California areas are often known by their negative news profile. Economic struggles, crime, welfare statistics, and disasters make easy headlines. But counties can also be described by their natural resources, housing costs, transportation corridors, position near trading partners and commodity production. For Lake County, even that doesn’t tell the whole story. Rural, isolated but just over the hill, this has always been known as a nearby special escape.
Visitors often tell stories about traditional family sojourns, great times as kids and special adventures. Starting in the mid-1860s, there were treks by city dwellers looking for the healing waters of hot spring resorts and the large inland lake. Even after the quake of “06” altered many spring water flows, the county was still known as a resort and second home getaway which drove much of the economy. Only after Sierra Nevada resorts accessed by superhighways became competition did the county begin to lose out on that destination brand. A recession, many mega-fires and bad lake conditions also helped alter the image.
I guess you can say we didn’t compete very hard for the next visitor generation and even many locals hoped to remain isolated. Vacationers from nearby urban and suburban counties are from larger economies with bigger income streams, are used to creature comforts of groomed neighborhoods, professional associations, smartphone shopping, and close-by shops so they look for upscale resorts. But they also seldom see the stars, have no wildland experiences except for congested traffic and search web-based destinations to plan affordable trips. There is a renewed local effort to build a bigger visitor economy, so what do we have that appeals to this generation?
For a special getaway, this is the only county located entirely within the rugged inner coastal mountain range. We have the most unique, largest, oldest, warm water lake ecosystem in all of North America. As a result, the county harbors rich bird populations second to none and the best fishing lake in the west. Visitors can also experience unequaled wine tasting or special farmer’s markets stocked with love grown products, craft fairs displaying local skills, art studios with world-class artists and authentic western period towns. For special adventures, there are fishing tournaments, glamping, mountain and BMX biking, western horse and hiking trails or covered dressage arenas for the discerning horse rider to brag about back home. Do you know we also have an information-packed destinations magazine, guided fishing trips, bird watching excursions, paddleboards, boat rentals, horse riding lessons, tribal casinos, and water trails maps to plan a kayak, paddleboard or personal watercraft adventure?
For introspection, a trip up Mt. Konocti will show off a volcanic formed landscape and some adventurers even bring a hang glider to the updrafts of Hull Mountain. You can hike in over 300,000 acres of designated National Monument with wilderness areas and see the stars and galaxies in the clearest skies of the west.
Still a great vacation destination, yes. Lake County is a special -Wild and Scenic Getaway- with lots to experience, but difficult to plan. We need to increase the certified tourist ambassador program who direct visitors to hidden gems and add a web-based certified, insured, guide service that can help design an itinerary or guide those special adventures.
Lake County is an accessible, nearby, wild and scenic gem. We should promote our brand of close-by unique experiences that await visitors and our quaint country town looks.
Billboards, traffic and flashy signs be gone; adventure is here.