In an attempt to make the most of my three day weekend, I wanted to travel somewhere familiar, not too far, not too close, and near the mountains. My mind immediately thought of Murphy’s, CA, the most charming little town in Calaveras County. A unique county found in the Gold Country and the High Sierras, it has beautiful rolling hills, sequoias, caverns and more. A gem filled with plenty of history from the gold rush and on, everyone is sure to walk away with some interesting historical information.
The drive up was gorgeous, only an hour from the Central Valley, there was hardly any traffic, the sun was out and air crisp. The hilly windy highway 4 was like being on a slow carnival ride, relaxing yet thrilling. The animals grazing on the dry grass, the leaves turning colors, the farms out in the distance, it was like driving in an old coloring book.
There are a few main attractions in the quaint little town, Main Street, the numerous amounts of tasting rooms, and vineyards. Our goal for the day trip was to park on Main Street, walk up and down the street, make a quick trip to Arnold to buy some apple cider and apple cider donuts, then end our afternoon at a vineyard, Ironstone in particular.
It had been over a decade that I visited Murphy’s but a handful of things stood in my memory, like the statue frogs made popular by Mark Twain’s ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County’, the community park, which I thought was a lot larger, and lastly the famous donut stand that has since grown in number and popularity.
The town was busy for a Friday but not crowded. We were able to find parking right by the famous historical hotel and start our walk from the very edge of the town towards the park. There were plenty of green leaves but every now and then there would be a pop of red or yellow showing off.
Boutiques and shops lined the street next to the tasting rooms. What I always appreciate about these kinds of stores is the precious items that are hand selected to be sold to the customers. Items that one wouldn’t find at Target lets say. My husband even came across two German brands at a toy store that continue to sell toys similar to what he grew up playing with.
There are almost two dozen tasting rooms to try the local wine. The region is perfect for growing a variety of different wines, such as Tempranillo and Marsanne. The town has several hotels and bed and breakfasts that allow visitors to enjoy a full safe day of wine and food. If not, limiting the consumption of wine will still allow you to make the most of Main Street.
The number of highly reviewed restaurants on this street is quite astounding, although we didn’t sit down for a meal, I trust that the chefs know exactly how to make the patrons mouths water.
If the goal isn’t to wine taste, like us, two hours is more than enough to browse and get a feel for the charm. There is also a small art gallery, antique shop, and olive oil tasting room, that can help you appreciate the variety of culture and art in the area.
After our browsing we headed north to Arnold, which took about 13 miles. We saw remnants of the snow storm that hit the area. White cold snow trailed along the road as we got closer to the “Red Apple”. There was a line that was formed for the goods, but I didn’t mind, something good is always worth waiting for. I placed an order for a dozen apple cider donuts and a 1/2 gallon of apple cider. The wait would be about twenty minutes so we drove further into the town and came across the cutest vintage grocery gas stop. We loaded up on some diesel then headed back to the apple stand.
Our order was ready and as soon as I was handed the bag I grabbed one of the warm donuts and bit into cinnamon, apple, sugary goodness. Fresh baked delights preparing every taste bud for the holiday season.
Happy, satisfied, munching on one more donut, we headed to our final stop for the day, Ironstone Vineyards. It was 3:30 PM, close to closing time, 5 PM. We agreed that I would have one and a half glasses of wine, and my husband half of glass. The vineyard was pretty. It wasn’t my favorite, but it did have a cozy seating lounge area with a massive fireplace. The kitchen wouldn’t be serving food until the spring one of the ladies there told us, and the patio area was open for guest to roam around.
Again, it wasn’t busy, so the vineyard was quiet and peaceful. I do wish they would allow patrons to walk around and through the vines like at other vineyards. We mainly stood on the patio and by the beautiful fire place.
It was the perfect way to finish our day trip. Up high overlooking the foliage, sipping our free glass of wine (thanks to the lady serving us to busy and annoyed to charge us so she gifted us the glass and shooed us away at the same time), speaking about our day and the future.
We drove back home as the sun was about to start setting, over the hills, over the horizon, over full hearts and satisfied souls. Day trips are always worth it. Not quite a cost commitment like weekend trips, a tease of what could be, but a glimpse of what it is at the moment. Thank you Murphy’s for a beautiful autumnal outing.