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Snowy stops

Located between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite on Highway 4 are the Central Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, also referred to at times as the California Alps. With the snowfall the area becomes a frosty realm for 209 residents and visitors to frolic and play. It’s not necessary to travel all the way to the apex to find frivolity and adventure. The Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway has a number of destinations before the road closes that offer winter recreation, fantastic food, unique shops and plenty of snowy stops. ■

hey arnold!

This town in Calaveras County, where the population (3,843) is close to the elevation (4,000), is surrounded by the Stanislaus National Forest and the Gateway to Big Trees State Park. The area has miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, including the 7-mile Arnold Rim Trail, where if the snow has fallen visitors can snow shoe around White Pines Lake or to one of the many stunning vistas.

Within the town is a bevy of lodging, food, and shopping venues, like Cedar Center. In this shopping hamlet visitors will find the Peddler’s Market, owned by Arnold residents Trisha Thompson and Robert Tedore. The couple has filled their store with an eclectic collection of items brimming with rustic charm, from small touches, like hand-painted decorative eggs to large pieces like an authentic farmhouse dining hutch. 

Cedar Center also is home to Fine Things, a gift shop that highlights local artisans and products unique to the area, and the clock shop Somewhere in Time. The store sells and repairs all kinds of clocks with an expansive inventory that makes it rather easy to lose track of time.

Cedar Center is located at 1225 Oak Circle in Arnold.

Up and down Highway 4 in Arnold are a collection of shops that have found success with unique and focused niches. There’s the Green Frog Soap Works, where they make a variety of handcrafted soaps using the cold process method. The Green Frog Soap Works is located at 1013 Highway 4. There’s also the Trout Spot, which is a paradise to anyone who likes to fish. The store offers a wide variety of fly-fishing gear, tackle, and fly varieties to tempt numerous fishes. The Trout Spot is located at 1311 Highway 4.

Perhaps the Arnold store that has the most unique niche is the Rusty Knife, which carries an inventory of fine culinary items and firearms. They also sell ammo and offer sharpening services. The Rusty Knife is located at 2275 Highway 4.

If all the shopping and recreational activities have built up an appetite, Arnold has plenty of culinary options to tempt the taste buds. Some local recommendations include: Bistro Espresso, which is known for their free-trade organic coffee brews; Bolin Barbeque and Baking Company, known for their hand-smoked meats and rave reviews for their mac-n-cheese; Dogwood, which features an open kitchen preparing fine dining meals in a casual setting; and Snowshoe Brewing Co. Restaurant, with a menu that includes locally crafted microbrews and plenty of family-friendly meals.

Perhaps Arnold’s most well-known eatery is Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen. The menu features a blend of classic Italian cuisine with California fusion. They have freshly made pastas, raviolis, and risottos, as well as chicken, steaks and seafoods, all paired with local wines and beers. 

Before leaving Arnold, it is well worthy it to visit the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum. Though small, the museum paints an authentic picture of what life was like for early loggers and the logging industry as a whole. The museum is located at 2148 Dunbar Road. For more information call 795-6782.

Destination Dorrington

Dorrington could be missed in a blink of the eye while traveling along Highway 4, but keep your eyes open because there’s some fun and tasty food to be had in this little town.

Dorrington, located further up Highway 4, was originally settled as a sheep ranch. The town became known as Cold Water Springs, a reflection of the streams and springs that were bountiful in the area. Settler John Gardener purchased the property and started building a hotel that could be used by his wife, Rebecca’s, family. The first hotel burned to the ground during its first year. The second structure didn’t fair much better as it was felled by a heavy snowfall. The third attempt met success because Gardener used wood from the big Sequoia trees growing nearby. The town name eventually was changed to Dorrington, which was Rebecca’s maiden name.

The Dorrington Hotel still stands and after a refurbishing by the new owners a couple of years ago, it has become a popular spot for weddings and private parties. The hotel can sleep up to 10 people, with the second floor having five rooms and two shared bathrooms. Downstairs is an open living area, a dining room and a kitchen. Antique furnishings and décor have been used, but they also mixed in some modern conveniences like a flat screen television and free wifi. 

A back deck opens up to a picturesque meadow that fades into a grove of pine trees and the mountains beyond. During the colder months, the meadow is often filled with snow and makes for a private winter wonderland.

Guests at the hotel also have access to the Big Trees Recreation Center, which has pools, tennis courts, picnic areas, and other activities.

Located next door to the hotel is Dorrington’s most well-known establishment, The Lube Room Saloon. The name may give some pause, but the Lube Room really is a one-of-a-kind meeting spot where locals and visitors mix and mingle with friendly ease. The locals are also quick to point out that the Lube Room makes the best burgers around.

For decades the only grease to be found in the building was from the autos in for repair. In 1977, it was converted into a bar and eatery, but in deference to the past, the owners decided to reflect the history in the name. In 2015, the Lube Room was purchased by a new ownership group of families and they have strived to keep it the kind of place the locals hold close to their hearts.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Three miles north of Arnold off Highway 4, the colossal trees of Calaveras Big Trees State Park stand in quiet testimony to prehistoric times. 

These massive relics, which can reach a height of 325 feet and a diameter of 33 feet, are descended from trees that were standing when dinosaurs roamed Earth, and birds, mammals and flowering plants began to appear. Some of today’s trees are thought to be as old as 2,000 years.

Winter is a great time to visit the park. The Parkway to the South Grove will close for the season around mid-November and remain closed until late April, but the North Grove area remains accessible.  There are slope areas, perfect for beginning sledders, snowman building and snowball fights.

At the end of the main parking lot, visitors will find the Warming Hut, which is completely funded by Calaveras Big Trees Association and staffed by docents. Open weekends from November through March, complimentary hot chocolate, cider and coffee are served around a big open fire pit.  Donations are always welcome.

On Saturdays, depending on the snow and weather, a guided snowshoe hike explores the North Grove trail.  Snowshoes are provided at no charge for those that don’t have their own.  These hikes begin and end at the Warming Hut.  If there is not enough snow for snowshoes, there will still be a guided hike.

The Visitor Center is open daily.  Visit or call 209-795-2334 for current hours and conditions.