The late spring sun still sits high in the sky when people begin showing up, parking their cars in the walnut orchard, and walking towards Gary and Pam Mae’s barn. Outside, people sip on glasses of wine and chat with old friends. There’s a hint of anticipation in the air. Georgina Marie, Lake County’s current Poet Laureate, makes her way through the crowd, talking with people and sharing in their excitement. Lake County’s about to get something new: A Youth Poet Laureate.
By noon, the hula hoop competition has ended, and they’re moving on to the raffle. Kids scale up a climbing wall, while others spend their time in the bouncy house. Vendors, community organizations, and food booths circle the area while live music pours from the stage. Austin Park in Clearlake’s filled with people, nearly bursting at the seams. “I think this is the best event we’ve ever had,” Clearlake resident Katie Sheridan says. Is it the fourth of July? Nope. It’s the first annual Hope4Health event sponsored by Adventist Health, and this year, they have combined with Blue Zones to help create a healthier, happier Lake County.
It’s springtime; the birds are back and busy building nests, the wildflowers are blooming, and the weather’s getting warm. There’s no better time to take a road trip around Lake County. If you’ve got a free day, hop in the car and enjoy some of the county’s most beautiful, unique, and tasty places.
Anderson Marsh State Historic Park resides just off Highway 53 in Clearlake and across the street from the Walmart. The highway busily passes around the park’s edge, but once you step into the parking lot, all that disappears. Next to the parking lot stand several outbuildings and the original farmhouse that J.M. Grigsby and his brother built in the 1860s. You may be familiar with the Grigsby Riffle, the rock located at the conjunction of Cache and Siegler Creeks that determines zero Rumsey of the lake. And, if you’re a history buff, you’ll know that the same J.M. Grigsby, along with a mob of people, tore down the dam built there in 1868.
Yup, it’s springtime, and Lake County is at its most beautiful. The fruit trees are blossoming and people wander around humming, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Yes, it’s that kind of beautiful. There’s no better time to hop in the car and enjoy a tour of one of the world’s beautiful places.
One of the best parts about Lake County is that there’s so much to explore. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s something new to discover. Around each corner of the road, there’s another hidden gem just waiting to be found. This is part two of our road trip. Today we get to enjoy some great views of Mt. Konocti and the Clearlake arm of North America’s oldest lake, then spend some time shopping in two unique towns.
It’s springtime; the birds are back and busy building nests, the wildflowers are blooming, and the weather’s getting warm. There’s no better time to take a road trip around Lake County. If you’ve got a free day, get in the car and enjoy some of the county’s most beautiful, unique, and tasty places. Part one wanders from Middletown, up and over Cobb, until it winds up in the Kelseyville Riviera, edged up against the side of Mt. Konocti. Come take a ride with us.
It’s a clear Lake County winter morning. The morning sun glints down off Susie Q’s Donuts and Espresso, reflecting off the building. It’s a hard place to miss; the bright pink paint draws the eyes immediately. Step inside, and, depending on the time of day, the smell of donuts, bacon, or coffee fills the building. The same pink that covers the outside continues indoors. Dark wood floors and tables contrast the bright walls, and country music comes through the speakers, creating an inviting atmosphere. It’s a place to come, grab a donut or sandwich, and sit down to enjoy them over a cup of coffee.
Over forty years ago, Gene Paleno and the love of his life bought some land just north of Upper Lake in Bachelor Valley. On a hill that rose above the valley floor, they built a dream home, painted it bright yellow, and called it “Rainbow’s End”. There Gene and Jeanette spent the rest of their lives following their dreams, raising cattle, and doing just about everything in between. In early 2021, nearly a decade after his wife passed, Gene left this world, leaving a massive legacy. He was the first to believe in The Bloom and the first to offer his support to us. He also gave the best advice, which he exemplified. Over and over, Gene told me, “The only thing that people will remember you or me for is what we have done for other people.” And his memory will not be forgotten, thanks to the work of The Silver Foundation in creating the Gene Paleno Memorial Fund.
Just across the road and down the hill from our room at Laujor’s loft lies Boatique Winery. The sign on Red Hills Road’s hard to miss; it rests between two rock pillars and glimmers in the winter sun. Several strips of hardwood have been pressed together to create a laminated frame that holds the profile of a wooden boat. Below, a dark script reads, “Boatique Winery”. We turn off the road, wind our way down the ancient olive tree-lined driveway to the brick-lined parking lot, and enter the brightly-lit tasting room. A fire glows in the large fireplace, and Francesca, Director of Hospitality, finishes pouring the last taste for a couple, who excitedly pick up a few bottles of wine to take home.
New Year’s Eve is one of the best party nights of the year. It’s a great chance to get together with friends, enjoy some good food, and laugh the night away. If, like me, you enjoy having a good time on December 31st, you may have experienced a vicious New Year’s Day hangover. You go to bed happy, albeit a bit dizzy, and wake up the next morning in misery. Your head’s pounding, your stomach’s in knots, and you can’t quite remember the three hours leading up to midnight. But have hope! (Sorry for the exclamation point; it even reads too loud.) Here are three great ways to handle a hangover.
Over the years, our family has enjoyed some Christmas reading. We’ve read through The Little Match Girl, The Elves and the Shoemaker, A Christmas Carol, Sherlock Holmes and The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle, and many other great stories. But one of our favorites is poet Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales, which we read every Christmas Eve. It’s a beautiful story that shares Christmas memories from over one hundred years ago. If you’re looking for an enjoyable short read, here’s a link to a public domain version:http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0701261h.html
Lower Lake is a town filled with history. It’s home to the Historic Schoolhouse Museum and Lake County’s first jail, still standing and available to visit. It also has the honor of hosting the first jailbreak in the county, one of my favorite stories. The builders, happy to finish their work on the jail, celebrated a bit too hard and ended up being the first incarcerated. However, the roof wasn’t secured, so, in the middle of the night, they lifted it and made their way out. It’s also a great place to spend a holiday afternoon filled with shopping. Park your car anywhere on Main Street and spend the day wandering. Not only does it have a broad selection of unique items, but it also has some great restaurants. Here are a few recommendations of great places to grab a bite to eat and pick up the perfect gifts for your loved ones.
Kyle’s owned The Game Hub for ten years now, and he’s gotten to know his customers. “I wanted to be a teacher,” he says, “but went a different direction. I fell in love with running a business. But it’s cool to see people grow up and keep coming in.” In light of that, Kyle has made the game section of the store easy to understand and broken down into sections: New to the Hobby, Family Fames, Kid’s Games, Small Games, Intermediate Games. Anyone from a young parent to an involved RPG junkie will feel at home.
Edgar Bonilla and Antonio Sanchez sit at one of the picnic tables stretched under a large tent. Edgar’s just lit a propane heater, and the warmth heats the chill from the morning air. Both bring their own energy to the table; Edgar’s bright, friendly, and warm. Antonio’s reserved, thoughtful, and competent. And they’re comfortable in each other’s company; they’ve worked together for over fifteen years in Napa restaurants. And they’ve come together to make some spectacular food at Los Compas.
One of the huge, inadvertent perks that came with the Valley Fire is now when you visit Boggs, you will find spectacular views anywhere you look. I caught a glimpse of Clearlake, Hidden Valley, and Middletown, as well as great views of Cobb Mountain and St. Helena. Later, I was told by a Cal-fire worker, it’s possible to see all the way north to Mt. Lassen, east into the Sierras, and south down into the bay.
Chalerm Thai Bistro’s a hidden treasure in Lakeport. Odds are, if you don’t live in town, you haven’t heard of it. It’s not downtown or next to the freeway. Instead, it resides off Lakeshore Boulevard north of the main business district, sitting next to a closed liquor market. For years, it’s also served as our family’s go-to for quality Thai food.
Even though you may never have met him in person, if you’ve ever visited The Bloom, you’ve either seen Jeff Warrenburg or read about something he’s done for Lake County. He’s been a Rotary member for twenty-two years. He’s on the board for the Chamber of Commerce, is president of the Fair Foundation, and is on the City of Lakeport Planning Commission. He shows up in photos about once a quarter in The Bloom, most recently helping out the Community Kitchen Project. There he stands, second from the left, holding a check. That’s how you’ll usually bump into Jeff in Lake County. He’s always looking for a way to help: It’s part of his philosophy. “The biggest thing for me,” he says, “Is I feel a need to give back to the community. They give to me and help my business, so I want to help them out.” Without people like Jeff, the county would fall apart.
“Where are you planning to go for dinner?” I was asked several times the day I visited Richmond Park Bar and Grill. “Oh, Richmond Park,” I’d reply. “I’m going to do a write-up on them.” And this is the part that amazed me. I got the same response three times. “Don’t order the Richmond Park Burger. You never be able to finish it.”
The summer sun has finally started to set, and the day’s cooling down. Just across the street, the late afternoon breeze splashes waves against the beach. And in Austin Park, live music’s playing. When they recently remodeled the park, the City of Clearlake committed to bringing live music to town. So they put in a covered stage on the corner of Olympic and Lakeshore Drive, and this summer started hosting concerts. The city couldn’t have placed it better. The swoop of the stage’s covering swoops with the mountain and lake, framing the picture. And as the sun sets behind Mt. Konocti, it turns the park shades of pink and purple, backlighting the musicians.
Fults Family Vineyards sits on Clayton Creek just a few miles south of Lower Lake on the corner of Spruce Grove Road and Highway 29. Enter the tree-lined driveway, and you wind up a rise, past the Fults’ home to their tasting room overlooking a large pond. Kendall, co-owner of Fults Family Vineyards (FFV), keeps it relaxed and welcoming. It’s the kind of place where no matter your wine knowledge or preference, you’ll have a good time. I’ve never been to a winery with a television on one wall always playing sports, or a par 3 hole where you can hit some golf balls while you sip on a glass. It all fits together perfectly at FFV. Come in on the weekend, and you’ll probably run into Kendall sitting behind the tasting room bar, waiting with some good wine and a good story.
“Did you see that dog?” Sufi asks. “That was a big Rottweiler. I could do whatever and sell him the cheaper stuff, but I have to live with myself. We only sell quality products here,” Sufi continues her thought. “And we’ve got the best installers. They’re the cream of the crop. We’ve had to clean up a lot of mistakes that other installers have made. When you get too big, you lose quality. So Justin and I want to keep it small and continue to provide the best product and service possible.”
The sun blazes overhead, searing my skin; It’s August in Lake County, and the olive trees soak it up. Lianne and Richard Campodonico of Campodonico Olive Oil walk next to me, well-covered from the bright yellow glare of the sky. “They’re more like bushes than trees,” Rich says, looking down the row of various-sized olive trees. “Look at that one!” He points towards a fifteen-foot-tall shrub of an olive.“We planted them in blocks,” he continues. “One quarter, the first year, one quarter the second year. Then we had a hard winter that killed 40% of the trees.” He shows me a tree springing out of a broken stump. “Several of them grew back, like this one, but we had to get more.”
Simon Avery of Peace and Plenty Farm turns his head sideways, looking at the saffron plants stretching down several rows. It’s a cold day, and clouds shroud the top of Mt. Konocti, scudding quickly across the sky. He shudders as a chill wind whips across the fields. “It’s a mile walk if you take all the rows,” he tells me, hunching his shoulders inward to keep warm. His cracked, farmer’s hands rub against his shirt. “And you’re bent over like this,” Melinda Price demonstrates, her tall form reaching down past her knees, her blonde hair pulled back into a bun. “All day. Picking the flowers.” “Sometimes I finish picking all the rows, only to see more flowers appear, and I have to do it all over.” Simon’s eyes glaze over, recalling the days and days of harvesting.
Tuesday afternoon in Kelseyville, August. Mike Guarniero and Danny Prather perch on barstools next to the front window, half-full beer glasses on the floor next to them. Danny’s taken the lead on a Neil Young tune he’s finishing, and odds are they’ll switch it around on the next song. Between the two of them, they could play all day and never repeat a tune. Danny gives a hearty strum on his guitar as the song ends, then grins as he leans over and takes a sip of his beer. Caroline Chavez, co-owner of Kelsey Creek, sees his glass empty and quickly brings over two full ones. “Now everybody,” she says, walking the smooth walk of a skilled bartender, “You all need to pitch in. I’m the only one buying them beer right now.” Mike and Danny happily grab their full brewskis, sip off the foam, and start a new song.