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California's Highway 4: Murphys, Big Trees & Ebbetts Pass

Author: HotelCharlotte (More Trip Reviews by HotelCharlotte)
Date of Trip: July 2006



With this roadtrip, I can say that I have really done all the routes from Groveland over the Sierra Nevada mountain pass highways to the Eastern Sierras and Highway 395. I know now why it took me so long to do Ebbetts Pass, it's got a serious Jaw Factor. As in oh, my goodness!

We chose this route so we could go to Murphys and unload the "antique" sinks that Victor just upgraded in our guestrooms. But, as luck would have it, the neatest antique plumbing store in the world wasn't open on the 4th of July. I am not sure if I should find this odd or not. But all was not a total loss, we did some wine tasting at a few tasting rooms that aren't typically open on our midweek-days off. Black Sheep Winery at the end of Main Street has a cute tasting room and Irish at the opposite end of town was very talkative. I even bought a bottle of green wine from Irish.

We continued west after Murphys to Calaveras Big Trees State Park (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=551), the best little park for the big trees. Even better perhaps than those big tree groves in Yosemite, no crowds, no traffic and you don't have to walk down a steep hill (or up one!) to access the trees. After a few photos and a run through one of the buildings that was hosting an art show, we head east again following a small stream and passing several camping areas and picnic grounds.

The road is quite normal by state highway standards and I am waiting for the steep cliffy stuff to start. It isn't until after we reach Alpine Lake, an immensely appealing stop, that things on the road changed, and immediately so. The road narrows to the smallest of possible widths for two cars to pass with no real edge, it quickly becomes quite twisted. The sign post at the top indicates that you will drop down at a 25% grade, a phenomenal pitch. Kindly, the portions of the road that were actually this steep were also very brief, but one does drive on the edge of the seat for an hour and a half anticipating with bated breath these pitched patches. The views are grand for sure! It is fairly remote for most of the trip. So absolutely go for the experience, but know too that Ebbetts Pass is the slowest of all the routes over the Sierras, but quite stunning and very worthy of its recent National Scenic Byway designation.

One might ask how in the world did the two of us savvy world travelers (ha..ha..ha!) end up in the oasis town of Minden, Nevada?Well as these getaways happen for us rather last minute, we had called our little casino hotel in Tahoe to get a room on the 4th of July and they were selling our $65 a night room for $299. We just couldn't do it. Knowing that even the best case scenario would likely be a very simple room at a steep price, we decided to head to Minden instead. Once there we discovered the Carson Valley Inn (http://www.cvinn.com). You won't be disappointed in the customer service if you ever find yourself here, every employee was well focused on making our visit memorable. We ended up celebrating our "anniversary" here with an over-large room at an under $100 price and had dinner at Michael's (sadly, now closed.) Victor's meal was fabulous, the Kobe Flat Iron steak, I chose the duck and wished I had the Kobe. We don't gamble much and this was true this night also.

Our way back we needed to stop in Murphys at that great antique plumbing store to take care of the sinks, no need hauling them all back to Groveland. This time we took the less dramatic, but still beautiful Highway 88 across the Sierras and then headed back up route 4.

Hotel Charlotte (http://www.HotelCharlotte.com) in Groveland to Murphys, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, over Ebbets Pass, Minden, back around the Sierra Nevada mountains, back to Murphys, Sonora and Groveland, 24 and a half hours. Another typical getaway: Short, Sweet, Mind-Clearing with a few new discoveries along the way. Travelers along this route might take it a bit slower and see more of the sites than we did.

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