seemed to be the perfect day trip freshly off the plane. We stocked up the car with snacks and followed the signs that start in the middle of Manteca – quite a stretch, if you tell me, because the actual way to Yosemite starts somewhere past Chinese Camp. On the way there we zoomed through Oakdale, the Cowboy Capital of the World, saw the Don Pedro Reservoir and the picturesque town of Groveland. And several hours later, we arrived.

Entrance fee is based on a type of vehicle, so for a car you’ll pay $30 for a seven-day pass. Not bad, if you ask me! First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but we also found deep forests, lush meadows, giant sequoias, and much more. Something you definitely do not see in Europe, and I was proud to show this side of California to my mom. Since we didn’t plan to camp, we parked the car (recommended) and explored the Yosemite Valley on foot. With the help of the free Yosemite Valley shuttle system that provides easy access around Yosemite Valley and stops at such landmarks as Lower Yosemite Fall, Sentinel Bridge or Mirror Lake Trailhead, we finished our Tour de Yosemite in several hours. Since my mom (and nobody in the family, really) is not an extreme hiker, to touch all the sweet spots and enjoy the majestic views is all we really wanted. We arrived back in Manteca just after sunset and I must say the trip was a hit.

If you want to take visitors to Yosemite, the best time to plan your trip is in the spring when the waterfalls are in full force. The park is otherwise open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and each season has something different to offer.

Day trip No. 2

To the Mother Lode

where it all started

Since we dipped our feet in road tripping, I was itching to get on the road again and show my mom something else that is unique to only California. We decided to explore the Mother Lode, specifically towns of Amador, Sutter Creek, and Jackson. My husband’s family is from the mountains and since he partially grew up in Amador City, he offered to act as our guide. Yet again, we packed up the car and this time headed north for a day trip full of fun.

Our first stop was of course in Lockeford. Meat lovers consider Lockeford, population slightly over 3,000, their Mecca. They travel from far and wide just to get a taste of the famous Lockeford sausage. My mom purchased some kind of smoked meat that soon filled our car with a pungent smell and proclaimed it delicious. 

Not even an hour later on Highway 88 and we arrived at Sutter Creek. The “Jewel of the Mother Lode” is a sweet tourist town full of shops selling anything from ice cream to used railroad nails, and we enjoyed a picnic at the Minnie Provis Park adjacent to the actual Sutter Creek. If you plan to visit, definitely stop by at the Sutter Creek Cheese Shoppe (33 Main St.) for samples of local cheese and Sutter Creek Ice Cream Emporium (51 Main St) for refreshing ice cream.

Only two miles from Sutter Creek, Amador City welcomed us with its quiet streets. Much, much smaller than Sutter Creek, this town does not have too many tourists roaming the Old California 49. You blink and it’s over – this is how small the town is. We admired the old Imperial Hotel (14202 Old Highway 49), visited the Amador City Cemetery (located right behind the hotel) and finally visited Buffalo Chips (14179 Main St.). It’s almost unbelievable that Amador’s most famous and productive mine, the Keystone, produced about $24 million in gold. If you are interested, you can still try your luck at gold panning or tour several abandoned mines.

(Future) Day trip No. 3

After three weeks my mom packed her bags and we said our goodbyes. But there is actually one trip I didn’t get to take her yet. Exploring Pinecrest is on my to-do list because, in my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful places in California. Couple of days of camping in the middle of the nature, exploring the hiking trails and watching the stars above our heads – there is nothing better than a place where you can simply relax. I don’t know when or how much time we will have when she comes next, but I see more whirlwind trips of the 209 in our future. They are definitely worth it.